Saturday, November 17, 2007

Tunes for November, Part III, and something special at the end

Here we go again...

25. All People That On Earth Do Dwell -- The Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge -- A Vaughan Williams Hymnal. This verse and tune for Psalm 100 (hence its name "Old Hundredth") may well have been sung by the Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony. (Although not in this arrangement by Ralph Vaughan Williams, with organ music!) William Kethe, to whom the words are attributed, was a Scots clergyman who lived in Geneva, Switzerland and helped translate the Geneva Bible, the Bible used by the Pilgrims (Separatists). The Anglo-Genevan Psalter of 1561 includes 20 of his hymns. The tune, by Louis Bourgeois, is often used for "THE" Doxology, the song many Protestants sing upon the receipt of the offering. Of course a Doxology is "a short hymn of praise to God" and can take many forms. In my current church we sing one to the tune Duke Street. But if someone says "Let's sing the Doxology" (as we often did as a grace before meals in Onkel Hankie Pants' parents' home) this is the tune they will be thinking of.

26. Better Than Blessed -- Louise Davis -- Malaco's Greatest Gospel Hits, Vol. 1. Well, when you've got a good sermon illustration, it's hard to use it just once. This song also references the "no shoes/no feet" story alluded to in Just Look at the Blessings. The singer says, "Many times I had to learn my lessons, For I did not always appreciate my blessings." I can relate to that.

27. Bless This House -- Bryn Terfel -- Simple Gifts and Perry Como -- Christmas Songs. I'm not sure if I'm remembering this correctly, but I think I remember my late mother-in-law telling me that a cousin sang this song at her and my father-in-law's wedding. It certainly could have been, since it was written in 1927; the only thing that raises a doubt in my mind is that their wedding was conducted in Danish. Perry Como was one of Mom's favorite singers, and this song is very much associated with him; I think he sang it every year around this time on his TV shows and specials. I'll have to include his version as well, but I just can't resist Bryn Terfel. (You can probably tell that I like baritones better than tenors, though I can appreciate tenors. I like mezzos and contraltos better than sopranos, too.)

28. Dayenu (Diana) -- Michael S. McCown and the New England Conservatory Chorus -- A Taste of Passover. Passover? But I thought that was in springtime? I hear you asking. But Dayenu, one of the songs traditionally sung at the Passover Seder, is definitely an anthem of gratitude. "Dayenu" means "It would have been enough" and the song traditionally goes on for 15 stanzas starting with "If he had brought us out of Egypt...it would have been enough" and ending with the gifts of Shabbat, Mount Sinai, the Torah, the Land of Israel, and the Temple. It's a statement of God's extravagant love if ever there was one. In this recording, Paul Anka's tune Diana ("I'm so young and you're so old, This my darling I've been told") is used, with a little bit of Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow thrown in for good measure. It's a delicious bit of reverent irreverence. It reminds me to be thankful for my years at A Host at Last University, where I may not have made the most of all my opportunities, but where I did learn a respect and love for the culture and ethics of the Jewish people.

29. It Is Well With My Soul -- Antrim Mennonite Choir -- Amazing Grace. This is one of those hymns that was written after the hymnodist experienced a horrific loss. You can read the story here. It also brings to mind a very good book that you should read if you haven't, Peace Like a River by Leif Enger. The title of the book comes from this hymn, and not from the church camp song I've Got Peace Like a River (though that is a fine song too, in its way.) Since I grumbled about the New Century Hymnal a couple of days ago, I should in all fairness praise it for including many more of this type of hymn (Sweet Hour of Prayer would be another example) than we had in the Pilgrim Hymnal. And finally I should tell a little story about how I got this recording. When Cordeliaknits was in college, preparing for seminary, working as a chapel intern, one day she was out shopping in Women's College Town with a Chocolate Shop on Every Block, when she was approached by some missionaries (presumably Mennonite, but I'm not sure). They pressed upon her a copy of the Gospel of John and this very nice CD of hymns. I got the CD for Christmas. I hope neither of us will burn in hell for taking it under false pretenses. College students do what they gotta do; one year when I was in college, my family all got books for Christmas, review copies I had scored as an editor of the student newspaper. Things don't change much.

30. The Harvest Home Suite: Autumn (Thanksgiving Hymn) -- Jay Ungar -- Harvest Home. Taking off from We Gather Together, Jay Ungar of Ashokan Farewell fame crafts a beautiful piece of music. The lower line evokes a melancholy autumnal feel, while the higher one expresses joy in the harvest. At least that's what I think. You may have noticed that I mostly talk about lyrics. That's because I don't really have a vocabulary to talk about the music, not because I don't appreciate it (I'm just not a trained appreciator!)

31. Danish Table Grace/I Jesu Navn Går Vi Til Bord -- Grand View College Singers -- Songs of Denmark: Songs to Live By. This was probably the table grace used most often in my in-laws' home, at least during the years I was privileged to visit there. The English words we used were not a direct translation, but are:
In Jesus' name we come, O Lord,
Again to this, our humble board,
Accept our thanks, in word and deed,
For daily bread and all we need. Amen.
The tune is (to my ears at least) the same as the Danish Christmas carol, Det Kimer Nu til Julefest (The Happy Christmas Comes Once More.) It reminds me of how thankful I am that, through marriage, I was able to "culturally appropriate" the richness of the Danish Grundtvigian tradition of my husband's family and their extended community, and that this community welcomed me so warmly and continues to be an important part of our lives and those of our children. It's a lot more than just æbleskiver and frikadeller!

32. Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep) -- Rosemary Clooney -- White Christmas. Also by The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Peace Like a River, and Diana Krall, Christmas Songs. This song by Irving Berlin doesn't really say anything about Christmas, but since it was written for the movie White Christmas, it is featured on a number of Christmas albums. Rosemary Clooney was also part of the soundtrack of my childhood in the 1950s. There's also a fine old gospel hymn called Count Your Blessings -- if you don't know it, you can read the words and hear a MIDI rendition of the tune here. Oddly enough, in church today we heard a sermon with some of my own ambivalence about counting blessings as mentioned in a previous post. I still like the songs, though.

33. De Colores -- Baldemar Velasquez and Aguila Negra -- Classic Labor Songs from Smithsonian Folkways. De Colores, a Mexican folksong said by some to have been brought from Spain as early as the 16th century, is a song that has been used as an anthem by Cursillo and other Christian retreats, is in the New Century Hymnal, and which I first heard as a children's song on a Raffi album when my children were small. But I chose this version for inclusion here because of its association as the unofficial anthem of the United Farm Workers (UFW), César Chavez' organization, as well as for its beautiful words and music. The United Farm Workers and their grape boycott, for many in my generation, were probably one of the first promptings to us to think about the food we eat and where it comes from. Sure, we had sung the Woody Guthrie songs and read Doris Gates' Blue Willow as children or Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath a bit later. I suspect many of us in urban or suburban settings thought that was all in the past, and then Chavez opened our eyes. Many years later, we are thinking about eating locally, buying fair-trade, shade-grown, bird-friendly coffee, and otherwise interesting ourselves in a more sustainable lifestyle. This Thanksgiving, let's honor those who grow our food, those who harvest our food, and those who transport our food.

And now for two songs that I don't have in a recorded format -- in fact to the best of my knowledge they don't exist in recorded form. That's because they were both written (the lyrics) by Onkel Hankie Pants. The first is a Thanksgiving hymn he wrote to be used in church some years ago.

Join Hands, You Fearful Pilgrims

Psalm 46 Aurelia 76.76 D (“The Church’s One Foundation”)

Join hands you fearful pilgrims,
Embarking on this ship;
We face a roaring ocean,
A spirit-testing trip.
May Jacob’s God protect us
On this deep, troubled sea
That swells against the mountains
Of faith and piety.

We go to build God’s city
Amid the wilderness;
Through it will flow a river
With streams of righteousness.
And we will know each morning
The comfort of God’s might,
Which guards us like a rampart
From tempters in the night.

We go to found a new world;
Old kingdoms melt before
God’s holy flame, advancing
To burn the tools of war.
The sinful earth will tremble
At God’s consuming voice;
And in the peace that follows
God’s Saints will all rejoice.

Be steady, then, you pilgrims,
The Lord of Hosts is here;
God is our lofty tower,
Our refuge when we fear
The raging storms around us,
The tempests deep inside,
For God is God, exalted -
In God we will abide.

Copyright H. C. Strandskov

Anyone reading this who has authority to choose hymns for a church service may use this freely provided the copyright notice is printed and you let us know when and where it was used.

The second is a newer song written just last year as a Thanksgiving grace to be sung at our table; it can be used any time of the year. As Onkel Hankie Pants wrote on the Hymn Society website, the tune is a familiar one: Silver Bells by Livingston and Evans, from the movie The Lemon-Drop Kid. (My Christmas music collection has 20 renditions of this song, so I'm sure you know it.) Here it is:

FOOD ABUNDANT (a sung table grace for festal meals)

Text: H. C. Strandskov, 2006

Tune: Silver Bells

(Here�s a table grace to sing for Thanksgiving dinner, the Christmas Eve meal, or Christmas dinner. Everyone should know the tune, but it would be especially fun if someone can accompany on a piano or keyboard. If you try it, send me an email and let me know how it went and what the occasion was.)

Food abundant, festive table, fellowship's healing warmth:
Here we gather to savor God's goodness.
Bless the sunlight, bless the rainfall, bless this bountiful earth -
And for this joyous feast we will sing:

'We give thanks, thanks for food,
Thanks for our families and friendships;
We give thanks, thanks to God,
Thanks for the gifts of our world.'

I'm thankful to have a poet in the house, and for poets and songwriters everywhere and in every time.

3 comments:

celeste said...

is this soundtrack available? sounds great.

elinor said...

you said previously that we, your children, had heard the "man who has no shoes" comment many times growing up, which is quite true. Recently I had the opportunity to say it to a friend, and she had never heard it before! This Thanksgiving I am thankful for having parents who taught me a parable for every occasion in life!

Onkel Hankie Pants said...

The guilty secret about Join Hands, You Fearful Pilgrims is that I was sitting idly in the choir one Sunday morning when we sang the Protestant hymn, A Mighty Fortress, words and music by Martin Luther himself. Rather than pay attention to the service, I pulled out a pew bible and compared the words of Psalm 46 to Luther’s words and said to myself, somewhat scornfully I’m afraid, “This isn’t even close to the psalm; I can do better than this!” And I certainly did, if all you’re looking for is a more accurate paraphrase of Psalm 46 folded neatly into the Mayflower saga. But remember that Luther wrote the music too, and his combination of tune and text is pushing 500 years on the Protestant Hit Parade. Talented guy, that Luther.