Looking for that perfect Mother’s Day gift? I don’t have any advice on that. But if you’re looking for the perfect Ascension song, I can hook you up.
“A Hymn of Glory Let Us Sing” is the quintessential Ascension hymn, telling the story of Jesus’ ascent with the same kind of narrative arc you often find in Easter songs. Lots of tunes go with this long meter (188.8.131.52) text, but my favorite is DEO GRACIAS (sometimes called AGINCOURT). Its weighty minor melody is offset by a dancing rhythm.
It’s usually accompanied by organ, but I wanted to make this Medieval melody available to folk bands, worship teams, and early music consorts, so I wrote a new arrangement of it. Here’s the PDF leadsheet, and here’s an MP3 of the Guitarchestra playing the song.
Speaking of spring cleaning, you’ll need to spring clean your ears after you’re done listening to this one. No, actually, I quite like this one; but it certainly isn’t easy listening music. I wrote it toward the end of my undergrad days. The second recording is of me on bass and my friend Jim DeFrancesco playing it at my senior recital. At one of our rehearsals my father said it sounded like it was composed by Palestrina’s demented younger brother. The first recording is performed by Andy Kohn, a guy who can actually play all the notes at tempo and on pitch. (Thank you, Andy!)
Astute listeners will recognize a quote from Bach’s chorale “Ach Wie Flüchtig” at the end of the piece. In fact, the whole piece distills the biting dissonance of that chorale, but whereas Bach resolved the tensions, I leave them hanging. If you know much about string bass solo literature, you’ll know that it’s mostly frothy show off stuff. I like that “Elegie” uses the entire range and playing techniques of the instrument while not losing focus on the music. Ironically, when I played it at a bass master class for a prominent bassist, he didn’t know what to say about it. There was a moment of awkward silence as he tried to think of something nice to say about the piece or my playing, and then he quickly moved on to more frothy show off stuff.
MP3 (Andy Kohn)
This will not go down in history as great art. But at the time, I thought it was a pretty cool answering machine message: MP3
When I lived in Salzburg, there was a street person named Louie who would often stop by to hear me play my guitar in the city square. He must have made quite an impression on me because he made it into two of my songs.
The first is a sympathetic–maybe even patronizing–description of Louie’s life on the street. In this second song, the roles are reversed. Instead of me pitying his life from my place of power and ease, in this one he presides over my trial to gain entrance into the after life. I await his verdict, but he can only laugh. The song is pretty much a transcription of a dream I had a few years after I returned from Salzburg.
I’m not sure why this has never made it onto any of my projects. It’s got all the hallmarks of great rock and roll: driving rhythm, a catchy chorus, shadowy figures gatekeeping the underworld, and whole tone scales. What do you think–will this ever be more than a B side?
As I announced previously, I lost the Grandfather Home for Children song contest, even though my song was the best. (A fact that was lost on the judges.) But the kind subscriber who alerted me to the contest liked my song enough to include it in his own church’s worship. Here is Dean and his crew at Erwin Presbyterian Church, TN, singing “We Are the Children of God.”
It does my heart good to know the song has found a loving home. As a matter of fact, I’m glad to hear from anyone who uses my music. Feel free to let me know you’re using a song or send me a recording. That’s what this blog is all about!
Five years ago, I wrote a song with Colin Gordon-Farleigh called “What Did You Mean?” Now that little musical seed that we planted is bearing fruit. It was recorded at Song City Studios in Nashville with a whip crack group of musicians who seemed to enjoy digging with their tastiest jazz chops. Colin told them to give it the Norah Jones treatment, and they responded in spades: MP3
More fun with creative phone messages! This time it’s me singing a two-part counterpoint message inviting people to leave a message: MP3
You heard “Den Armen” in a previous spring cleaning post in its original form as part of a cantata for choir and organ. Later, I returned to this movement and turned it into an anthem for women’s choir and piano, ably sung by the University of Pittsburgh Women’s Chorale: MP3. (I also have a version for women, strings and harp if anyone’s interested.)
I learned about Vine six second videos yesterday, and today started thinking about all the cool musical things that could be done with them. Problem: no iPhone. But on the way to Guitarchestra rehearsal this evening I began writing a 6 second worship song in my head in the hopes one of the players would have one. Sure enough, Jim Zoeteway is enough of a techie to have brought his. He downloaded the app during rehearsal and we learned and filmed the song at the end of the night. (“This kind of quality in that little time?” you say. Oh yes.)
Without further ado, I present to you the world’s first 6 second, infinitely repeatable worship song, played by the Church of the Servant Guitarchestra–sideways–and documented in a Vine video: https://vine.co/v/bPEaJTtH5hQ.
In Bertolt Brecht’s Trommeln in der Nacht, there’s a touching scene in which a returning soldier’s wife explains why she eventually gave up hoping he was still alive. I decided that I needed to set it to music, and friends Karen Hopkins and Kathryn Chester were kind enough to sing and play it: MP3.