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"And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us..."    Psalm 90:17
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Bless the Lord, O My Soul, from Vespers (All-Night Vigil), Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)

Worship in the Russian Orthodox Church is very different from the Western experience. The “mystery” of faith and salvation plays prominently in Orthodox theology, with the accompanying use of liturgical art and music. The music of the Russian church is characterized by a haunting, otherworldly sound, rooted in wonder and mysticism. By contrast, Western church music is historically rooted in logic, its purpose the representation and expression of truth.

The Vespers is music for all-night services in Russian Orthodox churches on the eves of holy days. “Bless the Lord, O My Soul”, based on an ancient Greek chant with text from Psalm 104, is the second of fifteen movements. Numerous Russian composers have written music for Vespers, but Rachmaninoff’s setting (written in 1915) is generally considered a masterpiece of Russian Orthodox Church music and his finest sacred work. In keeping with Orthodox tradition (still true in Russian Orthodox churches today), the music is a capella and written with the famous Russian bass sound in mind.

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O Nata Lux, from Lux Aeterna (Eternal Light), Morten Lauridsen (b. 1943)

O nata lux de lumine, O born light of light,
Jesu redemptor saeculi, Jesus, redeemer of the world,
dignare clemens supplicum mercifully deem worthy and accept
laudes preces que sumere. the praises and prayers of your supplicants.
Qui carne quondam contegi Thou who once deigned to be clothed in flesh
dignatus es pro perditis. for the sake of the lost ones,
Nos membra confer effici, grant us to be made members
tui beati corporis. of your holy body.

Morten Lauridsen, professor and Chair of the Composition Department at the University of Southern California, is also Composer-in-Residence of the Los Angeles Master Chorale. Premiered in 1997, Lux Aeterna (for chorus and chamber orchestra) was composed for the Chorale and its conductor, Paul Salamunovich. The work is in five movements, with the central movement being the acapella O Nata Lux. Its texts are drawn from sacred Latin sources, each containing references to Light. (Note from Lamar: I had the privilege of hearing Paul Salamunovich conduct this piece with his church choir in St. Patrick’s Cathedral at the 2003 American Choral Director’s Association Convention in New York City.)

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In Dulci Jubilo, 14th-century German carol


In dulci jubilo [In sweet jubilation]! Let us our homage show;
our heart's joy reclineth in praesepio [in a manger],
and like a bright star shineth Matris in gremio [in his Mother's lap];
Alpha es et O! [Thou are Alpha and Omega!]
O Jesu parvule [O tiny Jesus]! My heart is sore for thee!
Hear me, I beseech thee, O Puer optime [O Best of boys]!
My prayer, let it reach thee, O Princeps gloriae [O Prince of Glory]!
Trahe me post te! [Draw me after thee!]
O Patris caritas! [O love of the Father!]
O Nati lenitas! [O gentleness of the Son!]
Deeply were we stained per nostra crimina [through our crimes];
but thou for us hast gained coelorum gaudia [the joys of heaven]:
O that we were there!
Ubi sunt gaudia [Where are joys], if that they be not there?
There, are angels singing nova cantica [new songs];
there, the bells are ringing in Regis curia [in the courts of the King]:
O that we were there!
          --ed. H. Clough-Leighter

The tune for In Dulci Jubilo existed as early as 1320. First published as a hymn in 1582, it is an example of macaronic text, or text that alternates between languages. (It was once performed by Moravian missionaries in Bethlehem, PA, in over thirteen different languages, including Native American languages.) Originally done in German and Latin, this music is based on the same tune as our modern Christmas carol, Good Christian Men Rejoice. This arrangement was written by English composer Robert Pearsall in 1838 (he was living in Germany at the time) for the Karlsruhe Choral Society.

A Personal Response from Crystal:

Crisp wintertime, bell carols pealing out, a walk through the Duke University campus up to the grand, tall, stone Duke Chapel itself, and then a night of glorious Christmas music from a 120-voice choir. That was the setting for me in 1996, when I first heard and was swept away with the beauty of this arrangement of "In Dulci Jubilo." Especially the ending haunts me, the delightfully busy ending, full of wonder for the glories of heaven.

All of a sudden one is overcome, and simply exclaims, "O that we were there!" And then when you think the last chord has been sung (and are sorry), the sopranos and tenors do their final upward slur. What a thrill! When I started thinking about songs for Tapestry, this was one of the first on my list.

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Spirit of God, music by Frederick Atkinson (1841-1896), words by George Croly (1780-1860), arr. Lloyd Kauffman

This hymn was written by Frederick Atkinson, an English musician who served as choirmaster and organist of several churches and cathedrals in England. Atkinson originally wrote this music for “Abide With Me”, but it never caught on with that hymn. The words were written by George Croly, an Irish writer and priest, at the age of seventy-four, four years before his death.

A Personal Response from Merry:

It struck me today that this is a very weighty and serious song to sing. It is an invitation from our hearts for the Comforter who Jesus said the Father was sending 'to guide you into all truth' to come and lead us in that direction. But are we really serious about that invitation? Do we really mean the prayer we are praying as we sing these words? It becomes so easy to get swept into the music itself and forget the incredible importance of the lyrics. The phrase, 'But take the dimness of my soul away' hits the proverbial nail on the head and can be the honest cry of a seeking heart, whether that dimness stems from ignorance or negligence.

John 14 contains Jesus' promise of the Holy Spirit to guide us and comfort us with a peace which passes understanding. The Spirit of God cultivates in our hearts a love for God. When we love God, we keep His commandments. As the dimness of our soul is removed we realize that our true and earnest search has led us to the Father, and He is worthy of our trust and our obedience. We are not asking for 'miracles;' we are asking for the ability to recognize reality.

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I Go to the Rock, Dottie Rambo (b. 1934), arr. Ronn Huff

God as our Rock is an idea taken from Psalm 18:2, 3 -- "The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies." "I Go to the Rock" is a reminder that we have no truly safe place on earth to bare our hearts. God alone is our true shelter and friend. He is our all in all.

Dottie Rambo, a Southern Gospel singer, has written more than 2500 songs and has numerous Grammies and Doves among her many awards, for which she gives all the glory to God.

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Mary’s Little Boy Chile, Jester Hairston (1902-2000)

Jester Hairston, the grandson of a slave, had a career spanning acting, composing, and conducting. He dedicated himself to preserving the music of the slaves and memorializing the conditions that gave birth to it. As he once told his students, “You can’t sing legato when the master’s beatin’ you across your back!” He was a sought-after choral director, and composed more than 300 spirituals. Even in his 90s, Hairston continued to conduct choirs, crisscrossing the world as an ambassador for the U.S. State Department.

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The Gift to be Simple, Traditional Shaker tune, arr. Bob Chilcott (b. 1955)

The Shakers (so named by their critics for their zealous worship practice of shaking and trembling to rid themselves of evil) are the most enduring and successful of the many communitarian societies established in America in the 18th and 19th centuries. Converts gathered into communities, bound by their shared faith and a commitment to common property, celibacy, confession of sins, equality of men and women, pacificism and separation from the world.

Singing was an essential element of Shaker life, although whirling, trembling, shaking and other ecstatic worship gave way to more orderly dancing and singing in religious services. This tune was introduced by Elder Joseph Brackett (1797-1882), and according to tradition he would sing and dance this song "with his coattails flying."

Bob Chilcott is a former member of the King’s Singers whose reputationis fast growing as one of Britain’s most popular composers of accessible choral music.

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Songs from Isaiah, Carl Schalk (b. 1929)

Carl Schalk is a Lutheran church musician who is active as a clinician and lecturer in the American church music scene. He has dedicated his life to composing music for the church and has written more than eighty hymn tunes and carols, many of which appear in over thirty denominational hymnals around the world.

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Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, J. S. Bach (1685-1750), arr. Rosie Smucker

Bach is considered by many to be the greatest composer that ever lived, and his music is the “bread and butter” of every serious musician. As a church musician, Bach wrote five complete cycles of cantatas (liturgical, multi-movement works for soloists, choir, and instruments) for every Sunday and religious holiday of the year – nearly three hundred in all!

“Jesu, Joy” is the choral movement from a cantata for the feast of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary, first performed in 1723. Like most of Bach’s chorale, it uses hymn verses and melodies that would have been familiar to German congregations. This particular movement uses the sixth and sixteenth verses of a 1661 hymn by Martin Jahn set to a 1642 melody by Johann Schop.

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Morning Trumpet, music by B. F. White (1844), words by John Leland (1793), arr. Alice Parker & Robert Shaw

The words to this old American hymn were written by John Leland, an 18th-century Baptist preacher. The music was written by Benjamin F. White, a Southern music teacher and publisher of the shaped-note hymnal The Sacred Harp. The original hymn has ten verses; only the first, second, and fifth are utilized in this arrangement. The melody and rhythm have a martial feel (probably harking back to White’s experience as a fife player in the War of 1812) and several of the original verses make reference to military imagery such as soldiers and armor.

Alice Parker (b. 1925) and Robert Shaw (1916-1999) are two of the most widely recognized American composers and conductors of the 20th century. Parker was Shaw’s student, and they became lifelong friends and collaborated on numerous arrangements (especially of folksongs, hymns, and spirituals) and musical projects.

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Sometimes I Feel, American Spiritual, arr. Parker/Shaw

The words of this song ring so true in this human life we live, this life full of heartaches, disappointments, ups and downs. "Sometimes I feel like a moanin' dove... Sometimes I feel like a motherless child... Sometimes I feel like I gotta no home, wring my hands and cry." Surely this isn't the life we were really made for. We long, perhaps unconsciously, for something better, for heaven. On the other hand, "Sometimes I feel like an eagle in the air, spread my wings and fly." Thank God for these glimpses, however minute, of what heaven will be like! These moments when we soar on eagle's wings.

This haunting arrangement was sung at Robert Shaw’s memorial service.

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This Little Light O’ Mine, arr. John W. Work (1901-1967)

The original music and words for this song were written by Harry Dixon Loes (1892-1965), a Baptist Church musician. This spiritual-style arrangement is by John W. Work, a third-generation African-American musician.

Work, a music professor and conductor, was a prolific composer is known for his highly effective choral writing. Work was also the director of the Jubilee Singers, the choir from Fisk University (an African-American college) that was responsible for bringing Negro Spirituals to national and international acceptance and prominence.

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Psalm 42 (L’Amour de Moy), 15th Century French Folksong, arr. Parker/Shaw

The melody for this song is from an old, anonymous French love song. The simple, longing melody and harmonic arrangement by Parker & Shaw fit well with the adaptation of the Psalm 42 text used in our program. "As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God..." Psalm 42: 1,2

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Softly and Tenderly, William L. Thompson (1847-1909), arr. Rene Clausen (b. 1953)

After a successful career of writing secular music, William Thompson turned to writing gospel hymns. He was known for his travels by horse and buggy from one small community to another throughout Ohio singing his songs to people everywhere. His “Softly and Tenderly” was widely used as an invitation hymn in the evangelistic crusades of Dwight L. Moody and Ira Sankey in the U.S. and Britain. When Moody was on his deathbed, he told Thompson, “Will, I would rather have written 'Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling' than anything I have been able to do in my whole life.”

Rene Clausen is a well-known composer and conductor of the Concordia Choir from Concordia College, Moorehead, MN.

A personal response from Ginger:

This is one of my favorite songs because it has such a simple message, yet gorgeous harmony! As I sing this song, I get a picture of God standing with His arms opened wide just waiting for anyone to come running to Him. He is calling with a soft and tender voice to those who are carrying burdens that He can remove. There is not one bit of anger, hate, or "told you so" look on His face, but instead love and compassion. The next thing that comes to my mind is "What am I doing to let the sin sick world know about my loving and compassionate God?"

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Of the Father’s Love/Halleluia, Shannon Smith (b. 1967), arr. Larry Nickel

“Of the Father’s Love Begotten” is one of the most ancient hymns still in use in the church today. The words were originally written in Latin (Corde natus ex parentis) by Aurelius Clemens Prudentius of Spain (348-413), a judge and lawyer who began writing sacred poetry after his retirement.

It was translated into English by John Neale and Henry Baker, 19th century scholars of medieval hymnody. The melody is from an 11th-century Sanctus trope (an plainchant embellishment of the “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Sabaoth” text in the Mass), Divinum Mysterium. This particular arrangement is a fascinating and workable melding of ancient and contemporary styles.

Personal Responses from Merry and Byran:

Merry --   At first I wasn't certain I would like this song. It felt too much like a bad mixture of history and pop. My initial reaction was rather uncharitable; I really like history, but I have a difficult time appreciating present culture. This is especially true as it relates to music.

However, as I listened to the piece over and over, again and again, I began to grasp the weight of what had been accomplished by the marriage of these two musical styles. The words compliment and give illumination to each other in a way I initially missed. There is this thread of seeking for God and finding Him through the ages of history from Christ's birth up to the present. I was impressed by the unity of the body of Christ in all of time, committing ourselves to Him, "loving Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength." Whether we were a part of the early church, or lived a thousand years ago, or only one hundred years ago, or are alive today, we all share a common theme, devotion to Jesus Christ.

"That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His suffering, being made conformable unto His death."

"Wherefore, seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. Looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith..."

Byran --   To think that God is the sole reason that I am what I am--this fills my heart with excitement. Excitement that makes me want to serve him unabashedly, wholeheartedly. But then I think, do I praise God in every way I can, as this song proclaims? Do I praise him when I'm wrestling with a cantankerous computer program? During a tough midterm? When I'm tired? When I'm playing basketball? What does every way really mean?

I think it means that I would be constantly and completely consumed with God. It's easy to write that this is what I want. It's harder in the real world. But my desire is unchanged--to be in love with Jesus and praise Him continually, so that He may show Himself greater in my life and so others may see Him.

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Working With Joy, Larry Nickel

Here is a song that shares the excitement of what it will be like when Jesus Christ returns: the King will come in His glory, and we will be there to meet the twinkling of an eye...the sky will break open...the trumpet will resound and we'll go home. What a day! But until then, how should we live? Listen for the soaring entrance "In the meantime we'll be working with joy."

Larry Nickel is a Canadian Mennonite composer and conductor who is currently the choral director at Mennonite Educational Institute in British Columbia and composer-in-residence for the West Coast Mennonite Chamber Choir.

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O Man, Thy Grief and Sin Bemoan, Ralph E. Williams

Ralph E. Williams is a choral composer, retired music professor and former director of the University of Minnesota Morris Choir, a choir established in the Lutheran a capella choral tradition of the Concordia and St. Olaf Choirs. The text is a translation of a 16th century German text.

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