Tag: sacred music

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. How Lame Is Our Awesome God?

 

“When He rolls up His sleeves / He ain’t just puttin’ on the Ritz” must be one of the least promising ways to begin a worship song ever. Nobody rolling up their sleeves is “puttin’ on the Ritz.” The rolled-up sleeve-position used for manual labor is the opposite of the sleeve-position used for an old-fashioned fancy night out. And yet, that’s how Richard Mullins’s best-known song, Awesome God opens. Mullins himself considered Awesome God something of a failure, remarking, “the thing I like about Awesome God is that it’s one of the worst-written songs that I ever wrote; it’s just poorly crafted.” And yet it’s a song many of us remember fondly. Why?

To be fair, the lyrics get better from there: “There is THUNder in His footsteps / And lightnin’ in His fists.” Although not by much. Awesome God alternates patter in the verses with an expansive chorus, and the patter is hardly scintillating prose, much less verse. (“Eden” rhymes with “be believin’” — really?) The patter does, though, address themes often left out of “Jesus is my boyfriend”-style worship songs. God as Judge. Sin and its wages. God as God not just of happy, shiny, fluffy things, but also of the storm. And, when the song is sung at proper tempo (no slower than Mullins himself performed it), the rapid-fire, syncopated sixteenth-note patter creates an effect that surpasses its individual words. Especially when the worship leader delivers the patter in a half-snarled, half-whispered mutter, as if he’s letting you in on the secret of something dangerous — which he is: Aslan’s not safe, after all, just good. Notice I called the worship leader he. That’s important. Awesome God is made for a masculine musical delivery, and the difference between liking the song and hating it can simply be the difference between having learned it as masculine and driven, or crooning and wimpy.

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. To Herb Meyer’s Memory

 

Over the years, Ricochet has inspired lasting friendships, not least of which is many members’ friendship with @tommeyer, who’s not only a great guy, but someone who rendered Ricochet great service before he moved on to other things. When Herb Meyer, Tom’s father, died, the outpouring of thanksgiving for Herb’s life was tremendous. At the time, I dedicated a motet I was working on to Herb’s memory, but life having gotten in the way, I haven’t had a chance to share it with the Ricoverse until now:

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Music for Light in Darkness

 

A little over three months ago, I shared “Beautiful Dark Things,” a piece of music along with an essay on drawing creative inspiration from nature. Sometime in September, I realized that the rhythm of that music fit well to the first half of Isaiah 60:1, “Arise, shine, Jerusalem; for thy light is come,” or in Latin, “Jerusalem surge illuminare, quia venit lumen tuum.” Cannibalizing a secular (or, as I often sense, just not overtly sacred) piece for use in sacred music is a venerable tradition. As Luther said, why should the devil have all the best tunes?

Not only did many Christmas hymns start out as secular carols, but even oratorios get in on the game. Handel repurposed several secular love duets for his Messiah. If you’re familiar with choruses from Handel’s Messiah such as, “For unto us a child is born,” “And he shall purify,” “His yoke is easy,” and “All we like sheep,” you’ll recognize them here. So, I’m in good company.

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Member Post

 

Thanksgiving will soon be here. It’s a holiday that seems to lack a soundtrack, though. Now, maybe you think that’s a good thing, but if you have songs that remind you of Thanksgiving, or simply of giving thanks, please feel free to post them here. Here are a few to start with, from the sublime […]

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Member Post

 

Earth encounters heaven. In the smelly barnyard, the filthy-yet-innocent beasts meet God. The mother is called blessed, whose viscera – whose guts – were worthy to bear the Christ child. The Christmas responsorial “O Magnum Mysterium” depicts a moment when the sheer carnality of biological life encounters the transcendent God: More

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