Ponder: to think about carefully, especially before making a decision or reaching a conclusion.
Anew: In a new or different and typically more positive way.
These two words come from the third stanza of Joachim Neander’s perennially popular hymn, “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty.” And just as this stanza invites us to “Ponder anew what the Almighty can do,” this orchestral hymn invites us to consider afresh the attributes and works of Almighty God. Ponder Anew is purely an instrumental work but the text and tune are so familiar that the words will spontaneously spring to mind as the theme unwinds. Thereby, the new harmonies, rhythms, and phrasings in Ponder Anew will likely elicit from the listener a new and different way of thinking about the text. So, as this new setting of the tune melds together peace, majesty, mystery, power, beauty, and grace it stirs the listener to “think carefully, in a new and more positive way, about what the Almighty can do.”
The music in not particularly difficult and should be readily playable by high school or higher level musicians. Yet, both musicians and audience will find the power and intimacy of the work interesting and enjoyable with music that reflects the majesty and mystery of its subject.
It Is Not Death to Die, is a setting of French poet Henri Abraham César Malan’s Non, ce n’est pas mourir as translated by George Washington Bethune. This text first came to my attention through Dan Wells’ choral arrangement of Bob Kauflin’s popular setting. Although Kauflin’s treatment of the text is lovely and effective I sensed that there were still depths of Malan’s poetry to be probed, especially the tension between the Christian’s certain transition into eternal bliss and the inevitability of tasting death. This moved me to attempt a fresh musical setting that captures the mixture of dread and hope borne out in the acclamation that “death is swallowed up in victory!”
If you have an adventurous church choir or advanced academic singers you’ll want to consider using this setting of It Is Not Death to Die, with deep pathos in its musical progression that matches the text’s narrative, in your upcoming programming. Available with orchestra (this version) or piano accompaniment, It Is Not Death to Die makes a fitting close to the Easter season, or is suitable for Ascension Sunday, funeral, memorial service, or any time in the church year to remind Christians of the central hope of our faith, eternal life in Christ. Its artistic treatment of humanity’s universal appointment with death works as a moving component of a concert program as well.
What Child We Sing? blends the melodies of GREENSLEEVES and NOEL NOUVELET into a new work for orchestra that explores the clash of transcendence meeting imminence at Christ’s incarnation. Soft and ethereal whispers of strings and winds meet violent thunders of brass and percussion in contemplation of the awesome majesty of the Eternal Son wrapped in the harmless, delicate flesh of a newborn babe.
What Child We Sing? fits perfectly in the Advent or Christmas seasons with its strong exposition of traditional Christmas carols and would be suitable as a prelude, offertory, or reflective music in either liturgical or unstructured service. It has sufficient artistic metric to be suitable for the concert stage as well, although it is not at all difficult, being suitable for intermediate or higher level musicians. “
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 compels me to do what I can to promote their increase.
The brief twelfth Psalm is a lament painting a bleak scenario of engulfing depravity and vanishing righteousness in ancient Israel. It could just as well have been commentary on the decline of morality in contemporary Western society. Further, rather than offering resolution or relief for the psalmist’s desperate plea for help, the Psalm asserts that “the words of the LORD are pure words,” to say in effect that there is no hope except in the Word of God.
TWELVE attempts to capture this chaos and despair of the twelfth Psalm through pointillistic phrasing, dissonant harmonies, cross rhythms, and extended choral and instrumental techniques. The psalm’s slender ray of hope is portrayed in a contrasting section of subdued peacefulness painted with flowing themes in conventional harmonies.
Near the end of his career, Erik Satie wrote five pieces for piano designated as nocturnes. Contrary to most of his oeuvre, these five pieces lack the satire, wit, and non-conformity Satie usually exhibited. Still, they are unmistakably Satie: soothing,floating, and very French. This work is a straightforward arrangement of Satie’s 4th Nocturne, applying the color and dynamic ranges of the orchestra to his piano writing while maintaining the enchanting dance-like character of the original work.