Honest to God (The Psalms as the Language of Real Faith) @ Baylor University

This fall I visited Baylor University, giving the “Hearn Innovator” lecture, speaking in classes, and enjoying rich conversations with students and faculty. One of my favorite events was leading a chapel of Psalm singing. The band was tight and the students were (mostly) enthusiastic. My part begins at 11:47.

09-25-19 Greg Scheer Chapel from Baylor Chapel on Vimeo.

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Lead On, O King Eternal

Henry T. Smart, 1813-1879
Ernest W. Shurtleff, 1862-1917

Necessity is the mother of invention, and in the case of this Sunday’s service, I needed an arrangement of “Lead On, O King Eternal” for worship band. Henry Smart’s tune is triumphant, bordering on a march. That doesn’t work well with pop music instruments. So I softened the march rhythm and gave it a bit of a groove with a jangly electric guitar line a la early Elvis Costello. It might be the perfect blend of old and new; it might be an awkward marriage of substance and style. I will report back on how it works.

Interested in downloading the leadsheet? Go here.

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Psalm 103: Bless the Lord, O My Soul! @ Calvin University

On October 28, I was privileged to lead Calvin University’s chapel with the Campus Choir. We focused on Psalm 103–my favorite–singing four different versions of the Psalm as a way of “preaching with song.” We sang Taizé’s “Bless the Lord My Soul,” Matt Redman’s “Ten Thousand Reasons,” and the classic hymn “Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven.” We concluded with my anthem, “Bless the Lord, O My Soul!” which begins at 17:23. A good time was had by all. (As far as I could tell.)

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Proof of Concept

I’ve been a fan of M.C. Escher for a long time. One of the things that fascinates me about his art is how he meticulously worked out his tesselations on graph paper before incorporating them into a finished print. These “proof of concept” sketches were a necessary step in creating his mind-boggling works of art.

In the same way, I’ve had a number of Escheresque musical ideas that have been simmering on the back burner for some time. Yesterday, I was able to record a quick demo–a draft that would allow me to figure out some of the logistics for a later piece. In the end, it didn’t work. So be it. That’s how one learns.

Can anyone guess the musical concept I was trying to implement?

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Jesus, Be Enough – SATB Choir, Piano, and opt. Flute

Last year I attended a songwriting retreat that focused on writing Christmas songs for too often overlooked themes. Great writers like Liz Vice, Matt Papa, Eddie Espinosa, and Latifah Alattas applied their skills to theological ideas like the union of heaven and earth in the person of Christ and the dark side of the Christmas story such as the slaughter of the innocents and the flight to Egypt.

It was at this retreat that I wrote “Jesus, Be Enough.” In the year since, I’ve wondered what this song wants to be when it grows up. Now, just in time for Christmas, it has decided that it would like to be a choral anthem! Above, you can listen to a rough demo I recorded at choir rehearsal this evening. To download it for your choir you can visit my website: https://gregscheer.com/product/jesus-be-enough/.

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Refugee King, with Liz Vice, et al

It was my great pleasure to work with Liz Vic, Wen Reagan, Bruce Benedict, and Lester Ruth to write this song, “Away in A Manger.” Most Christmas songs are all sweetness, with the baby Jesus sleeping contentedly, “no crying he makes.” This song turns that idyllic picture on its head, revealing the drama and stress of a real family with a real baby who was the target of jealous politician’s wrath, forcing them to flee “away from the manger” to the safety of Egypt. Liz does a wonderful job on this new recording, just in time for Christmas.

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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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