Music for Sunday 14th January: Epiphany 2, Year B

The readings for this Sunday are:

1 Samuel 3:1-10 [11-20]
Psalm 139:1-5, 12-18
Revelation 5:1-10
John 1:43-51

1 Samuel 3:1-10 [11-20] is about God calling Samuel, and Samuel getting all confused and thinking it was Eli. But eventually, with some guidance, he gets the hint, and when he’s called again, he says, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” And in the square bracketed verses, there’s some unpleasant news for old Eli, which he faces with relative equanamity.

Psalm 139:1-5, 12-18 is about the inescapability of God, about God being there with us before we are even formed and no matter where we go.

Revelation 5:1-10 is in full-on visionary mode, with weird creatures and scrolls and harps and incense and elders and a lamb with seven horns and eyes. It’s weird. It’s beautiful. Go read it. I’ll wait.

John 1:43-51 is… back to vocation again. “Follow me,” says Jesus to Phillip. But it’s also about being known by God, in the way that Jesus knows Nathanael, despite his (or our) cynicism. And it’s about what we will see: heaven opened, and angels ascending and descending.

For a congregational hymn about vocation, there’s Ally Barrett’s “Here we are giving” to HILLTOP, which is free to download from CPDL.

For a meditative anthem about seeing God, you could use Truth sees God, Carlotta Ferrari’s setting of words by Julian of Norwich. I couldn’t find a recording, but it’s only in two parts; a bit crunchy but not overly so.

(Administrivia: I wanted to get back to adding new works to the site this week, but due to illness it didn’t happen. I’m looking forward to getting back to it next week!)

12th Day of Christmas: ‘I walked in darkness’ by Kathryn Rose

For the twelfth day of Christmas, here’s I walked in darkness by Kathryn Rose, with words by Marnanel Thurman:

I walked in darkness. Many a lonely mile,
my eyes and footsteps hesitant and blind.
I sought a kindly light I did not find
in land or ocean, asking all the while
if lightless lives are taken in exchange
for light eternal; still the shades of sight
would whisper, “Even I shall see the light!”
I never thought the light would look so strange.
Not in a temple, echoing and awed,
Nor in a palace, glistening and grand,
Nor in my home, nor any friendly land.
But distant, dirty, in a shed abroad,
I met a maiden bloody from a birth
and in her arms, the light of all the earth.

[Listen to I walked in darkness on Youtube]

The score is available from the Choral Public Domain Library.

Music for Sunday 7th January: Baptism of Christ (Epiphany 1), Year B

The readings for the Baptism of Christ are:

Genesis 1:1-5
Psalm 29
Acts 19:1-7
Mark 1:4-11

The reading from Genesis is about the first day of creation, with a lovely focus on water and light.

The psalm is a vivid depiction of God’s glory in nature. This would make any short Gloria text appropriate; for example, Eleanor Daley’s Gloria in Excelsis Deo or, for something a bit calmer, Gloria by Sakari Dixon.

The reading from Acts is about the baptism in the name of Jesus, by which Christians receive the Holy Spirit.

The Gospel reading, from Mark, sets the scene of John the Baptizer calling people to repentance and baptizing them, and Jesus being baptized by John.

Both Acts and Mark mention the Holy Spirit, so music related to the Holy Spirit would also be appropriate.

Technically I think we’re not supposed to move Epiphany to the nearest Sunday, but I’m sure a number of churches do. In that case the readings would be:


Isaiah 60:1-6
Psalm 72:[1-9]10-15
Ephesians 3:1-12
Matthew 2:1-12

Isaiah seems to be saying to prepare for a better time, a gathering-in, being recognised by nations — and there’s the gold and frankincense, foreshadowing, if you like, the gifts of the Magi.

Psalm 72 is a prayer for support for the king, and continues with the theme of expensive gifts being brought from easterly places.

In Ephesians, Paul tells the receivers of his letter that the inheritance with Christ is not just for the people of Israel but for them, gentiles, too.

In Matthew’s telling of the visit of the Magi there’s a strong focus on how scared Herod is of the promised Messiah, but the other essential details are there too: the star, and the gifts.

As an anthem, I walked in darkness by Kathryn Rose would work — though it seems to be done just as often during Advent and Christmas, when choirs haven’t just been on holiday for a week or two.

For either of these services, Christ be our light by Bernadette Farrell could be appropriate, especially if there’s a particular focus on light.

10th Day of Christmas: Christmas Eve by Tansy Davies

For the tenth day of Christmas, here’s Tansy Davies’s setting of Christmas Eve by Christina Rossetti.

Christmas hath a darkness
Brighter than the blazing noon,
Christmas hath a chillness
Warmer than the heat of June,
Christmas hath a beauty
Lovelier than the world can show:
For Christmas bringeth Jesus,
Brought for us so low.

Earth, strike up your music,
Birds that sing and bells that ring;
Heaven hath answring music
For all Angels soon to sing:
Earth, put on your whitest
Bridal robe of spotless snow:
For Christmas bringeth Jesus,
Brought for us so low.

[Listen to Christmas Eve on Youtube]

A printable download is available for purchase from Faber and Faber.

8th Day of Christmas: Ring Out, Wild Bells, by Rachel Devore Fogarty

Ring out the old, ring in the new, here’s something energetic for the New Year by Rachel Devore Fogarty:

[Listen to ‘Ring Out, Wild Bells’ on Soundcloud]

Sheet music available for purchase from MusicSpoke

If you’re the resolution-making (and keeping!) type, and involved in church music, are you resolving to include more music by women in your worship? To encourage, support or champion women in church music in some other way? I’d love to know the details.