Choristers make Pilgrimage

Choristers to make pilgrimage to Lincoln Cathedral 

+ Lincoln Pilgrimage Choir – First Evensong -  Sunday at 4pm at Saint George’s.  +

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In July several of our choristers and adults, together with choristers and adults from Saint Mary’s, Arlington, and Saint Andrew’s, Burke will make a pilgrimage to Lincoln, UK where they will be the resident choir at Lincoln Cathedral for the week.  Most Cathedrals have an adjoining cathedral school and during school holidays, visiting choirs are invited to be the resident choir.  Lincoln Cathedral has had a tradition of daily worship since 1088, one in which our singers will take part.  It is the third largest cathedral in England, whose most famous director of music was William Byrd.  During our residency we will have the honor to sing daily services, experience Anglican music in one of its original settings, grow musically and spiritually, visit castles and other historic sites, and develop lasting friendships.  Our Lincoln Cathedral residency is an opportunity for shared experiences and growth; musical and personal, learning, exploring, fun and fellowship, in short, “an opportunity of a lifetime”.

Over the course of this year, the Lincoln Pilgrimage Choir will sing several Evensongs around the area in preparation for our residency.   The Choir will be led by both our Minister of Music, Dr. Ben Keseley, and by Dr. Gregory Hooker, Minister of Music at Saint Mary’s.  The group will be accompanied by Mr. Aaron Goen, Director of Music at Saint Andrew’s.  These preparatory Evensongs will culminate in an Evensong at the National Cathedral.  The first Evensong in this series will be this Sunday at 4pm here at Saint George’s.  We hope you can attend to lend your support to these choristers preparing for this experience of a lifetime.  

We look forward to sharing more information about this exciting pilgrimage as we prepare for our trip throughout the year. 

 

Singing as formation

 “The gift of music offers us the message of scripture on wings of song that find nesting places in our hearts where words alone cannot go.”

 

As a small child, I remember regularly thumbing through the hymnal on Sunday mornings.  My church had received the new Lutheran Book of Worship when I was very young, and I remember it vividly.  It had a deep green cover and interesting icons.  The edge of its pages had these intriguing “rubric red” freckles which served to set it apart from other books.  It felt holy.  It smelled holy, too.   Every Sunday I would set this book up on my chair and pretend to play the organ and direct the choir from my seat.  I was simply fascinated by this new hymnal.  Fascinated not only by what was in it, but also by what I experienced in its liturgies as a young child.  As I grew up, I naturally began to understand and more deeply discover its treasure of prayers and hymnody as I leafed through it each week.   I began to understand the actions contained in its liturgies and the words of its poetry.  The tunes and texts became a part of me and played a significant role in shaping my faith.

This fascination with hymnody continues today as these same texts and tunes continue to reveal and form my faith.  I marvel in the power of hymnody to shape our faith at any age – even of young children who may not be able to read, sing or understand the texts as we adults do.  Even young children such as my younger daughter who, despite what we tell her, still mistakes the word “Kyrie” for “Yippee-Yay” on a regular basis.  While the meaning of “Kyrie” and “Yippee-yay” couldn’t be farther apart, it doesn’t matter because each week as my daughter worships together with others she has a powerful experience of singing together.  She offers her voice in an age appropriate way.  In her regular singing and worshipping she knows she is a part of a community that loves her and she knows she is loved by God.  Her understanding of this love will develop as she grows older.  This communal experience of worshiping and singing together is fundamentally important to her faith formation and her development as a human being.   So much so, that the Sunday morning chaos of getting out the door if a small hassle compared to the great gift of our worship together.

We all are shaped and formed in Christ by participating in corporate singing, regardless of our ability.  Our experience singing together, whether in key or not, is important and powerful.  Yes, “it is good to be here”, as the Gospel says.  To worship together, to sing together, and to pray together each week. To offer our praises and prayer together and hear of the love of God – together – is a powerful thing.

On Sunday, we will sing our Saint George’s hymn, All Embracing God.  It was commissioned especially for our community on the occasion of our Nave rededication and in honor of and to inspire the work we do together to change the world.  It was commissioned with the hope that it would become a part of us, that it would continue to form us in our ministry together, and that it would inspire us to do the good work of Christ in our community.   

I look forward to seeing you in church on Sunday and worshipping and singing together.  It is important.  It is life-giving.  It is powerful and life-changing for us all.

See you in church!

Soli Deo Gloria!

Ben Keseley, Minister of Music

 

 

Our New Organ - Martin Pasi, Opus. 28

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I am so excited for our parish, the greater community and for what the commissioning of Pasi, Opus 28, means for ministry at Saint George's and outreach to the community around us.   When I arrived in at Saint George's in the late spring of  2009 for my interview,  it became immediately apparent that Saint George's valued its music ministry, recognized music's importance in our faith lives and worship, and that there was a very strong desire to grow this ministry in dynamic and meaningful ways.  As our choirs have grown and blossomed these past years - both in numbers and musically - we have increasingly become aware of how inadequate our instrument is in supporting the beautiful music that these ensembles make.  As I lead you all in congregational song each week, I have become intimately aware of both the technical challenges and tonal limitations of our instrument for leading your glorious hymns of praise and prayer.  

Our new instrument (known as Opus 28) will be the 28th instrument built by Martin Pasi and company in their shop at the foot of Mount Rainier in Roy, Washington.  When it arrives in the Fall of 2020, our nave will be graced not only by a beautiful new instrument, but by a work of art lovingly handmade for our community and nave using time-tested practices.  It is designed with our ministries and worship in mind both today and into the future and it will be one that inspires our grandchildren's grandchildren as it continues to lead the church's song in this place. Opus 28 will be an instrument that inspires and leads congregational singing with clarity and sheer beauty, and one that fully supports our choir's work and becomes and equal partner in these proclamations.  It will not only be an instrument that leads our holy praises and prayer and inspires us to a deeper faith, but a gift to our community,  inviting them, and us, into the holy mysteries of God.

Opus 28, will take 14 months to be built.  Martin's shop will begin construction in June of 2019.  All 1,866 pipes will be handmade, as well as all of the organ's other parts.  The building of an organ is a fascinating and beautiful thing, combining a variety of trades and fine craftsmanship.  I encourage you to check out Martin Pasi's website to not only see his beautiful instruments, but to watch the many videos which show his team making pipes and building an instrument.  It truly is an exciting and amazing thing to watch these instruments be fashioned from raw materials.  You can find out more information on Opus. 28 and Martin Pasi on our organ project page.   

I look forward to this journey with you as we watch Opus. 28 come to life and become a part of this community's generous work to love God, serve others, and change the world.  

Soli Deo Gloria!
Ben Keseley, Minister of Music

1995 Martin Pasi - Trinity Lutheran Church, Lynnwood, Washington, USA Martin Pasi is one of very few American organ-builders who is capable of recreating the sound of 18th and 19th century European organs in the new organs he builds. His organs and all pipes are hand-built in his shop in Roy, Washington.

Hymns in Worship

In our second week of looking deeper at our overall treasure of hymnody, we explore hymns in worship, the hymn's most natural setting.  In worship the hymn becomes an instrument of corporate devotion.  To help understand the hymn's function in worship, its helpful to think of worship as a drama, as suggested by the Danish theologian, Soren Kirkegaard.

Our general pattern of worship emerges from a dramatic dialogue. The principal actors are the people of the congregation, aided and equipped by its leaders of worship.  Our drama is often scripted with its structure and sequence based upon God's dialogical encounter with God's people.  This drama is encapsulated in time and space limits of worship, but actually continues into our individual daily lives throughout the week.  We are active participants in the work (service) of worship.  Our principal audience is God.  God hears and accepts prayers and praise offered and responds.  Priests, the minister of music, and choirs are prompters in this drama - enablers of worship, guiding the congregation through its work of worship well in the presence of God, as they stand as participants, as well.  This two-way conversation between God and God's people with given pattern and sequence is one through which the Spirit of God has been pleased to act throughout history. 

With this understanding of worship, it is easy to see the place of hymnody in worship and the variety of ways in which they function.  Hymns help people say what they want to, or should say at specific places in the liturgy.  It is the job of worship leaders to accurately, intelligently, and sensitively select these for worship.

Hymns are never regarded as musical breaks for physical or mental relaxation, to relieve boredom, or cover awkward pauses, or to function as traveling music.  They are to express another biblical idea.  Hymn singing is offering a sacrifice of praise and prayer, one that requires the commitment of body, sprit, mind and voice.

+ Hymns depict the holiness, power and majesty of God
   Holy, Holy, HolyImmortal, InvisibleAll hail the power of Jesus' name

+ Hymns are used to give a corporate response, recognizing human weakness and sin, and
   ask for forgiveness.  They are used to express penitence and confession:
  Beneath the cross of JesusWhen I survey the wondrous crossSavior, like a shepherd   lead us

+ Hymns express God's forgiveness and renewal:
  I heard the voice of Jesus sayForgive our sins as we forgive, or the incredible hymn
  There's a wideness in God's mercy)

+ Hymns give utterance to commitment and dedication of life
   O Jesus, I have promisedTake my life and let it be

+ Hymns help proclaim the larger drama of Christian church year.  They reinforce the mighty acts of God in Christ and the church, the redemption story of humankind.  These hymns are such as our Christmas, Epiphany, Lenten, Holy Week and Easter hymns.

+ Hymns also serve as prayer, invocation and benediction in our service.  I am sure there are other ways, too.

When we sing hymns together, it is the congregation, not the choir and the organist, that has the largest and most direct part.  The hymn is the church singing corporately in praise of God, and not just the worshipper "taking part" in the service.  Every person is included in this work of singing praise.  John Wesley famously exhorted in his directions on singing:

"Sing all.  See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can.  Let not a slight degree of weakness or weariness hinder you.  If it is a cross to you, take it up, and you will find it a blessing."

The famous children's choir trainer Helen Kemp used to say, "Body, mind, spirit, voice: it takes the whole person to sing and rejoice".   I remember one particular story she told about how she always talked with her choristers about the upcoming hymns in rehearsals.  And that before each service during the prelude she would encourage her choristers to silently read the text of the hymns again they would sing in worship.  For this not only helped them prepare their hearts and minds for worship, but helped them move towards a singing with understanding also.   

May this be so for us, too.  May we sing in worship with our body, mind, spirit and voice.  Whether skilled or not!  And, may you find renewed meaning and understanding in the hymns we sing, and the ways in which they help us offer our corporate devotion, our sung praises and prayer to God in worship.

Soli Deo Gloria,
Ben Keseley, Minister of Music

Hymns as Proclamation

The hymnody we sing in worship functions in variety of ways in our overall  life and mission as a church.  Over the next few weeks, we will take a closer look at these ways: Proclamationworshipeducation, and ministry.  Some of our hymns fall into all of these categories, others, only one. This week we look at how are hymns function as proclamation.

Hymns as Proclamation
Throughout the Bible, music and proclamation of the gospel go hand in hand.  In Psalm 96, the psalmist sings "Sing a new song to the Lord!...Proclaim his glory to the nations, his mighty deeds to the all people".  In the Gospel of Luke we hear the angel proclaim the birth of Jesus accompanied by song "Suddenly a great army of heaven's angels appeared with the angel, singing praises to God: ' Glory to God in the highest heaven..."  Singing the good news continues throughout the New Testament, perhaps most directly as Paul exhorts the churches to make known the Word of Christ through singing.

Throughout our Christian history, from 13th-century Francis of Assisi's audi spirituali to the Protestant Reformation's chorales of Martin Luther and the metrical psalms of John Calvin to the  Wesleyan revival of England and frontier camp meetings revivals of early America, the hymn has been an effective vehicle for proclaiming the gospel.  Even today with new hymns, such as own St. Georges hymn - All-embracing God - we proclaim the powerful Gospel, the love of Christ as has been done throughout Christendom.

Our hymnody functions as proclamation when it is simply a vehicle for sharing the good news.  These hymns must incorporate the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ,  They are not limited by a specific time period, culture or style. Proclamation hymns help us publicly declare our faith - the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ - and its daily application to our lives.  They proclaim both the objective truth, God's mighty acts which have brought our salvation, and the subjective truth, our corporate response to this salvation and our experience of knowing God's love in Jesus Christ.  

Proclamation hymns fall into three categories, evangelism, witness, and missions.  Evangelism (meaning bring good news)  hymns disseminate, or preach, the gospel (i.e. Lift High the CrossGo tell it on the mountain).  Hymns of witness share Christian experiences of faith with others, and give personal testimony to the abounding love of Christ.  They share personal and corporate faith experiences with others (My song is love unknownI heard a voice of Jesus sayO Master let me walk with thee).  Hymns of missions (meaning let go, send)  are evangelism hymns pursued across national and cultural lines or ones that express concerns of missions. (O Zion, haste, thy mission high fulfillingGod, whose almighty word.)

Over the next month as we explore the ways in which hymnody functions in our life, I encourage you to perhaps interact differently with our hymnody than you might currently do. Maybe its praying the texts of the hymns we sing on Sunday during the following week, or choosing a new hymn or a very familiar hymn and letting it resonate with you and your daily prayers during the week.  Maybe its locating other hymns of proclamation in our hymnal or recounting the mighty acts of God in our Sunday hymnody. Maybe its purchasing a hymnal for your home so you can readily access this treasure of poetry.  On Sunday morning, encourage your child to draw a picture about a hymn they have sung or if they are too young to read, while we sing it (I'd love to see these!).  Maybe its having a time as a family to sing a hymn or singing a stanza or two of a hymn at meal time or at bedtime.  I am sure there are others. It is my hope that we may experience a more meaningful and deep congregational singing of these hymns as we explore and increase our understanding about these treasures of our faith.

Soli Deo Gloria!
Ben Keseley, Minister of Music

Psallam spiritu et mente
I will sing with the spirit and with the understanding also
(1 Corinthians 14:15)

We need each others voice to sing

 

I love the following poem by the hymn writer Thomas Troeger.  It is one I’ve shared before, and one I think is important to hold close.   I love the beautiful imagery in the poem and how it captures not only the power and communal aspect of the songs we sing together in worship, but also the power of standing together to proclaim the love of Jesus in our worship and our daily lives.   I give thanks regularly for each of you, and our singing together each time we worship as we raise our songs of love and praise to God.

We need each other’s voice to sing,
each other’s strength to love,
each other’s views to help us bring our hearts to God above.
 
Our lives like coals placed side by side
to feed each other’s flame,
shall with the Spirit’s breath provide a blaze of faith to claim.
 
We give our alleluias
To the church’s common chord:
Alleluia! Alleluia!  Praise, O Praise, O Praise the Lord!
-Thomas Troeger

Soli Deo Gloria!
Ben Keseley, Minister of Music

© 1994, Oxford University Press.  Reprinted with permission OneLicense.net # A71721

Text Painting in Sunday's Anthem

Bring your personal flotation devices on Sunday!  The choir's anthem is a wild ride.  

The choir will sing Herbert Sumsion's beautiful and "stormy" anthem They that go down to the sea in ships.  Sumsion was born in Gloucester in 1899. He was a pupil of Sir Herbert Brewer, the Gloucester Cathedral Organist.  Sumsion was appointed as Cathedral Organist at Gloucester on the sudden death of Brewer in 1928.  Prior to this appointment, he spent a short period in America as Professor of Harmony at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia,  Sumsion died in 1995.
 
This anthem was written in 1979 for Dennis Kiddy and the Choir of Repton Preparatory School. The piece is an excellent example of how composers use music to "paint" the text which they are setting.  Text painting helps illustrate and depict the text in an dramatic and evocative way.

In this particular piece you will here the text of Psalm 107 come alive with a rippling of the sea in the organ accompaniment, a rising and falling choral part that depicts the movement of the ship.  Sumsion dwells on the word "wonders", repeating it several times.  We hear the dramatic effect of the stormy wind arising as the music moves upwards at the words "carried up to the heaven".  His use of syncopation to depict the psalmist words - "they reel to and fro and stagger like a drunken man," show's his flair for the dramatic and less subtle text-painting.  The anthem ends with a beautiful depiction of peaceful waves.

Understanding a little about the composer's craft, such as these examples of text painting, help us move even deeper into the music and experience and hear the word of God being proclaimed.  I encourage you to listen to this anthem a little more closely than you might normally.  How does the organ support what the choir sings?  How do the choir melodies go with the text? It is remarkable to me how when the Word of God carried on the wings of song, dwell deeper and more profoundly in the soul.

Soli deo Gloria!
Ben Keseley, Minister of Music

They that go down to the sea in ships :
and occupy their business in great waters;
These men see the works of the Lord :
and his wonders in the deep.

For at his word the stormy wind ariseth :
which lifteth up the waves thereof.
They are carried up to the heav’n, and down again to the deep :
their soul melteth away because of the trouble.
They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man :
and are at their wits’ end.

So when they cry unto the Lord in their trouble :
he delivereth them out of their distress.
For he maketh the storm to cease :
so that the waves thereof are still.
Then are they glad because they are at rest :
and so he bringeth them unto the haven where they would be.

Photo Credit: The Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew (detail), about 1389–1404, Master of the Brussels Initials. Tempera colors, gold leaf, gold paint, and ink on parchment, 13 x 9 7/16 in. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Ms. 34, fol. 172

Photo Credit: The Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew (detail), about 1389–1404, Master of the Brussels Initials. Tempera colors, gold leaf, gold paint, and ink on parchment, 13 x 9 7/16 in. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Ms. 34, fol. 172

A new organ for Saint George's

I am so excited for our parish, the greater community and for what the commissioning of Pasi, Opus 28, means for ministry at Saint George's and outreach in our community.  As you may have read in our Senior Warden's letter this week, our vestry approved moving forward with the long-awaited new pipe organ for Saint George's at its last meeting.  You can read about the Organ Committee's work several years ago and other background information here.

When I arrived in at Saint George's in the late spring of  2009 for my interview,  it became immediately apparent that Saint George's valued its music ministry, recognized music's importance in our faith lives and worship, and that there was a very strong desire to grow this ministry in dynamic and meaningful ways.  As our choirs have grown and blossomed these past years - both in numbers and musically - we have increasingly become aware of how inadequate our instrument is in supporting the beautiful music these ensembles make.  As I lead you all in congregational song each week, I have become intimately aware of both the technical challenges and tonal limitations of our instrument for leading your glorious hymns of praise and prayer.  

Our new instrument (Opus 28), built by Martin Pasi and team Pasi Organbuilders of Roy Washington, will change all of that.  Our nave will be graced by a beautiful new instrument,  a work of art lovingly handmade for our community and nave using time-tested practices.  Our instrument is designed with our ministries and worship in mind both today and into the future.  It will be one that inspires our grandchildren's grandchildren as it continues to lead the church's song in this place. It will be an instrument that inspires and leads congregational singing with clarity and sheer beauty.  It will be an organ that fully supports our choir's work and becomes and equal partner in these proclamations.  It will not only be an instrument that leads our holy praises and prayer and inspires us to a deeper faith, but a gift to our community which invites them in to the holy mysteries of God.

Because Martin Pasi's shop builds one instrument at a time, our instrument will not arrive until the Fall of 2020.  It will take 14 months to build once construction is started.  The building of an organ is a fascinating and beautiful thing, combining a variety of trades and fine craftsmanship.  I encourage you to check out Martin Pasi's website to not only see his beautiful instruments, but to watch the many videos which show his team making pipes and building an instrument.  It truly is an exciting and amazing thing!

I look forward to this journey with you as we watch Opus. 28 come to life and become a part of this community's generous work to love God, serve others, and change the world.

Soli Deo Gloria!
en Keseley, Minister of Music

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1995 Martin Pasi - Trinity Lutheran Church, Lynnwood, Washington, USA Martin Pasi is one of very few American organ-builders who is capable of recreating the sound of 18th and 19th century European organs in the new organs he builds. His organs and all pipes are hand-built in his shop in Roy, Washington.

Sunday's Prelude

 
Widor’s Andante Sostenuto
 
The prelude on Sunday comes from French composer Charles Marie Widor’s Symphonie Gothique, mvt. II op. 70 (Andante sostenuto).  For Widor, his organ symphonies were a symbolic way of communicating his spiritual insights and Christian faith.  Written in 1895, the Symphonie Gothique was based on the liturgical theme “Puer natus est nobis” (Unto us a child is born), and inspired by the magnificent Gothic basilica of Saint-Ouen at Rouen, France.  
 
The Andante sostenutowas considered by Widor’s student Albert Riemenschneider, as well as French organist Marcel Dupré, as a piece that evoked the serenity of the church’s interior.  Riemenschneider wrote in a program note that the Andante sostenutowas a “rare movement with a spiritual content so chaste and pure that involuntarily the atmosphere of prayer and incense suggests itself.”   So fittingly, Andante sostenuto is offered this Sunday as we begin our worship together to gather our prayers for us and the world.  May they rise like incense.

Soli Deo Gloria!
Ben Keseley

 

Cavaille-Coll organ at Saint-Ouen in Rouen, France

Cavaille-Coll organ at Saint-Ouen in Rouen, France

Refracted Light: "Advent" by Stan Curtis

I have always been fascinated by the intersection of different art forms and the new creation that results when two or more are juxtaposed and set in conversation. The power of art forms to express that which is unsayable is one we are all well aware.  When such forms are intermingled with each other through the creativity of God's people, these artistic "windows" of God's divine transcendence, God's immanence - God's holiness - become transformative icons for us and our faith journey.  Such artistic icons have been central to shaping my faith.
 
So, you can imagine my excitement when about five years ago, Stan told me of his plans to write different pieces inspired on our beautiful stained glass windows.  Such a marvelous idea!   I was excited to see and hear the results. 

Stan's album Refracted Light, is forthcoming and includes his pieces based on the windows of Saint George's.  ou will want to get a copy when its released! 

Over the past year, I've had the pleasure of working with Stan on three of his pieces based on our windows. We have performed them in recital and last June spent several days (and nights!) recording them in our newly renovated nave.  

This week Stan Curtis and myself, along with soprano Tia Wortham, are in San Antonio to present Stan's composition "Advent" at the International Trumpet Guild Conference.  This beautiful work by Stan for trumpet, soprano, and piano won a composition award and the honor of having it presented on one of the conference's New Works recitals on Thursday morning, May 31st.  So we take a little of St. George's to San Antonio this week to share with the world.  Congratulations and thank you, Stan!

 

Stan writes:

In 2012, I began to compose Advent, which, despite its name, is the piece I wrote to go with St. George’s Crucifixion Window. I was greatly moved by a poem of the same name by the American Poet Laureate Donald Hall. My intention was to provide a “Trinity” of variations for each of the three stanzas (three flexible interpretations based on the concepts of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost). Each stanza, therefore, has a set of three variations, making a total of nine iterations of the melody first sung at the beginning by the soprano.

Regarding the text, “rood” in the first stanza is a cross; “Tenebrae” in the second stanza refers to a Christian religious service celebrated during Holy Week marked by the gradual extinguishing of candles; “Horror vacui” in the third stanza literally means “fear of empty space” and usually describes artwork which fills the entire space with visual detail.

The original version of this extended aria featured an extremely unsettling phase-shifting mixed-meter melody between trumpet and piano with soprano singing in the rests, in an effort to imitate the artistic meaning of “horror vacui”, but an alternative, lyric, ending proved more effective in the long run.

 
 

Advent
(text by Donald Hall)
 
When I see the cradle rocking
What is it that I see?
I see a rood on the hilltop
        Of Calvary.
 
When I hear the cattle lowing
What is it that they say?
They say that shadows feasted
        At Tenebrae.
 
When I know that the grave is empty,
Absence eviscerates me,
And I dwell in a cavernous, constant
        Horror vacui.
 
“Advent” from The Back Chamber by Donald Hall. Copyright ©2011 by Donald Hall.
sed by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

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Celebrating the good work of our musicians

On Thursday evening, May 17th, Saint George's held our first-annual Choir banquet for all choirs and their families to celebrate our year of music ministry together.  It was a most wonderful occasion that packed the parish hall with over 90 people in attendance.  We had a wonderful time sharing in fellowship and celebrating our singers, ringers, and volunteers.

This past year, the choirs did some wonderful work.  Together our 5 choirs

  • Consist of 70 singers, 9 ringers, 60+ families, including parents we are well over 100.
  • That means we have 70 some vestments to care for (Thank you Valerie Troiano!)
  • Sang over 75 services,
  • Sang 215 anthems (Thank you Missie Burman, our Music Librarian)
  • Sang over 300 hymns
  • Chanted over 70 psalms  - on 770 chords!
  • Rehearsed for over a total of 230 hours
  • Consumed over 245 Pizzas


Our Senior Warden, Don George, gave a word of thanks to the choirs on behalf of the Vestry, and I shared greetings and thanksgivings from our Rector, Rev. Shearon Williams who was on vacation.  A very special part of the evening was the recognition of  some of our younger singers who are moving to new choirs.  The Saint Cecilia Choir welcomed Ellagrace Price and Zachary McCabe from Angel Choir and bestowed upon them their cassocks as a sign of welcome.  The Choristers welcomed Maddie Frank and Ellianna McCabe with the giving of their choir surplice.   

We also recognized and gave great thanks for our volunteer directors, Rebecca Hill and Jen Grotpeter, Angel Choir accompanist, Marge Miller,  Missie Burman our music librarian and Valerie Troriano, our vestment manager.  The excellent and dedicated work of these people enable us to have the dynamic music ministry of which we are so proud.  Thank you!

It was a pure joy for me, your Minister of Music to recognize and give thanks for each of our singers and ringers and the hard work and commitment - the time they give - to making not only great music, but Saint George's such a great place.  It continues to be my honor to work with each of you and lead our sung musical prayers and praises in this place.

SOLI DEO GLORIA!
Ben Keseley, Minister of Music

Singing together, affirming our faith

I recently ran across an article by Diana Butler Bass written several years ago which spoke on the benefit of hymn singing and how communities who regularly sing hymns together, affirm and strengthen their faith.  Over the past two weeks I, and many of you have experienced both profound joy and sadness from the same hymn, Love, Divine, All Loves Excelling as we sang it in entirely different settings: a wedding and at two funerals.  

Its text has been floating through my mind these past two weeks, especially the words that begin the final stanza:
             “Finish then thy new creation pure and spotless let us be;
                      … let us see thy great salvation
                             … lost in wonder love and praise.” 

What wonderful words of comfort for us as we send loved ones to their heavenly life; and, what wonderful words to usher a new couple into life as one in holy marriage.  I love that the whole hymn exudes praise and love for God, and fits both of these occasion so well.  

Singing this hymn in these different contexts these past two weeks has reminded me that music, and specifically hymnody, fills our lives from infancy to death and that songs and these hymns carry our memories.  I think we would lose something of incredible value if these important poems of faith became disconnected from our spirituality.  And so, it is important that we continue to sing together the hymns of our faith, teach them to our children, and talk about them and what they mean to each of us and our community as a whole.  For in doing this - sharing the church's song - our faith, and the faith of our brothers and sisters in Christ - our community is further strengthened to live out our call to change the world.

                          It is not you that sings; it is the church that is singing, 
                                           
and you, as a member…may share in its song.
                                                        - Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer
 
Here are a few more excerpts from our community’s favorite hymns:
 
Hymn 516 – Come down O Love Divine
 
Lyn Crawford writes:  
 
For some time, now, this is the hymn that springs from my unconsciousness whenever I am troubled, sad, anxious or frightened.  It's words and music take me to a safe, enveloping place where I immediately feel God's presence, usually as the Holy Spirit or in the words of Jesus spoken as if they are for me alone.  And never, never have I failed to be comforted; never,  never have I failed to find my center again.

Hymn 423 - Immortal, Invisible
 
Rev. John Shellito writes:
 
This spring, I'm particularly appreciating “Immortal, Invisible, God only Wise.”  I don’t entirely know why I feel so connected to God’s majesty and sovereignty in that song. I also like the beautiful reminder that God’s gracious, restorative justice is like mountains. I imagine God’s justice also soaring above our limited conceptions of “justice” whether retributive, legalistic, punitive, or otherwise. Even if we can’t always see God’s work in our lives, that doesn’t mean that God’s goodness and love isn’t there: guiding, and correcting, and helping us do better, by the grace of God, across a variety of areas and seasons of life. I also appreciate the closing: “ ‘tis only the splendor of light hideth thee.” 
 
 

St. George’s Favorite Hymn Project:
We are collecting YOUR favorite hymns.  Submit yours today.
Tell us what it is here and why.

Alleluia! Sing to Jesus - Hymn 460

On Sunday we sing the great hymn, "Alleluia! Sing to Jesus!" as we observe the Ascension and the 7th (and last) Sunday of the Easter season. 

The text of this well-loved hymn was written by William Chatterton Dix, and first appeared in his collection Altar Songs, in 1867.   Dix was the manager of a marine insurance company, as well as a gifted writer.  His fine contributions to hymnody are contained in several collections.  He is also the author of the popular Christmas Carol, “What Child is This.”
 
“Alleluia! Sing to Jesus!” is a text rich in biblical imagery and centered in the following New Testament passages: John 6: 41-59Hebrews 9:11-14; and Revelation 5:9.  Dix’s originally titled the hymn, “Redemption by the Precious Blood.”
 
The tune HYFRYDOL, meaning “good cheer” or “joyful,” was written by Rowland Hugh Prichard at the age of twenty.  Prichard was well-known as precentor and writer of fine hymn tunes, many of which were printed in Welsh periodicals.  Later in his life he was a loom-tender’s assistant in the Welsh Flannel Company.
 
The structure of HYFRYDOL is unique in that its entire range is entirely within a fifth, or a five-note range, except for a rise to the sixth scale degree in the last line.  At its onset the hymn’s structure appears to be a common AABA pattern, yet its last two phrases provide interesting variants on B, which provide for an effective conclusion.

I look forward to singing this great hymn with all of you on Sunday!  Its tune is rousing.  Its text is a great summation of the our Lenten and Easter journey, and for me, provides a foundation for our work in this world.  I'd love to know your thoughts about this hymn, too.  Leave them in the comments below.
 
Soli Deo Gloria!

Ben Keseley
Minister of Music

Have you ever been to Evensong?

Think Evensong isn’t for you?   Try it this Sunday at 4pm.  Kids encouraged to attend!

If you ever resonate with the choirs’ musical offerings on Sunday morning, you will find Evensong to be an especially rich revelation of the glory and presence of God. With the exception of several hymns in which the congregation joins, Choral Evensong is almost entirely sung by the choir, which means the tone of the service can vary dynamically each time we sing it—it may be overflowing with exuberant praise one time, and rest in contemplative reflection the next. In Evensong the choir offers prayers on behalf of the gathered congregation, allowing you to mediate and move deeper into prayer through the words and music. 

Evensong is a uniquely Anglican form of worship, conceived in the sixteenth-century as part of the English Reformation, but its roots are actually the much more ancient daily prayer offices of Vespers and Compline. An enormous portion of the most glorious sacred choral music written in the English language over the past 450 years has been composed specifically for this service. At St. George's we offer Evensong monthly on the third Tuesday of the month (September–May) and quarterly on Sundays during the school year. Evensong lasts just under an hour and provides a great opportunity to “worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” later in the day. It's also a wonderful way to introduce your friends to the St. George's!  

This Sunday's Evensong & Moonbounce with District Taco (at 4pm) is an excellent time to bring friends and children to discover this wonderful service and the fellowship that follows.  I hope to see you all there! 

Soli Deo Gloria!
Ben Keseley, Minister of Music

O Blessed Spring

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Paul Granlund • "Life Tree"

Our hymn during communion on Sunday is by the hymn writer Susan Palo Cherwien.  It is a hymn that centers in the Christian idea of the Tree of Life as Christ the Vine and source from which all  life grows.  Her poetry is beautiful; layering the different stages of human life, the seasons of creation, and Christ presence and centrality throughout our life cycle.   


Susan describes her inspiration for this hymn in this manner:

Above the baptismal font in Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Minneapolis hangs a striking bronze sculpture by the late Paul Granlund, a sculpture which embodies the image of John 15:5 ‘I am the vine; you are the branches.’ Granlund cast a tree with four branches depicting the four ages of human life, with Christ as the central trunk. This bronze provided the structure for the text ‘O Blessed Spring,’ the words of which are woven around a central Christ image.  (History of Hymns: O Blessed Spring, Michael Hawn). 

You can read more from Susan about this hymn in this article in The Christian Century.

I love this hymn (and this sculpture), and hope you do too.  Meredith and I had this hymn at our wedding. For us the idea of being grafted to Christ the Vine throughout all the seasons of life, was not only a beautiful image to behold, but one of unmeasurable comfort, joy, and hope.  It is one that reminds us of the importance of faith and being involved in a faith community.  A reminder of Christ's ever-presence, and the power of Christian community.   What does this hymn mean to you?  Please comment below!
 
Susan Palo Cherwien has written numerous hymn texts that appear many denominational hymnals in the United States and Canada.  Her hymnody is familiar to us at St. George’s, as she was commissioned to write our hymn, “All embracing God” a few years ago.  You can find more of her hymn collections at Augsburgfortress.org, including our hymn in the collection Peace, be still.   She lives in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, with spouse David and sons Jeremiah and Benjamin.

Soli Deo Gloria!
Ben Keseley, Minister of Music

The King of Love My Shepherd Is

Sir Henry William Baker

unday is the Fourth Sunday of Easter, also known as “Good Shepherd Sunday.”   On this Sunday, across the world, many will be singing the beloved hymn, “The King of love my shepherd is.”  Just the fact alone that millions across the world will be singing this beloved and beautiful hymn on Sunday is a beautiful and powerful thing to behold.

Sir Henry Williams Baker (1821-1877), the author of this hymn and also the vicar of Monkland Priory Church in Herefordshire, England, wrote many hymns with “fine emotion and intellect.”  Baker is said to have uttered stanza three of this hymn as his last words before dying: 
 
Perverse and foolish oft I strayed,
But yet in love He sought me,
And on His shoulder gently laid,
And home, rejoicing, brought me. 

 
A great passion of his Baker’s life was the production of the innovative Hymns Ancient & Modern (1861), a monumental milestone in the history of English hymnody. It was a collection of great variety and musical effectiveness.   At the time this hymnal was released, most congregations in Anglican churches devoted their congregational singing to metrical psalms, not hymnody.  The singing of hymns soon spread from the Methodists and Evangelicals in England to the Anglicans.  A notable feature of this landmark hymnal was the printing of text and tune for each hymn on the same page.   Tune and text were distinctively paired so that the poetic text was enhanced by the music. Up until this time, hymnals usually only contained the text of hymns with a limited number of tunes.
 
 “The King of Love my Shepherd Is,” a metrical paraphrase of Psalm 23, was written by Baker for the Second Edition of Hymns Ancient & Modern in 1868, and included in the appendix. His friend John Bacchus Dykes (1823-1876), musical editor of the hymnal, wrote the tune DOMINUS REGIT ME specifically for it Baker’s paraphrase.  (Take a listen to this beautiful tune here!)   The tune we sing today, ST. COLUMBA, was paired with the text by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958). He was denied use of Dykes tune for inclusion in his English Hymnal (1906), and so paired the text with his own arrangement of this Irish air.  ST. COLUMBA was originally published with the caption, “an Irish hymn sung at the dedication of a chapel”.  The tune is named for St. Columba, who brought Christianity to Ireland and is said to be the first to report a sighting of the Loch Ness monster.
 
As we sing this hymn on Sunday or you read or listen to the text below, notice the beautiful imagery, the ways in which the shepherd cares through the actions of leading and feeding.  I love stanza five – “From thy pure chalice floweth.”  The imagery of Christ’s body and blood holding out grace, healing and forgiveness of our sins, is a beautiful one.  What is your favorite imagery?  What do you love about this hymn? Comment if you wish to share.

The King of love my shepherd is,
whose goodness faileth never;
I nothing lack if I am his,
and he is mine for ever.

Where streams of living water flow, 
my ransomed soul he leadeth,
and where the verdant pastures grow,
with food celestial feedeth.

Perverse and foolish oft I strayed,
but yet in love he sought me,
and on his shoulder gently laid,
and home, rejoicing, brought me.

In death's dark vale I fear no ill
with thee, dear Lord, beside me;
thy rod and staff my comfort still,
thy cross before to guide me.

Thou spread'st a table in my sight;
thy unction grace bestoweth;
and oh, what transport of delight
from thy pure chalice floweth!

And so through all the length of days
thy goodness faileth never: 
Good Shepherd, may I sing thy praise
within thy house for ever. 
 
Soli Deo Gloria!
Ben Keseley, Minister of Music

 

In quiet joy


This past week as I was helping my daughter practice her violin, I found myself discussing with her the importance of silence in music.  “Yes, Julia, the rests are very important – you can’t just skip over them. They must have their full value...”  While she didn’t quite understand the finer points of my “speech” on the importance of silence, she at least grasped that it is something about which we should take great care.  
 
Our discussion reminded me on how important silence is – not just in music, but in our worship, and in our daily lives.  For me, I find myself thinking about silence the most during Eastertide.  For me there is something unspeakable, even unsingable about the power of the resurrection.  

In worship, we know that words alone cannot express the fullness of God, so we use nonverbal elements in our worship to complement the spoken.  We use music to open our hearts and help our community lift praises to God, pray, and proclaim God’s Word.  We use actions in our worship, such as gestures, ritual movement, dance, drama, along with our visual and architectural environment to communicate and enhance the words and music they accompany.  But we also use silence.  Perhaps it is here where we have our deepest encounters with the Holy.

Silence in our music, worship, and life is more than a pause. It is a time for the prayers of the heart, a time for deep listening, a time for being still in the presence of God, allowing us time to reflect on t 

Musical Human Beings

Musical Human Beings
 
This week after Holy Week and Easter Sunday, I find myself reflecting on the music and hard work of our musicians (thank you!) this past week and how the music we sang – both as a choir and as a congregation together – was integral to helping us more fully and deeply enter into the story of our salvation.  I think it goes beyond the simple singing of beautiful music in an excellent manner.
 
At the core, human beings are singing, musical beings.  We are beings who need music in order to tell and hear the whole truth.  Music helps us to be what God means for us to be.   Whether are creating music or experience it, it helps us live into the Imago Dei.  Music helps us - a people created in the image of God - to live a creative and beautiful life.

I find it remarkable, that even though we all do not love music equally; respond to it in an equal manner, or appreciate the same music, music provides us all with something of extraordinary value.  What would the quality of our humanity be like if music did not exist?  It is difficult to see anything good in the loss of music.  Music helps us to find ourselves and express ourselves and connect us deeper to the truths of humanity and they mysteries our faith, 

wise person once said, “The gift of music offers us the message of scripture on wings of song that find nesting places in our hearts where words alone cannot go.”   
 
            For the music of creation,
            For the song your Spirit sings,
            For your sound’s divine expression,
            Burst of joy in living things:
                  God, our God, the world’s composer,
                  Hear us, echoes of your voice –
                  Music is your art, your glory,
                  Let the human heart rejoice!

 
                        -- Shirley Erena Murray
 
Soli Deo Gloria!
Ben Keseley, Minister of Music
 

Best. Music. Of the Year

 

ands down, this week’s services are the best liturgies of the year.  Hands down, the services this week contain the best music of the church year.  Worship and music that is not to be missed…for many reasons.  The music of Holy Week and Easter, particularly of our Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Vigil services, are not only stirring, but works of sheer and simple beauty that bring us deeply into the mysteries of our faith. 
 
The simple beauty of this music is directly tied to bold liturgical action it accompanies, and it is because of this, that this music is powerful and especially moving.  From the anthems sung during the washing of the feet to the chanting of Psalm 22 as the altar is stripped on Maundy Thursday, to the Reproaches sung on Good Friday and the four-part singing of the Passion Chorale, to the ancient Exultet chant, psalms, and first Easter song of praise at the Vigil – this music and the liturgies to which it is tied, bring us fully into the story, and make it alive within us.  It ushers in the numinous – that which is holy, the presence of divine beauty - and allows us to encounter in a more complete way the mysteries of God’s love for us and the world. 
 
We have all been given a special and profound gift in our Holy Week liturgies and its music.  It is a gift that will change us.  It is a gift that will help us to know God’s love more fully and spread that love into the world.  It is one that I hope we all will take advantage, and allow ourselves to truly experience this profound love that is made present in our time of worship together as we journey through the great story of our salvation. 
 
Soli deo Gloria!
Ben Keseley, Minister of Music
 
 
Saint George’s Hymn Project
 
What we sing our lips, we show forth in our lives
 
Hymn 657   - Love divine, all loves excelling
 
Allison Otto, writes:
As pretty much all Episcopal hymns are new to me since attending St. George's, this one has my favorite combination of tune and (especially the last verse) lyrics that evoke an ethereal feeling.
 
Hymn - Thee I love with all my heart  (from Evangelical Lutheran Worship)
 
Matt Waring, writes:
I don't think it's in the Episcopal hymnal, but this is a great German Reformation hymn with beautiful English-translated lyrics. It has those marvelous harmonies that distinguish all the great Lutheran hymns, and it sounds gorgeous sung a capella.
 
I sang in the choir at the Lutheran church where I grew up, and we would use the third verse of this hymn as a postlude to evening services during Lent. That verse is a prayer to God that we may abide in Him after our death and behold His glory at the last. When we sang those words in a quiet church as darkness closed around us, I was always deeply moved. For me, this hymn is a reminder of the power of music and hymnody to give voice to the hopes and fears of our hearts and to help us experience God's real presence.
 
 
St. George’s Favorite Hymn Project:
We are collecting YOUR favorite hymns.  Submit yours today.
Tell us what it is here and why.
 

A Childhood Memory

s a small child, I remember thumbing through the hymnal Sunday mornings.  My church had received the new Lutheran Book of Worship when I was very young.  It had a deep green cover, interesting icons, smelled like a new book, and the edge of its pages had these intriguing “rubric red” freckles which seemed to set it apart from other books.  Each Sunday, I would set this book up on my chair and pretend to play the organ, direct the choir, or simply be fascinated by what I would find within.  As I grew up, I naturally began to understand and more deeply discover this treasure of prayers and hymnody as I leafed through it each week. 
 
One of the parts of this hymnal that fascinated me most was the liturgies for Holy Week.  My parents faithfully took us each year to these services, so that we would understand the whole Easter story.  I remember these liturgies well.  I remember the anticipation and excitement I had for these services.  As an adult and parent, I now see why these services captivate me so.  Out of all our liturgies, they contain lots of liturgical actions that a child can understand and participate in on their own level, no matter their age.  I’m grateful my parents brought me to these liturgies, and I’m grateful for how these liturgies continually reveal the depths and mysteries of our faith, no matter our age.
 
May your Holy Week journey be one of full participation in the story, one of deep blessing and one of rich revelation of God’s love and grace.
 
Soli deo Gloria!
Ben Keseley, Minister of Music
 
Saint George’s Hymn Project
 
Hymn 431 – In heavenly love abiding (Hymnal 1940)
 
Missie Burman, writes:
This was the hymn sung by the seniors at my high school every year at the baccalaureate service that the entire school attended. I assume that those who designed this service believed that its lyrics well depicted an acknowledgement of personal growth and leave taking, but for me it became a personal devotional that I still sing to myself when I am sorrowful or in transition. And it has a great tune, which has been wasted on 1982.
Second place: 469, is very healing for my soul.
 
Hymn 344 – Lord dismiss us with thy blessing
 
Kristine Montamat, writes:
"Sicilian Mariners" is such a lovely melody, and again, I love the words of this hymn. (I also love "O Sanctissima") It's a good "everyday" kind of hymn.
 
Hymn 671 – Amazing Grace
 
Susan Kuhn, writes:
This hymn has everything that matters. Gods great mercy in the midst of evil. Salvation for the perpetrator of evil. Deep resonance with America's history of benefitting from slavery. The concept of Amazing Grace transcends slaver and enslaved; it humbles the transgressor and elevates the victimized. It offers the possibility of healing as deeply as we are able to accept and provides common ground for reconciliation.  
 
St. George’s Favorite Hymn Project:
We are collecting YOUR favorite hymns.  Submit yours today.
Tell us what it is here and why.