Festival of the Psalms in Jakarta

Singing Scheer Psalms in Indonesia translation is certainly a niche interest. Nonetheless, I wanted to make this video available for all the people who might be interested. Both of you…

I’m making self-deprecating jokes, but this was a really wonderful evening. The GKY Manggabesar is a singing congregation. I was pleasantly surprised to find that my friend (and GKY pastor) Lucky Samuel had already taught many of these songs to his congregation. What a gift to hear them singing songs I had written half a world away in their own language!

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Binsey Poplars at Baylor University

I was privileged to receive a commission from Baylor University to compose a piece on the Gerard Manley Hopkins poem, “Binsey Poplars.”

Image result for binsey poplars

The poem is an ode to Hopkins’ once-favorite, now-felled trees, but it is also a meditation on the environment and the ways humans interact with it. Ultimately, it is a poem of loss and grief.

The premiere took place at Baylor’s Armstrong Browning Library on September 20, 2019, with Karen Hogue, soprano, the Ensemble from First United Methodist, Weatherford, and Carlos Colón on the piano.

You know you can email me to peruse the score, right?

felled 1879

My aspens dear, whose airy cages quelled,
  Quelled or quenched in leaves the leaping sun,
  All felled, felled, are all felled;
    Of a fresh and following folded rank
                Not spared, not one
                That dandled a sandalled
         Shadow that swam or sank
On meadow & river & wind-wandering weed-winding bank.

  O if we but knew what we do
         When we delve or hew —
     Hack and rack the growing green!
          Since country is so tender
     To touch, her being só slender,
     That, like this sleek and seeing ball
     But a prick will make no eye at all,
     Where we, even where we mean
                 To mend her we end her,
            When we hew or delve:
After-comers cannot guess the beauty been.
  Ten or twelve, only ten or twelve
     Strokes of havoc unselve
           The sweet especial scene,
     Rural scene, a rural scene,
     Sweet especial rural scene.

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Rejoice in All Your Works @ Calvin Graduation

I was commissioned by Calvin College to arrange Wendell Kimbrough’s fabulous song “Rejoice in All Your Works (Psalm 104)” for their 2018 graduation ceremony. The song is arranged for choir, wind ensemble, praise band, and 5,000 singers.

It was a lot of notes. (Which means a lot of work and a lot of time.) But it was worth it to hear the Van Noord arena reverberate with the sound of praise coming from joyful graduates and their grateful families.

An octavo of the choral anthem (with more modest instrumental forces) will be published by GIA in the coming year.

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Prayer of Jonah at the Calvin Worship Symposium

If you missed Western Seminary’s performance of my “Prayer of Jonah,” just click below. The song starts at 20:57, but the whole service is well worth watching.

Oh, if you happen to be looking for a scripture song accompanied by 5 electric basses (and really, who isn’t?) just contact me for the music.

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The Song of Moses and the Lamb

The sermon at Fuller this week comes from the story of Moses’ birth and adoption by Pharoah’s daughter (Exodus 2:1-10), exploring Moses as a foreshadowing of Christ. As I looked for appropriate songs to sing, I came across a once-popular hymn by William Hammond called, “Awake and Sing the Song.” This hymnic rabbit trail led to the original 1745 publication of Hammond’s poem that featured no less than 14 verses! The rabbit trail continued to Revelation 15:2-4 in which the harp-wielding saints sing the “song of God’s servant Moses and of the Lamb.” Pure worship planning gold.

The Ghent Altarpiece: Adoration of the Lamb (1425-29)

Naturally, I felt the need to write a new tune for it–it’s who I am. I knew the text called for a tune as rough as a sea chanty, as epic as a murder ballad, and as joyously raucous as a shape-note hymn. What I came up with is a pentatonic melody that is equal parts “What Wondrous Love” and “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner.” I’m quite pleased with it. (And that’s not always the case after singing a dozen takes of a new melody while recording a demo.) I was also pleased that I was able to work in my favorite phrase from the original hymn, “we, his miracles of grace.”

The one remaining question: does it need a chorus? Musically, it feels complete without it, but thematically we are being called to sing the song of Moses and the Lamb, but we never do. The actual song appears in Rev 15:3-4:

“Great and marvelous are your deeds,
    Lord God Almighty.
Just and true are your ways,
    King of the nations.
Who will not fear you, Lord,
    and bring glory to your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come
    and worship before you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed.”

I have a chorus drafted. If enough people request it, I’ll add it.

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I’ve Got Joy!

This Sunday at Fuller Ave, Nate was preaching from 2 Corinthians 13:11: “Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice!” The service was all about joy, so we decided the praise set should be a rambunctious Sunday School Singalong.

A scene of pure joy from my favorite boys.

On a long bike ride the day before the service I got to singing a little ditty inspired by NRBQ’s “Down in My Heart.” Nothing deep, just a tune full of joy. I was enjoying it so much that I stopped on the side of the road and sang it into my cellphone just in case I forgot it!

The next day I introduced it to the congregation. It fit beautifully alongside “This Is the Day,” “Rejoice in the Lord Always,” and “I’ve Got the Joy, Joy, Joy (Down in My Heart).”

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Renewed: Lord God, Now Let Your Servants Depart in Peace

Last year, I hosted a video series, Renewed, which introduced new congregational songs. Here is the episode focused on my song, “Lord God, Now Let Your Servants Depart in Peace.”

You can also access this on the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship’s site, which includes links to various resources: https://worship.calvin.edu/resources/resource-library/renewed-lord-god-now-let-your-servants-depart-in-peace/

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The Year of My Fall

As you may know, one of my latest projects is the St. Sinner Orchestra. We’ve recorded an album, So Far from Home, and have two more in the works. One of the songs slated for the upcoming album, Synonyms for Goodbye, is “The Year of My Fall.” St. Sinner has been playing this regularly at our shows, and it’s one of our favorites. Above is a rehearsal recording. If you want to hear it live, come to Fuller Ave Church’s Neighborhood Nights tomorrow (8/6/19 @ 6pm) to hear St. Sinner perform it live.

1. I was born too soon.
It was all brand new.
I’ve had to make it up as I go.
But I found my way
and I found my place
and I found some joy in it all.

I was born again;
don’t know exactly when,
but I know my heart was strangely warmed.
Lived a life of grace—
at least it felt that way—
But then the whole damn thing came crashing down to the ground.

Did Satan ask the Lord to sift my soul?
Take everything away from me, like Job?
I’m not one to question God, but I liked how things were before…
the year of my fall.
The year of my fall.

2. I remember how
I thought I had it all.
Maybe I did, but now I’ll never know.
Lightning struck me twice,
Then it became my life.
Who I was before, I can barely recall.

Cradling my head in empty hands;
the facts are clear, but I still don’t understand
how I had so much, but somehow managed to lose it all…
in the year of my fall.
The year of my fall.

3. In a twist of fate,
I would die too late
to be spared the pain of it all.
I do what I can
with the days I have
and try not to dwell on what’s lost.

Where the river runs nobody knows.
The current sweeps us on in its blind force.
There’s no going back; there’s only hope I’ll survive at all…
the year of my fall.
The year of my fall.

Does fate or grace or karma guide me now?
Or is it just dumb luck and nothing more?
I’m praying for some mercy in the years that lie beyond.
I’m pleading for some mercy in the years that lie beyond.
I’m begging for some mercy in the years that lie beyond…
the year of my fall.
the year of my fall.
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The Church of Christ Cannot Be Bound (Adam M. L. Tice)

Fuller Ave CRC is in the middle of a sermon series called “Love Your Neighbor.” What better hymn could be sung than Adam Tice’s “The Church of Christ Cannot Be Bound”?:

Adam M. L. Tice

The church of Christ cannot be bound
by walls of wood or stone.
Where charity and love are found–
there can the church be known. 

It is sung to a variety of tunes. My favorite is the rousing MCKEE (In Christ There Is No East or West). But since the sermon series runs for ten weeks Pastor Nate and I decided to use a different tune each week.

Enter my new tune, BRIDESMAID.* Though I rocked it out in the above demo, it was conceived as a simple folk song in the tradition of 60s protest songs like “The Times They Are A Changin” or “If I Had a Hammer.” Send me an email if you want the leadsheet. I’ll check with Adam to see if it’s alright to distribute.

*Why BRIDESMAID, you wonder? This is actually the second tune I’ve written for this text. I decided to retire the first. “Always the bridesmaid and never the bride.” And with that, I shall get cleaned up for Matt and Larissa’s wedding, where I’m sure both bride and bridesmaid will be perfect!

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Psalm 114: The Hills and Mountains Tremble

As my country–and many others–discuss the growing number of refugees, it’s important to remember that the Bible has much to say on the subject. Ruth, Israel, and Jesus were all refugees. The Old Testament continually reminds Israel to be kind to foreigners, because they were once refugees. The New Testament focuses more on our adoption by God, though we were once strangers.

Psalm 114 tells of the miracle of God rescuing Israel from Egypt and turning them into the living sanctuary of God. My hope is that singing stories like Psalm 114 will help us frame our current conversations more biblically. Here are all the resources you need for this musical version of Psalm 114.

The Choral Scholars sing a quick demo: MP3
The leadsheet: PDF
The piano accompaniment: email me
A related song, Tremble Before the Lord: demo, sleep deprivation remix

  1. When God delivered Israel from Egypt’s tyranny,
    the sanctuary of the Lord was built from refugees.
    We, too, are weary wanderers, just pilgrims on our way.
    And God still builds a temple from the bricks of human faith.

The hills and mountains tremble,
the rivers stand in awe,
for in this pilgrim people
is the presence of the Lord.

2. O sea, why do you shrink away, receding at his voice?
O hills why do you spring to life to dance and sing for joy?
We all rejoice at God’s good works, like mountains, hills and seas,
and celebrate each heart renewed, each slave and prisoner freed. (refrain)

3. The presence of the Lord, it shakes the earth with joy and fear.
The waters flood where rocks once stood and fresh new springs appear.
The presence of the Lord still shakes all kingdoms of this globe,
and living water still flows out from God’s celestial throne. (refrain)

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