Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

Easter Wings

800px-GeorgeHerbertEasterWingsPatternPoem1633 copy[Here’s an item that will likely be printed in this week’s edition of “The Chronicle”, the weekly newsletter of the church at which I -gig. -Ed.]

A fun thing about being part of the SUMC music team is the chance not merely to offer up music for the glory of God and the comfort of God’s congregration (via music publishing companies’ idea of Great Music) … but also to create music of our own: things that have Never Been Heard Elsewhere!!

Music Director Kevin Murphy has composed music for a lot longer than I have. By comparison I’m a rookie. I’m much more likely to take a hymn and arrange it for the singers and instrumentalists at hand. But lately, I’ve found it fun to try to create something musical that doesn’t remind me strongly of something else I’ve heard recently. The Christmas cantata a year ago was almost “biting off more than I could chew”, but it just got me more interested in the endeavor.

This year, Kevin and I wanted to write one anthem each, to present on Easter Sunday. (Time, circumstance, opportunity, and logistics have conspired to make that vision, if not pie-in-the-sky, then at least a little pastry hovering just slightly above our heads. We’ll do Kevin’s anthem for Music Ministry Sunday in June instead.)

To that end, Kevin found a pair of poems by the Welsh poet, orator and Anglican priest George Herbert (1593-1633), which he thought might be worth trying to set to music. The one that got my attention was one called “Easter Wings”, and its “gimmick”, if you will, was its shape – a pair of wings! The number of syllables in the first through tenth lines of each stanza were: 10, 8, 6, 4, 2, 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10. The lines were centered, and voila! Wing shapes.

You won’t have to use your imagination: the poem will be printed in Easter Sunday’s bulletin insert so you can follow along.

How to set this to music? I finally settled on two ideas: first, most of the melody lines that the choir will sing use pitches that ascend step by step – a tiny bit of “text painting” to suggest flight (and it’s always better when creatures who wish to fly move in an upward direction, yes?). And second: with luck, listeners will feel like the organ and wind-instrument accompaniment for this piece is musically evocative of the activity of flight.

What in the world is THAT going to sound like?

We’ll find out this Sunday!

(And afterward, if you’re still trying to work it out, drop me a line. I can send you an MP3 file of the thing.)

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March 29, 2015 - Posted by | choir, music, SUMC | , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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