For SATB Chorus, Clarinet, Timpani, Percussion, Piano, Cello
There are 150 psalms in the Bible, each one originally meant to be sung; and so they were for most of the last 3,000 years, beginning at the Jerusalem Temple. They were adopted as the primary song text of the early church as evidenced by Col. 3:16 and maintained in the Western church throughout medieval times. Psalms were the featured texts of most of the Reformers and were the sole mode of sacred singing among the first American settlers. Of late, hymns and choruses and popular songs with human texts have almost entirely replaced the singing of God’s word in many churches. This scarcity of Psalms in the Church’s song is a great loss which frequently motivates me to promote their increase. Thus, THIRTEEN , one member of my first suite of new Psalm settings, is offered as a to help bring the Psalms back into modern worship.
The thirteenth Psalm holds a complaint, a petition, and a confession of faith and the music of THIRTEEN portrays each with text painting appropriate to the psalmist’s words. A staggering timpani ostinato buffets away beneath the choir’s tripartite “how long” complaint, followed by a dissonant recitative petition which transitions through shimmering tonal clusters into a joyful, major-key, confession of faith blended with a NT perspective from Eph. 3:20-21.
THIRTEEN is challenging music, both in music and message, but for the adventurous music department it provides the opportunity to plumb the depths of scripture with artistry worthy of the rich heritage of Psalmody to use music to express the full message of God’s revelation. THIRTEEN is fitting to program liturgically as a musical exposition of the Psalm or in a sacred or secular concert setting. The very light orchestration complements the vocal performance with rich instrumental color without overwhelming the voices.
David’s Kyrie is a setting of selected verses from Psalm 51. It is a challenging piece suited for advanced choirs in an academic or concert setting or for adventurous ensembles in sacred services. It mixes ancient and modern forms and sonorities to depict the contrition, repentance, absolution, and salvation portrayed in the psalm, juxtaposing medieval chant with Whitacre-esque clusters and dissonances. In structure, David’s Kyrie roughly follows the Kyrie of the Christian mass and even borrows a melodic line from a medieval Kyrie.
The heading for Psalm 51 states that it is “For the director of music ” underscoring the fact that all 150 psalms in the Bible were meant to be sung, as they have been for most of the last 3,000 years. It is my hope that David’s Kyrie will be an encouragement to continue that great heritage.
Like a River Glorious is a brief once-through of the traditional hymn tune, WYE VALLEY meant to be ready to play in one rehearsal. It depicts the order, peace, and timelessness of God’s eternal kingdom with a sense of perpetual movement through the metaphor of a grand and majestic river. Readily playable by your school age musicians yet colorful and interesting enough to satisfy your most experienced players, Like a River Glorious fits perfectly into your services as prelude, postlude, or transitional musical worship while still being suitable for academic or civic concert settings.
It was one of those accidents where you find something useful when you’re looking for something else. While reading on the nature of worship, a particular blog article ended with Adoniram Judson’s early 19th Century baptismal poem, “Come Holy Spirit, Dove Divine.” The flowing text called out (at least to me!) for a musical setting. Accordingly, some melodic and harmonic ideas began to percolate in my thoughts. However, before getting very far along in writing a tune, there were two surprises in store. First many others had already set the text to music before (with a multitude of tunes) going back to at least 1833. Second, despite being a Baptist for over forty years, I discovered that this hymn has been in the Baptist Hymnal since 1956 yet I have no recollection of every singing it! Well, chagrined at my ignorance, I carried on writing a new melody and harmony for this deserving text. I sought to make it friendly to congregational singers while still containing rich and sing-able harmonies and so aimed for a four-part hymn-style form. However, as I suspect my ignorance of the hymn is a common condition, a fresh and modern tune which would be at home in varied musical styles and have popular appeal was also pursued. The result is a delightful and uplifting tune, easy to sing, with an optimistic and forward momentum, commensurate with the meaning of believers’ baptism, “Buried with Him in baptism; raised to walk in new life.” The music is flexible in application to many church music styles: praise team and band, choir and organ, congregation and piano, or mix and match to fit your needs. May you find Come,Holy Spirit, Dove Divine, singing a much needed text, a means for your congregation to joyfully join with new believers in celebration of their baptism!