Sunday, October 16, 2011

It Ain't No Funk Like N.O. Funk

Corey Richardson - our intrepid tuba tooter
In our pursuit of congregational singing we may have gone too far this morning.

Part of the trick with making music for a congregation to sing is that you have to take into account the skills of the musicians at your disposal . . . and we have Corey and his tuba. What hymns lend themselves to a tuba? I wrote a few weeks ago about our foray into Oktoberfest territory. Well German Town is a fine destination -- but this Sunday I thought we should head over to the French Quarter.

I took the kids out on Saturday and left Libby--our arranger and creative genius--with a cd of Rebirth Brass Band and instructions to get a tuba line to fit the old chestnut Si Ya Humba (We are Marching). She took inspiration from their track Feel Like Funkin' It Up. I didn't try announcing the title in the service--there may have been some confusion!

Corey did well with a piece in E (fine for guitarists, horrible for tubas).

See if you can spot any similarity between the two.

Red Team - We Are Marching (Click to Listen) 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Listening to the Persecuted Church

Chris Rice, a colleague and friend of mine, is currently travelling through Romania as part of his work for the Duke Divinity School's Center for Reconciliation. He just posted this over on his blog Reconcilers:

Over 10 days  in Romania and Poland, I am learning how this post-communist context speaks to challenges facing the church in peacemaking.  Romania was my first time in Eastern Europe, and the resides of communism there are striking:  the leftover ugly concrete housing “blocks” everywhere; former Party members and leaders and informants still in government; one Romanian evangelical’s confession “I realize I am still very communist” 23 years after liberation.  Alexander Solzhenitsyn was right about the oppression; it is my first time engaging the pervasive white-on-white form.  Of course there is much more to say about Romania than this, and I will blog more.  Yet on such pilgrimages I try to tune my ear beneath easy explanations to hear both the deeper story of pain (what happened?  why?) and of hope (what shows the way things are is not the way things have to be?).  One sign of hope was a hymn written from the persecuted Romanian church during communism.  They sung it for us at our host Danut Manastireanu’s church and he recorded it (I’m back left with my colleague Gann Herman from the Center for Reconciliation).  Some lyrics follow.  Listen, and imagine this kind of beauty emerging from pain.

Tears of Pain
Oh my tears of heavy pain will they ever end?
Oh, my people, when will you be free?
Breaking now the heavy chain
Like a falcon in the sky I would fly
I’d fly to my homeland
My heart flies away toward heaven
My mind goes up forever
Up there’s my homeland
Oh that much torment will it ever end?
Will justice ever blossom for us?
Breaking now the heavy chain
Like a falcon in the sky I would fly
I’d fly to my homeland

Monday, October 3, 2011

Writing a hit for the 18th century

Sunday's service set us a bit of a challenge. The lectionary gave us Exodus 20 as a reading but we couldn't find any decent hymns on the giving of the Ten Commandments. In googling, my wife Libby noticed that couplets from Isaac Watts' setting of the commandments for children fit the meter of the tune Old 100th. More googling revealed that an English translation of Luther's hymn  Dies sind die heil'gen zehn Gebot (These are the holy ten commands) was in a similar meter.
Figuring out the meter of tunes and lyrics is an old skill that enables the matching of words to a myriad of different tunes--hymn books have indexes of tunes by meter in the back. Since working with Red Team, we have had lots of fun trying out well known hymns to different tunes. Paying attention to meter also means you can introduce a completely new hymn (the words) with comparative ease if you pair it with a well known tune.
So late into the night on Wednesday (music has to be in on Thursday morning) we struggled to combine a verse from Watts with a few lines from Luther. We filled in the gaps (see below)  
We ended up with a Frankenstein's monster of a hymn that would, I am sure, have been a big hit in the eighteenth century!

Ten Commandments
Tune: OLD 100, Words:  Watts, Luther, Slade

These are the holy ten commands
For Israel’s children from God’s hands
“I am the Lord, your only God,
who brought you out of servitude.

You shall have no more gods but Me
Before no idol bow your knee
Take not the name of God in vain:
Nor dare the Sabbath day profane.

To both your parents honor give
So in the land you long may live
No murder, no adultery
These are my laws, pay heed to me

No stealing. No dishonesty,
shun slander and duplicity
Do not desire your neighbors’ goods,
their spouses, homes, or livelihoods.

This law fulfilled in Christ, we’re free
To serve each other joyfully
LORD, grant us strength to follow You,
And give You praise in all we do.