Tag Archives: choir

The Lady in The Back Row


3605629805_00de328b9aI will begin today with two pieces of background information.  First, as a part of the process of discerning my call to ministry I have been asked to write a paper on my faith journey. This has led to a lot of thinking about my past. The second thing is that I am currently living away from home and thus attending a different church. This past Sunday found me in the choir at my sister’s church. The sermon was based on the early verses of Philippians  and the focus turned to Paul giving thanks to God for the people in the church at Phillipi. The minister made a point of the fact that Paul was talking about actual people,  individuals whom he remembered from his time there. He then asked us to look around the church and find three people for whim we were thankful. Here’s where my first two points come in. I was in the choir so I could easily look out on the congregation  and see everyone. As I looked around at a room of strangers and a few acquaintances I had to stretch. I spotted this elderly woman in the very back row and did a double take as my first thought was that it was my grandmother. Next connection, I have recently written a section on the influence my now deceased grandmother had on my Christian development and there she was looking up from the back row. I knew that it was not Grammie, but for the rest of the service my eyes were drawn to her over and over. For me it seemed that Grammie was letting me know that she supports the path on which I am travelling.  After the service I made a point of finding her. I introduced myself to her and I told her that she was one of my three people. I explained what I had felt and she thanked me and said that she was glad that she had come to church. We can find people for whom to be thankful anywhere. They won’t all remind us of relatives, they won’t even all be people we like, but we should keep our eyes open for them!

Brought to you by the numbers 7 and 4


Kingsclear-20130411-00562One week before choir practice I took the opportunity to set the hymn board for Sunday’s service.  I started by taking all the numbers I would need out of the pile and I started to worry that I might run out of sevens and fours.  At the practice later I commented, “This weeks service will be brought to you by the numbers four and seven.”  After we finished joking around about Sesame Street and the shows brought to us by a number and a letter each episode, we went on to practice.

As a member of the team who select the weekly hymns I can assure you that we did not set out to see how few different digits we could use.  We had no bias that week against twos, threes, fives, or nines.  There are times in the church year, like Advent, Lent, Christmas, and Easter when the majority of the hymns will come from that seasonal section of the book.  At these times all the numbers will be within around thirty of each other.  If the theme for the week is mission the numbers are likely to be in the 700 s as that is the area of the book for that type of hymn.

Our Presbyterian Church in Canada Book of Praise, like most I expect, is organized with the sung Psalms at the beginning, sections of hymns for the seasons of the church year in order, then a section for God, Jesus, the Spirit, and the Trinity. The rest of the book is organized thematically.

A quick look at the hymn board when you first enter the church should give you a pretty good idea of the theme for the service.

Hymn selection for services may seem random to the people in the pews, and indeed it may be some of the time, but usually a lot of thought and reflection goes into the choices.  An integral part of worship, the hymns should be carrying the theme through the service and helping you to perceive and internalize the message.

Check it out the next time you are in a church, whether using a bulletin or the hymn board.  Look up a couple of the hymns to see what sections they are in.  Are they grouped closely together or spread out?

I realize that many churches probably don’t use hymn boards any more, instead projecting the hymns and service information at the front.  Our church uses bulletins we give to each person with the order of service, unison prayers, hymn numbers and announcements.  I guess we don’t really need a hymn board, but it is tradition.  Back when the Psalms were in our Book of Praise the number of the responsive Psalm would also have been on the board which is why there are five rows and only four hymn numbers.

Three Days Until Easter:


With Easter so near we can almost taste the chocolate, many of us have gone from weeks of reflection on our relationship with God through Christ to lists of to-dos for special family meals, and to-buys for Easter baskets for our kids.  Those with little girls may be out buying that perfect Easter dress and with little boys maybe getting little dress shirts and ties.  As with other special days of celebration we like to make a fuss.

With our kids a little older now, we don’t really do much with baskets or egg hunts any more.  We aren’t hosting a family event, so the panic clean-up is not under way.  The biggest sign that we are only 3 days away from Easter morning was last night when my husband arrived home with a huge box of bacon.  For years he has helped to organize the sunrise breakfast at our church and, for many of us, bacon plays a central role in the event.  At this point, the decisions about worship have all been made, the anthems planned and as practised as they are going to get.  

It is time to let go and let ourselves be swept away in the story and the emotional roller-coaster of this four-day period.  We will rise from the Passover meal with Christ on Thursday night feeling at the same time so close to him and confused by what he has said will happen.  Afraid that he will be leaving us, worried that we might deny him.  We will be horrified by the treatment he takes and the cries for his crucifixion, we will feel immense guilt as we see him hanging there on the cross, an innocent man.   Our sense of loss and grief will overtake us as we hear the words, “It is finished.”  This will be followed by a lost day in which regular life continues but feels like it shouldn’t.  And then there will be Sunday.

On Sunday morning we will rise to go back into our churches which were last seen in a moment of deep grief and pain, and be lifted up on the amazing wave of the news, “He lives!”  Let yourself feel it all this Easter weekend, and remember it throughout the rest of the year, for this is why we are Christians!

Praise Notes: The Book of Praise Hymn 64


Another in a series of posts that go through hymns in The Book of Praise of the Presbyterian Church of Canada. 

Hymn #64

Be still and know that I am God

BE STILL AND KNOW
Words: anonymous
Music: anonymous
 
Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am God.

I am the Lord that healeth thee.
I am the Lord that healeth thee.
I am the Lord that healeth thee.

In thee, O Lord, I put my trust.
In thee, O Lord, I put my trust.
In thee, O Lord, I put my trust. 

I like this well-known hymn despite its repetitive lyrics.  It is in the repetition that one is able to rest and, be still.

Similar to the repetition in the lyrics the melody has a simple pattern with a rising line between two falling lines.  The triple rhythm has a soothing almost rocking feel which adds to the stillness even more.


Praise Notes: The Book of Praise Hymn 61


Another in a series of posts that go through hymns in The Book of Praise of the Presbyterian Church of Canada. 

Hymn #61

Oh come and sing unto the Lord

Psalm 95
Irish
Paraphrase,  Psalter 1912
Music: A Collection of Hymns and Sacred Poems, 1749
 
Oh come and sing unto the Lord;
to God our voices raise.
O Rock of  our salvation hear
our joyful noise of praise!

Before God’s presence let us come
with praise and thankful voice;
let us sing psalms to God with grace,
with grateful hearts rejoice.

Our God is great and reigns supreme
above all power and might;
God’s hand still holds the depths of earth,
the mountains’ breadth and height.

The sea belongs to God alone
who made both calm and storm,
and from the Maker’s mighty hand
the dry land took its form.

Oh come and let us worship God
as to our knees we fall;
we are God’s people; God is Lord,
the Maker of us all.

This paraphrase flows well and uses language which will be simple even for children.  Good to use when Psalm 95 comes up in the lectionary, this is also good to use any time creation or praise in general are a Sunday theme.

Irish is a good melody with two distinctive phrase patterns.  The first two phrases are primarily step-wise while the second pair has a series of skips and falls with eighth notes to add interest.  The tune is used for one other hymn in the book, Thy kingdom come- on bended knee #784.


Praise Notes: The Book of Praise Hymn 58


Another in a series of posts that go through hymns in The Book of Praise of the Presbyterian Church of Canada. 

Hymn #58

To render thanks unto the Lord

Psalm 92
Bishopthorpe
Paraphrase, Scottish  Psalter 1650
Music: Jeremiah Clarke (c.1674-1707) paraphrase
 
To render thanks unto the Lord,
it is a comely thing,
and to thy name, O thou Most High,
due praise aloud to sing.

Thy loving kindness to show forth
when shines the morning light,
and to declare thy faithfulness
with pleasure every night,

upon a ten-stringed instrument,
up on the psaltery,
and on the harp with solemn sound,
and grave sweet melody.

For thou, Lord, by thy mighty works
hast made my heart right glad,
and I will triumph in the works
which by thy hands were made. 

The language is quite archaic.  When was the last time you heard anything referred to as “comely”?  I find the fact that verse two doesn’t end until the end of verse three irritating, as always when these things happen.

The tune Bishopthorpe is a slightly less familiar melody, at least in the churches in my area.  In 3/4 time, it begins with a syncopated pick-up note at each phrase.  I really like the snappy rhythm in the second last bar.  The range is slightly less than an octave, and it is easy to sing.  This is the only hymn in the Book of Praise which uses this melody, though it does work with other 8686 CM lyrics.


Praise Notes: The Book of Praise Fifteen


Fifteenth in a series of posts that go through hymns in The Book of Praise of the Presbyterian Church of Canada. 

Hymn #54

My song forever shall record

Psalm 89
St. Petersburg
Paraphrase: Psalter 1912
Music: Dmitri Stepanovich Bortnyanski (1751-1825)
 
 

 My song forever shall record
the tender mercies of thte Lord;
thy faithfulness will I proclaim,
and every age shall know thy name.
I sing of mercies that endure,
forever builded firm and sure.

Almighty God, thy lofty throne
has justice for its cornerstone,
and shining bright efore thy face
are truth and love and boundless grace.
The heavens shall join in glad accord
to praise thy wondrous works, O Lord.

The swelling sea obeys thy will;
its angry waves my voice can still;
the heavens and earth,|by right divine,
the world and all therein are thine;
the whole creation’s wondrous frame
proclaims its Maker”s glorious name.

With blessing is the nation crowned
whose people know the joyful sound;
they in the light, O Lord, shall live,
the light thy face and favour give.
Their fame and might to thee belong,
for in thy favour they are strong. 

I really like this hymn.  It is new to me, that is it hasn’t been used at my church or at least not often, but I think it deserves to be used more often.  The lyrics are nicely paraphrased into singable poetry which match the phrase lengths and rhyme nicely.

The melody is lovely and lilting and has a nice little switch-up at the end of the second phrase to transition into the third which is different.  It ends up being A A’ B in form.  The harmony parts are interesting to sing and add to the overall appeal of the piece.

 

Praise Notes: The Book of Praise Fourteen


Fourteenth in a series of posts that go through hymns in The Book of Praise of the Presbyterian Church of Canada. 

Hymn #51

There where the judges gather

Psalm 82
Munich
Paraphrase: Henry Zylstra (1909-1956)
Music: Neuvermehrtes Gesangbuch 1963; arr Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
 
 
 

There where the judges gather, a greater takes the seat;
“How long,” God asks the judges, “will you pronounce deceit?
How long show special favour to those of ill repute?
How long neglect the orphan, the poor and desitute?

Deal justly with the needy; protect the powerless;
deliver the afflicted from those who would oppress,
but you are surely blinded; you do not understand:
therefore foundations totter; injustice rocks the land.”

God speaks: “I named you rulers, to serve the Most High God,
but you shall die as mortals and perish by my rod.”
Arise, O God, in judgement, your sovereignty make known,
for yours are all the nations: the peoples are your own.

I don’t really like the flow of the lyrics for this hymn.  The Psalm itself is far easier to follow and is not divided into even length stanzas which fits better with the meaning. 

Munich is a good tune, though not very familiar in my church.  Another suggestion given is St. Theodulph (214, 115) which is quite familiar.

 

Praise Notes: The Book of Praise Thirteen


Thirteenth in a series of posts that go through hymns in The Book of Praise of the Presbyterian Church of Canada. 

Hymn #47

Remember not, O God

Psalm 79
Southwell (Daman)
Paraphrase: Psalter 1912
Music: Daman’s Psalter 1579
 
 
 

Remember not, O God,
the sins of long ago;
in tender mercy visit us,
distressed and humbled low.

O Lord, our Saviour, help,
and glorify your name;
deliver us from all our sins
and take away our shame

Then, safe within your fold,
we will exalt your name;
our thankful hearts with songs of joy
your goodness will proclaim.

The poetry of this is quite nice.  I read it aloud and the flow is great. It basically sums up two stanzas of detailed lists of sins of the nations, nineteen lines of poetry, down into one line, “Remember not, O God, the sins of long ago;”  The full Psalm is a lot more raw than the paraphrase.

Southwell, the tune, is short and simple.  In a minor key and very stepwise it is not hard to sing.  The rhythm provides some interest with the dotted rhythm in the third phrase which breaks up the square feeling from the other three phrases.  I would be inclined to ignore the half-note value for the first word of each verse and just have a quarter-note pick-up which then matches the other phrases.

 

Praise Notes: The Book of Praise Twelve


Twelfth in a series of posts that go through hymns in The Book of Praise of the Presbyterian Church of Canada. 

Hymn #39

O God of mercy, God of grace

Psalm 66
Dix
Paraphrase, Henry Francis Lyte (1793-1847)
Music: Conrad Kocher (1786-1872)
Arrangement: William Henry Monk (1823-1889)
public domain
 
 
God of mercy, God of grace,
show the brightness of your face.
Shine upon us, Saviour, shine;
fill your world with light divine,
and your saving health extend
unto earth’s remotest end.

Let the people praise you, Lord;
be by all that live adored.
Let the nations shout and sing
glory to their gracious King;
at your feet their tribute pay,
and your holy will obey.

Let the people praise you, Lord;
earth shall then its fruits afford.
Unto us your blessing give;
we to you devoted live,
all below and all above,
one in joy and light and love.

This is the first of the hymns to which I can give wholehearted recommendation for use in services.  The paraphrase is good.  It fits nicely with the musical phrases.  It is only three verses which makes it good to use when time is an issue in your service.  I assume that part of the reason it is so well-known is that it is such  a positive prayer which can fit almost any circumstance and not only when Psalm 66 is in the lectionary readings for the day.

In my area at least, this is a very well-known melody and arrangement. It is not difficult to sing and the ABABCD phrase structure gives both continuity and variety.  Overall, a great piece of music!