All posts tagged "Church Music"

“God is a great fugue”


Peter Bannister is a modern classic composer who takes theology seriously. Concerning his recent oratorio Et iterum venturus est (And He shall come again), he says: The historic creedal statement…reminds us that the Christian faith not only calls us to remember the Word’s becoming flesh but also to live in anticipation of Christ’s return. Et iterum venturus est is conceived as a work pulled in the “two directions” … focusing on Christ as both the promised Savior and Judge of Christian eschatology. For a long time I have felt that during the liturgical season of Advent (which will be the context for the first performance of the piece in December 2008) a great deal of attention is paid to recalling the (not-so-burning) Babe of Bethlehem and relatively little to the Crucified and Risen Christ’s future coming in glory … ‘to judge the living and the dead’ in the words of the Creed. The danger of this is that the awesome, unfathomable mystery that is the Incarnation becomes domesticated, dissociated from the transformational call to repentance and its implications for both our individual lives and God’s world. While being careful to avoid any kind of speculation on the time-frame for the parousia, I intend to juxtapose scriptural texts regarding these two comings of Christ within one work in order to demonstrate their inseparability within the Biblical witness and…to interpret the past in the light of the future. The video above (also viewable on YouTube here), Peter reflects on the challenges he faced writing Et iterum venturus est, discussing the intrinsic connection between music and spirituality and how he realized the necessity of linking profound theological reflection with challenging musical scores. Click here to download an interview with Peter Bannister by Greg Wheatley that aired on Moody Radio. HT:  Chandler Branch, Soli Deo Gloria


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“Not our work, but God’s work” – Interview with composer John Sall


John Sall was an young church music director when he heard about a competition for young composers, sponsored by a well-known New York church. At the time he was the Director of Music at Bethel Lutheran in Rochester, Minnesota, and – in his words – “was young, ambitious, and didn’t have children yet.” So John put pen to manuscript and wrote “Is Not This the Fast That I Choose”, an anthem based on Isaiah 58 for choir, organ and string quartet, which won the Grand Prize in the First Annual Competition for Young Composers sponsored by Riverside Church in New York in September 1999. “It’s designed for your average good four-part church choir, one used to singing independent four-part work,” John told me recently.  “It’s in a sort of unfamiliar or slightly minimal style for vocal writing, using a lot of the same harmonies with occasional unexpected moving lines that create dissonance.” So what is the biggest challenge with the anthem?  According to John, “I found that the hardest part was just getting into the mind and ear of the singers how the piece worked.  Once we did that, the notes themselves and the individual lines are not especially difficult.  It’s not intended to be virtuosic or challenging.” In the score, the original composition segues neatly into “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty (Lobe Den Herren, Neander, 1680),” which provides a nice surprise and ends the piece on a promising note, making a lasting impression on listeners: Praise to the Lord! who will prosper your work and defend you, Surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend you; Ponder anew what the Almighty can do, if with His love He befriend you! John calls the inclusion of the hymn a “delightful, happy accident.”  He says, “I was getting towards what I thought was the end of the work when the hymn introduced itself again to my mind.  It kind of walked in, sat down and said, ‘By the way, I think you should include me here at the end.’” John recently dusted the anthem off for his choir at Abington Presbyterian and found it as welcome as an old friend.  “What I found that I really loved about the piece is not just that sense of prophetic concern and chastisement that comes out in the call for the very things that God wants from us, but also the reminder of blessing that is inherent in doing those things.  In the text, it is portrayed as a cause and effect:  God says if you do these, things, then your light will break forth like the dawn.” “The idea is that while we do what is required of us, God will also strengthen the work because it’s not our work, but God’s work,” says John.  “It’s not that God’s work can’t be accomplished without us – He will find a way to get it done whether we do it or not – but that it is with putting our hands to the work God has in front of us, we will also be strengthened and uplifted by the work itself. God Himself participates with us in that process.” John Sall is the Music Director of Abington Presbyterian Church in Pennsylvania and author of Is Not This the Fast I Choose, a choral anthem based on Isaiah 58. This is one of the resources we offer free to participating churches.  We are grateful for his generosity in waiving royalties for churches that participate in Harmony of Hearts presentations.


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World Communion Sunday – Oct 4


Authentic Christian unity is effective witness. We know this because of Christ’s prayer in John 17:20-23: “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. This is the purpose behind World Communion Sunday, the first Sunday in October each year. Originating in the Presbyterian church in 1936, this observation has spread beyond denominational borders and now includes Baptist and Methodist churches. If you’re interested, here are several resources to consider (they may be dated but are still useful for planning): Presbyterian Church U.S.A Reformed Worship Cokesbury Worship Connection Can you think of a better way to display unity than helping the church overseas care for the poor ? You can simply demonstrate in song how God is working to care for the needs of the poor overseas through His people. Contact me if you’d like free music charts and other resources to help you commemorate World Communion Sunday (October 4th this year). (Artwork:  Psalm 85 by John August Swanson; HT:  PCUSA.org)


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Anthems on the Second Greatest Commandment


Here are some new choral anthems for the songlist that highlight the Second Great Commandment: Keep your Lamps by André Thomas:  (SATB) Medium/Easy version available from JW Pepper here. Seek to Serve by Lloyd Pfaustch; two-part choral anthem, available from SheetMusicPlus here. Learn how to partner your music with the poor here. HT:  Ted Davis @ St. Bartholomew’s Episocopal Church in Baltimore.


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Church musician, confessing atheist


The NYTimes focuses on the new and virulant strain of atheism in this piece which includes this insight from a church musician: Loretta Haskell, (a) church musician, said: “I did struggle at one point as to whether or not I should be making music in churches, given my position on things. But at the same time I like using my music to move people, to give them comfort. And what I’ve found is, I am not one of the humanists who feels that religion is a bad thing.” Ms. Haskell did not define the term ‘religion’, but it is safe to assume that hers does not include God.


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