Welcome to another Music Monday at Good Shepherd, and thank you for tuning in.
Today, we hear organ music by one of the greats: Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750).
Bach’s “Fantasia and Fugue in G minor” is often associated with his journey to Hamburg. Many believe Bach wrote this work as an audition piece for the organist position at St. Jacobi Church. Although he did not get the position, his musicianship certainly did impress his interview panel, including Dutch organist, Johann Adam Reinken. The dark and dramatic Fantasia is composed in the popular North German style where the toccata (improvisatory-like) sections are contrasted with quiet fugal ones. The fugue is interestingly based on a lively dance-like Dutch folk tune, which some scholars believe Bach might have used in honor and/or to impress Reinken at the audition.
For most of his life, Bach worked as a dedicated Lutheran church musician and composed many chorale preludes based on familiar Lutheran hymns. One of his most beautiful chorales preludes is “Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele”, BWV 654. This hymn is an invitation to communion (Soul, adorn yourself with gladness, leave the gloomy haunts of sadness; ELW 488). Felix Mendelssohn is known to have said the following about this piece: “ ..if life had robbed me of all hope and faith, Bach’s chorale would restore them again.”
Music Monday: Which Marty Is It?
Today we meet and hear music from two important musical Marty’s in the Lutheran church; Martin Luther and Marty Haugen. Luther is most known for posting the 95 Theses in 1517, teaching the doctrine of justification by faith alone, and translating the Bible into the German vernacular, but we also largely attribute hymn-singing as we know it today to him, too! He encouraged a new style of congregational participation: the chorale—unison singing in which all the stanzas are sung to the same music and in a language (German) everyone would know.
Marty Haugen, a living composer, has provided the church with many memorable texts and tunes—over 400! Good Shepherd is probably most familiar with Marty’s “Holden Evening Prayer” liturgy and some hymns like “Shepherd Me, O God.” Enjoy learning and listening to music of two important Lutheran Marty’s.
Whether written as prayers and petitions, praise and thanksgiving, or promises of commitment, the hymns of our Christian faith tell the story of God’s faithfulness and of his great love.
Some hymns were penned as a response to adversity and sorrow. Others burst forth as expressions of exuberant joy, yet all are timeless. Although they have passed from generation to generation, their ability to bless and comfort has never diminished because they are based on the truths of the Word of God—and God’s truth never changes!
In dark and difficult times, recalling the words to these precious songs can offer “comfort and strength”. In 1 Samuel 16:14-23, a distressing spirit of the Lord tormented Saul, and it was only when David played the harp that Saul found peace.
Piano Organ Duets arranged by Joel Raney; performed by Judy Kalan and Jared Stellmacher.
“Shall We Gather at the River”
“Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling”
“Great Is Thy Faithfulness”
“God of Grace, and God of Glory”
Music Monday: Christmas in July
As we begin this final week in July, we celebrate Christmas! Yes, Christmas in July; remembering that it is Jesus who is always with us bringing hope and light into a world of darkness. Especially now, as we continue living life in a global pandemic, journeying uncharted paths, we are reminded it is hope that we need! Hope that comes from the gift of God’s love to us. Without it, we are lost, wandering in the wilderness alone. Jesus is the light of the world; our hope! So, put on your ugly Christmas sweater, light a candle, make some hot chocolate, and join in singing some of our favorite yuletide carols. You might even learn a little history behind these favorite songs: What Child Is This, O Little Town of Bethlehem, Silent Night, and Joy to the World. Be sure to listen to the end for a special, Sleigh Ride, 4-hands piano duet reprise! Merry Christmas…in July!
Need some music to rejuvinate your Monday?
Today’s Music Monday features a staple of the organ repertoire: Leon Boëllmann’s (1862-1897) organ blockbuster Suite gothique (1895). Although, Boëllmann’s promising career was cut short by tuberculosis at age 35, he managed to amass a catalog of more than 150 compositions before his untimely death. Boëllmann’s best known work by far is this piece, the four-movement Suite Gothique; especially the final toccata, with its menacing pedal theme, which has long been a staple of concert programs.
“Be Still, My Soul”
The formation of “Be Still, My Soul” as it appears in [most hymnals] covers three countries – Germany, Scotland, and Finland – and well over 100 years.
Little is known about the author of this hymn. Katharina Amalia Dorothea von Schlegel was born in 1697. Other than she was connected with a small court at Köthen, north of Halle, in Germany, little is known of her life. The hymn comes to us via [an English] translation by Jane L. Borthwick (1813-1897), a member of the Free Church of Scotland.
The tune FINLANDIA complements this stirring poem wonderfully. The melody comes from a symphonic tone poem by Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) by the name of Finlandia, Op. 26. Sibelius wrote it as a patriotic offering in 1899 reflecting portions of Finnish history. Out of agitated and tumultuous opening music, symbolizing the struggles of the Finnish people, emerges the serenity of the hymn-like melody we know as FINLANDIA, symbolizing hope and resolution.
Finally, David Evans (1874-1948), a Welsh Oxford-trained organist-choirmaster and music professor, matched the translation with the tune for the Revised Church Hymnary (London, 1927). This pairing was brought to the United States when it was used in the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. for The Hymnal (1933).
-Dr. Michael Hawn
Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heav’nly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Join in and sing these classic Lutheran hymns!
Last month I enlisted the help of the worship team to put together this hymn sing to take the place of our monthly Primetimers program! It’s too fun to not share beyond that audience!
This is a collection of what many would call “The Good Old Songs!” Others would say this is “The Real Hymnal!” Others would say “I don’t think I know these songs.”
As we continue to worship across campus, service, and generation we are all finding ourselves exposed to different songs, different arrangements, and different sounds. And isn’t that great? The Spirit has been active in every generation, inspiring lyricists and musicians. The good hymns are not a thing of the past – nor have they only just begun!
Music is a powerful part of worship – it is a vessel through which we cry out. We cry out our joy, our fear, our grief, our praise – and we all seek to do so authentically. Different rhythms, words, and arrangements allow us all to cry out in our most authentic voice. Similarly some songs become our “home” either for a season of our faith or a lifetime.
This season has been a rich opportunity for us to learn the “home songs” of others and in learning each other’s “home songs” to grow in our understanding of God’s presence among us as a people. There are some beautiful lyrics in these older hymns – telling the story in a vernacular of that time. Many current artists are telling the same story – sometimes even borrowing these words.
Either way, whether this is a collection of your “home songs” or a new hymnal for you, I hope you enjoy! And I hope that, as we continue in this season, we sing our “home songs” loudly but also stretch our repertoire – by doing so we may also find the Spirit growing and stretching our faith. Now open your widows and if you know em, sing along!
Hymns Old and New
God’s people have sung hymns in honor of the Almighty since the time of Moses and before (Exodus 15:1). David sang the “new song” God gave him and taught others to sing “a hymn of praise to our God” (Psalm 40:3). Jesus and his disciples sang a hymn together at the Last Supper (Mark 14:26). The early church sang hymns as part of their regular gatherings (1 Corinthians 14:26). Paul and Silas, with their feet in stocks in a Philippian jail, were “praying and singing hymns to God” (Acts 16:25).
Hymns are central to our faith. Today’s Music Monday highlights two well-known hymns and one relatively new and unknown gem. The first, “Praise to the Lord the Almighty,” was originally written in German (“Lobe den Herren…”) by Joachim Neander in 1680 and was introduced to the English-speaking world by hymn translator, Catherine Winkworth, in the 19th century. “Jesus Loves Me” is one of the most popular Christian hymns around the world, especially among children. It was first written by Anna Warner as a poem requested by her sister for a dying child meant to bring comfort and peace. The final less-familiar piece, “Golden Breaks the Dawn,” is based off a Chinese Folk Tune and was published in 1977. Organist and composer, Michael Bedford, sets this hymn in six variations using a compositional technique called “word painting” where the music reflects the literal meaning of the song’s lyrics. Listen for breeze blowing, birds chirping, streams flowing, and creatures frolicking.
“All Creation Praises God for the New Day”
Music Mondays: “Amazing Grace”
A reminder of God’s grace that spans the centuries is singing. The church hymnal is a distillation of our collective Christian heritage. This week, we focus on one of the most beloved and well-known hymns: “Amazing Grace.” By taking a musical journey through the ages, we will hear this hymn as it was sung in the 18th century when it was composed, an organ arrangement by Frederick Swann emulating the haunting sounds of bagpipes, and three contemporary Christian adaptations: “Grace Like Rain” by Todd Agnew, “Broken Vessels” by Hillsong Worship and Faith’s Review and Expectation” by Sandra McCracken.
“Amazing Grace” was published by John Newton in 1779. When he penned the words “that saved a wretch like me,” he was not expressing remorse for some personal failing, such as intemperance or infidelity. John Newton came to see himself as a “wretch” because of his participation in the African slave trade. This was Newton’s great sin. When the words of this song exclaim “I was blind, but now I see,” Newton’s blindness was specifically to the damage of systemic racism, and his participation in it for economic gain. “Amazing Grace” is a song about one man’s sin — the sin of slavery. At the same time, it is a song about the power of forgiveness, a song about looking into the depths of evil and, even there, especially there, finding grace that is bigger than all the hate. –Derek Flood
That light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. –John 1:5
Amazing grace (how sweet the sound) that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see.
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear and grace my fears relieved; how precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed!
Through many dangers, toils and snares I have already come: ’tis grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.
The Lord has promised good to me, his word my hope secures; he will my shield and portion be as long as life endures.
Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail, and mortal life shall cease: I shall possess, within the veil, a life of joy and peace.
The earth shall soon dissolve like snow, the sun forbear to shine; but God, who called me here below, will be forever mine.
We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose. —Romans 8:28
“In the late 1950s, life for many was a scary proposition. The Cold War had escalated to a point where duck-and-cover drills were practiced on a regular basis in schools. Thousands of preachers were also using the nuclear age as a signal for the end of the world. Many people believed a war between the United States and Soviet Union would soon bring about the destruction of mankind. A newspaper editorial of the day signaled the attitudes of millions when it announced, “God Is Dead.” And with the power to destroy billions resting in the hands of just a few people, it at least seemed like God had stepped back and become a spectator.
In the midst of all this hopelessness, a child’s voice reassured the world that God was still in charge. Laurie London, a young British boy, stepped into the recording studio and cut an American song that was likely a century and a half old. When released, millions seized “He’s God the Whole World in His Hands” as if it were life preserver thrown to a drowning shipwreck victim. Audiences the world over simply couldn’t get enough of the affirmation that God was out there and caring about them.
“He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” was born in the fields of the American south. It was written by a slave whose name we will never know. [By someone who] likely experienced more trouble and suffering than any person in the modern age. So the writer of this hymn was not in charge of the present and had no control over the future. Yet in the face of a life with no promise of freedom, [they] found solace in faith. Somehow still believing that a loving God was in charge.”
Written by Ace Collins.
Let us pray…
In this time of pandemic and calls for racial justice, we pray that we might be like God our Divine Parent, Father and Mother, loving beyond our comprehension. Through this love you birthed the universe, the vastness of galaxies and the preciousness of infants. Father God: teach us to embrace our siblings with the love that only a parent knows. Mother God: give us your patience to never give up on one another or the causes of justice in our world.
Lord, hear our prayer.