From the Editor:
Praise the Lord! CFAMC seems to be off to a solid start. We recently received a grant which allowed us to produce and distribute some really sharp advertising to all the colleges, universities and conservatories in the United States. Your prayers are coveted as these posters arrive at their destinations; that the Holy Spirit will help get them put up on bulletin boards rather that tossed out. I am convinced that there are many believers out there who have been called to compose outstanding concert works for the Lord; if they are studying or working in these “secular” schools, we pray that they see our ads and join the Fellowship! Recently Howard Sandin, one of the foremost portrait painters in the country and a strong believer, spoke on our campus. He painted a bleak picture (no pun intended) of the ugliness which seems to characterize the serious art world in our nation. Mr. Sandin called upon the Lord to raise up a new generation of young Christian artists to bring Christ back to that lost arena. We need the same prayers for serious concert music! I hope that CFAMC can encourage Christian composers to get out there on the “front lines”, sharing their faith and talent with audiences and performers who need to meet Christ. Praise the Lord for His glorious grace! -Mark Hijleh
News of Note: Activities of CFAMC members…
*WILLIAM T. ALLEN is currently composing music for a children’s choir Advent program at Houghton Wesleyan Church.
*MARK HIJLEH’S Sacrae Symphoniae will be premiered by the Peabody Wind Ensemble in Baltimore, MD, in February 1995. HisChorale Prelude: Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross was recently commissioned by the Virginia Beach, VA all-city middle school band for its 1995 festival.
*WALTER SAUL has been commissioned by the Forest Grove (Oregon) United Church of Christ to write an anthem for their 150th anniversary in 1995.
*PATRICK KAVANAUGH’S book, Raising Musical Kids, was recently published by Servant Publications. Pat is also finishing a new book of musical devotionals.
LETTERS (responses encouraged!)
“It is my fervent hope for two things to take place in CFAMC, so this will not be merely a club of Christian composers: 1) that we will network effectively with both performers and arts organizations, particularly those that have expressed an interest in and/or devotion to the Christian faith, and , 2) that we will serve as mentors to our students, providing them with educational opportunities such as Composers Forums (where student works are performed and discussed with the audience in a safe, non-threatening, supportive environment), and composition contests that provide critiques of their work.” – Walter Saul
“Christianity Today” interviews CFAMC
Praise the Lord! Even with all the cultural strife going on in this country, we have been blessed with marvelous resources and Christians of real vision. Here’s an exciting prospect: Christianity Today magazine (CT) may spotlight CFAMC in an upcoming issue! The editors have recently begun a regular “Arts” page which gives an in-depth look at one particular arts ministry, but also spotlights several other groups and their activities, membership, etc. Of particular interest to CFAMC members may be the “Arts” feature on pages 60-61 of the February 6, 1995 issue. PLEASE PRAY ABOUT THIS: In February, one of CT’s adjunct editors “at-large” called us to follow up on some information we had sent the magazine concerning CFAMC. It was a very positive interview, although there is no guarantee that CT will feature our fellowship, particularly because of its relatively narrow focus. We all certainly want to seek the Lord’s will in this matter. If you feel so led, letters to the CT editorial staff would probably be beneficial. If nothing else, we need to encourage their continued coverage of believers’ activities in the Arts, and to remind them not to neglect the more “serious” and “esoteric” efforts in favor of a mass-media-only approach. May the name of Christ be lifted up in new and exciting ways!
News of Note …
GREG PASCUZZI [1225 River Bay Rd., Annapolis MD 21401, (410)757-6340] is connected to a number of European Christian musician’s groups (some Art music groups and some other). Contact him for a list!
JERRY TABOR’S Ambit will be premiered in April at the Univ. of Maryland-College Park. His Additives for solo percussion was premiered at the Univ. of Akron in February.
KEVIN LOWTHER [21 Miner St., Westerly RI 02891, (401)438-7001] is interested in working with musicians and composers on collaborative projects. He has a musical drama script available for review.
PHILLIP RATLIFF’S setting of the Gloria for chorus and orchestra will be premiered next Fall (1995) in Houston. His string quartet Signposts in a Strange Land (based on writings of Walker Percy) was recently premiered and recorded for CD release at the Banff Center.
INSTITUTE OF MUSIC COMPOSITION, a summer program for Christian art music composers is in the formative stages. Contact Rick Drehmer at 18736 Nathan’s Place, Gaithersburg MD 20879, (310)253-5274 for information.
WARNER HUTCHISON was one of ten composers selected for the Ernest Bloch Composer’s Symposium in Oregon last summer (1994). He was recently commissioned to write a work for solo tuba and wind ensemble for an upcoming CD recording by tubist James Shearer.
One of PATRICK HOULIHAN’S choral works will soon be published by Purifoy Music.
GREG SCHEER’S “I Cry Aloud to the Lord” was performed in March by the Univ. of Pittsburgh Men’s Glee Club. His “In Monte Olivetti” will be performed by that school’s Women’s Choral Ensemble in April.
MICHAEL YOUNG presented 3 sets of his Mountain Sketches, multi-media works for tape, live performers and slides of western U.S. mountain ranges, at Whitworth College in February.
Greetings, in the name of Christ and in shared appreciation of good music. I am passionately committed to doing all that I can to reflect my Creator and Redeemer in whose image I am made. I believe that our role as stewards of this earth includes being stewards of our culture, and I fight for its preservation whenever I can. If the CFAMC is what I think it is, then it will be a welcome refreshment to me in what is sometimes a “desert of Evangelicalism.” I think you’ll agree that, in general, the church’s understanding and appreciation of the arts is in a serious recession. -Michael Miller; Kalamazoo, MI
Why I Compose
by Walter Saul, Warner Pacific College
There is much music written today that reminds me of graffiti. It calls attention to itself by violating many of the expectations we have of music. Instruments are used in new and outrageous ways, including intentional misassembly of them. Or John Cage, his followers, and others might compose music by flicking a toothbrush of ink at a sheet of paper and asking musicians to “play what they see.” As I studied music in college and graduate school I certainly felt the pressure to come up with new systems of creating music that would be just as attention-grabbing as these. But is that a valid reason to compose? At this point in my life and career, I think not.
So why, then, do I compose? My reasons have grown and changed over the years. At the age of seven I started to compose music because I was in a boys choir at church. Later, I wrote music to learn new concepts about theory. When my theory and composition teacher during my high school years entered me in several national contests, and I won a couple of them, my reason for composing quickly shifted to winning even more prizes, honors, and recognition. It was quite difficult to escape the compulsion to compose music for recognition. I wanted others to worship me through what I thought was my music. I have a better reason to compose now. I have been aware of this higher motivation over the last twenty years as I have gone through dry spells and periods of time when others were not commissioning new works from me. My better reason: to worship God, the ultimate Creator, through His Son, Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. Rather than have the music from my pen point back to me as its creator, I seriously hope that it will point to the Someone who is far greater than I could ever be, the Someone who actually created me.
There are some significant implications to this new motivation for composing:
- I do not always have to be new. Even Stravinsky said – and proved in his own music – that there were yet many great pieces to be written in C. The freedom to communicate musically using familiar and audience-friendly sounds has enabled me to write for many more publics, such as churches and young music students.
- On the other hand, I can be more adventurous with musical styles and languages to suit the occasion. One of the great things that my mentor George Rochberg did for me was to demonstrate, in his own music, how beautifully different styles and languages can come together in one composition. I have followed in his steps with , for instance, my work for marimba and piano In the Name of the Lord, which is a set of variations based on nine different names that the Bible gives to Jesus Christ. Some of these names are concepts that we can barely grasp, such as “Alpha” and “Omega” (before the beginning of time and after its end); I use the serial technique in these movements to reflect on the mystery of these names. On the other hand, we understand names such as “Love” and “The Holy Child”; how delightful it is to be able to revert to a plain tonality to reflect these more familiar images. I am thus freed from adhering to any tradition or school of thought that might be in vogue one day and passe the next. This is significant, because Christ promised in John 8:32 that the truth shall make us free. Furthermore, St. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:58 that our work in the Lord is not in vain, which suggests to me that my work for Him will have lasting value. Composing music to proclaim His greatness rather than my own has been a truly freeing experience in my life, and I am convinced that my music is a greater blessing to others and to Him because of that.
“Sham Pearls for Real Swine,” by Frank Schaeffer (Wolgemuth and Hyatt, 1990).
“I write the notes, but God gives the music.” – attributed to J.S. Bach
The Christian Fellowship of Art Music Composers Mission Statement:
The Christian Fellowship of Art Music Composers seeks to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ and help build His kingdom by encouraging the work and witness of Christian Art music composers. To that end, it will undertake the following activities:
- Provide an ongoing, non-denominational forum for information and dialogue about activities in Art music composition by professing Christian composers through the publication of a quarterly newsletter, the “CONCERTed offering”, as well as through the hosting of periodic conferences for members.
- Encourage its members to support each other and their compositional activities, as led by the Holy Spirit, through such means as prayer, fellowship, and information and contact exchange.
From the Editor:
It never ceases to amaze me how the Lord’s grace is greater than all our sin. I’m so thankful that I had the chance to witness to the audience (through program notes) at the premieres of my Sacrae Symphoniae in February in Baltimore and my Chorale Prelude: Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross in March in Virginia Beach, both of which I was able to attend. These occasions took place in “secular” public situations, but I felt the Holy Spirit guiding the process all the way. Despite many efforts by Satan (and unfortunately, by my own sinfulness) to undermine these occasions, the message was proclaimed boldly. Please forgive my apparent self-absorption; what I really want to do is inspire each of YOU to send in testimonies about your ministry through art music composition. That is one unique way in which we can and should witness to each other about the glorious grace of God through Jesus Christ. One last thing: please pray for me personally concerning the preparations for the September Conference, that in my weakness His power will be made perfect (2 Cor. 12:9). – Mark Hijleh; 1 Cor. 14:15
“National Press” and a New Look…
No matter how big our vision of the Lord’s work is, the reality is always bigger. As a special gift of encouragement, He saw to it that the upcoming CFAMC conference was listed with several other national-level events in the “Arts” feature of Christianity Today, May 15th 1995 issue, p.59!
Because we believe that CFAMC will continue to gain attention in both the art music world and the evangelical community at large, a “new look” will soon be instituted. Graphic designer (and brother in the Lord) Dale Trujillo has produced a beautiful new logo and stationary design for use in CFAMC correspondence with other organizations. This design is reproduced for your enjoyment at the end of this feature. Houghton College has again been generous enough to provide us with a special grant which funded all the design and printing costs. Although “image” is not important in God’s eyes, it remains a key factor in dealing with the world. Soon CFAMC will begin networking with other musical organizations, Christian and otherwise. Praise the Lord that He has provided us with the tools we will need to begin to make an impact for Christ in the art music world!
“Peer Review”: A New Activity Proposal…
Most of the academic world now has a system whereby papers, books, etc. are reviewed by individuals or committees before being published for consumption by the rest of academe. While CFAMC obviously cannot get into the publishing business, I would like the membership to prayerfully consider a program of Peer Review for members’ works.
Basically, this would involve members sending their scores and tapes to other members, who would then examine them and write constructive reviews. Some of these written reviews might be published (with permission, of course) in the “CONCERTed offering”, while others might simply serve as aids to the composer’s work or career. To my knowledge, this kind of thing is not generally done among other composers groups, except “live” at conferences (see announcement on this subject elswhere in this issue). However, peer review “by mail” might serve to help us encourage and admonish one another; indeed, to love one another in Christ in a unique way. CFAMC member Bill Allen recently did something like this for me here in Houghton. He couldn’t attend my faculty composition recital, so he listened to a tape of the concert, looked at the printed program, and wrote a review. It was a very positive experience for me, and the Lord has laid it on my heart to pursue the idea on a larger level for the benefit of all CFAMC members. I think it’s important for us to hear each others’ work and to exercise the discipline of responding thoughtfully.
From a practical perspective, I would propose that members interested in having their works reviewed send ONE score and tape, along with program notes and a self-addressed, postage-paid return envelope, directly to other members who have indicated general willingness to do reviews. Within two weeks, the reviewer would produce a written review and return it with the score and tape directly to the composer. The composer would then be ree to use the reviews (with the reviewer’s name attached) as desired.
Hopefully, some would be sent in for publication in our newsletter. For the sake of the reviewers, one piece at a time from each composer seems reasonable. Obviously, this means extra volunteer work for reviewers. No fees or renumeration would be involved, except, of course, that the composers submitting works for review would pay for all postage and mailing materials.
I will need responses from you, the members, on several levels. First, do you think this is a good idea? Is it worth the effort involved? Second, what suggestions do you have on how to make the practicalities of the process better than my proposed system? Please be specific. Third, would you be willing to serve as a reviewer on an ongoing basis? Perhaps we could have “term limits” for reviewers: six months, one year, etc. Finally, are you interested in submitting works for review? How might you use the reviews you received?
Please take the time pray over and think about this, and then to respond. We will also discuss the idea at our conference in September (1995).
“Holy Minimalism”, by Terry Teachout, in Commentary, vol. 99, #4, April 1995, pp. 50-53.
Things Permissible vs. Things Beneficial: A Meditation On Our Compositional Freedom in Christ
by Mark Hijleh
The Bible says practically nothing about being a composer. This has been a source of frustration to me for many years: God called me into this work, and, more importantly, He made music such a powerful art to be used for good or ill; couldn’t He give us more guidance in His word? His answer to me, as always, has been: “My grace is sufficient for you.”
In fact, I have come to discover that the scriptures have more to reveal about composers than I had imagined. It just takes the guidance of the Holy Spirit for me to see! Aside from the direct references to music and worship, three passages stand out as important revelations about God’s view of creativity, and thus about music composition. I will only touch briefly on the first two, so I can spend more time on the third. Genesis 1:1 seems to be the ultimate statement about the ‘ultimate Composer’. “In the beginning, God … created …”. The very first thing we learn about God is that He is creative. When we create (in that limited sense of ‘creating’ that binds us, but not Him), we understand a certain part of His nature better than we can any other way.
And then there is Philippians 4:8. How wonderful music would be if every piece reflected truth, nobility, righteousness, loveliness, admirability, excellence or praiseworthiness! Of course, these things describe the Lord Himself: when we think on these things, we come to think of Him. I do not believe that this scripture mandates only music that is easy to listen to: many aspects of truth and xcellence are not “easy”. Christ’s righteousness on the cross was not “pretty”, but it was beautiful.
But I want to focus on 1 Corinthians 10:23, 31, and 33b: ” “Everything is permissible – but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible – but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others…So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God…For I am not seeking my own good, but the good of many, that they may be saved” (NIV). What does this have to do with being a composer? I think it speaks to an ever-present struggle we composers face: “What kind of music would the Lord have me write?”
Many people feel that late twentieth-century art music is one big mess. The consensus on stylistic features of past eras has disappeared: no one can seem to judge ‘good’ music from ‘bad’ anymore. “Anything goes”, as one of my teachers put it. And I suspect that if I were to converse with every one of you reading this article, each of you would have a slightly different view on this contentious issue. You can all relax now, because I am not going to try and tell you what style of music you should compose. In fact, that is my main point: it is between you and the Lord Jesus Himself.
But the words of this passage in 1 Corinthians haunt me. “Everything is permissible”. We are completely free in Christ to write in whatever style or styles we wish. I cannot emphasize enough how much I absolutely believe this. Romans 14 makes this even clearer: “So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God” (v.12, emphasis added). Not to other composers. Not to our composition teachers. Not even to our audiences. To God. But make no mistake: we can fool ourselves about the honesty of our offering, but not Him. Like Cain and Abel, He knows if what we offer compositionally is our first, best fruit. Still, everything is permissible if it is in fellowship with Him.
“But not everything is beneficial”. This is where the difficulty comes. What is the definition of ‘beneficial’? The answer, I believe, is in verses 31 and 33b. We are to compose to the glory of God. We are not to seek our own ‘good’. Surely this does not mean that we are to do bad things to ourselves. No, I think it means that we cannot compose to please our own egos, but rather to glorify God and for the ultimate good of others: that they may be saved. This is precisely why your compositional activities are between you and the Holy Spirit: only He knows how your gift will help lead your listeners to Him. Good composition is a matter of prayer.
I think God loves it when we compose. It helps us understand and fellowship with Him better. And I think he wants us to write music that reflects His nature, in all its complexity and multi-faceted glory. He wants us to know that we are free in Christ to use all the wonderful sound possibilities His creation has to offer. And if our honest music truly reflects some aspect of His truth, He will be glorified. And although we will not be seeking our own good, we will find it. And others will be saved. His grace is sufficient.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven…” Matt. 5:16
From the Editor:
Quite recently, I completed a paper on the integration of Western and non-Western materials and techniques in twentieth-century art music. My focus was on the philosophical differences between Eastern mysticism and Western Christianity, and how those differences translated into actual musical practice. While working I was reminded of how much “spirituality” there is among serious musicians, but how little knowledge of the one true God undergirds it. Lest we forget, musicians are perhaps the most spiritually “in tune” people on the planet! We have such a unique opportunity to direct the sincere spiritual searches of our colleagues toward the saving knowledge and presence of Jesus Christ. And then I thought: Why do people go to concerts of art music? In the end, aren’t they also searching for some deeper meaning in life? Everybody is searching, some more diligently than others. And Christian art music composers must surely take a leading role. The spirituality of music and the power of the Gospel make a winning combination…
Seventeen CFAMC members (some with their spouses) and several Houghton College music faculty and students came together on September 29-30 for the first CFAMC national conference. The conference sessions included philosophical discussions and presentations about art music, its current place in our society, and its relationship to evangelical Christianity. Members shared several compositions with each other through “peer-review” sessions and a public concert of pre-selected works. Participants also enjoyed a picnic at beautiful Letchworth State Park.
Much time was spent in prayer and discussion about the future direction and activities of CFAMC. One of the most exciting vision statements to come out of the conference was: “The members of CFAMC pray that believers will embrace our musical integrity because of our Christian witness, and that our commitment to musical excellence will allow us to bring our Christian witness to the serious art music world.” This two-pronged mission is an ambitious one!
Conference participants articulated the following goals for 1996 and beyond:
I. To make CFAMC’s presence known to other composers, performers, and the world as a witness. To accomplish this, we will be sending a CFAMC press kit to all the major composer’s and performer’s organizations in the U.S., as well as Christian magazines. These press releases will all contain CFAMC’s mission statement, an unmistakable testimony of Christian faith;
II. To make the public aware of the compositional activities of CFAMC members, primarily by sending subscriptions of “the CONCERTed offering” free to various academic and professional music organizations, and by developing a system of local press releases to media near the composer’s activity site (this latter action may take some time to implement);
III. To form performance opportunities for CFAMC members, at first through networking and “trading” performances with each other. This could be significantly expanded by developing a computerized “virtual catalog” of members’ works which could be accessed via the Internet or by mail, with interested performers contacting the composer directly to obtain performance materials (again, this may take some time to implement);
IV. To gather together for a national conference on an annual basis. Next year’s conference will again take place at Houghton College (details TBA).
Of course, another major goal for CFAMC’s second year is continued membership growth. Many composers have inquired about CFAMC (including some relatively famous ones), but have not responded. Please continue to pray about this.
During the conference, several members volunteered to take on administrative responsibilities. A “Computer Resource” group, consisting of Greg Scheer, Rick Drehmer, and Jeff VanDell was formed to begin exploring the establishment of a CFAMC Web Site on the Internet, as well as the local press release and virtual catalog database mechanisms mentioned above. Rick Harris will be developing a press kit for us to distribute. Finally, Gerry Szymanski will become the layout editor for “the CONCERTed offering” beginning with the Winter 1996 issue (Mark Hijleh will remain the content editor, so please send things to him first!).
Also in 1996, we will be initiating a “peer-review-by- mail” system for interested members. Details about this program will appear in the Winter 1996 issue.
The 1995 CFAMC national conference was a time of great blessing to all involved. Our fellowship was strong evidence of the presence of the Holy Spirit. Thank you for your prayers and participation.
News of Note: Activities of CFAMC composers…
DONIVAN JOHNSON’S Three Theological Sentences (for piano), Colloqium (for choir), and for the 15th of September (piano) were premiered on September 16th during his lecture/concert entitled “Passion of the Sower”, which was the 1995 Hans Moldenhauer Memorial Lecture at the Cutter Theater in Metaline Falls, Washington. Johnson is compiling a documentary history of The International Webern Society. His choral pieces Liturgical Carol, By The Waters, Gloria in Excelsis Deo, A Grain of Wheat, Veni, Sancte Spiritus were performed on June 23rd 1995 during the Eastern Washington University Choral Reading Sessions.
God’s Call to Faithfulness
by Greg Scheer
A horn player friend of mine was recently complaining about auditions involving competition against hundreds of other players for the handful of symphonic positions that open up each year. It made me think about the life of the composer: not only do you have to compete with hundreds of other living composers, but there are thousands of dead ones that audiences would rather hear.
It’s easy to become depressed: on the one hand, I have no choice but to compose, since I have music running through my veins; on the other hand, there is very little interest in or market for my music. I was moping about my general situation the other day, concentrating specifically on a possible performance that had fallen through, when I stumbled across an article by Christian singer Charlie Peacock called “A Vision for the Artistic Disciple” (Prism Magazine vol.2, no.4, March/April 1995). In it he discusses the marks of a Christian artist. One particular paragraph jumped off the page: “Christian artists make the most of every opportunity. They do not wait for a national platform to really apply themselves. They are faithful in the little things, and readied and prepared for the bigger.”
Of course, faithfulness in the little things is not something unique to composers: everyone is given unique talents that allow them to contribute to those around them as well as those that come after them. We typically think of the Ben Franklins, Beethovens, and Leonardo Da Vincis as the ones that shape history, but they are merely focal points of massive movements made up of millions of people.
Every one of us shapes history in some way, and I happen to be called to shape history in part through my compositions. God has not called me to shake history, rather, He has called me to be faithful and work hard with the talents He’s given me.
So, let’s not look to our colleagues, our audience, or our earnings to measure our success, let’s look to the Lord who gave us everything we have, and give Him the offering of our faithfulness.
A Companion to Leo Sowerby’s Psalm 122
by Walter Saul
As CFAMC seeks to strengthen the contributions of believers to art music, it is important for us to become aware of great composers who preceded us and celebrate their works of praise to our Lord. I believe that such a composer is Leo Sowerby (1895-1968), whose centennial was recently marked in American Organist.
While Sowerby is generally noted for his organ works and symphonies, his choral works are some of the most dramatic and glorious anthems ever written. His setting of Psalm 121 is the best known of these anthems, but, at least to this author, his three greatest anthems are I Will Love Thee (based on Psalm 8), Now There Lightens Upon Us (Advent/Christmas/Epiphany season), and I Was Glad When They Said Unto Me (based on Psalm 122). The following is a description of the Psalm 122 setting which I wrote for our church choir and congregation. Perhaps it might inspire some of us to rediscover this marvelous “American original” (as the American Organist put it) and his storehouse of great music.
In my humble opinion, Psalm 122 by Leo Sowerby ranks as one of the half-dozen greatest anthems ever written. But it was not until our rehearsals of it at Sunnyside Centenary United Methodist Church that I realized what a masterpiece of word painting this anthem is. Let me take you on a journey through this anthem as we see how it paints the text.
The lofty and lengthy introduction prepares us for an event of great magnitude: going to the house of the Lord. When the choir finally enters with I was glad when they said to me, it is accompanied only by major triads, universally recognized for their joy and happiness. These major triads, however, force the music into a tonality tension between F major, the main tonality of the work, and Ab major, a distantly related key suggesting the other-worldliness of the temple of the Lord as holy and distinct from our world. The choir sings Let us go into the house of the Lord, and saves the highest and longest notes for Lord. Not to be held back, the organ soars even higher! On Our feet shall stand in thy gates, O Jerusalem, the choir starts off in unison, suggesting the common purpose of all Israelites in journeying on their pilgrimage to the holy city, but then breaks forth into full 8-part polyphony on Jerusalem, depicting the joy of reaching the goal of the pilgrims. Again, the organ eclipses the choir with unspeakable joy in the interlude which follows.
In the third verse, Jerusalem is built as a city that is at unity within itself, we must remember that Psalm 122 is a song of ascents, that is, a song that the pilgrims sang as they journeyed up to Jerusalem for the high feasts (“up” because of its holiness and because it is built on Mount Zion). Sowerby captures beautifully in this fugue the myriads of pilgrims that are journeying up to Jerusalem. The fugue starts in the bass and journeys up, part by part, into the soprano. Later, the basses and altos start the fugue subject again, and the sopranos and tenors pile in on top of the basses and altos before they have finished, a technique known as “stretto”. This suggests a crowded arrival of the pilgrims at the holy city!
The unity of the purpose of the crowd is underscored by Sowerby’s setting of For thither the tribes go up. Now the whole choir is singing the words together, and the music takes on a heightened air as we hear the gathering of all the tribes and people to testify unto Israel to give thanks unto the name of the Lord. Not to be outdone, the organ now presents a new stretto of the fugue, telescoping the pyramid of opening choir entries into a few short measures, suggesting the last minute arrivals into the city, even as others are praising the Lord. The music now leaves the familiar key of C major, closely related to the main key of F, and takes on a dark and brooding chromaticism as the choir sings in stark octaves of …the thrones of judgment…of the house of David. There is always a fear of being judged, and the descending chromatic lines capture the reality of the that fear in an unmistakable way.
The music now modulates to Db major, which is distantly related to F. This distant relationship mirrors the distant relationship we of the 20th century have toward peace, what with two world wars, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and now Bosnia. What a perfect setting for O pray for the peace of Jerusalem. At first peace is set with a long note, like the stillness after a struggle, and then as a beautiful melisma as that stillness flowers into true shalom. The sopranos float in on that text as if sent from heaven in a major key, but then are joined by the tenors, who move the music to Bb minor, darkening the mood, as though peace were just a dream. Now the organ moves the music to Bb major, so that we have not only the brighter major key, but also a closely related key to F. The basses now come in with the sopranos’ melody. It is as though peace, at first a distant heavenly vision, comes down to earth and becomes an achievable reality. The altos join the basses, again adding some pain from the minor tonality. It is also important to note that pray is always set with a dissonance, suggesting the struggle that real prayer often is. And now, for the first time ever, the organ melts away into an a cappella choral feature on Peace be within thy walls, and plenteousness within thy palaces. The chords are mostly consonant triads voiced in the rich Norman Luboff style to paint the words peace and plenteousness. The sheer size of these massive chords also suggests the walls around the city and the protection they afford. The music also returns to the home key of F major on the word palaces.
The organ re-enters quietly and sets uo the last strain: For my brethren and companions’ sakes I will wish thee prosperity. Yea, because of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek to do thee good. Once again, we are treated to extraordinarily rich harmony and counterpoint to paint the word prosperity. The image of prosperity as more than mere riches is underpinned by the low F sustained by the organ pedal throughout this section. the word good is set cleverly by arriving at the complete tonic triad. This is especially breathtaking in the last phrase of the choir, which opens with only “F”s and “C”s (no “A”s) and arrives at the complete triad only on the word good. The organ then concludes with a final wandering that arrives at a very peaceful tonic chord, so beautifully summing up the pilgrimage and worship experience encapsulated by this beautiful psalm.
[N.B.: I believe that the kind of “audience education” the above analytical program note represents is crucial to CFAMC’s attempt to bring churchgoers back to art music. Thank you, Walter, for your contribution to this important mission! – The Editor]
Two Important Resources
We want to make you aware of a couple of Christian arts resources which you can take advantage of. CFAMC also plans to be in regular correspondence with these groups in the coming months. The first is CHRISTIANS IN THE ARTS NETWORKING, 9 Westminster Ave., P.O. Box 242, Arlington MA 02174-0003, phone: (617)646-1541, Fax: (617)646-7725, E-mail: . The second is a quarterly journal called CHRISTIANITY AND THE ARTS, P.O. Box 118088, Chicago IL 60611, (312)642-8606. A one-year subscription (4 issues) is $15; a two-year subscription is $28. Pat Kavanaugh is on the advisory board of CAN, and is also featured in Christianity and the Arts.
The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, by Mark A. Noll, Eerdmans, 1994.
Emotion and Meaning in Music, by Leonard B. Meyer, Univ. of Chicago Press, 1956.
From the Editor:
As I write this, it almost exactly one year ago that CFAMC officially began. What a tremendous first year it has been! Praise God for His grace and blessing on this ministry! And as you can see from our conference report,we have big plans for year #2. Please pray that our plans will be His plans (Prov. 16:9).
While this is an exciting time for CFAMC, it is also a dangerous and difficult one. It would be far too easy for us to “rest on our laurels”, thinking we have already accomplished much, when in reality the work has only just begun. If CFAMC is to make a profound impact in both the Christian and art music communities, we must rely on the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, yes, but we must also work hard – all of us. Together, we are a special member of the Body of Christ, an extremely unique and esoteric “organ” which may have a strong positive effect on the “body”, or which may atrophy and be removed as useless. These are strong words, but, I believe, constitute an appropriate metaphor. Part of what this means is simply that we have to continue to compose, and, what is more, strive to write better and better music. I personally have been having a very difficult time with this. We can publish newsletters, have meetings, and talk endlessly about it, but we won’t be much of a fellowship of Christian composers if we don’t compose! The rest of the work (organization, networking, etc.) is frankly secondary, but it too must be done. I’m sorry to say it, but America has far too many complacent Christians. I’m ready to get to work! Are you? Let’s go…