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.
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”?:
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!
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 Lyrics:
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)
This spring, I had the great good fortune to compose a new piece for the Calvin Community Symphony’s 25th-anniversary concert. Below are the program notes:
It may seem obvious—even unimaginative—to name a piece commissioned for a 25th anniversary concert “25.” What is perhaps less obvious is that the composition is in a 25/8 meter*.
One 8th note per year is not only a fitting starting place for a 25th anniversary piece, but it continues my long term exploration of rhythm. My compositions often draw on the rhythmic vitality of African, Celtic, Pop, and Minimalist music. In “25” you can hear the uneven rhythms of Eastern Europe folk music, Medieval dances, or even the Genevan Psalter.
If you listen carefully, you will also hear echoes of Ravel’s “Boléro.” Instead of Ravel’s famous snare drum rhythm, “25” begins with brushed snare, immediately announcing its connection to dance rhythms of our day, especially jazz. On top of the brushed snare, a series of solo instruments enter one at a time—flute, clarinet, etc—the beginning of a wedge that grows in volume, intensity, and range throughout the whole composition. Speaking of intensity, the piannisimo brushed snare rhythm morphs and grows throughout the piece, making a brash recapitulation at the drum set near the end.
Heartfelt thanks are due Maestro Varineau and the musicians of the Calvin Community Symphony for the love they’ve shown this new composition. Thank you for making me part of your 25th anniversary!
*Technically, the piece is in a consistent four-measure pattern: 6/8+7/8+6/8+3/4. I’m nerdy enough to take on the challenge of composing in an odd meter, but not stupid enough to make the musicians read a 25/8 time signature!
From this blog, you may get the impression that my compositional life has been dormant. On the contrary! I have been so busy composing new music that I haven’t had time to document my musical activities here. Over the next few days, I will try to catch up on the backlog of recordings that have never quite made it to my blog.
One of the tests of a congregational song is whether it can thrive outside its original context. In the church where a song is written, the people may be emotionally attached to the song because they know the writer, or they may have extra help learning the song. When a song is sung at a new church, it is just a song. That’s when you find out if it “has legs.” It sounds to me like this new song worked pretty well at COS. Maybe it has a future!
You never know if a song is going to travel. I’ve written hundreds of songs, but there’s just no predicting which one will grab people’s attention or even get the opportunity to be heard at all. I guess it’s a little like fishing.
“Feed Us, Lord” is a little communion chorus I wrote a number of years ago. Think of it as Taizé meets praise ballad–it’s simple and repetitive enough to be sung during communion.
If I remember correctly, I submitted it to the “cattle call” for the United Methodist Worship and Song hymnal. These preliminary calls for submissions regularly receive 2,000 – 5,000 songs that the poor committee members have to sift through. I would like to think they chose my song because of its superior craftsmanship and theological acumen, but I’m pretty sure it was actually for two very practical reasons: 1. There aren’t a lot of contemporary(ish) songs for the Lord’s Supper. 2. It only takes up a half page.
From there it was picked up by the Presbyterian Glory to God hymnal. And from there it ended up in a YouTube video of Central Presbyterian Church of Denver’s communion.
You probably know Harry Plantinga and me as the duo who co-founded Hymnary.org. As of a month ago, though, we are also a musical duo–a veritable hymnological Lennon and McCartney.
Harry wrote a Transfiguration hymn based on Luke 9:28-36 that needed a tune. I suggested my tune GILLIGAN (published in the hymnal In Melody and Song and also available at my website). After the text and tune pairing was finalized, he decided to use it as a test case for a new hymn presentation software he’s developing with Hymnary.org. You can try this “scroll-view” prototype here: https://rh.hymnary.org/history/v0.1.html (press “m” on your keyboard to start the demo) or click on the link below to read the full text.
This Sunday (4/28/19) was the premiere of “Psalm 84: Blessed Beyond Measure” at Trinity Lutheran Church in Owatonna, MN. The piece was commissioned for their 100th-year celebration service, which was held in a local arena. It was so beautiful to see 125 singers and instrumentalists of all stripes performing together.
The people have spoken, and the people have decided that “True Tenor” is the most worthy tune to be paired with the lyrics “Jesus Lives, and So Shall I.” For those of you who like statistics, the voting results are below. For those of you who like music, you can print this PDF leadsheet and sing the song in your congregation on Sunday!
Here are some of my favorite general comments:
The good news is that I can totally see each of the arrangements being used at different churches. The bad news is that you sound nothing like Chris Tomlin.
You need to use another cover pic. This one is nice but perpetuates the White Jesus myth. [Interestingly, this comment came in while I was at a cultural bias workshop where we spent time discussing this very issue.]
Nope. I hated them all and wish I could take back the time I spent listening to them to take the nap I was going to take.
Joanna says “I think one of them should be disco inferno.” So there is some solid feedback from a four-year-old. [My business manager’s daughter has sophisticated taste in pop music!]
1. Jesus lives, and so shall I. The sting of death is gone forever. Jesus lives— the One who died the bands of death to sever. God has raised me from the dust: Jesus is my hope and trust.
2. Jesus lives! My soul revived when Jesus called. I was awakened from my sleep to glorious light; the shroud of death He's shaken. From the grave God raised me up: Jesus is my hope and trust.
3. Jesus lives! New life begins within this heart so long in slavery. From the crushing weight of sin, God’s arm reached down and saved me. Each new day brings grace enough: Jesus is my hope and trust.
4. Jesus lives, and nothing now can separate me from my Savior. Earthly pain nor Satan’s power could cause his love to waver. Those he’s found are never lost: Jesus is my hope and trust.
Awake, my soul. Awake, my soul. Your Savior calls— calls you to rise with him this dawn, calls you to life within God’s love: