Monday, June 6, 2011

Liturgy and Hymnody Review: Rundman, Getty, and GIA

Rundman, Jonathan. Protestant Rock Ethic (featuring A HEARTLAND LITURGY plus Event Theme Songs, Hymn Interpretations, Scripture Settings, and Curriculum Music). Minneapolis: Salt Lady Records, 2006. Three CD set: 2 audio, 1 data "eSongBook." (LHN)

Shackley, Larry, Douglas E. Wagner, Mark Hayes, Lloyd Larson, Mary McDonald, Arrangers. The Hymns of Keith Getty.  Dayton, OH: Lorenz, 2010. Piano Folio. $18.95.  (H)

Alonso, Tony. "Arise, My Love." Chicago: GIA Publications, 2010. Sheet Music. $1.75 (LH)

Alonso, Tony and Marty Haugen. Arise My Love: Music for Weddings. Chicago: GIA, 2010. Audio CD. $16.95. (LH)

O'Brien, Francis Patrick.
Can You Hear Me Now? Chicago: GIA, 2010. Audio CD. $16.95. (LH)

True, Lori. "Let This Be the Time." Chicago: GIA Publications, 2010. Sheet Music. $1.75. (LH)

 True, Lori. Let This Be the Time: Songs of Transformation and Peace. Chicago: GIA, 2010. Audio CD. $16.95. (H)

Haas, David.
Without Seeing You: The Best of David Haas, volume 3. Chicago: GIA, 2009. Audio CD. $16.95. (H)

Haas, David
. Glory to God: The Best of David Haas, volume 4. Chicago, GIA, 2009. Audio CD. $16.95. (H)

Haugen, Marty and Marc Anderson
. Tree of Life. Chicago: GIA, 2009. Audio CD. $16.95. (H)

Donna Pena
. I Say Yes / Digo Si. Chicago: GIA, 2010. Audio CD. $16.95. (H)

Ever since the Psalmist sang, "Sing a New Song to the Lord" in Psalm 96 and Psalm 98, there has been little lack of new song in Christ's Church. To be sure, some new song has endured longer than others, and much of that enduring new song has been rightly about Jesus, the New Song, Himself.

You will meet several new composers/artists in this review and we will revisit some friends and acquaintances.

Others have described Jonathan Rundman, as "a Lutheran rocker." Even though I'm younger than he is, pastorally, I wouldn't use rock or the pop/rock combo for Christian worship. 

Seven tracks comprise "A Heartland Liturgy," complete with:
  • Texas Kyrie
  • Glory in the Highest (Gloria)
  • Psalm Tone Blues (employing Psalm 111)
  • Gospel Verses
  • The Great Thanksgiving/Holy Holy Holy (Sanctus)
  • Lamb of God (Agnus Dei)
  • Canticle for Departure (Dunc Dimittis)
The composer was kind to include an eSongBook with the sheet music of the complete setting. This is a nice touch for both techies and musicians. Both lead sheet and piano scores are provided for A Heartland Liturgy and five supplemental songs.
The Kyrie is responsive, as is the Gloria. Rather than sticking with LBW/LW/ELW/LSB liturgical texts, the Gloria calls upon "Loving father, caring mother Hold us in your wings," rendering it completely unusable. I like the "Anglican thump" of the repeated last two notes of the melody of the Psalm Tone. The  Gospel Verses wisely stick to the same melody as an aid in teaching and repeated use, but I am concerned if it will wear well over time. Lamb of God was the most memorable and usable, in my opinion. I was grateful to see a Nunc Dimittis. Like the Offertory, which began disappearing a generation ago, it too is fading due to the influence and advice of liturgical scholars (e.g. ELW; both are still in active use in LBW). I have not yet attempted to compose my own mass setting. I respect Rundman's attempt. Again, the Gloria text remains the sour note. 

Regarding the supplemental music, we at QBR had seen "Hey Hey Samuel" before (like the Gloria, it appeared on Lutheran Songs Today 1). It would be more appropriate for Sunday School, campfire youth singing, or VBS than Divine Service. "As You Did, Lord, at Emmaus" is textually reminiscent of Herbert Brokering  (LSB 474, 680, 817, 879). "The Serious Kind" needs some serious context. Perhaps that could be provided by other song or a devotion. "Forgiveness Waltz" has Lutheran theological origins, for it proclaims the Gospel in Luther's way: "for you." It needs more Jesus, as does "By Grace."   

Roughly a quarter of the tracks on this two-disc set are theme songs for youth gatherings (ELCA, Youth Encounter, Holden Village, LCMS). Jonathan Rundman's sound is much like Lost and Found (2.11, "Because He Lives,"  is a collaboration with that duo). Hymn arrangements are similar to LaF. My perspective on youth ministry is the approach of Higher Things, an LCMS RSO. Work is work, play is play, and worship is historic Lutheran worship, less of a "mega gathering mountaintop experience," but far more supportive of home congregational life, pastoral care, communion practice, and overall reverence.

"Calm the Storm" (2.4), based on Mark 4:35-41, was particularly memorable. It would be a nice story song for the weeks where that Gospel text is read. I could imagine it becoming a favorite for Vespers or Evening Prayer in a nave or around a campfire.

Rundman's composing style and unique voice could make a great contributions to animated shows like one of my favorites, Phineas and Ferb

 Can You Hear Me Now by Francics Patrick O'Brien is a new theatrical performance piece. The musical idiom (melody, arrangement, and performance) reminds me of Broadway. Initially, the title reminded me of the Verizon cell phone guy. Fr. O'Brien's individual octavos, especially the Biblical Canticles, will likely be more useful in parish contexts than the entire opus. It was pleasant, but not something I would usually buy or listen to personally.

David Haas is not a well-known composer in the LCMS. His one canticle in Lutheran Service Book is found only in the music and electronic editions. That has limited the use of "Blest Are They," 982, which has grown on me since the introduction of LSB. The the song on two "best of" collections provided to us was largely new to me. Genres varied from folk-like to Broadway to ethnic-derived song. 

Those easiest to place and use liturgically may be the Psalm settings:
  • 3.2 Throughout All Time (Psalm 89)
  • 3.4 The Lord Is My Light (Psalm 27)
  • 3.7 Before I Was Born (Psalm 139)
  • 3.14 I Thirst for You (Psalm 42/43)
  • 3.15 They Who Do Justice (Psalm 15)
  • 3.17 The Fragrance of Christ (Psalm 138)
  • 3.19 Like a Little Child (Psalm 131)
  • 4.1 If Today... (Psalm 95) [Consider for Morning Prayer/Matins]
  • 4.4 All the Ends of the Earth (Psalm 98)
  • 4.14 You Are My Shepherd (Psalm 23)
A Social Gospel is often stronger than a Gospel message. Others focus more on First Article topics than Second Article Gospel. 

Used as an addition and supplement to historic catholic liturgical texts and melodies, these compositions may be a welcome addition to parish worship. I would be uncomfortable with them being a parishoner's exclusive hymnic and liturgical diet. We are still open to seeing volumes 1 and 2 of "The Best of David Haas."

Donna Peña is a composer and performer, residing in Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota. Speaking strongly to and for the Hispanic community in the Midwestern church, she provides a leadership founded strongly on her Mexican and Cherokee heritage. While at the University of Minnesota, she took part in the Chicano Studies program. As she unites formal education with top-notch communication skills, she is able to produce music that serves well the needs for multilingual worship. In addition to her incredibly popular song “Digo Si, Señor/I Say Yes, Lord,” her recorded collections Alma Mia and Against the Grain as well as A New Heaven, A New Earth, Mass of the Nations or the collaboration with Marty Haugen We Come Dancing, provide a broad range of music and texts for inclusive worship. “El Amanecar,” which is the first cut on La Tierra, La Gente, is a masterpiece of Hispanic rhythms and instrumentation. When one sings it, one dances it. Her setting of Psalm 25, “Levanto Mi Alma/I Lift Up My Soul,” has become a staple in the Advent repertory for many parishes. Peña’s compositions have been featured on the recording Cross Culture and also in the collection Music for Small Christian Communities. She stands at the forefront of composers who are able to express ethnic richness through accessible music. 

“Digo Si, Señor/I Say Yes, Lord” will appeal to fans of Gloria Estefan. It would hardly be authentic for me to introduce on a Sunday morning. Theologically, track 13, "Salvanos, Maria," would be inappropriate in a Lutheran context because it is a prayer to Mary. Occasional texts are prayers for social justice. Some of the guitar work sounds like an early Carlos Santana. As an album, I Say Yes, will remain music for the road rather than song for the sanctuary.

Lori True's latest release, Let This Be the Time, is true to its subtitle: Songs of Transformation and Peace. Notes in the choir music for the title track (1) give this background: "'Let This Be the Time' is a musical proclamation expressing the urgency, immediacy and impatience for the church to rise up to its call, to witness as a herald of reconciliation and justice." The Refrain sings: "Come and tear down the old ways and build up the new, be the God of our promise; all hope rests in you. With the fire of your Spirit, blaze a kingdom of truth. Prepare us for action, let nothing distract us from you!" Unfortunately, liberation and social justice are the distraction from the Biblical Gospel of Christ. I'm not sure if that kind of transformation is for me and my congregation.

Arrangements, instrumentation, and melodies remind me of K. Lee Scott and as Michael Card, well as other GIA recordings. "Love Is the Touch" (3) uses the Irish tune SLANE, and would be appropriate for weddings. Track 4 has an unfortunate stanza that could lead to miscommunication. One could hear "God is not present" and forget the previous phrase, "no place so distant God is not present." Could this be reworded for clarity and comfort? I would love to have the sheet music for track 8, "How Good it Is." It is a singable, usable paraphrase of Psalm 133, informed by Colossians 3:12-17. The harmony would sound great at a District Pastoral Conference. Similarly, the closing tracks (13 and 14) are Christocentric and Gospel filled. "Go Forth in Peace" focuses on the gifts and love of God in Christ and His service to us. Japanese tunes are rare in Christian use. "May the Peace of Christ Be with You" is memorable and comforting. I would use tracks 3, 8, 13, and 14 immediately. I am eager to see the Let This Be the Time music collection.

Marty Haugen and Marc Anderson collaborate on Tree of Life, a soulful album based on Genesis 2:8–10, the gospel accounts of the crucifixion, and Revelation 22:1–17. The title track, "Tree of Life" (1) wore on in repetitiveness, so that I missed the Christological "loving tree of the Son" before the final refrain. "I am a Child of this Planet" sounds more ecological than First Article of the Creed. "We Are One Family" needs more of a Christian, baptismal context, otherwise it could be easily misunderstood. "God Is Still Speaking" sounds like a theme song for the recent UCC emphasis, but is grounded in (only) the First Article. It is most in need of the invitation of the Gospel in Jesus Christ. "We Are All the Leaves of One Tree" would benefit from a revision based on Romans and the pruned and added branches. "When We Can Honor" is First-Article-only. "O Holy Water" has an obvious but not completely explicit baptismal theme. Dignity, justice, and hope are present in "Light Dawns..." but not Jesus. He is our dignity, the Just Judge, and our Hope eternal. Unfortunate. "No One Can Own the Wind" may cross the line from a hymn about creation to a hymn to creation. What "God Is Present" says is true, but where is God Present for your Gospel benefit? Only Word and Sacrament. "Deep Peace" is also missing the Prince of Peace. I do not wish to be picky or petty, but Tree of Life largely fails as Christian music because of the lack of a Christological focus. This is an example of a work that is largely Biblical, but not uniquely Christian in character. Disappointing.

Arise, My Love, Haugen's collaboration with Tony Alonso, is much stronger contribution. "Arise My Love," (1) is based on Song of Songs. It would have fit in well at my own wedding in 1997. The music is accessible to musicians of modest ability and singable by nearly anyone of decent voice. The CD liner notes suggest use of the collection as Processional and Gathering Songs, Psalms, Hymns and Songs for Prelude, Preparation for the Gifts or Post Communion, Communion Songs, and Recessional and Sending Songs. This is quite helpful. 

I had hoped for an explicit Christological interpretation of 1 Corinthians 13 in "Love Endures All Things," yet it is useful and useable. "Love Has Brought Us Here Together" makes use of HYFRYDOL and would be a singable congregational hymn. Bilingual contributions are welcome (4, 8, 10, 15).  "Gathered in the Love of Christ" is a creative adaptation of Canon in D (5). "What a Gift to Be Gathered" and "At the Table of Jesus" may be better texts for SIMPLE GIFTS than the original (9, 16). "Beloved, God's Chosen" would be a great way to remind couples to forgive one another and reinforce this message from a wedding sermon (11). I would not use "Litany of Love" (12) or "Litany of Mary" (17) due to historic Lutheran/Roman theological differences. "Love Is a Longing" (13) is a good use of SLANE, but would be stronger if Christ were substituted or God in the first syllable of each stanza's last line. "Planted and Nurtured in Love" is a strong original song to conclude the album.

The final offering for consideration in this blog review is a collection of piano solo arrangements based on the hymn tunes of Keith Getty, composed in collaboration with Stuart Townend, Jonathan Rea, Kristyn Getty, and Ian Hannah.

Level 2 • Irish composer Keith Getty and his talented collaborators have created some of the most memorable hymns of this generation. With their folk-like melodies and scriptural lyrics, these songs have made their way into the hearts of congregations around the world. We have chosen ten of Keith Getty’s most popular hymns and asked five of our brilliant arrangers to set them for piano. This book will serve you well throughout the church year with preludes and offertories suitable for Christmas, Easter, missions, prayer, Communion, and general use.
Page NumberTitleComposer
3The Power of the CrossMark Hayes
8Across the LandsDouglas Wagner
12God of GraceLloyd Larson
16See What a MorningMary McDonald
21There Is a Higher ThroneLloyd Larson
26Speak, O LordMary McDonald
30Behold the Lamb (The Communion Hymn)Larry Shackley
34Joy Has DawnedDouglas Wagner
38In Christ AloneMark Hayes
43Glorious LightLarry Shackley
(publisher's website)
Arrangers include Larry Shackley, Douglas E. Wagner, Mark Hayes, Lloyd Larson, and Mary McDonald. Lorenz Publishing classifies the arrangements as Level 2, "Intermediate to moderate difficulty with a variety of musical styles; expanded range and more rhythmically demanding" (2). This is quite accurate. The melodies of these new Irish hymns still shines through.  My favorite arrangement was "Joy Has Dawned," (34) a hymn our congregation sang for Christmas Morning. Key changes are naturally done, not merely because the arranger had appeared to run out of other ideas. 

This collection was an opportunity to hear my favorite Getty/Townend tunes, but revisit two that were less-familiar. "Glorious Light" appeared previously only on the New Irish Hymns #3: Incarnation album. " Modern Hymns Live and New Irish Hymns 2: #Father, Son and Holy Spirit are the two albums featuring "God of Grace." The theological term "Irresistible" in stanza one of the Getty/Rea text has rendered the hymn unusable to to me and my congregation and church body until I can come up with a replacement Bibically-true five-syllable phrase. The soaring tune pairs well with NEW BRITAIN in the Lloyd Larson arrangement.

The Hymns of Keith Getty is worth your money and time. 

To a lesser degree, I will recommend portions of the albums and sheet music collections noted above. 

I have a growing impression that in Roman circles, "contemporary" music for Church is more of the musical theater idiom than that of "pop/rock" as in American Evangelicalism. I would be open to perspectives from readers as well as publishers on that opinion.

This late Spring and Summer I hope to catch up on reviews and reading in preparation for late Summer and Fall reviews. 

Recently, music submissions for our opinion have significantly increased. Sifting through it all has been worth my/our time because of the wheat that we have gleaned thus far.

The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.