Posts Tagged 'Easter music'

Pepper Choplin: Once upon a Morning – From Resurrection to Pentecost

PepperChoplin

Pepper Choplin

Guest post by composer Pepper Choplin introducing his new cantata, Once upon a Morning: From Resurrection to Pentecost. Choplin is known as one of the most creative writers in church music today. With a diverse musical background, Choplin incorporates varied styles such as folk, Gospel, classical, and jazz. His published works include over 300 anthems for church and school choir with 20 church cantatas and two books of piano arrangements, and over 120 groups have commissioned him to write original works for them. Since 1991, his choral music has sold several million copies. Choplin has conducted eight New York concerts of his music at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center with 250 voices and full orchestra. In his hometown of Raleigh, he has conducted eight mass performances of his cantatas at Meymandi Auditorium (home to the NC Symphony) with over two hundred voices and orchestra. In 2019, he conducted Handel’s Messiah (Christmas portion) with the 150-voice Cary Community Choir with orchestra. He also visits many schools, churches and conferences to conduct and to entertain. 

 

OnceUponAMorningI always wanted to write this cantata. Then a church in Pennsylvania commissioned me to write a spring cantata outside of the typical Easter work. For a year, I surveyed directors and singers about different potential subjects. This idea got them most excited.

I loved writing this cantata. These wonderful stories don’t receive much attention in church music. Yet, they contain so much drama and passion.

Just before I began, I saw the musical Hamilton. While there is not a word of rap here, Hamilton gave me courage to write with more fire, using plenty of text and rhythm.

“Once Upon a Morning” (Easter) — This musical sunrise leads us to celebrate the Resurrection: “When the stone was rolled away surely death had lost its prey to the miracle of life!” Note the pairing of the main theme with the “Easter Hymn.” There is just enough here to lead the congregation to sing the hymn afterward.

“Why Do You Seek the Living Among the Dead?” (Easter) — This piece drives to capture the excitement of this powerful question. It also says, “Go and tell the others that Jesus is alive,” and quotes the “Easter Hymn.”

“Didn’t Our Hearts Burn Within Us?” (after Easter) — I’ve always thought this was the most powerful quote from the Emmaus road. This ballad tells the story, then encourages the listener to let the word live within us all. It is very inspiring with a hint of gospel to move the heart.

“Thomas Believes” (after Easter) — This dramatic musical dialogue leads through Thomas’s transition from doubt to full belief. Sung with one or two soloists, the choir takes on the role of the disciples. It concludes with a great celebration of faith.

“Blessed Are the Ones Who Believe” (appropriate anytime) — This simple statement by Christ is a profound expression of encouragement. After the drama of the previous piece, it has a comforting chorale feel: “Blessed are the ones…who live their lives with faith and follow in my way; who dare to believe in the Resurrection and the Life.”

“Cast Your Nets” (appropriate anytime) — “Try something that you haven’t tried. Cast your nets on the other side.” I’ve already heard from people in the studio and churches where I’ve sung this hearty call. They remark at how they were inspired to listen to Christ’s words and take a chance on a new direction. Many of our churches need to cast their nets on the other side.

“He Is Lifted Up” (appropriate anytime) — This boisterous fanfare proclaims the text with rapid-fire rhythm. I don’t see many anthems focusing on the powerful event of the Ascension. It uses a Hebrews passage to celebrate the Lordship of Christ. The anthem drives to the end with a final celebration carried by the tune used most commonly for “Like a River Glorious.” It is so triumphant that it could be used as the finale with Day of Pentecost being sung at another time.

“Day of Pentecost” — Through the high energy rhythm you can visualize the rushing wind and the tongues of fire. It leads to Peter’s bold sermon, quoting Joel, “Your sons and daughters will rise. They will boldly prophesy.” The “Easter Hymn” tune appears again to carry the Spirit text. The congregation is encouraged to sing, “Holy Spirit, come today. Alleluia! Through Your power, we will say, ‘Alleluia.’”

Watch Pepper Choplin in the studio conducting the orchestra during the recording of Once Upon a Morning:

Lee & Susan Dengler: A Holy Week Cantata Reflecting on Sacrifice and Sorrow

Guest post by composers Lee & Susan Dengler introducing their new Holy Week cantata, When Darkness Comes. Lee and Susan are the authors of over 400 choral anthems, cantatas and vocal and piano solo collections that are used worldwide. They have served as music leaders in churches, and have taught music on the elementary, high school and college levels. Both are professional singers and have performed in recitals, operas, oratorios and musicals. They reside in Goshen, Indiana.

LeeDenglerSusanDengler

Lee Dengler & Susan Naus Dengler

Easter was in mid-April that year. We who work in church music are relieved when Easter comes that late in the season, allowing adequate time to prepare for the music of Lent and Easter.

However, there was a lot going on in our house back then. We were awaiting the birth of our second child. The due date was April 1. Because of church responsibilities, we hoped that this baby would arrive on time. Rebecca Joy only made us wait two extra days before she appeared on the scene. Even though Palm Sunday was only two days later, we could fulfill our Holy Week responsibilities without too much stress.

There were, however, a few things that we hadn’t counted on. First, Lee had only recently begun a new daytime job. Also, we had no idea what it would mean to care for a newborn in addition to our firstborn son, Jason, who was only 18 months old. And then Susan contracted the nasty virus that was making its way through our community. All this would have been enough to overwhelm two young adults, but then Lee’s grandfather, Grandpop Dengler, was suddenly confronted with critical health problems — problems from which he never recovered. Although there were many things for us to be happy about, Holy Week that year was also tinged with some personal darkness.

Ready or not, the week that marked Jesus’s journey to the cross arrives on an annual basis, whether our lives are bathed in joyous light or mired in shadows. Whatever the case, this holiest of weeks affords us the opportunity to truly experience what we believe as followers of the One who faced the darkness of the cross for our sakes. It is a time to place the hope of Jesus’s resurrection against the backdrop of death and grief.

Quiet reflection allows us to move from the somber moments of Christ’s sacrifice to a most joyful celebration of Easter. Daily disciplines, such as reading the Gospels and contemplative walking, can help us focus our minds. Praying the “Lord’s Prayer” or the 23rd Psalm can be excellent models for our prayers during these days. Listening to music, such as Handel’s Messiah or hymns that speak of Christ’s Passion, can also help to lead us to the light and hope of His victory over death.

WhenDarknessComesIndeed, music has always served as a perfect vehicle to enhance our observance of Holy Week. It has been our personal privilege to create some of the music and texts that portray the sacrifice that Jesus endured for our sakes. In recent months, we have considered the deep darkness that our Savior knew during those days — the physical darkness of that Thursday evening, and the spiritual and emotional darkness of His trial and crucifixion on Friday. This was the greatest darkness the world has ever known. What a blessing to consider that the one who willingly faced this time of profound darkness is with us when we experience dark times in our own lives. Out of these thoughts came our new cantata, When Darkness Comes.

This 20-minute work can be used in a variety of ways to enhance your Holy Week worship. Included are suggestions for the extinguishing of candles for a Tenebrae style service, and for PowerPoint visuals that can be displayed throughout the course of the presentation. A communion service might be an excellent preface to the cantata’s presentation. Options for congregational participation make it possible for everyone to be involved in the retelling of this story. It is our sincere prayer that When Darkness Comes will prove to be a most meaningful part of your congregation’s Holy Week experience.

For more insight into the composers’ inspiration for the cantata and to listen to excerpts, watch this digital reading session:

Publisher Spotlight: Hope Publishing

Contributed by Steve Shorney, Vice President – Hope Publishing

Hope is proud to celebrate its 125th anniversary this year!  We were founded in 1892 in Chicago, Illinois.  The company was formed in an effort to provide songbooks for hymn singing at Methodist evangelical meetings. The founders of the company christened the name Hope Publishing Company from their motto, “all we have is hope” which defined their feelings when starting the fledgling business. The Shorney family has been running Hope Publishing from its beginning and the current owners, John, Scott and Steve Shorney, are the fourth generation of family management.

Hymns and hymnals are still an important part of Hope’s product mix but in the sixties we aggressively branched out into other products to serve the church market.  Now a large part of our publishing is committed to choral, handbell, piano, organ and instrumental products.  We remain committed to the sacred market. Continue reading ‘Publisher Spotlight: Hope Publishing’

New Lent and Easter Cantatas and Anthems for 2017

Discover new and poignant choral cantatas and anthems appropriate for the Lent and Easter seasons from Beckenhorst Press, Brookfield Press, Hope, Lorenz, Shawnee Press and SoundForth.

Cantatas

Come to the Cross and Remember by Pepper Choplin

Iconic imagery of the Easter story is paired with a beautiful melodic figure that weaves throughout the entire work to help present and guide the audience through this work. The music by Pepper Choplin, accompanied by Michael Lawrence’s stunning orchestration, powerfully represents the high and low moments of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Additional choruses and hymns illumine the journey, including the haunting “Go to Dark Gethsemane,” the spine-tingling “Judas,” the mournful “Surely He Has Borne Our Griefs,” the transportive “You Will Be with Me in Paradise,” and the majestically triumphant “Every Knee Should Bow.”

Psalm 23: A Journey with the Shepherd by Pepper Choplin

“Psalm 23 holds a special place in the lives of believers.  We often read or say it from memory at significant services and times of challenge.  Through this cantata, I wanted choir and audience to truly experience this most beloved psalm:

to feel the peace of the still waters,

to be comforted through shadow of death,

to express gratitude for the bountiful table of blessings

and to celebrate the mercy which follows through all the days of our lives.

The music is dramatic with an artistic flair, but written with the church and community choir in mind.”

Pepper Choplin

Sacred Places: Pilgrimage of Promise by Joseph Martin

“I have always been inspired by the early American folk hymn tradition. I grew up in North Carolina where these time-honored texts and tunes are very much a part of the church music experience. In SACRED PLACES I have tried to capture some of that rustic spirit and tell the timeless story of Christ’s ministry and passion. The focus of the cantata is on the places where Jesus performed some of his important miracles and where he experienced other significant moments in his final days. The River Jordan, The Wedding at Cana, The Pool of Bethesda, The holy city of Jerusalem, the upper room, the Garden of Gethsemane, Calvary and the Garden of Resurrection.

The narration is based on scripture and helps move the work forward. Two endings are provided, one intended for use during Holy Week and a more joyful triumphant conclusion for churches performing the work after Easter. The orchestrations by Brant Adams are filled with an abundance of creativity and provide a colorful soundtrack for the work. With SACRED PLACES I have tried to create something interesting, yet approachable, so that choirs of any size and level of accomplishment can embrace the work with confidence.”

Joseph Martin

Lamentations of the Lamb by John Purifoy

“Pamela Stewart’s poignant and insightful lyrics made composing ‘Lamentations of the Lamb’ a true journey experiencing Christ’s final week of betrayal, suffering and sacrifice for us as believers.  It is always our hope as writers and composers that these emotions resonate in the music for both singers, instrumentalists and worshipers alike.  The blending of Old Testament prophecy, historical hymn texts and newly written lyrics also made setting the music an artistic reward.”

John Purifoy

 

Hope in the Shadows by Joel Raney and Lloyd Larson

Retracing Christ’s final days and journey to the cross, this new musical for Lent and Holy Week includes a mixture of traditional and contemporary hymns and songs set in a variety of styles. Arranged for SATB choir with narrator(s), and options to include soloists and congregation, plus a 5-piece instrumental ensemble, scored by Ed Hogan, this 38-minute program focuses on our Savior’s sacrifice and the hope in the shadows to which we cling.

 

 

 

Anthems

Christ Is Risen, Alleluia! by Jay Althouse

This exuberant Easter anthem opens with a joyous, hymn-like melody, harmonized in a straightforward manner. This leads to a statement of the majestic hymn “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” in a comfortable key, making it ideal for having the congregation join in. Returning to the original melody for a powerful conclusion makes this an accessible, uplifting musical presentation for Easter Sunday.

 

 

 

I Am Bound for the Promised Land! by Craig Courtney

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A march-like ritornello begins Craig Courtney’s new arrangement of I Am Bound for the Promised Land and, although that motive can be heard throughout the piece, he counters that with contrast and variety in the 4-hand accompaniment and a variety of articulation in the voices. Snare drum, triangle and cymbals add to the dramatic effect.

 

 

 

 

I’ll Fly Away by Craig Courtney

Craig Courtney’s arrangement of I’ll Fly Away begins as a seemingly traditional treatment of the Brumley gospel tune but, as the piece goes on, it veers into different territory. Chock full of text painting, polyphony and a tipping of the hat to Gershwin, it becomes a journey of joy. The 4-hand accompaniment is creatively sophisticated. This would be the perfect choice for a choir festival or as a final piece in a concert that will “bring the house down”.

 

 

 

Anthems of Love by Dan Forrest

Anthems of Love is Dan Forrest’s setting of an ethereal Susan Boersma text based on Zephaniah 3:17, where God sings over His children with joy. The music portrays the idea of “celestial music” surrounding our praise, as God Himself joins in our songs of praise to Him. The combination of text and music is strikingly beautiful.

 

 

 

 

A Mighty Fortress by Dan Forrest

Dan Forrest’s new setting of A Mighty Fortress is just in time for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation being celebrated around the world in 2017. His setting opens with a evocation of the blows of Luther’s hammer, and then works its way through music history, while not becoming overly difficult. It has numerous instrumental accompaniment options available, for maximum flexibility.

 

 

 

Pie Jesu by Joseph Martin

Joseph Martin beautifully set this Latin text with an optional English translation along with an original melody that is nothing short of breath-taking. Equally functional as it is beautiful, this anthem is equally applicable in a worship service or concert setting. The optional violin part provides another layer of musical tenderness that will live with the choir and audience well after the performance ends.

 

 

 

How Can It Be? by Jay Rouse

Jay Rouse’s arrangement of this 2015 Contemporary Christian song of the year is an authentic and powerful choral representation of this stirring worship song. With an expressive solo and driving instrumental accompaniment, this anthem provides a compelling opportunity for congregation participation.

 

 

 

 

Agnus Dei with How Great Thou Art by Michael W. Smith & Stuart K. Hine

This Michael W. Smith “classic” is ideal for any worship occasion and especially communion services reflecting on Jesus, the Lamb of God. The inclusion of a portion of “How Great Thou Art” expands and reinforces this anthem of praise to the Lord God Almighty.

 

 

 

 

 

Come People of the Risen King with Rejoice, the Lord Is King by Stuart Townend, Keith & Kristyn Getty

This dynamic hymn setting calls for the church of Christ, both young and old, to rejoice in the risen King. A verse of the Charles Wesley hymn “Rejoice, the Lord Is King!” is seamlessly woven into the fabric and heightens the impact of this celebration of Christ our Lord and King.

Top 5 New Cantatas for Lent and Easter

1. The Easter Story by Thomas Fettke & Thomas Grassi
SATB
Performance Time: 35 minutes

Cantata_Easter_Story

The Easter Story combines a profound narrative by Ken Bible with musical selections from Tom Fettke and Thomas Grassi. Fettke and Grassi have drawn upon several folk music sources, including hymns from The Sacred Harp and The Columbian Harmony, and spirituals, carols and songs from English, Irish and Hebrew traditions. The narrative is steeped in scripture, helping to relive the events in Jerusalem leading up to Jesus’ death and resurrection.

This cantata recommends using two narrators, but can be performed with one. It is beautiful whether accompanied by piano or orchestra. Continue reading ‘Top 5 New Cantatas for Lent and Easter’


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