Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Looking Forward to Easter

The singer who will be joining us with her jazz trio for Easter has been featured in The Record. Looking forward to working with her, it will be fabulous.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Music for Dec 20th, 2015

This week is our "special music service." It's not really a cantata or a lessons & carols service, but their is going to be lots of special music for the choir and the congregation.

The title of the music portion of the service is "Welcome Home for Christmas, Family Sing-a-longs." I got my inspiration from our slogan for our anniversary year; "St. Andrew's welcomes you home, celebrating 160 years in Hespeler." The obvious connection to Christmas for me was coming home for Christmas to celebrate the birth of Jesus with your loved ones. What is a musical thing families do around Christmas? Sing-a-longs!

Honestly, overall my family isn't particularly musical, especially not my mom, so that wasn't a part of our tradition, but I did attend a Christmas sing-a-long at a close family friend's house one year. I drew my inspiration from that. There was someone plunking away at the piano, someone strumming the guitar, and someone attempting to fiddle. It was warm and wonderful and fun. What a great way to celebrate the birth of Jesus, by lifting our voices in song. I wanted to re-create that at St. Andrew's so we have Richard L'Abbe, guitar, and Shane Guse, fiddle, joining us. They are both very talented and I think they are going to blow us away.

So, family sing-a-longs, generally the pieces are shouted out and then you run with it. This would of course be chaos in a service and while I can arrange music quickly, it still takes a minimum of an hour to get an arrangement on to paper. So since that option doesn't work for us, I polled people on Facebook. I chose my songs from what they said were standards in their Christmas sing-a-longs. Because of this, not all of the songs are "sacred."

I'm going to take a second to state that I believe all music is sacred. This of course does not mean that all music is appropriate for church. However, if something is in honour of God and is logical (ie. meaningful) then why not use it to praise God? To celebrate the birth of Jesus?

Ultimately, some of my choices are unconventional - Jingle Bells, The Christmas Song, I'll Be Home for Christmas, but they can absolutely be used to celebrate God and the birth of Christ.

Practically speaking, there are five sets. Each set contains an anthem (generally sung by the choir) and a hymn for the congregation to sing.

I'm so proud of the work that the choir has done for this service. They continue to grow and please tell them what a great job they are doing.

Friday, 11 December 2015

Music for Dec 13th, 2015

The Music This Week

December 13th, 2015 is going to be a special service at St. Andrew's because it is the week of the children's pageant. There is going to be a lot of hymn singing during the pageant, so the whole congregation will be involved in the production.

I'm delighted that the Youth Band will be accompanying a number of hymns this week. This small group of teenagers has brought a new musical voice to our congregation and I am so grateful that they are bringing their talents forward to worship God at St. Andrew's.

The Adult Choir also has a very cool musical reflection this week, but you will have to come to hear it. (Sorry - I know, but it's a neat piece, I don't want to take away from its impact)

As for the prelude and postlude, the organ selection is a nice little arrangement of a Christmas hymn and the postlude is, again, a surprise piece relating to Scott's sermon on what the Charlie Brown Christmas Special can teach us about Christianity.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Music This Week: November 1st, 2015

Something exciting happened this past Sunday; the Youth Band played for the first time and I thought that they did a great job. I am so pleased that this group has emerged at St. Andrew's and that we have youth who are interested in bringing instrumental music to us. I hope everyone is looking forward to future performances by them.

The adult choir sang a piece call "Oh day of peace that dimly shines." It's such a nice tune, possibly familiar to you because it was in Chariots of Fire. It is actually in our hymn book and the congregation will be singing it next week.

The sermon discussed the biblical text that talks about stoning women for sexual activity outside of what society deemed to be acceptable. This verse brought out the feminist in me and I decided that the prelude and postlude for this week should be composed by women. Depending on how closely you've been paying attention, you may have noticed that I always do at least one organ piece, and it is usually the prelude. You may have also noticed that there was no organ piece (besides the hymns) this week. This is because it is really hard to find classical music written by women. There certainly were female composers, but they are few and far between and were generally not present in my (somewhat large) music library. I finally found some stuff online (public domain) by Clara Schumann, a brilliant musician, worth reading up on. She, however, was a pianist and wrote for piano. So, no organ this week, all my organ music was by men. The postlude was an arrangement of The Church is One Foundation by Cindy Berry. This choice was inspired by our Anniversary Sunday last week.

Friday, 16 October 2015

The Music This Week: October 18th, 2015

Sermon Topic:  “He cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two she-bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys.” (2 Kings 2:24)

Prelude: The Last Rose of Summer – By Thomas Moore, Arr. By Jane Holburne
Fall is my favourite season by a long shot and this song reminds me of fall and the beauty of it. So this time of year brings "The Last Rose of Summer" into my head and I thought it might be appreciated because of St. Andrew's heritage. But why are we doing it in church? It's a secular song! Well, first of all, as far as I am concerned all music is sacred. Something so glorious and wonderful, whether or not one likes the style, is clearly a gift. Second of all, to me, any song that talks about nature and its beauty has an obvious place in church and relates very directly to hymns like "For the Beauty of the Earth" and "All Things Bright and Beautiful." Beyond that, I think the themes of loneliness and companionship reflect part of a Christian experience; finding companionship with God or with others in the church community.

Musical Reflection: You Shall Have a Song – Harriet Ziegenhals
I'm delighted that the women from the adult choir will be singing this little piece. I'm excited because it brings a little variety to what we hear each week. Obviously it's nice to sing with the men too, but an all-female ensemble has a distinct sound that is nice to hear once in a while. The text of the piece is a simple little poem about finding gladness and joy in God. It doesn't relate directly to the sermon, but I challenge you to find a piece about she-bears mauling children that anyone would want to sing.

Offertory: Schafe k├Ânnen sicher weiden (Sheep May Safely Graze) – J.S. Bach
When I was leafing through my books to find the prelude, offertory, and postlude for this week, I was struck by this piece. (The text is below for your referral, on Sunday it will either be played or sung) I find 2 Kings 2:24 to be rather disturbing. Violence towards children is not how I like to think of God. To me, Sheep May Safely Graze is one of the most comforting pieces and I hope that it can provide reassurance to us that God is a protector and cares for humankind

Sheep may safely graze and pasture
In a watchful Shepherd's sight.
Those who rule with wisdom guiding
Bring to hearts a peace abiding
Bless a land with joy made bright.

Postlude: What a Friend We Have in Jesus – By Charles C. Converse, Arr. By Robert Schultz
I chose this song for pretty much the same reasons that I chose Sheep May Safely Graze. I also felt that it would provide stylistic contrast from the other pieces.

Hope you find the music spiritually meaningful this week.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

My Music

One of the questions frequently asked at job interviews for music leadership positions is, "What type of music do you like?" The short answer is that my heart lies with early music (music written between 500 and 1750 or 1800, depending on who you ask/approximately), particularly Baroque music (1650-1750 ish) and 20th-century/contemporary classical. (Please rest assured that those two things will not be a focus at St. Andrew's) BUT! I have a less stodgy side, I promise, and two of my favourite pop artists are Ben Harper and Jason Mraz.

Our voting leaned pretty heavily to pop songs before 1980 and country music, so I've taken the liberty of mixing things up a bit with some newer stuff. Last week we got to hear some Miley Cyrus, who is ultimately after my time, but this week I'm bringing some pieces that have resonated with me.

The first is Ben Harper's Morning Yearning. To me, this piece is like a prayer. I hear it as the singer pleading for relief from various aspects of life. I trust that this will fit well with the sermon, "Bad Things Happen." I love Ben Harper because while most of his work is secular, there are a lot of Christian elements that pop up. A good portion of his work advocates for social justice and pacifism. He has also recorded gospel albums with the Blind Boys of Alabama and on his secular CDs there is often enough a spiritual song. Lyrics here.

The second song is Quiet by Jason Mraz. Jason Mraz is probably most famous for I'm Yours, if you are trying to place the name. I would say that this song is probably supposed to be a love song. The gist of the song is "In the midst of our noisy world, every thing is quiet with you." However, that message is reminiscent of a relationship with God to me. Peace provided in the chaos. Lyrics here.

Bach: All Music Is Sacred

On June 21st, Martin was kind enough to play a prelude full of Bach's music for us.

I asked him to do this because when looking at where sacred and secular music intersect, JS Bach is an interesting figure to consider. He worked for churches, so almost his entire compositional output was sacred music, but beyond that, Bach believed that all music was sacred. Because of this, "secular" tunes would make their way in to Bach's sacred work. This viewpoint resonates with me and I would argue that all music is sacred, although, not all music is appropriate for church.

Music is such a wonderful gift with so much power to touch the soul. I think that all music can be understood and appreciated in relation to spirituality, God, and Religion.

I think that it is fabulous that I have had the chance to play and sing so much"secular" music for you through this series, but also before that, when Scott preached about Jaws, Star Wars, when we've had the Academy Awards, and other times that it fit with the service.