Music for Lent 1

In haste, still, as Past Me is writing this before going away — please forgive the lack of lectionary — some music for Lent 1.

One way or another the theme for Sunday is going to be about Jesus being driven out into the wilderness to be tempted.

In my own, urban/semi-suburban existence, the idea of going out into nature and getting away from it all sometimes seems rather appealing; but that’s mostly because I can come back to a safe, warm house. I’m not sleeping outside; I’m not fending off wild beasts at night, and desperately thirsty during the day.

Real engagement with wilderness can leave us wrung out and exhausted, and longing for support and reassurance, and most of all, the comfort of God’s presence with us.

Stephanie Martin’s setting of Sicut cervus — lines from Psalm 42 — would be one way of expressing this longing for God.


[Listen to Sicut cervus by Stephanie Martin on Soundcloud]
[Buy the sheet music for Sicut cervus by Stephanie Martin]

Music for Ash Wednesday

I’m not ready for Lent. I’m also not really ready for the trip to Jerusalem I’ll be making tomorrow morning. But the thing about Lent, and wilderness in general, is that it doesn’t wait until we’re good and ready; it doesn’t work according to our earthly timelines and conveniences and purposes.

So, in some haste, as I schedule various posts to go up while I’m away, set my e-mail auto-reply and so on —

— Ally Barrett wrote a hymn text for Ash Wednesday, which I set in 2016.

1. Dust to dust, we mark our repentance,
entering a guilty plea,
Ash to ash, we face our sentence,
Sin writ large for all to see:
Bearing signs of all our falls from grace,
Yearning for your strong embrace.

2. Dust of earth once shaped and moulded,
human form from Godly hand,
Male and female both enfolded,
part of all that you had planned.
Now O Lord reshape our damaged form,
Hold us till our hearts grow warm.

3. Dust that fuels the lights of heaven,
Stars and planets passing by,
Atoms of creation’s splendour,
Earth to earth and sky to sky,
Now our dust, redeemed, may sing along
with that universal song.

You can download the sheet music from CPDL.

11th February 2018: Sunday Next before Lent, Year B

The readings for this Sunday are:


2 Kings 2:1-12
Psalm 50:1-6
2 Corinthians 4:3-6
Mark 9:2-9

2 Kings 2:1-12 is the ascension of Elijah into heaven, with poor Elisha following him around and then eventually left behind.

Psalm 50:1-6 is God calling to the heavens and earth to gather the faithful together.

2 Corinthians 4:3-6 is about how it is that some people seem to see the light of the Gospel and others don’t; about the way in which Christians should not “proclaim ourselves” but rather proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord.

Mark 9:2-9 is the Transfiguration.

One of my own pieces, a setting of a poem by Marnanel Thurman, would be appropriate for this Sunday. It’s for flexible choir, it can be sung unison with or without solos or up to SAB. The music is available from CPDL and there is a demo recording on Youtube.

What’s seen is seen, and cannot be unknown;
and so he turned my soul, and turns it still.
We’d walked a while, just him and us alone;
we’d wandered up some ordinary hill.
The air was cold. The conversation died.
I wondered if I’d left the stove alight.
The curtains of the world were torn aside,
and naked glory overwhelmed my sight;
and oh, the voice, that called to him by name,
so comforting, so terrible to hear:
that man I knew, the same, yet not the same,
touches my arm, and tells me not to fear;
but as I raise my eyes, the light is gone,
and life, and something more, must carry on.

If you’re after something more traditional, any setting of O Nata Lux would be good. I don’t currently have one in the database, though, so if you know of one composed by a woman, do use the submit music form to let me know about it.


Administrivia:
Some non-Cecilia’s List deadlines and a winter bug slowed me right down, and I ended up skipping Candlemas (2nd February) and the Sunday afterward (4th February) here, both of which I actually have some good recommendations for. I’m trying to get caught up this week before going away so that I don’t get further behind and end up feeling even more overwhelmed. So far I’m about halfway through the easy part of my data entry backlog. And I do have music of my own for Ash Wednesday, at least.

Music for Sunday 21st January: Epiphany 3, Year B

The readings for this Sunday are:

Genesis 14:17-20
Psalm 128
Revelation 19:6-10
John 2:1-11

The reading from Genesis is Abram being blessed by Melchizedek, and Abram giving him one tenth of everything (having just returned from rescuing Lot and his family from the enemy). The reading stops before the part where Abram is then negotiating with the King of Sodom over what, and who, he should keep, so that the central event that we hear about is the blessing.

Psalm 128 is one of the songs of ascent, believed to traditionally have been sung on pilgrimage to Jerusalem; it is very much about the blessings that will be bestowed on one who fears God. Blessings again.

The reading from Revelation begins wth a great multitude praising God, and continues with an angel’s instruction to write: “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”

The Gospel reading is the story of the Wedding at Cana, where at the wedding party the wine runs out (oh no!) and Jesus turns water into wine, the first public sign of his ministry.

I don’t currently have or know of any music by women specific to the Wedding at Cana: if you have a suggestion, please do use the music submission form to let me know about it! In the meantime, this might be a good Sunday for something generally Eucharistic, connecting the events at Cana to the marriage supper of the Lamb, like Stephanie Martin’s setting of ‘O Sacrum Convivium’, available from Cypress Choral Music:


[Listen to O Sacrum Convivium by Stephanie Martin on Soundcloud] [Order O Sacrum Convivium by Stephanie Martin from Cypress Choral Music]

Additionally, the Conversion of Paul is observed on 25th January, and churches dedicated to St Paul might like to include relevant music for that feast. I won’t go through the entire lectionary, but you could use the hymn tune Broomside, written for these words by Miranda Threlfall-Holmes:

1. We meet as God’s people in this holy place
And gather together across time and space
With all of Christ’s body, Christ’s building and field,
The church of all sinners Christ died for and healed.
Diverse in our gifting, no two are the same
Yet all stand united in praising God’s name.

2. The Scriptures all witness to Jesus, God’s Son,
Who died and was raised, in whose victory we’ve won.
In weakness exalted, all gains count as loss
Compared to the knowledge of Christ and his cross.
Your church down the ages proclaims and receives
This gospel rejoicing, and firmly believes.

3. Forgive us those times when we struggle to see
Beyond our conviction in some enemy.
Confront us with strangers to open our eyes,
And make us dependent on those we despised.
Then take us and use us, to build not destroy,
Co-workers together in love and in joy.

4. Fill us with your love, make us patient and kind,
To strive in your service with one joyful mind.
Send us where you veed us, like your servant Paul,
And make us receptive to hearing your call.
Inspire us to partner with all your co-heirs,
Inclusive of all in our mission and prayers.

5. Approaching our end may our faith still increase
Maturing a harvest of love, joy and peace
Rejoicing in truth and delighting in good
At last understanding as we’re understood.
For now we see faintly reflections of grace,
But then we’ll see clearly and meet face to face.

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.