Kwake Yesu in Ontario

Hot off the press from Immanuel Christian Reformed Church in Hamilton Ontario comes a rendition of my GIA anthem, “Kwake Yesu.”

 

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Two Christmases

The final song in my Christmas triumvirate is not a church song at all.

As I was working on Christmas songs for worship during March’s songwriting retreat, I began thinking about how unsettling it must be for my boys to split their time between two homes during Christmas. While I’d like them to have a Hallmark holiday, life doesn’t provide many picture-perfect moments. Instead, the good and the bad are mixed together in this heart-wrenchingly glorious thing we call human existence.

I decided to try to express these conflicted holiday emotions in a Christmas pop song. It’s written from a kid’s point of view–being caught between two families on Christmas–but I think it touches on emotions we all feel: the exhausting hustle to make it to every Christmas party or visit every side of the family each year, and the ambivalence we feel when everything is so manically cheerful all around us.

Someday I’ll write a Christmas song that has no hint of sadness in it. Until then, I offer you, “Two Christmases.”

1. We’re having two Christmases this year.
We’re having two Christmases this year.
We’ll have two times the presents
and two times the food;
too much of a good thing
seems like it should be good…

We’re having two Christmases this year.
We’re having two Christmases this year.
There will be two Christmas dinners
and two Christmas trees,
but once in a while, I miss
the way things used to be.

We’re having two Christmases this year.

2. We’re having two Christmases this year.
We’re having two Christmases this year.
Now there’s two sets of parents
and two different homes;
and everyone keeps telling me,q
“The greatest gift is love!”

We’re having two Christmases this year.
We’re having two Christmases this year.
Dad’s back from his honeymoon
and Mom has a new beau,
And I’m starting to hate
the sight of mistletoe.

We’re having two Christmases this year.

3. We’re having two Christmases this year.
We’re having one too many Christmases this year.
After spending the whole day
With the kids of Dad’s new bride,
all I want for Christmas
is a silent night.

We’re having two Christmases this year.
We’re having way too many Christmases this year.
Everybody else seems to be
in the Christmas spirit.
Maybe I’ll feel happier
by New Year’s Eve.

We’re having two Christmases this year.

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My Friends May You Grow in Grace, orchestra

One of the fun things about doing music is that I get to meet people–virtually or in person–from all over the world. One of those musical friends is Jill Friend (actual name) from Sioux Center, Iowa. Jill periodically uses my arrangements for orchestra at her school and church. Below is a recording from Covenant CRC Church on May 20, 2018. I love to see videos like this, with all ages taking part in a church’s music. And I’m pleased that it was my arrangement of My Friends, May You Grow in Grace that enabled this intergenerational orchestra to play together. Thanks for sharing, Jill!

If you’d like to try this arrangement in your church, contact biz@gregscheer.com.

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Tiny King (with Liz Vice)

Liz Vice, tambourine master

“What’s with all the Christmas music in summer?” You may ask.

This March I joined two dozen other songwriters to explore the themes that are missing from common Christmas songs and to compose new songs that address those themes. During that week I had the privilege of getting to know Liz Vice, who is both a fine musician and human being.

We co-wrote “Tiny King” as an antidote to the no-crying-he-makes school of Christmas songs. How can the incarnation be astounding–or even true–if the baby Jesus didn’t cry or nurse or fill his diaper? This song explores the incarnation in a series of very human and very heavenly juxtapositions: the moans of labor and the angels’ choir, the King of Kings holding court in a barn, and a newborn baby as old as eternity.

This is just a rough demo to get the musical ideas across. I can’t wait to hear what it sounds like with the magic of Liz’s voice in the mix!

1. A mother’s labor fills the air;
with tears and moans the Godhead bears.
Angel’s echo everywhere: Gloria!

Christ fills his lungs, lets out a cry:
God’s first breath as humankind
thunders through all earth and time. Gloria!

Gloria, Gloria, Gloria!

2. Could this baby be a king?
The one of whom the angels sing?
Shepherds, Magi bow to him. Gloria!

His mother’s milk, a kingly feast.
His only robe is swaddling.
His court attendants, humble beasts. Gloria!

Gloria, Gloria, Gloria!

3. Gaze upon this newborn child;
eternity within his eyes.
Lays bare my soul with mercies kind. Gloria!

He opens up his tiny hand.
How can it be? My name, I see!
This tiny king, he came for me. Gloria!
Gloria, Gloria, Gloria!

Greg Scheer and Liz Vice, March 2018

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Jesus, Be Enough

Most Christmas songs are all joy and confidence: Shepherds overwhelmed by angelic songs; Wisemen led by navigational stars. But if your life is at all like mine, those moments are rare. Instead, life is accompanied by a soundtrack of doubt, missteps, and loss. “Jesus, Be Enough” asks the question: Is Jesus a sufficient gift even when Christmas miracles don’t occur? Will we trust him even when our prayers seem to go unanswered? It is a Christmas carol for the rest of us.

The song was recorded with my boys, Simon and Theo, in our apartment music studio (i.e. my bedroom). I could not be more proud of the fine musicians they’ve become.

1. If there were no angel choirs, would it be enough?
If there were no Glorias, would it be enough?
If there were no Spirit dreams—
just silent nights and restless sleep.
If there were no ecstasies, would it be enough for me?

Jesus, be enough;
be enough for me.
Jesus, be enough;
be enough for me.

2. When there is no star to guide, will it be enough?
When there is no gift to bring, will it be enough?
Courage fades and wisdom fails;
the path is dark, the sky is pale.
Maybe I have lost my way. Will it be enough for me?

3. When tombs are filled before their time, Jesus be enough.
When wombs stay empty past their prime, Jesus be enough.
When you give and take away,
let my emptiness still praise you.
Meet me in this barren place. Jesus, be enough for me.

Posted in Church, Congregational Songs, Demos | 2 Comments

Psalm 40: Patiently (revised, Psalm contest winner)

Let me tell you the history of Psalm 40. Well, not the complete history; that stretches back a few millennia. But I can tell you the history of my musical rendition of Psalm 40; that only goes back two decades. I wrote the song in 1998 and made a demo of it around that time. In 2012, while working with the Choral Scholars on Cry Out to God!, we recorded the song using a new SATB and piano arrangement. In 2017, I entered the song in the Church of the Servant New Psalm Contest; lo and behold, it won! For the premiere, I wrote an arrangement for SATB Choir, Congregation, Piano, Flute, Violin, Accordion, and Flugelbone. (Yes, flugelbone. It’s like a flugelhorn, but in trombone range.) Here’s what I wrote about it for the January 28, 2018 premiere:

You may think that U2 has the corner on the Psalm 40 song market, but I would humbly suggest that there’s room for one more.

I wrote “Patiently” while I was working at a church in Tallahassee. Frankly, it was something of a desert experience for me. Psalm 40 expressed well both my complaints and hope. I love how the Psalm ties together proclamations of God’s good deeds, prayers for salvation, confession of sin, and even a prayer that God would shame the Psalmist’s enemies.

Bible study usually leads to music for me, so I began working on an idea for a song based on the Psalm. It was the first time I had tried to set a whole Psalm to music. At the time I didn’t know much about metrical and responsorial psalmody, I just knew that I liked how the music fit each verse and that it sounded good when the chorus kept coming back. Even though this song is not likely to make its way to the top of the CCLI charts, I was pleased that the contest judges felt it was a faithful and helpful musical rendering of the scripture.

I have a fond memory of a difficult afternoon on which I took a long walk through the hot Florida woods with this song keeping me company. I hope you find it returning to your mind, as well.

You can listen above to the MP3 of the Church of the Servant musicians leading “Patiently.” Check out the revised leadsheet here. If you want the congregational piano part or the full choral arrangement, just email me. There’s got to be some church out there with a flugelbone! (Okay, it can also be played by trombone.)

Posted in Choir, Church, Congregational Songs, Contests, Live, Psalms | 2 Comments

Glory and Honour (with Graham Kendrick)

A few years ago, I met Graham Kendrick at a CICW event. After living through the March for Jesus and Promise Keepers eras, it was delightful to spend a few hours with the man behind the music and find him to be a humble, thoughtful person.

It was also enlightening to pick his brain about the latest leg of his musical journey. Graham Kendrick ruled contemporary worship music back in the 90s. You couldn’t go to church without hearing songs like “Shine, Jesus, Shine” or “Knowing You.” I’m always interested to hear about artists’ lives after the dust of their early success has settled. It turns out that Graham is still leading worship and writing songs, and has also become a mentor and teacher to many of today’s worship leaders.

A few weeks after meeting him, I thought, “I’d like to write some music with this guy.” He graciously accepted my offer and we got to work on a song that became “Glory and Honour.” After a few years of Skype calls, long breaks (we’re both far too busy), and a recording lost in a computer crash, I’m pleased to present Graham and Greg’s “Glory and Honour.” (If you want the leadsheet, you’re going to have to sign up for my email list! https://gregscheermusic.activehosted.com/f/1)

1. Eternal God,
we give you praise.
Creator of all things,
Ancient of Days,
your Word is sure,
your truth unchanged;
from long before the world began
or the first angel sang:

Glory and honour,
Glory and honour,
Glory and honour
To the great I Great I AM.
Glory and honour,
now and forever.
Glory and honour
To the Great I AM.

2. Almighty Lord,
whose word of power
sustains the universe–
each star, each flower;
who from the dust
formed human life
and breathed eternity within
each newborn baby’s cry. (Refrain)

3. Redeemer King,
how can it be
the Giver of all life
should die for me?
Astounding love, amazing grace!
And now our ransomed souls will sing
through everlasting days: (Refrain)

Words and music by Graham Kendrick and Greg Scheer © 2018 Make Way Music (www.grahamkendrick.co.uk, Admin North and South America www.musicservices.org) and Greg Scheer Music (www.gregscheer.com).

Posted in Church, Congregational Songs, Demos | 2 Comments

Lord, Now Let Your Servant @ GKY Manggar Besar, Indonesia

One of my greatest joys is when a song takes on a life of its own and begins to travel to unexpected places and people. My setting of Simeon’s Song, “Lord, Now Let Your Servant Depart in Peace” was recently sung in Bahasa (Indonesian) and Chinese translations at GKY Mangga Besar Church in Jakarta.

GKY Mangga Besar

My friend, Lucky, was behind this. I met Lucky in 2015 when I was in Indonesia and he was just about to head to Grand Rapids to study at Calvin Seminary. His family and mine became close while he was in town. I was sad to see them return to Jakarta, but knew that God had big plans for them back at the GKY Church. This Christmas he decided to introduce my song to his congregation, and you can hear that his people really took to it.

One of the things I loved about worship in Indonesia is that people sing with all their heart. In this recording, you can hear the pastors urging on the congregation, and the people responding with full voices. I believe I’m also hearing a pipa (a strummed Chinese instrument that sounds a little like a mandolin tremolo) in the chorus, which sounds surprisingly good.

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2017 Year in Review

I said I’d make this an annual event, didn’t I?

The New Year is a time of taking stock of one’s life. For me, that includes the music I’ve been writing. It’s easy to get lost among the trees of day-to-day composing without having any sense of the musical forest. While working on this overview of 2017’s music, a few things came into focus:

  • I’ve been writing lots of music, and I think I’m getting pretty good at it.
  • These demo-quality recordings are fine, but I need to put out a bona fide album.
  • I am very prolific, but not particularly profitable. I’m not complaining; I love what I do. I just need to figure out ways of promoting myself better and turning notes into cash.

Take a listen to this Year in Review and let me know if you have any insights. My life is a work in progress, you know? I’ll take any advice you have.

Please feel free to share this. Those of you who subscribe to my blog are the elite insiders of my musical world. But this podcast style program makes for a nice introduction for those who are still wandering aimlessly in a vast musical wasteland.

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“Savior of the Nations Come” at Baylor University

Here is the recording of “Savior of the Nations, Come” performed at Baylor University’s 2017 Lessons and Carols service. I wish I could have been there in person. It sounds beautiful.

You can read about how the piece came to be written here: http://musicblog.gregscheer.com/2017/11/22/savior-of-the-nations-come-string-orchestra/. Of course, I’m happy to receive emails from anyone who would like to use it at their Lessons and Carols service. All the cool kids are doing it!

 

 

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