Wounded Alleluias

Guest post by Joseph M. Martin, Composer and Director of Sacred Publications for Shawnee Press

The quest to combine ministry with artistry has been a lifelong calling for me.  I have always found my place and purpose in this pursuit.  Composing animates me and breathes into my spirit an inner peace that is deeply sacred.

Reassuring rituals are part of my writing process—simple disciplines made special by repetition, reminding me to be grateful for the labor to which I have been called. With faithful regularity the process unfolds over and over, familiar yet surprising, comfortable yet challenging.

Climbing the stairs to my music studio is just one example. With each step there is the affirmation of how blessed I am to take this journey of discovery.  I pass by relics of my education and past concert moments hanging on the walls.  These remind me of treasured mentors and golden moments that have encouraged me through the years. 

I pass by family photos that reassure me that I am loved and not alone. I gaze at a stained-glass window that reminds me of how the mystery and ministry of light makes even broken things beautiful.

Step by step, in this gentle rising, I am reminded that the source of the seeking is divine.  As I reach the top landing, I turn on the lights.  The shadows retreat, and my special sanctuary of instruments, books and tools welcomes me back.

To be gifted with the luxury of lingering with scripture, spending sacred moments researching our shared legacy of worship, pouring my praise into my pen and composing new songs is a special grace in my life.  How can I keep from writing?

During this past year my climb has been heavy and burdened.  The rising has been labored and the journey to creativity winding and rocky.  Blank pages drone on in silence and the ink of inspiration is running low.  I write songs, but voices cannot share them.

Choirs are bound and masked! 

Instruments sit breathless and silent!

Wounded alleluias!

With wandering fingers, I search the scriptures.  The slick, cool pages pause and start to speak:

 “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.”

This passage reminded me that we are still EASTER people. We carry in our hearts hymns of hope and new songs of joy. 

There is a great crescendo coming!  Soon a sonic shudder will quake the earth back to celebration.  Our wounds will be washed, and our scars will sing!  The foundations of this pandemic prison will shake, and the stones will roll away.  Our choirs will find their purpose again. Our songs will soar, and our instruments will once again make a joyful noise. The echoes of our worship will resound in our sanctuaries and spill out into the world as a canticle of faith.

When that moment comes, may the Lord find ours hearts overflowing with the magnificent music of grace!

HEAL OUR ALLELUIAS

A PRAYER FOR SINGERS OF FAITH

CHORUS:

HEAL OUR ALLELUIAS

TOUCH OUR WOUNDED PRAISE

COMFORT EVERY TROUBLED SONG

WITH YOUR GENTLE GRACE

SING TO EVERY SHADOW

BREATHE INTO THE NIGHT

MUSIC FROM THE HEART OF LOVE

A CANTICLE OF LIGHT

VERSE: 1

THE WILLOWS HOLD OUR WEEPING HARPS

JUST BEYOND OUR DREAMS

ONLY GRACE CAN BRING THEM DOWN

AND PUT THEM IN OUR REACH

IN THE STILLNESS OF THIS TIME

EACH BROKEN SONG REDEEM

MOVE ACROSS OUR SILENT STRINGS
AND WE WILL LEARN YOUR THEME

CHORUS: (REPEAT)

VERSE 2

WRITE IN US A HYMN OF HOPE

CRAFT EACH CHORD WITH CARE

FIX IN US YOUR HARMONY

A SYMPHONY TO SHARE

HELP US TRUST YOUR GRAND DESIGN

COMPOSER OF THE HEART

MAKE US NOW YOUR INTSRUMENTS

AND LET THE MUSIC START

CHORUS (REPEAT)

© 2021 JOSEPH M. MARTIN, (MARTIN CREATIVE SERVICES)

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


Joseph Martin is recognized around the world for his many choral compositions, both sacred and secular. Martin is also Director of Sacred Publications for Shawnee Press, overseeing the editorial and creative direction of the company, and he has been a featured solo pianist with symphony orchestras throughout the U.S. and Mexico.

How to Make Your Own Virtual Choir

Make your own virtual choir performance in just 8 steps. This guide includes tips for planning the project, recording participant tracks, and editing the submissions into a final performance ready to post and send. For related technology and tools, visit Sheet Music Plus.

You’ve seen them everywhere online: grids of iPhone videos of people singing together in chorus. From Broadway stars and professional choral groups to church and community choirs and even ad hoc regional and global networks of singers, the defining group music making moment of the decade so far is…

VIRTUAL CHOIR

Here we’ll walk you through what a virtual choir is and give you a step-by-step guide to creating your own, whether for the choir you regularly sing with or direct, or for a new group of singers you’ve brought together for a specific project.

more “How to Make Your Own Virtual Choir”

StreamSing: A Free Virtual Reading Session with Jubilate Music Group

As our annual Sacred Choral Sale continues, we’d like to highlight a fantastic opportunity to explore new music for spring and Easter.

Join host Mark Cabaniss, President & CEO of Jubilate Music Group, and his special guest, composer Lloyd Larson, for StreamSing, a free virtual reading session.

In this approximately hour-long express session, Mark and Lloyd tell stories, look ahead to our future opportunities for ministry and community as church singers, and preview new music perfect for distanced, streaming and virtual choirs from Mary McDonald, Lloyd Larson, Tom Fettke and more.

Here are just a few of the titles featured in StreamSing:

more “StreamSing: A Free Virtual Reading Session with Jubilate Music Group”

VOCES8 Premieres Six New Commissions during LIVE From London – Christmas Festival

On December 5, 2020, as part of its LIVE From London – Christmas online festival, British choral ensemble VOCES8 premiered six new pieces by composers Jocelyn Hagen, Taylor Scott Davis, Ken Burton, Roderick Williams, Paul Smith and Melissa Dunphy.

The 6 New Commissions

Now Winter Nights

Roderick Williams
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Now Winter Nights” by British composer and baritone Roderick Williams uses an evocative poem by Thomas Campion as its text, helping him to pinpoint the excitement of Christmas he felt as a child and still holds onto.

more “VOCES8 Premieres Six New Commissions during LIVE From London – Christmas Festival”

A Four-Part Journey through Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir

Guest post by Curran Mahowald, a choral singer who participated in Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir 6 in May 2020

Eric Whitacre

In the spring of 2020, Eric Whitacre assembled his sixth global virtual choir to premiere his new piece, “Sing Gently.” Following a series of virtual rehearsals led by Whitacre himself, 17,572 singers from 129 countries submitted videos of themselves singing their individual lines.

From there, a team of film editors and audio engineers from 59 Productions and Floating Earth assembled the individual submissions into one final virtual performance:

Here is what it was like to contribute my voice to that video.

more “A Four-Part Journey through Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir”

Bright Star: Gareth Malone Gets the Whole School Singing!

In a January 2019 survey, BPI (British Phonographic Industry) found that British state schools had seen a 21% decrease in music provision over the previous five years, with this decrease disproportionately affecting schools serving less affluent communities.

HL00295016 Bright Star G Malone Cvr.inddTo address this situation, TV star and conductor Gareth Malone of BBC Two’s The Choir has joined forces with teacher Catherine de Sybel to create an exciting new music resource for schools, Bright Star: Inclusive Songs for Whole-Group Singing. Catchy, heartfelt, accessible and fun, the book includes a song co-written with Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy. Equally suitable for small groups, school choirs or the entire school, these engaging songs cover a wide range of themes including life choices, friendship and community, the environment, bereavement and growing up.

The songs are written to get the whole school singing confidently and are appropriate for all ages, with a particular focus on children aged 8–14, bridging the gap between Key Stages 2 and 3, when children are more likely to give up singing.

 

“We believe that singing has enormous benefits to children’s mental and physical well-being and that it should be an integral part of every child’s school day. The simple act of breathing and singing together can be so valuable in fostering a sense of community and shared values. We hope that the subject matter will resonate with pupils and their teachers and we have included some pointers for discussion in the introduction to each song. We want pupils of all faiths and none to experience the joy of singing and most importantly for every school to be a singing school!”

— Gareth & Catherine

 

Designed to be user-friendly for music teachers and particularly non-specialist teachers, the Bright Star pack includes full scores, demo and backing tracks to download, and photocopiable melody and lyric sheets. Introductory notes on the songs provide support in learning and performing, as well as discussion points for use in the classroom.

About Gareth Malone

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Gareth Malone

Gareth Malone OBE, is well-known around the world as a broadcaster, composer and choral animateur. He has won two BAFTAs for his BBC Two series The Choir, and has been making programs for the BBC for over 14 years. Other achievements include working as an artistic director for a Royal Opera House community opera, and working with orchestra and opera education departments, including the LSO, Philharmonia, Glyndebourne and ENO Baylis.

Gareth has had two number-one singles in the UK, the first in 2011 with the Military Wives Choir, followed by the Gareth Malone All Star Choir for Children in Need three years later. He has also had two number one albums: In My Dreams with the Military Wives, and his latest, Music for Healing, which is currently at the top of the specialist classical charts. His 2014 series The Big Performance 3 won the Royal Television Society award for best children’s television, and Gareth Goes to Glyndebourne won an International Emmy in 2011. In 2012 he was honored with an OBE by Her Majesty the Queen for services to music.

Gareth continues to compose with young people and to work with emerging artists. He has recorded with some of the leading performers in the UK and has just released his third album, Music for Healing.

About Catherine de Sybel

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Catherine de Sybel

Catherine de Sybel is a composer, pianist and music educator. She read music at the University of Cambridge and continued with postgraduate studies in composition at the École Normale de Musique in Paris, where she won the prestigious Premier Prix for her work for mezzo-soprano and piano, Imagination.

Her teaching career, spanning over twenty years, has encompassed work in mainstream, private and specialist schools, always driving inclusive music education to the forefront of the curriculum. As Head of Music at Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School, she facilitated outreach projects with the London Symphony Orchestra, London Sinfonietta and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, as well as high profile performances for Her Majesty the Queen and Michelle Obama.

In addition to her work inside the classroom, she has led music composition workshops for trainee teachers at the University of Cambridge, mentored beginner teachers from the Institute of Education and worked as Schools Projects Manager at the London Symphony Orchestra.

Catherine believes passionately in the power of music to inspire and educate and has dedicated her career to enabling the finest musical opportunities for children from all backgrounds whilst encouraging young voices to be heard from every corner of her school.

Cantabile Qualities: Choral Music by Beethoven

Guest post by Jan Schumacher

Beethoven is not primarily thought of as a vocal composer, but why not? The choral collection compiled by Jan Schumacher, which contains both well-known and unknown choral works by Beethoven and original transcriptions of Beethoven’s works by other composers, reveals a great deal of extremely attractive repertoire.

Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven

The widely-held prejudice that “he could not write for voice” sticks to few composers as much as it does to Ludwig van Beethoven. This may be due to the fact that his place in music history is primarily as a revolutionary symphonist and creator of incomparable chamber music like the string quartets and piano sonatas. To take this to mean that he had no understanding of the human voice or did not know how to write for chorus, however, is to draw the wrong conclusion. Beethoven, like nearly every other composer of his age and indeed until the first half of the 20th century (with a few notable exceptions such as Chopin and Paganini), was equally used to composing for voice and instruments.

It is when we try to label Beethoven that we develop what can be misleading expectations. more “Cantabile Qualities: Choral Music by Beethoven”

Discovering Mårten Jansson & Bärenreiter’s Jansson Choral Competition

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Mårten Jansson

Every time we listen to Swedish composer Mårten Jansson we can’t help but get swept up in the whirlwind of emotions he creates. His music is full of all of the compositional elements that choristers love to sing: sweeping melodic lines, open chords and expressive dissonance.

Ultimately, though, performers and audiences alike fall in love with his music because they are drawn to the fundamental honesty at its core. Jansson approaches traditional sacred texts with humility, and he openly shares his experience of it through his music in a way that amplifies the text without pretense or contradiction.

JanssonMissaPopularis

This honesty should not be confused with simplicity or naïveté. Jansson’s stunning Missa Popularis, for instance, manages to connect us to a profound range of emotions, while uniting many layers of thought and tradition into the microcosm of a single piece of music. In addition to all of Jansson’s neoromantic tendencies, the Missa sits atop a foundation of Swedish folk dances and also sounds strikingly Medieval. Though perhaps most obvious in the opening of the “Kyrie” and the “Agnus Dei,” the feeling of the chant is present throughout the entire Mass. more “Discovering Mårten Jansson & Bärenreiter’s Jansson Choral Competition”

Dark Is the New Bright

Guest post by Mark Cabaniss

Just 30 or 40 years ago, the Tenebrae service was foreign to many a church, despite the service’s ancient roots. The Roman Catholic Church embraced it early, but it has only become popular and more regularly practiced in Mainline Protestant churches (and even some traditional evangelical churches) in recent decades.

These “services of darkness,” as they are often called, have become a “bright spot,” one could say, for churches around the world that are looking for fresh and creative ways to impart the Holy Week journey.

Sacred music publishers have responded to the heightened awareness of Tenebrae with a variety of publications that are ready to prepare and present as complete Tenebrae services with appropriate music and narration.

Tenebrae is a special service for Holy Week that can be conducted on Holy Wednesday, Maundy Thursday or Good Friday, or any day of Holy Week when a church has a regular or additional special service.

The name “Tenebrae” comes from the Latin for “shadows” or “darkness,” and denotes a service of shadows. The Tenebrae service makes use of gradually diminishing light as candles are extinguished one-by-one to guide the congregation through the events of Holy Week from the triumphant Palm Sunday entry through Jesus’s burial. more “Dark Is the New Bright”

Composer Spotlight: Interview with Ola Gjeilo

Biography

Composer and pianist Ola Gjeilo was born in Norway in 1978 and moved to the United States in 2001 to begin his composition studies at the Juilliard School in New York City, where he currently resides.

Ola’s recordings include the Decca Classics albums Ola Gjeilo (2016) and Winter Songs (2017), featuring Tenebrae, Voces8, and the Choir of Royal Holloway. His choral and piano works are published by Walton Music and include titles such as the Sunrise Mass, Northern Lights, Ubi Caritas, Tundra, and Ave Generosa. His wind band works are published by Boosey & Hawkes.

For more information, please visit olagjeilo.com or find Ola on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

When did you start composing?

I started playing piano and improvising when I was about five years old. As a child, I had a pretty good ear and was fairly quickly able to hear which notes worked together and which ones didn’t. I didn’t read music until later on because I just wanted to do keep improvising and creating things. I never had a moment in which I decided to become a composer though; it was something I had been so passionate about from a young age, and I never thought of doing anything else. more “Composer Spotlight: Interview with Ola Gjeilo”