Ordinary Time, 2014

19 September 2014
burgers - manna

Enjoy this funny song "So you want to go back to Egypt" with many manna references just in time for Proper 20A (track 1). The Evangelical Christian singer-songwriter is an interesting character: Keith Green, who died in a plane crash at only age 28.

(Thanks to Sue E. for the tip!)

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18 September 2014
liturgy - the aim of
The aim of liturgy is not community among worshipers. Rather, our liturgy is for God and the whole world. Liturgy does not mean “work of the people” but rather “work for the public good.” In other words, it’s not about you. Whether we “like” the Peace or whether the local church “likes” the Peace is perhaps interesting but certainly not very important. The point of what we are doing is to carry out Christ’s commands to us, to be nourished for our Christian ministry in the world, and to pray for the good of the whole world. In this worldview, reconciling with our neighbors before we share Communion matters. Mere social niceties have no place before we do one of most important things we humans can do in our earthly pilgrimage.

Gunn, The Rev. Scott. "The Peace and how we fail to pass it". Seven Whole Days. 15 September 2014.


10 September 2014
flow'r - summer's

We have noted previously on the blog (see flower - summer's) the seldom sung stanza of "Praise, my soul, the King of heaven", that marvelous paraphrase of Psalm 103.

Wikipedia tangent: By the way, did you know that "Praise, my soul, the King of heaven" has its own Wikipedia article? How many other hymns have this distinction? This is a notable hymn, apparently, having been sung at "the 1947 royal wedding of Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh." One assumes that the stanza in question was included then.

The time has come to actually sing this, I think. It's about that time of year, of course, the autumnal equinox falling on Tuesday, September 23 this year.

We're editing that Hallelujah to "Alleluia" so that it matches the Hymnal 1982.

The stanza serves the hymn, we think, with only a little kink in the syllabification being the line that begins "Our God . . ." That "Our" gets a little too much emphasis for our taste.

There are also musical/choral reasons for singing it.

John Goss's setting provides

  1. organ accompaniment for unison singing, intended for the first stanza
  2. Four parts
  3. A (softer) organ accompaniment for unison singing of treble voices (st. 3 in the Hymnal 1982, but note that Goss's indication for trebles is not included).
  4. A different accompaniment for unison singing for the final stanza.

Singing the "Frail as summer's" stanza as st. 4 allows the replication of the four part version of the harmony, which adds a very nice symmetry to the hymn, we find.

But this stanza is not included in any hymnals that we can find. Do you know of one that uses it?

Frail as summer’s flower we flourish,
Blows the wind and it is gone;
But while mortals rise and perish
Our God lives unchanging on,
Praise Him, Praise Him, Hallelujah
Praise the High Eternal One!

Henry F. Lyte

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01 September 2014
improvisation - the church and

There is a surprising passage in recently published book Slow Church that ties together improvisation, Tina Fey, N. T. Wright, the Rev. Sam Wells and the Church, which is just marvelous.

Readers of the Blog at know that we are somewhat preoccupied with the notion of improvisation from a musical perspective, yet we concede that actors also improvise.

Musicians and actors alike can surely relate to the Slow Church authors' statement about improvisation "one can never tell the turns it will take or where it will end up".

Also useful for musicians are Tina Fey's rules for improvisation in her memoir Bossypants, paraphrased by the authors.

  1. Always agree with your improv partner. (Musicians could take agreement literally in ensemble improvisation. Organists might read agreement as "congruence".)
  2. Don't just say yes, say "YES, AND." It's your responsibility to contribute.
  3. "THERE ARE NO MISTAKES, only opportunities." The authors of Slow Church reappropriate this as "an allusion to God's eschatological reconciliation of all things."

The authors then couple this to N. T. Wright's history of creation as a drama in five acts (from his Scripture and the Authority of God).

The five acts are

  1. Creation
  2. The Fall
  3. Israel
  4. Jesus
  5. The Church

"The implications," write the authors of Slow Church, "are profound, if for no other reason that it undermines our cultural impulse to be consumers and spectators rather than faithful participants in the unwritten fifth act of God's play."

Then follows a characteristically obtuse quotation from Wright about continuity with previous acts, but also that "such continuity also implies discontinuity, a moment where genuinely new things can and do happen."

I have to say that I am particularly drawn to this idea of implied discontinuity. And I think this may be the kernel of what makes good art. If something is totally expected it isn't art, it's muzak.

Rant Especially for Organists: Just think of the endless heap of vapid hymn preludes with which organists and -- sadly -- congregations are familiar. You know the type. They're published by Augsburg Fortress or someone like that. They don't say anything. They don't innovate. Full of parallel sixths. Most organists could improvise something more interesting. They're just background noise for the liturgy. Background noise with a comfortable, recognizable tune. Is this art? Is this the best we can do? Is this really worthy of our worship? Okay, rant over.

After this, we must concede the usefulness of seeing improvisation from a theatrical perspective. The authors quote Improvisation: The Drama of Christian Ethics by the Rev. Sam Wells.

Improvisation in the theatre is a practice through which actors develop trust in themselves and one another in order that they may conduct unscripted dramas without fear.

The Church as "a community of trust"; "learning to improvise the scriptural plotline".

We are the actors – and musicians, for music always has a role in good drama – creating the Fifth Act: The Church.

No wonder that Apple ad line from the 1989 film Dead Poets Society resonates with us.

". . . that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse."

"What will your verse be?"

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28 August 2014
choir - what is it for?

When men and women, and children, encounter the divine, when we meet face to face with God, when we find ourselves as it were banging up against holiness, we cannot keep from speaking, from singing, from proclaiming. Our lives are overwhelmed with the need to pray and praise, to lament and cry out, to protest and to question and to adore. And the word we use to describe all of that, is worship. Worship is why you are here. Worship is what cathedral choirs are for. Worship is what Christians do, and we need help and inspiration and the words to say when no words will come, and the harmonies that will lift us up or console us, or help us to deal with all the anger and frustration, all the adoration and wonder and all the bits in between – everything that bubbles up from the heart in that great outpouring of whatever it is that outpours when we recognise that God is here and we are here, and that we need to do something about it.

The Rev. Canon Tom Clammer, Precentor, Salisbury Cathedral. Sermon: "What is a choir for?". 20 July 2014.

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