So yesterday was an interesting day. My violist showed up to play the service and I quickly adapted the Ferguson setting of “We’re Marching to Zion” I had planned for the organ prelude to include her. It improved it I think. I almost always like to add an instrument to the organ if I can in that kind of a piece. It breathes life into it.
The congregational singing was strong yesterday. My boss did a last minute switch on the opening hymn to “Earth and All Stars.” I think the familiarity of this great tune matched with that text really worked. Good call. I kept doing the repeated sections of the verses (“sing to the Lo-ho-ho-ho-ord a new song!”) in octaves without harmony, prepping the group psychologically for dropping out entirely on them on the next to the last stanza. I like to do that sort of thing. It feels like an antiphonal moment between the accompaniment and assembly. Improvised a fancy last stanza accompaniment.
The sequence hymn was “Will you come and follow me?” John Bell’s text is matched with a tune that outshines its purported Barry Manilow (shudder) model and moves through the words much more quickly than the Scottish folk tune (Kelvingrove) I have seen paired with it. The violist joined me on this hymn and was very musical with my stretching of the ends of phrases. This stretching made the congregational singing seem more natural to me.
I got a little wicked on the offertory. I had scheduled “I have decided to follow Jesus.” I had a guitar player and a violist and decided to do this tune more country. So my viola was a fiddle for a song. I let them do the intro without piano. Then when the cong started singing I did my best Charley Pride licks and we had a hootenany moment. Admittedly those are rare in the Anglican worship, heh. I told the other musicians if I nodded my head on the second stanza we would stop and let the cong sing alone. I did and they did. It worked okay. I was disappointed that no one started clapping in rhythm as they sang. I suppose they need to prompted to such outbursts. Heh.
Both of the communion hymns were from the Hymnal 1982. I have had a couple comments that some parishioners are missing traditional/heritage hymns. I’m not sure exactly what this means. It could be they glance up at the hymn board and count the hymns from the “real” hymnal (1982). In which case we came in with three hymns out of six from the Hymnal 1982. I don’t think that’s too bad.
But actually all of the hymnody was far from traditional and heritage based. “Earth and All Stars” is a 20th century tune and text. It originates in the Lutheran practice. “Will you come and follow me?” is from the Scottish Iona community text wise with a tune by a collaboration between an Episcopalian priest and musician (Roger Douglas, rector of St. Philip’s in the Hills, Tucson and his musician John L. Hooker). “I have decided to follow Jesus” was purportedly penned by a Christian from Northern India named Sadhu Sundar. It is taken from the dreaded (by the traditional/heritage camp) African American Hymnal of the Episcopal Church: Lift Every Voice and Sing II. And to top it off we did it in a quasi country/blue grass style. The other two communion hymns from the 1982 were “Let us break bread together” and “Now the Silence.” The first entered American mainline Christian churchs’ hymnals in the 60s (believe it or not). The second comes from the pen of the talented hymnwriter Jaroslav Vajda and matched to the tune written for it by Carl Schalk. Both of these men are also Lutherans.
Oddly enough, our closing hymn could have been the most traditional/heritage/historical because it used part of the Cornish melody for “Tomorrow will be my dancing day.” The words come from a Hymnal for Children. I wonder if these words qualify for the adjective both my brother the priest and my parishioner the retired English prof use for some hymns: “Thin theology.”
Anyway. The setting only uses the first half of the carol. I perversely added the rest of it in an interlude on violin and organ. This worked nicely since it only has two stanzas:
1.The church is wherever God’s people are praising,
singing in thanks for joy on this day.
The church is wherever disciples of Jesus
rember his story and walk in his way.
2. The church is wherever God’s people are helping,
caring for neighbors in sickness and need.
The church is wherever God’s people are sharing
the words of the Bible in gift and in deed.
Theologically thin? Certainly simple.
Sorry to regale readers with blow by blow, but this is what I’m thinking about this morning, trying to clear my head for this evening’s drive to O’Hare International to pick up my youngest daughter, Sarah.
After church was our annual kick-off picnic. I worked the crowd after eating a bit (of food not the crowd. Ahem.). Had some good conversations.
Later Eileen and I drove to Muskegon and did a birthday party for her Mom. yesterday was her 85th. Eileen’s Dad died not too long ago and her Mom is still working on getting her equilibrium back. She looked good yesterday and seem to enjoy herself. Her only regret seemed to be not being able to have a beer with her meal in the restaurant due to the meds she is taking.