Annadel State Park– Sonoma County, California (Photo by John Fraim, 2001)
By Rick Sowash
Back in the old days — six months ago! — you could have found me every Sunday morning in the tenor section of the Chancel Choir at Cincinnati’s Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church.
We were really good! Twenty-five strong, many with considerable experience in music theatre, opera, jazz and classical music.
The Music Minister, Chris Miller, inspired us and cared about us. We choristers cared about one another, too; we knew what was going on in each other’s lives because at the end of our rehearsals we shared ‘joys and concerns.’ Chris incorporated into a prayer and ended rehearsals by reading a poem. Singing in the choir nourished us.
It will nourish us again someday, but who knows when? The memory of it nourishes us now.
I wrote many hymns and anthems for our congregation. Today I want to share a video version of one of the anthems, assembled by Gordon DeVinney, a much-loved and admired member of MAPC. The recording was made when our choir participated in a concert of my choral music about ten years ago but the visuals were assembled by Gordon just last month and Gordon’s video was shared with our congregation during a recent on-line worship service.
The lyrics are by Cincinnati poet W.B. “Bucky” Ignatius, a long-time friend of the congregation and a tenor in the choir. The title, “We’ve Come to Know,” converys two ideas: ‘we’ve gradually realized something” AND ‘we’ve arrived and joined together to find out something.’
Bucky was careful, at my suggestion, to devise lyrics with singable vowels, avoiding the gnarly vowels that are unpleasant to sing. Bucky told me that he had never before imposed this limitation upon himself. He had considered the meanings of words principally, their vowels not so much. Look how beautifully he met the challenge:
We’ve Come to Know
By W.B. Ignatius
Your loving hand is found, oh Lord,
in every dawning day.
You bring us calm and gently balm
our wounds and guide us on our way.
With just and perfect balance, Lord,
with love in all You do,
forever near, You stand to hear
and help all those who come to You.
Join hands, good people, everywhere,
whoever you may be,
all children of the God within
are surely kin to me.
From near and distant shores awake,
wherever waters flow.
Our hearts we raise to sing your praise.
Your love we’ve come to know.
I featured an oboe in collaboration with the choir, instead of the usual piano or organ accompaniment. In striking contrast to the choral sonority, the piercing sound of the oboe frames the music that is sung by the choir. In the prologue, the oboe offers ideas, “teaching” them to the choir. The choir develops the ideas while the oboe comments, like a loving teacher. The oboe offers a blessing, a benediction and, at the very end, a farewell.
I love Gordon’s choices of video imagery. Assembling a ‘youtube’ is a skill I admire but do not possess. Do you have this skill? If any of you know how to create a ‘youtube’ and would like to combine your choices of video images with my music, let me know. I’ll send you an mp3 recording of one of my pieces and we can email back and forth about possible imagery. It would be fun and something to do. We’ll put your video up as a youtube and I’ll share the link with my “friends and fans” via my weekly emails, as I am doing today with Gordon’s work. If you’re interested, let me know.
To hear “We’ve Come to Know” sung by the Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Chancel Choir under Chris Miller, with our oboist friend Amy Dennison and to see the gorgeous videography Gordon DeVinney appended to the music. Click here.
I’d love to know what you think about this music; reply if you’re inclined. But please don’t feel that you are expected to reply. I’m just glad to share my work in this way. As always, feel free to forward this message to friends who might enjoy it. If you have friends who sing in a church choir and/or play the oboe, they might especially like it.
At times, Midnight Oil posts important articles from others. This post by Rick Sowash is part of a weekly event from Rick that comes each Sunday morning to my email. I cherish listening to Rick’s music and words each week much more than listening to the Sunday morning news programs of gloom and doom. I think he is one of our great composers today. Anyone can be on his little list of recipients for these mpFrees (as he calls these musical emails). To sign up, email Rick at email@example.com, sending just one word: “Yes.” He’ll know what it means.
Sept. 6, 2020
“There can only be a few great composers, but there can be many sincere composers.”
— Ralph Vaughan Williams