Monthly archives "January 2015"

Service Music Planner

Friends, thanks to all of you who wrote in to ask for a copy of the Service Music Planner I mentioned last month. I think I have responded to everyone, but it is still available for the asking–just send me a message. I will send it by e-mail.

The American Organist–February 2015

Practical Organ Music
February 2015
Dr. Christopher Cook

Is Lent changing? I mean, is our understanding of the meaning of Lent undergoing some kind of gradual revision? Over the years, it has been harder and harder for me to keep choosing music from the old repertory that used to work so well. My church has moved away from the Lent of Repentance with its Sinners-in-the-Hands-of-an-Angry-God theology. Now in the hands of a loving God, we are inviting our people into a season, not of fear, but of reflection and spiritual renewal. “Seven Variations on Dies Irae (Day of Wrath)” just doesn’t fit anymore. If the theology in your church is changing, then maybe the music you choose should reflect it.
I have been hearing changes in our musical theology for quite a while. Many of our composers are showing us the way. Scott Hyslop certainly has in his new “Six Chorale Silhouettes for Organ (Concordia 97-7656).” In his hands, Lord Keep Us Steadfast has become an unapologetic jazz waltz. (I will leave it to you to make the theological connection here.) He makes a very good drum effect in Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus, and the Stanley-paraphrase theme in Ride On, Ride On in Majesty is quite dashing. And, you can find a good example of this more nuanced approach to Lent in the lovely Let Us Ever Walk with Jesus.
You can also hear the New Lent in Charles Callahan’s “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross (MorningStar 10-334).” Callahan doesn’t surrender depth of feeling for the sake of easy listening here. He uses his mastery of harmony to keep Lenten tension throughout his title piece, as well as in two other multiple-tune assemblages, “Cross of Jesus” and “Lenten Prelude,” connecting St. Flavian, Horsley and Beecher. The Gregorian-based, “Jesu dulcis memoria” is a chance to create a gracious atmosphere for reflection. This is a generous book with four more Easter-themed pieces to complete the season.
The three ‘R’s’ of Lent are Repentance, Reflection, and Renewal. You will find the full range in these three volumes from Kevin Mayhew. “Lent and Easter Collection—Mostly Manuals (#1400199)” is filled with free compositions that are new commissions. “The Organist’s Companion from Lent to Easter (#1400272)” contains a large number of newly composed, hymn-based pieces. Mayhew’s piéce de resistance in this genre is “The Organist’s Great Big Lent and Easter Book (#140097).” While quite an investment, you may never need to buy another book for this season again!
I haven’t forgotten our New Year Aspiration to work on improving our service playing skills. Hymn playing remains a top priority. Here is a new volume to add some more sparkle: “25 Alternate Hymn Harmonizations for Organ (MorningStar 10-215).” I admire Clay Christiansen’s ability to stay within the tonal boundaries that most congregations find inspiring, not exasperating. These are the tunes we play all the time, and they will bear repeating.
It is hard to overlook the many hymn alternation volumes offered by Mayhew. You may already know some of them. New to me is their “200 New Last Verses (#1400455), put together not by one, but by the entire team of house composers. Sometimes it is hard to find good alternate harmonizations for manuals only. Here is “200 Last Verses—Manuals” from Noel Rawsthorne (Mayhew #1400101), full of his well-known, skillful work. These books really are lifetime investments. If you plan to purchase one occasionally, it won’t be long before you have a good library to choose from. Earlier I mentioned the three “R’s” of Lent, Repentance, Reflection and Renewal. Have you ever noticed that there is another meaning to the word lent? In French, lent means ‘slow.’ As we get ready for the busy season ahead, perhaps that is exactly what we each need to do. Here is my wish for you: a truly blessed–a Slow Lent this year!