Easter 2024

31 October 2017
Routley, Erik - 100th anniversary of the birth of

I have just now realized that today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Erik Routley!

I've mentioned him on this blog a number of times in the past.

He was a brilliant man. I always have the sense that I should be reading more of his work than I have to date, and in this his centennial year, I am resolving to do so.

In the meantime, I share with you this passage which I believe comes from Church Music and the Christian Faith:

The [church musician] is to exorcize as far as possible divisive attitudes and thoughts, and to celebrate that which is really the common music of as many kinds of people as possible. This is not pop or trendy music; it is not ephemeral, posturing music. It is precisely the "Old Hundredth," "Ye Holy Angels Bright" and "For All the Saints"–nobody need claim to be too cultured to respect those, and nobody does claim to be too uneducated to enjoy them. In choral and organ music, the trained musician knows where to find authenticity whether it is English Anglican, German baroque, verse-anthem, Howells, Britten, or the fine clear stream that is flowing through modern American music. The musician must not yield to pressure and set aside his knowledge and the conscience and discernment he or she has developed. Blessed, remember, are not the peace lovers, but the peacemakers.


23 October 2017
Bidding Prayer for the Great Pumpkin (fragment)

Beloved in Peanuts, as we await the festival of the Great Pumpkin,
let us prepare ourselves so that we may be shown its true meaning.
Let us hear, in comic strips from Charles Schulz,
how Linus foretold
that the Great Pumpkin would visit and reward his waiting people,
in a pumpkin patch of great sincerity.
Let us rejoice in our Pumpkin Carols and hymns,
that the good purpose of the Great Pumpkin is being mightily fulfilled.

From a fragment of a Bidding Prayer for the Great Pumpkin, late twentieth century, author unknown

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18 October 2017
Pärt, Arvo - Tribute to Caesar, typo in

Every three years, on Proper 24 of Year A of the Revised Common Lectionary, church musicians have the chance to sing the marvelous setting of the Gospel by Estonian composer Arvo Pärt (b. 1935): his SATB anthem Tribute to Caesar.

This anthem has a lot to recommend it. And the effect can be really haunting and beautiful if it comes together just right.

There's something so tender about the "and they brought unto him a penny". Should that part be tender? I don't know. It is though. I get a little emotional about it. But I digress.

The anthem sets the words of the Gospel of Matthew from which comes the oft-paraphrased "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's".

But that's not the part I noticed in the office today. Doing a final check of the service leaflet with the King James Version of Matthew 22:15-22 I noticed a discrepancy in verse 19.

Pärt apparently added an extra "of" in verse 19. His version reads "Shew me the tribute of money". The King James Version reads "Shew me the tribute money" (no of).

The Universal Edition of the score unhelpfully duplicates this inaccurate text on the inside cover.

I can make no sense of the errant word, and assume that it is a mistake.

This is easy enough to fix, and I'll be making the alteration in rehearsal tomorrow night.

I know I'm not the only one conducting this on Sunday, so I just thought others might want to be aware!

You can hear the typo quite clearly here. Start at 3 minutes 12 seconds in for the phrase in question

15 Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk.
16 And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men.
17 Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?
18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?
19 Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny.
20 And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?
21 They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.
22 When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.

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11 October 2017
harmony - negative

I know that everyone in the world has probably seen this video of Jacob Collier describing "negative harmony", but I just stumbled upon it.

Maybe I'm just overly excited about the return of the Netflix show Stranger Things, but I can't help but think about negative harmony as being the harmony of the upside down.

I think the concept is utterly fascinating, and I think I need to apply this to organ improvisation post haste!

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10 October 2017
Songs in the Desert: 2018 Edition

Dear friends,

I want to start talking about Lent. Yes, already!

Seems early, doesn't it? But here's what I'm thinking:

It was only in the days leading up to Ash Wednesday 2017 that I decided to attempt to compile a collaborative Lenten devotional on hymns.

We called it Songs in the Desert, and the project was such a big success last year that I want to re-imagine this project for 2018.

This year, with more lead time, I want to ask for more submissions to create another collaborative podcast that would serve as a Lenten reflection around hymns.

I could see that there was tremendous interest in what we were doing, and I thought that with a little more notice we could sustain the project for the full season of Lent.

Who: You! If you're reading this, you should probably just go ahead and sign up. If you submitted a reflection last year, I hope you'll submit again.

When: Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, February 14, 2018. Hey, that's Valentine's Day! (More on this in a minute.) Beginning on Ash Wednesday I'd like to have reflections to send out for every weekday before Palm Sunday.

What: A short reflection on a hymn. It can be any hymn you want. Because Ash Wednesday is Valentine's Day, I thought it would fun if the theme was "Love" (but is that too cheesy?). Did you know the word "love" appears 867 times in hymns of the Hymnal 1982?. You can address this theme any way you want. If your chosen hymn is about God it's probably about love (because God is love, right?).


Where: I'll post updates on the project on this blog and at The podcast is still live on iTunes, so new episodes will start showing up there too.

Why: Because it will be fun! Because hearing each other's stories about hymns changes the way we sing, hear, and pray them. Because Lent is a great time to examine our faith, and a close reading of hymns can help us do just that.

Thanks for your interest in this year's Songs in the Desert project, and I hope you'll sign up to submit a reflection in 2018!

Songs in the Desert is a Sinden Production of Anglican Media (SPAM)

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07 October 2017
Jobs, Steve - on making something wonderful

It was my great privilege to drop in at the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri Annual Communications Conference this afternoon.

While I was preparing my presentation, I happened to watch the latest Apple Keynote which was held at Apple's new Steve Jobs Theater. The new theater was dedicated with a video tribute to Jobs. In that video there is a recording of Jobs himself:

... one of the ways that I believe people express their appreciation to the rest of humanity is to make something wonderful and put it out there. And you never meet the people, you never shake their hands, you never hear their story or tell yours. But somehow in the act of making something with a great deal of care and love, something's transmitted there. And it's a way of expressing to the rest of our species, our deep appreciation. So we need to be true to who we are. And remember what's really important to us.

I read this at the close of my presentation today. Because I like what he says. But more than that: for those of us who work in the church, I think we can actually outdo Jobs here.

I have so much admiration for my colleagues who are bona fide church communicators. I sort of lurk on the Episcopal Communicators Facebook page, but I still don't feel like I can consider myself a real communicator. But I enjoy learning about and trying my hand at this job of communicating the messages of our church and the Church.

The communicators I have known take great pride in their work and especially in making "something wonderful." Maybe it's that month's newsletter, or the weekly email, or a new pew card, or even a brand new parish website. Could it even be a podcast? Whatever it is, the act of creation is a Christian act. We are co-creators with God.

In this way I think communicators have a lot in common with church musicians: we both strive to create "something wonderful."

But as Christian creators, our thinking is at once more expansive and more specific than Jobs's.

Jobs was creating products for an immense market. In our parish contexts, the scale is a bit more manageable, and we do hear from many the people with whom we communicate.

We also want to hear their stories and get their stories and songs out there – isn't the web a marvelous platform for this?

Hymn reference: speaking of stores and song, I just started humming "This is my story, this is my song" from the hymn "Blessed assurance". See Hymn 184 in Lift Every Voice and Sing II.

And we certainly want to tell our story as the Church.

For more along these lines, I highly recommend Madeleine L'Engle's Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art.

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