STJ#1060, As We Sing of Hope and Joy

I am torn this morning between heartbreak and duty: my duty to myself to follow through on this spiritual practice and write something – anything – in response to the day’s singing; my heartbreak over yesterday’s death of one of my cats, a 15 year old black cat named Chelsea who was found dumpster diving …

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STJ#1044, Eli, Eli

Happy New Year! In the words of Colonel Sherman Potter (M*A*S*H), “may it be a damn sight better than the old one.” If today’s hymn is any indication, it will be full of beautiful reminders that there is a love holding us. This haunting song, composed by David Zehavi, is based on a poem by an …

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STJ#1019, Everything Possible

Things I wonder: Do some congregations sing this together fairly regularly? Do some music directors and ministers flip past it because it is somewhat complex if you don’t know it already? Do others flip past it because in 13 years we’ve learned that binary language is too restrictive? Does composer and colleague Fred Small have …

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STLT#332, Perfect Singer

True fact: context matters. I mean, I know you know this, but in this case it’s not just the context of where the lyrics come from or when they were written or how they were used. In this case, it’s about the accompaniment – in other words, the context in which the melody sits. And …

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STLT#316, Tradition Held Fast

The last thing I want to do is write a blog post about a song entitled “tradition held fast” on the morning after a spontaneous alt-right march encircled a church where friends and colleagues were praying in preparation for today’s hate-filled rally in Charlottesville. The march – complete with torches (but no hoods – hate is …

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STLT#242, In the Lonely Midnight

It’s been all about the tune for me this morning. I know this lyric as a choral piece by composer and music director Michael Harrison – a beautiful setting of these lyrics that evoke the hope of the lyrics (the cascading voice thing that happens on “peace, good will” is gorgeous and the intricacies of …

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STLT#202, Come Sunday

I wonder how many denominations have Duke Ellington in their hymnals? A hat tip to our hymnal commission for finding a place for this piece. And, as I’ve talked about before, this fits in the ‘not every song in the hymnal is meant for the congregation to sing’ category – although I would love to …

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STLT#196, Singer of Life

Of the many metaphors we use for the Divine, I think Singer of Life is my favorite. This metaphor taps into something we know about the earth, that it has its own vibrational hum…and when you add all of the living things that have their own hums (and voices and chirps and growls and sighs), …

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STLT#177, Sakura

I had the opportunity to sing this once, as a solo, to commemorate Hiroshima Day. While set on a pentatonic scale, it is in what musicologists call Phrygian Dominant Minor Mode – which is another term for “very unfamiliar but striking intervals that are at once difficult and haunting.” It was not easy for me to …

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STLT#176, Daya Kar Daan Bhakti Ka

I suspect most of us have flipped past this a thousand times. I suspect the combination of Hindi language, no translation, and fear of the unfamiliar keeps us away. And it’s too bad. Because not only is this a beautiful lyric, but it’s a beautiful and catchy melody. Take a listen: Isn’t that great? It’s …

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