Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Liturgy and Hymnody Review: Modern Sacred Music


de Silva, Chris. With Great Love. Chicago: GIA Publications, 2012. Printed music, saddle stitched. $26.50. (LH)

de Silva, Chris. With Great Love. Chicago: GIA Publications, 2012. Audio CD. $16.95. (LH)

Callanan, Ian. In Beauty We Walk. Chicago: GIA Publications, 2012. Printed music, saddle stitched. $22.00. (LH)

Callanan, Ian. In Beauty We Walk. Chicago: GIA Publications, 2012. Audio CD. $16.95. (LH)

Melley, Paul. God Is Love. Chicago: GIA Publications, 2012. Printed music, saddle stitched. $17.00. (LH)

Melley, Paul. God Is Love. Chicago: GIA Publications, 2012. Audio CD. $16.95. (LH)

This review covers three albums/sheet music sets from GIA. All are in a modern American musical idiom. 

Extensive musical parts are available for our first collection, ranging from brass to woodwinds, to strings beyond the choir, guitar, and keyboard provided to this reviewer.

With Great Love

"We can do no great things, only small things with great love."
—Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

With Great Love is a moving collection of songs that speak of God's love at work in us. These songs are fashioned for use throughout the liturgical year, enriching everything from the most intimate of prayer services to the most majestic of Christmas liturgies. The title track, "With Great Love," is a beautiful message based on the writings of Blessed Teresa. It is a gentle call to action that is easily learned, enabling quick and active participation.

Many of the tracks combine Latin with English lyrics. Moved by the simplicity and pure beauty of plainchant, de Silva weaves both languages seamlessly in a fusion of ageless text and contemporary melody, effectively preserving our traditions while presenting them in a modern, singable setting. Another notable inclusion, "God Will Lead Us Home," contains a beautiful choral interlude on in paradisum that suspends the passing of time. There is a place in your library, your liturgies, and your hearts for every song in this collection.

(Publisher's Website)

I loved this composer's English/Latin approach, providing freshness while being reverent

and respectful toward historic chant and texts.

The title track, track 1, "With Great Love," was memorable, yet too repetitious.  "Enter God's Kingdom," track 2 needed more specificity for its appeals for "peace and justice" than the mere generic title, "God." Track 3, "Lord, Let Us See Your Kindness," based on Psalm 85 makes use of CONDITOR ALME SIDERUM for a Refrain! A soloist or choir provides the sung Psalm text. I would use this! "Come, Lord Jesus," track 4, (like 7, "There Is Room for the Stranger" and "Sustained by Faith, 9) is strangely void of body and blood vocabularly for a Communion song. I appreciate the language of invitation, but there needs to be more Gospel! 

Tracks 10 and 12 take a more human care focus, textually. I would have liked the start of track 10's text, "Broken for the Broken" to take a more eucharistic or Lenten direction focusing on the suffering and death of Christ. Perhaps stanzas could still be added. Track 11, "Litany of Thanksgiving" is a sung prayer while "God Will Lead Us Home," track 13, is a song of comfort sung by the saints to one another about our heavenly hope. A translation of the Latin choral interlude of the latter would aid congregational comprehension.

The "Magnificat" by de Silva, track 5, is beautiful. Rather than a Latin refrain for congregational use, it may be more appropriate in my context sung by a choir with the rest by a soloist or small group. I would probably use the same approach to "Ubi Caritas," track 8, and track 14, "Peace Blessing," with my Latin-studying school choir.

Track 6, "That Holy Night" incorporates "Gloria in excelsis Deo!" as a congregational/group refrain in an inspiring and memorable solo for Christmas Eve for a baritone or tenor.

Parts for C instruments (and occasionally trumpet and string quartet) are also available for the next collection.

In Beauty We Walk


It is my hope that the music contained in this collection will evoke states of healing, comfort, and love, whether sung by the gathered faithful in our communities or by listening to this recording.
—Ian Callanan

In Beauty We Walk, an exciting new collection from composer Ian Callanan, is a perfect combination of real-world songs for worship that implore us to become the body of Christ—to live together in unity as "one holy people." The songs are suitable for use throughout the liturgical year and encompass a variety of musical genres infused with Celtic grace. "Lord Heal the Darkness," "Come and Eat This Bread," and the title track, "In Beauty We Walk," all seek to encourage, embolden, and enliven the spirit. A striking song of farewell, "The Warm Embrace," offers courage and consolation to those who have experienced the loss of a loved one. Track after track, Callanan deftly draws us toward conversion and healing while inspiring us to live out the gospel message every day of our lives. The music of In Beauty We Walk profoundly speaks to the heart—messages of love, hope, praise, joy, and thanksgiving. Immerse your liturgy and your soul in beauty!

(Publisher's Website)

The text of track 1, "Come and Eat this Bread," tends toward minimal eucharistic language. Tracks 2, 3, 5, 10 ("One in Your Name," "In Beauty We Walk," "The Warm Embrace," "Your Faith in Me") have minimal references to God and Jesus. I appreciate the value of catechetical repetition, but the repetition on tracks 2 and 3 was far too much. I loved the melody to "The Warm Embrace."

I would likely not use "You Have Been Baptized" as the communion rite the composer intended, but would make parts of it. I'm always looking for a new setting of Psalm 141 for Evening Prayer, but the version at track 6 would be too jarring for my congregation. In contrast, track 7, "Our Blessing Cup," would be an appropriate Offertory for us at Divine Service. Though minimal in divine language, "Lord, Heal the Darkness," would be an appropriate song/solo on a Sunday where Jesus heals. Track 11 has a beautiful melody and musical accompaniment, but the text needs more context to communicate clearly.

"This Is the Time," track 12, featured on another album QBR reviewed some time ago, is a strong point near the end of the album because of "Christ at the center." "Come Feast at this Table," track 13, helps make up for some of the deficits of the track 1 eucharistic hymn. The Agnus Dei is pleasing and singable. Track 14, "Sail the High Sea," while fun, was too much for me to consider for Sunday morning use. 

While the next recording has a light pop rock feel, alternate accompaniment may be provided on "Set Me as a Seal" (string quartet) and "Journeying Prayer" (flute and violin).

God Is Love

"Songs can be the deepest expressions of the ideas that they contain. Sometimes it's not enough to just say something." —Paul Melley

In his new collection, Paul Melley courageously examines what the love of God truly means to each of us. The poignant lament "Other Side of Prayer" profoundly expresses Paul's own struggle with the complexity and paradox of our faith. In "Awoken," Paul offers an enlightening glimpse at the miracle and sacredness of life. "Fill Us with Your Love" illustrates our joyful response to encountering God's affection while the thoughtful hope of "New Creation" praises the Maker's ability to fashion us as lovely, despite our shortcomings. With exquisite grace, "Set Me As a Seal" tenderly extols the beauty found in the sacrament of marriage.

Song after song, this music powerfully illustrates the unconditional nature of God's love, our endeavor to love God in return, and our challenge to love one another as God loves us. The messages contained in God Is Love offer comfort and invite us to enter into a deeper relationship with God, to be filled with the love of Christ Jesus, and to accept God's call to pour out our love like a libation to the world.

(Publisher's Website)

Track 1, "Fill Us with Your Love" is based on Psalm 90. I could hear this also done by a choir. "God Is Love" in Kiswahili is Mungu Ni Upendo. Bilingual track 2 (with heavy doses of 1 John) could be carried off by an a capella choir with hand drum. On my wedding day, Song of Songs 8:6 was prominenent. Track 4, "Set Me as a Seal" would have been an appropriate solo. 

I am most uncomfortable with track 7, "The Other Side of Prayer." While I can identify with the psalm-like frustration of unanswered prayer, it takes too long (stanza 4) to get beyond law, frustration, and appeals to "My child, it's true! I AM the other side of prayer..."

Track 3, "New Creation"; track 5,  "All Things Work for Good," based on Romans 8; track 6, "Who Is Your Neighbor?" and tracks 8-11 remind me of the recordings of Steven Curtis Chapman.

This reviewer was thankful to have both recordings and complete collections of the main musical settings to go on.

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

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