January 27, 2009

hymn backgrounds - "Take Now Our Minds"

Here's a little window into my process of finding and incorporating new music in our services:

In looking for a communion hymn for this Sunday, my goal was to find something that captured the concept of loving the Lord with all our hearts; I was interested in hymn texts that point to Scriptures like Matthew 22:37 and Romans 12:1-2. In my search, I was struck by a hymn that I came across in the Trinity Hymnal: "Take Thou Our Minds, Dear Lord" #593. Each stanza elaborates on offering what Jesus commands in the great commandment: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind."

The great difficulty was that much of the language was fairly archaic (which is surprising since it was written at the end of World War I). I don't mind a few uses of "thee" and "thou" in hymns--especially those that many people know by heart--but I am also of the mind and heart that it is helpful to gently nudge a text into modern vernacular to enable worshipers to enter into singing without the distraction of getting their tongues around Victorian language.

But this posed a dilemma: the first line of every stanza is "Take Thou..." Not only that, but other phrases struggled to come off my lips. It took me several readings to really get it. (Yes, I realize that this is the mark of good poetry, but it's also the mark of outdated modes of phrasing.)

Before I started altering the hymn, I realized I should have my melody picked out, since I may have to work at making the stanzas musically fit the phrasing. Since I was not familiar with the tune that it is paired with in the Trinity, I made a quick visit to the metrical index. This pointed me to the tune EVENTIDE, used with the widely known "Abide With Me." (I would classify any hymn as widely known if it gets sung by Elton John on the telley). This is a beautiful melody in my opinion, one which translates well into a variety of musical idioms. I found a folk rendition of the tune, sung by Tom Kimmel, with guitar, fiddle, and female harmony, and got the arrangement settled on the page before adding the words. (The nice thing about using strong, familiar melodies is that once I've written an arrangement, I can use it again for other texts. Case in point: this Sunday, we're singing the melody ODE TO JOY from Beethoven's 9th to the text "Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee," which we also use for "God All Nature Sings Thy Glory.")

The result is what I now title "Take Now Our Minds," which you'll find presented below. See what you think; I'll allow you to do the work of comparing the original text to the new text. As this is my first shot at really updating a hymn, I will likely find things to change in the future, but I hope that it'll hold up when we sing it this Sunday. Note that I didn't erase every use of "Thee": at the end of the first stanza, I'd have to change the rhyme scheme of the previous line in order to extricate it.

To include a little bit of history for the hymn, at least its writer: William Hiram Foulkes was the son of a Welsh minister in the Presbyterian Church. He grew up in New York State, trained at a seminary in Ohio, and ended up in Salina, KS as a Presbyterian minister. He later founded the Grand View Presbyterian Church in Kansas City, KS, which is a congregation that worship to this today. You can see a more complete biography here.

Take Now Our Minds

Take now our minds, O Father, as we pray,
Give us the mind of Christ each passing day;
Teach us to know the truth that sets us free;
Grant us in all our thoughts to honor Thee.

Take now our hearts, O Christ—they are Your own;
Come in our souls each day and claim Your throne;
Help us to spread abroad Your deathless love;
Use us to make the earth like heaven above.

Take now our wills, O Spirit hold full sway;
Have in our inmost souls Your perfect way;
Guard us each sacred hour from selfish ease;
Guide all our daily lives as You would please.

Take all our lives: our hearts, our minds, our wills;
Through our surrendered souls Your plans fulfill.
We yield ourselves: our time, our talents, all;
We hear, and choose to heed, Your gracious call.

Words: William H. Foulkes, 1918; alt. 2009. Music: EVENTIDE, William H. Monk, 1861. © 2009 Luke W. Brodine.

January 26, 2009

look! new links!!

I updated the links to the right...... yeah, to the right of this page........ that way----------->

a minor commentary on the updates:
  • Bro Chateau - our house blog, where we document family life... trying to keep 'raresunshine' to arts and worship now
  • Drew Field - Grace Church's senior pastor... thoughts on ministry in Silicon Valley
  • Liturgy Fellowship - group of worship musicians being connectional... lots of great music to be found (at least where links are possible)
(note: if you're viewing on a blog reader, you won't see the links... they're over on the blog itself)

January 19, 2009

moved by music - Fleet Foxes

I'm a little behind the curve, but I just picked up the Fleet Foxes LP. brilliant vocal harmonies, broad arrangements, tight performance, and all from a bunch of teenagers (or at least they're still pretty young). if you haven't heard them yet, here's one of their songs from last Saturday's episode of Saturday Night Live.

typically, SNL performances stink. I mean, really really stink. to begin with, a TV studio has to be a tough place to play. I give it to the bands that it is hard to pop into the middle of sketch comedy show and play cold to an audience that isn't there just to see them perform. on top of that, the sound mixing is horrendous: typically the lead vocalist, guitarist, and drummer are the only audible musicians. (when I was in college, they released a series of CDs of SNL live performances, and a professor quipped about who would want to listen to recordings that were so poor to begin with!) I can count on one hand the number of good performances that I've seen on SNL (and U2 holds all of those positions). if you want a good example of a good recording artist gone bad on SNL, just check out this recent one from Kanye West.

but I have to say, this performance by Fleet Foxes was great! I could wax on more about this, but I'll let this clip speak for itself.

January 15, 2009

hymn backgrounds - "How Great Thou Art"

this Sunday, the song opening the worship at Grace Presbyterian will be "How Great Thou Art". I was already familiar with the recent history of this song: one of the most popular Gospel songs of the 20th century, popularized during the height of the Billy Graham Crusades. As I was scouring the internet to find the lyrics to place in Power Point, I found a little bit more about the background, which is quite fascinating.

Briefly, it was originally a poem by a Swedish minister, written during the late 19th century. It was later picked up by churches and sung to a traditional Swedish folk tune. In the 1920s, a missionary in Eastern Europe, Stuart Kine, heard the song and "translated" it into English. I put that in scare quotes because it is a rough rendering and rethinking of the original text. It was then picked up by Edwin Orr, a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, in the late 1940s. From there, it was passed along to Manna Music, Inc., who purchased the publishing rights from Stuart Kine.

The song covers a number of themes--of creation and redemption--and then returns to the refrain as a moment of reflection upon the truths just sung. What is most fascinating are two verses that have been translated into English, but have never appeared in a hymnal that I have come across. I find them interesting because these verses go off into different themes not covered in the other verses. I believe that if sung in its entirety--all 6 verses--there would be way too much to ponder. This lack of thematic directness differentiates "How Great Thou Art" from hymns, in the strictest sense, and drops it into the category of Gospel Song.

This Sunday we will sing just 2 verses of the 4 printed in the Trinity Hymnal. I picked these as they are in my opinion the most concise, keeping this song as to the point as possible. The arrangement is a version of Paul Baloche's recent recording of the tune; I have posted a video for it below, along with a few links to further information on the history of the song and the many men that it took to bring it to the present form we sing today.


January 12, 2009

ESV Study Bible Online!

I recently got a copy of the ESV Study Bible, which is a fantastic resource and a welcome addition to my "Library of Regular Requirement" as I've been using the NIV Study Bible for a number of years now. The text notes are fascinating, and there are gobs of articles to benefit any reading of the Bible, but I think that the greatest thing is that it is all accessible online! You do have to purchase a copy of the physical Study Bible to get the access code, but it's worth it. Now I can keep it at home and still acess it at work.

I find that as I prepare worship, a Study Bible really helps for quickly getting into the passage at hand, whether being used as a prayer or for the sermon, and it aids me as a launching point for picking songs and adding other elements to the liturgy. I still love the tactile satisfaction of turning the pages and the auditory joy of crinkling the paper, but being able to click, click, click and get where I'm going is a huge asset!

If you already have a copy but haven't gotten online with it, don't waste another second. Do it right now! No really, get going!!