Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Son of God Became a Refugee (additions)

I've been amazed and humbled by how quickly "A Weary Couple" has spread. A number of people have raised good questions about where the text ended. The conclusion was, admittedly, rather dark and difficult. Several folks suggested adding a stanza to provide some relief or hope. I have resisted that urge for several reasons. Most importantly, I did not want to diminish the validity of the suffering addressed in stanza two by offering too easy of a resolution immediately afterwards. My sense was that the questions should instead be answered by a bit of space, probably some silence, and further response in the form of another song or prayer. (Another reason to resist adding a third verse was mostly practical: LONDONDERRY AIR is really long, and could get tedious with that many repetitions!)
A note from composer Clay Zambo provided me with a new option. He wondered about including a four-line coda rather than a full new stanza. (Some settings of "O Danny Boy" repeat the last four lines of music in that way.) It occurred to me that writing another half-stanza would leave room for some sort of interlude, which would allow for the non-verbal response I felt that stanza two needed. In the score below I have suggested singing "Ooo" through those lines, but they could also be hummed or simply played instrumentally.
My sincere thanks to all who have engaged with this piece, and particularly to Clay, Rory Cooney, and Dominic Grant, who provided me with helpful insights and suggestions as I adapted it.
The text in its original or adapted form remains available for free use through January 10, 2016.
 
A weary couple lodged within a stable,
the only space where they could spend the night.
Were other trav'lers happy to be able
to keep her labor out of mind and sight?
But choirs of angels heard the mother's weeping,
and heaven rang with songs of peace on earth.
They went unheard by those in comfort sleeping,
for Jesus came among the outcasts at his birth.

An angel came to Joseph in his dreaming
and warned him so his family could flee.
As they escaped king Herod's evil scheming,
the son of God became a refugee.
How many children die without such warning?
How many mothers will not be consoled,
their voices choked with anger, tears, and mourning,
for songs unsung and stories never to be told?

Hum, “oo,” or instrumental interlude for four lines
But still the angels sing their hymn of “Glory”
beyond our fears that never seem to cease.
For Christ has come, and God's unfolding story
redeems the world to live in love, good will, and peace.


Adam M. L. Tice, November 19, 2015
©GIA Publications, Inc.
Permission is granted for free use through January 10, 2016. Churches or institutions with onelicense.net accounts should report any use.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Son of God became a refugee

 Here's a new Christmas hymn inspired by current events.  It might be most effectively sung by a soloist.

A weary couple lodged within a stable,
the only space where they could spend the night.
Were other trav'lers happy to be able
to keep her labor out of mind and sight?
But choirs of angels heard the mother's weeping,
and heaven rang with songs of peace on earth.
They went unheard by those in comfort sleeping,
for Jesus came among the outcasts at his birth.

An angel came to Joseph in his dreaming
and warned him so his family could flee.
As they escaped king Herod's evil scheming,
the son of God became a refugee.
How many children die without such warning?
How many mothers will not be consoled,
their voices choked with anger, tears, and mourning,
for songs unsung and stories never to be told?


Suggested tune: LONDONDERRY AIR (Oh, Danny Boy)
Adam M. L. Tice, November 19, 2015
©GIA Publications, Inc.
Permission is granted for free use through January 10, 2016. Churches or institutions with onelicense.net accounts should report any use.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Calvin Symposium

I'm looking forward to my first Calvin Symposium on Worship, January 28-30.  You can see what I'm doing below; visit http://worship.calvin.edu/symposium/ for more information. If you have any suggestions of songs for my Friday workshop, please see my last post and leave a comment.


Thursday
10:15-3:30, Retreat: A New Song, A Skillful Song Sandra McCracken and Adam Tice, moderated by Greg Scheer
Those of us who feel Psalm 33's call to write new songs must remember that the Psalm also tells us to play skillfully. In this seminar we will focus on the skills of songwriting for congregations, digging into what it means to balance inspiration and perspiration. Join critically-acclaimed singer-songwriter Sandra McCracken and widely-published hymn writer Adam Tice as they speak with Greg Scheer about their approaches to creating new texts, new tunes, and the combining of texts and tunes. The afternoon will be spent discussing participants' song submissions. Attendees of all levels and musical styles will benefit from this seminar.

4:15, Vespers (one of several options; repeated on Friday)
A Service of Scripture and Song
Michael Burkhardt, the Choral Scholars, and Zebulon Highben, featuring texts by Adam Tice


Friday and Saturday
1:15, workshop B23: Sing the Peaceful Kingdom
Adam Tice
Sing and explore new congregational song resources based on passages from Isaiah. Song leaders and worship planners will sample from a wide variety of styles and resources representing the best in recent contemporary song, hymnody, and world music. The presenter will also present and discuss a few of his own pieces, offering insight into one writer's engagement with Isaiah's poetry and prose.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Congregational songs on/from Isaiah

In January I will be doing a workshop at the Calvin Symposium on Christian Worship on newer congregational song drawn from Isaiah. I'd like to crowd-source material to present. Please leave suggestions in the comments below. I would especially welcome international selections, and songs in a stylistically contemporary idiom.  Extra points for pieces that are NOT Advent related (although those are welcome as well.)
I'll update this list as ideas come in.  Here are a few I already have in mind:
We Wait the Peaceful Kingdom (Kathleen Moore) Isaiah 11:6-9
Heaven Opened to Isaiah (Rawandan, paraphrased and arr. Greg Scheer) Isaiah 6:1-3
Upon God's Holy Mountainside (Tice/Morris)
The People Who Walked in Darkness (Mary Louise Bringle/Sally Ann Morris) Isaiah 9
Dream On, Dream On (Hae Jong Kim/Sunkyung Lee) Isaiah 11, Isaiah 40
Speak a Word to Us, Isaiah (John Thornburg)
From Darkness I Will Lead Them (Joanne Reynolds)

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Blog Roundup

Here are some interesting recent posts on blogs I follow. Check them out!

CWS noted some recent major hymological anniversaries. His post on John Newton (writer of "Amazing Grace") includes a lesser-known text with an analogy involving a compass. Quite a natural image for a former sea-farer.  CWS also wrote on Fanny Crosby's "God of our Strength," which he discovered in Hymnal: A Worship Book. An a third excellent recent post: Isaac Watts, grand-daddy of English hymnody.

"Ask Her About Hymns" has a write-up on the recent Hymn Society annual conference in New Orleans. Take a look through her older posts as well. She reports on a fascinating theory about "When the Saints Go Marching In."

If you are involved in selecting music for worship, make regular visits to Singing from the Lectionary. The Australian writer draws from a wide variety of sources in creative ways.

Finally, a few posts about my own work:
"Hymn Notes" wrote about "Come, Join in Mary's Prophet Song." She hasn't posted anything new since April, but I'm hoping she'll get back at it soon.
Michael Hawn's "History of Hymns" covered "Breath of God, Breath of Peace" in a posting by Gabriel Edwards.
Notre Dame's "Oblation: Liturgy and Life" had a post about "As the Birds of the Air" last year.
Reaching even further back, "Unbound: An Interactive Journal of Christian Social Justice" ran an article called "Borrowed Holy Land: The New Hymnal and Creation Justice," which used a line from my "The Earth Belongs to God alone" in its title. (The "new Hymnal" it refers to is "Glory to God," the Presbyterian collection published in 2013.)

What other blogs should I be following? Please leave suggestions in the comments below.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

God, Give Me Faith Like a Child



I wrote "God, Give Me Faith Like a Child" in 2012, shortly after moving back to Indiana. I was impressed by my then-toddler's ability to adapt to our new life, even as I struggled to figure out what to do with myself. Sally Morris provided me with the plaintive tune just a few days later.
This might be the simplest track on Walk in Peace; it is certainly one of my favorites. The vocalist is the amazing Patrick Ressler--please see more of Patrick's work here: https://patrickressler.bandcamp.com/ -- and the guitarist is Matthias Stegmann, who also engineered most of the album. Rather than recording the guitar and vocalist separately (as would normally be the approach), we recorded them simultaneously. Giving the musicians some room for give-and-take makes for a beautiful track.
The text and tune can be found in Stars Like Grace, in the Walk in Peace collection, or as an octavo (with another piece from the CD, "When You Wonder, When You Wander."



Friday, July 24, 2015

Art and Craft (and Hymns)

There's an old dresser in the guest room of our house. To an untrained eye, it looks "nice," perhaps "pretty" in an antique sort of way, and certainly functional. Look closely and you'll notice artful stenciling on the front that says, "John Kinsinger" and "1876." (Look even more closely and you'll notice that the "s" in Kinsinger is backwards.)


John Kinsinger was my great-great-grandfather. The dresser was made for his 18th birthday by his grandfather, Jacob Knagy. Jacob, my great-great-great-great-grandfather, lived from 1796 to 1883, so he was around 80 when he built this piece. He was a prolific furniture maker, and his work is now considered quite collectable.

Beyond its functionality and basic visual appeal, people who know anything about wood-working get very excited about the dresser. They pull open the drawers and marvel at the hand-carved dovetails, which line up perfectly. They touch the wood and comment on its durability. They look at the underside and back and see that nothing was skimped on it the crafting process.

Most of those details are lost on me as a layperson until they are pointed out, but they all contribute to a perfectly crafted piece of art. Unlike the cheaper snap-together-yourself furniture that populates most of our house, this piece has lasted 139 years. The detail and care applied to it at its creation gave it the potential to endure for generations, while I will be lucky if my $20 bookshelves hold up a decade under all of my hymnals.

I use this dresser as an illustration when I offer fellow hymn writers comments and critiques on their work. There are elements of our craft that infuse our work with durability, sing-ability, and aesthetic appeal. Many of these would be lost on the average singer, or would seem unimportant. But I think there is a strong analogy between a perfectly tight dovetail and a perfect rhyme (or smooth rhythmic accents, or proper grammar, or . . .) The analogy can extend to material, design, tools, and on and on.

Approaching the work of lyric writing as a craft does not mean leaving aside artistry; it means applying skill and hard work to the art. In my experience, honing a text to "tighten the dovetails" always pays off in the end. That process generally requires the help of other skilled crafters who can help me spot the loose connections. (This is certainly an aspirational process; I don't expect to achieve perfection!)

I don't expect that much of my work will endure as long as my dresser. I would guess that Jacob Knagy would be surprised to learn that many of his pieces are still around and highly valued. But when a well-crafted piece of art finds a home with people who love it and care for it, it can serve its purpose long beyond the life of its creator.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Where the Joys and Hopes of Living

I was delighted to spend Tuesday at the National Association of Pastoral Musicians annual convention in Grand Rapids. It was a wonderful day of connecting with a number of my collaborators, several of whom I met for the first time. (One of the odd things about hymn writing is that sometimes producing a piece together can happen without any direct interaction!) One of these previously un-met composers is Norah Duncan IV:


Norah is best-known in Mennonite circles for the "Duncan Alleluia," which was popularized by John Bell and the Iona community, and is included in our Sing the Journey hymnal supplement. Several years ago Norah provided my text "Christ the Victorious" with an energetic choral setting in an African-American gospel style. (The "listen preview" here provides a rather buttoned-down rendition.) He tells me that the premier performance went on for 26 minutes! When I conducted it at Hyattsville Mennonite it only took four. It has also been translated into Swedish. No word on how long it takes Swedes to sing it.

My second collaboration with Norah came just this Spring. The local planners for the NPM convention had asked me to create a text that could be sung at the opening plenary session. The theme of the convention is "Called to Joy and Hope: Let the Servant Church Arise." It celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the promulgation of Gaudium et Spes, which begins "[T]he joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted in any way, are the joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well" (Gaudium et Spes, 1). After digging thorough that document for a while, I wrote "Where the joys and hopes of living." The planning committee had requested something that could be sung to a familiar tune, so I wrote in 8.7.8.7D meter, which could be used with the uber-familar NETTLETON ("Come, thou fount of every blessing"). Several months after completing the commission, I learned that Norah Duncan had created a brand new setting for it. He wrote in a style deliberately imitative of early American hymnody (like NETTLETON), providing a perfect match for my text. So here's what it sounds like when sung by two thousand Catholic musicians:

NPM Convention Opening Celebration

And here's the hot-off-the-presses choral octavo: Where the Joys and Hopes of Living

I got to hear several of my other texts sung in various settings and will post about some of those in the coming days.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Sometimes Our Only Song is Weeping

Following the terrorist attack in Charleston a few weeks ago, The Hymn Society distributed a number of hymns that could be used in response. "Sometimes Our Only Song is Weeping" was included in that group. Last night I discovered that a musician has already recorded this soulful rendition of the piece using WAYFARING STRANGER, the tune I had in mind when writing.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Glorify the Lord


Here's a new piece composed by Tony Alonso. Tony provided me with the refrain, with text derived from one of the options for dismissal words in the recently-revised Roman Missal. He had most of the tune written as well, and made just a few tweaks after I filled in the text. He had been asked to provide a piece celebrating the 200th anniversary of the Religious Sisters of Charity, founded by Mother Mary Aikenhead. (So naturally he asked a Mennonite to collaborate on the text!) My text is inspired by some of the core concerns of the Sisters. A condensed version (without choral parts and the bridge) is printed in Claim the Mystery.
Choral edition
Recording (track 13)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Claim the Mystery

Welcome to my new site.  I will post occasional updates here. Please see the above links for full information about me, upcoming events, and publications.
The latest big news is the release of Claim the Mystery: 50 More Hymn Texts. It is my fourth collection published by GIA.