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!
Ben Keseley, Minister of Music
Listen to Martin Pasi's, Opus 4 at Trinity Lutheran Church, Lynnwood, Washington. The video shows some Martin's other organ as well.
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!
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!
(text by Donald Hall)
When I see the cradle rocking
What is it that I see?
I see a rood on the hilltop
When I hear the cattle lowing
What is it that they say?
They say that shadows feasted
When I know that the grave is empty,
Absence eviscerates me,
And I dwell in a cavernous, constant
“Advent” from The Back Chamber by Donald Hall. Copyright ©2011 by Donald Hall.
Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
This recording is an unmastered version from the June 2017 recording session.
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
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
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.
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: 41-59; Hebrews 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!
Minister of Music