So this morning blogging is a pleasant interlude in a relaxed morning for me. I have somehow managed to have most of today to myself. At 6 I will join the rest of the organ committee at Hope College and Huw Lewis, the organ guy there, will show us the organs there. I am hoping this will be a a low key meeting. I want to keep a low profile at it.
I have been doing my usual reading this morning. Yesterday I emailed back and forth with Rhonda about Sunday’s Member Recital. I offered to do several combinations of pieces and hymns. She asked me to do the one where I will play Bach’s “Aus tiefer Not” BWV 687 and follow it with everyone singing Susan Palo Cherwien’s text, “In Deepest Night,” sung to Emily Mason Porter’s tune with which it is paired in the Episcopal Hymnal supplement, Voices Found. Then, I will play a composition of my own based on this tune called “A Saving Breath.”
I admit that this little set was inspired a bit by Olivier Latry’s clever programming. Porter’s tune borrows from the melody, “Aus tiefer Not” beginning with the same five note patter as it does. The title of my piece is drawn from the third stanza of Susan Cherwien’s hymn: “When through the waters winds our path, around us pain, around us death: deep calls to deep, a saving breath…”
Augsburg press owns the copyright to both text and tune. I can’t share my composition because I don’t have permission to use the Porter tune. A rep from Augsburg emailed me and I took it down from my blog (see my blog post from Sept 17, 2009, “Step away from the hymntune“). This is especially ironic because Porter borrowed from Martin Luther, but like Disney, Augsburg guards its own derived copyrights weirdly and has successfully stifled me from sharing my composition. It even discourages me from trying to get it published. Judging from my experience with Grail translation, it’s barely worth it for a composer to use existing copyrighted material like a hymn tune or a translation because the copyright owners insist on splitting the meager profits one makes from publishing music. The Grail ladies get 5% from my choral composition using their translation of Psalm 51, as do I. Their cut comes out of my original 10% agreement with MorningStar. It’s all moot because no one really buys my choral music and MorningStar has distanced itself from me.
Anyway I am delighted that Rhonda has chosen this set and also am planning to use the two pieces as the prelude and postlude for this coming Sunday. It is a pleasure to learn Bach and I’m happy to show some people one of my own compositions, something I don’t do that often these days.
I’m planning to use some of my leisure time today to read up on the Bach tunes I’m using this week. I’m playing prelude and postlude by him tomorrow night at Ash Wednesday. Prelude: Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ (I Call On Thee, Lord Jesus Christ) BWV 639 and Postlude: O Mensch, bewein’ dein’ Sünde gross (O mankind, mourn your great sins) BWV 622. This is how they will appear in the bulletin. I have played this pair for a few years in a row for Ash Wednesday. This works out well for me because it ensures that I am keeping some of the great organ music of Bach connected to the church year at Grace. My thinking is that repetition serves this music.
Today I’m planning to not only consult my more recent resources (Peter Williams’ invaluable The Organ Music of Bach: Second Edition and the Leupold Edition of the “Clavier-Übung III) but also to dig out my Schweitzer’s two volume J. S. Bach. Schweitzer scholarship is dated but I like to read what he says about the meaning of Bach’s sacred work. It sometimes still helps me understand it.