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Sunday Music Musings August 7, 2021

August 7, 2021
Thank you for cantoring us through pandemic! Enjoy Rutgers Marching Band as Drum major!

Today is our last day with our cantor, Elizabeth Monkemeier, because (I am so happy for her) she gets to return in person to Rutgers, and get going with Marching Band and finally be drum major! Her cheerfulness, professionalism, knowledge of everything musical how I like it (from being in choir since second grade and being Head Chorister) was amazing and made working with her a joy. Did I mention she has perfect pitch and enunciates and chants like an angel? I’m sure we’ll see her at Christmas/holidays, but until then, all the best!

In celebration she and I will play the Cesar Franck (1822 – 1890) Aria transcribed for clarinet and organ as the prelude. Franck was born in the Netherlands and moved to the Paris music scene. He is revered for his organ music, especially his time at St. Clothilde from 1858 on, and as influential organ professor at the Paris Conservatory from 1872.

In place of a chanted psalm, and in celebration of Grace and Elizabeth’s last Sunday together, they will sing a composed treble duet of Psalm 34, by California composer Craig Phillips, who I wrote about here:

I have called our Summer Choir downstairs to sing an offertory anthem because we have arrived at the point in the saga of David, where he weeps and mourns for the death of his son Absalom. The American colonial composer William Billings (1746-1800) has a short, yet emotional setting of this text “David the King Was Grieved and Moved.” It is the perfect demonstration of the adage “less is more.”

William Billings was perhaps the most gifted composer to emerge from the New England “singing-school” tradition. Although by trade a tanner, he devoted most of his energy to composing, teaching, and publishing music. During communion the cantors and choir will sing a short round by him as well, and then I will play an organ setting of the anthem by 20th century American composer Gardner Read (1913 – 2005).

Our hymn of the day, as we continue the “bread discourses” is the well-known I am the Bread of Life by Suzanne Toolan (b. 1927). Oregon Music Press provides the following biography:

“Born in Lansing, Michigan, Sister Suzanne moved to Hollywood at 17, before she became a professed Sister of Mercy. She earned a master’s degree in humanities and then began her teaching career, directing choirs for high schools, colleges, parish, and seminaries. She continued her music studies, which included composition work at Michigan State University, liturgical study at the University of Notre Dame, and choral work with Robert Shaw at San Diego State University. She received a second master’s degree from San Francisco State. She brought the music and prayer of the Taizé ecumenical community from France to the Mercy Center in 1982.

Sister Suzanne attributes the popularity of “I Am the Bread of Life,” which has been translated into 20 languages, to its “message of resurrection, which is so strong in these words of Jesus. We so need that message of hope.” On her 80th birthday, she released an autobiography, I Am the Bread of Life, which includes the story behind her beloved hymn.

Sister Suzanne is the resident liturgist and directs Taizé prayer at Mercy Center, a ministry of the Sisters of Mercy in Burlingame, California.”

Suanne Toolan, RSM

Our Postlude is another movement from Craig Phillips’ Archangel Suite (we heard Raphael two weeks ago), Uriel, Bringer of Light.

This week at church there was live singing in VBS. We have three very small groups who met every day both in a well-ventilated Grace Hall and choir room, and did much of the rest of camp outside. We learned lots of songs and sang them in a short program for the parents on Thursday. Friday we practiced processing and singing with the two older groups (since no-one has done this in a year!) followed by an organ demo, during which the kids asked fantastic questions. All this singing was done masked and no kids complained plus they sounded great! If we stay masked, we have a chance of getting through this and being able to have our program this fall.

As is often the case, I got my husband Jabez Van Cleef to make up a song about Moses and the Burning Bush. We sang it to the tune Land of Rest. You are welcome to use these words if you credit him!

Burning Bush song for VBS

Now Moses and his little flock
Across the desert came,
And there they found God’s angel in
A bush of burning flame:

God said, Take off your sandals now,
You’re in a holy place!
And Moses was afraid of God,
And so he hid his face.

So then they bowed before the bush
The bush of burning flame.
God said, I AM the great I AM,
I AM the great I AM.

Jabez Van Cleef 

CM  suggested: Land of Rest

The littles played jingle bells during this:

As always, I treated my readers (entering 2nd grade and up) to what choir rehearsal is like, not only singing the VBS songs and playing the instruments, but learning our way around the hymnal, clapping rhythms, and ringing bells with music. Everyday they actually looked forward to it, asking me “What hymn should we find today?” They felt super grown-up and challenged. Please, please, don’t underestimate the kids! We learned all about the actual hymn Amazing Grace, John Newton, and the story behind it (instead of what the VBS music curriculum suggested, setting it to a rock beat and, and bowlderizing the words).

Well after 31 years of VBS it also finally occured to me to steal the song BINGO, which was a great hit with all ages:

The love of God Amazing is, it is the gift of Grace

G-R-A-C-E, G-R-A-C-E, G-R-A-C-E (do the clapping thing–you know what to do!)

Amazing is God’s Grace!

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