MidCities Chamber Singers Concert April 29

DJ_Logo (RD)For the last 9 months, I have been blessed to found and lead a wonderful new semi-professional choral ensemble in the heart of DFW, the MidCities Chamber Singers. What a ride this has been for me, personally, to start an ensemble, go through all the necessary paperwork to create a new 501(c)3 organization, recruit singers, promote and market the group, plan artistic and musical activities, all while doing my full-time role at Riverside and working on my PhD. Yes, I’m a glutton for punishment. But it has been so incredibly rewarding. (If you would like to see some clips of our year, you can subscribe to our YouTube Channel)

We Sing of Peace promoA week from this coming Saturday, we will have our Season Finale Concert, entitled “We Sing of Peace.” When I chose this theme several months ago, who could have possibly guessed it would come on the heels of the tragedy in Syria and what seem to be indications of global conflict in Afghanistan, China, and in the Korean Peninsula. While I wouldn’t wish for these conflicts in any way, we have an opportunity to sing into this incredible tumult with incredible music of peace, shalom, the brotherhood of humankind, and love.

DickinsonWe will premiere a brand new piece by our composer-in-residence, Christopher Teichler, of an Emily Dickinson poem, “If I Could Stop One Heart from Breaking.” Her poem reads,

“If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.” (Source)

If our music can do just what this poem speaks of, then our work as an ensemble will continue to have a purpose. And this noble purpose, to speak with music into the troubled, peaceless, hurting corners of our world with a language that transcends the barriers that separate us needlessly, is at the heart of what this ensemble is all about.

Among other pieces by Aaron Copland, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Morten Lauridsen, Durufle, Palestrina, and many others, we will sing the incredible poem found inscribed on the wall of a Cologne, Germany Nazi Concentration camp, and beautifully set by Randall Stroope, Inscription of Hope.

“I believe in the sun
even when it is not shining
And I believe in love,
even when there’s no one there.
And I believe in God,
even when he is silent.

I believe through any trial,
there is always a way
But sometimes in this suffering
and hopeless despair
My heart cries for shelter,
to know someone’s there
But a voice rises within me, saying hold on
my child, I’ll give you strength,
I’ll give you hope. Just stay a little while.

I believe in the sun
even when it is not shining
And I believe in love
even when there’s no one there
But I believe in God
even when he is silent
I believe through any trial
there is always a way.

May there someday be sunshine
May there someday be happiness
May there someday be love
May there someday be peace….”

Join us and walk away truly moved and blessed by this wonderful evening of beautiful singing.

“Law of Love and Gospel of Peace”

Last Christmas, I wrote this post amidst a sea of unrest, politically and otherwise.  In light of recent tragic events, especially in Orlando, I’m reposting it here today.

There has been a lot of swirling conversation going on around me, both physically and virtually, about what has gone on in the world around us these last few weeks…Syria, San Bernardino, Jerry Falwell…and on and on.  It was so much that today, I’d had enough and I needed a moment to just sit, be, listen and be quiet…in the quiet, I was overcome by the lyrics of one of the world’s most beloved Christmas Carols…and I had to write a bit about it.  I’ll come back to the other verses and the backstory of this wonderful Adolphe Adam carol, Cantique de Noel, on another day.

[And I will return to my series of posts on “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” later this week.  But for a moment today, amidst the hatred, vitriolic speech, harsh judgment and language found in my Facebook feed and in other social and news media, I paused today just to breathe in and claim the lyrics of a Christmas Carol that so many love…but I’m afraid have sung too glibly over the years.]

The third verse of “Oh Holy Night” speaks of a world in which those who claim to follow Jesus are living out he calls all of his followers to in his subversive Gospel.

That Gospel is deeply rooted in Love of God and Love of Others…and so many claim the first part of that Call…the part about loving God.  But the back half…well, I’m afraid some have given Christ a bad name in how we’ve lived that out in recent days, weeks and months…that love of “others” is not one we can or should place provisions or privileges on…it’s an unconditional love for all of our brothers and sisters…Cantique-002

 

“Truly He taught us
to love one another;
His law is Love
and His gospel is Peace;
Chains shall he break,
for the slave is our brother,
And in his name
all oppression shall cease,
Sweet hymns of joy
in grateful Chorus raise we;
Let all within us praise
his Holy name!”

 

Come, Lord Jesus!

Come, Emmanuel #3

Christmas has turned into one of the busiest, most frantic times of year, hasn’t it?  How far this holiday has come from the most humble of origins.

Amidst concerts, travel, all of our planning, Christmas service preparations, parties  Christmas shopping, two broken cars, the last 2 weeks, at least for us have been filled with “strife!”  I know, that may be a stretch for such a definition…but it sure seems as if we’ve been immersed in anything but peace on earth…because we’re so consumed with ourselves, after all, we’re the consumer!

This November-December, I participated in several performances of Handel’s messiah…and each time, we sang those storied words that echo the voices of the prophets, anticipating the coming Messiah.

“And his name shall be called: Wonderful…Counselor…Mighty God…Everlasting Father…the Prince of Peace.”  Our world…We…I desperately need the Prince of Peace.  Because only that can bring us back to the true meaning of a baby, humbly born into a broken world that can change everything and spread the blessing of Emmanuel, God with us now,  “Far as the curse is found.”

I want to close 2015 with these closing words of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”  These are a portion of my prayer as this year melds into a new one filled with new expectations and endless hope.

Oh come, desire of nations,

Bind all peoples in one heart and mind

Bid envy, strife, and quarrels cease…

Fill the whole world with heavens peace

May God richly bless you in 2016!  Keep Reading…keep commenting…

Come, Emmanuel (#2)

As the anticipation, the “Watching and waiting, looking above” continues, we move (backward) to the first verse of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”  Perhaps, this is the most poignant of this hymns litany of verses, with its begging and pleading for Messiah to come…little did they know just what that Messiah would look like.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee,
O, Israel.

O-Come-EmmanuelAs I stated in last week’s blog, each verses gives us a glimpse into a different prophecy, a different Name identified in scripture.  “Emmanuel” meaning “God is With Us” (or even better translated “God is With us Now”, we know well from the prophecy of Isaiah which is reiterated in Matthew & Luke’s account of the                                                                            birth narrative. (Is. 7:14, Mt 1:23)

Musically speaking, this hymn, and namely this opening verse and its significance is inextricably tied to its role in the great “O” Antiphons.  Hymnologist J.R. Watson provides a context for the antiphons included on the second page after the hymn in the most recent printing of the United Methodist Hymnal: “The antiphons, sometimes called the ‘O antiphons’ or ‘The Great O’s’, were designated to concentrate the mind on the coming Christmas, enriching the meaning of the Incarnation with a complex series of references from the Old and New Testaments.”

Each antiphon begins as follows:

O Sapentia (Wisdom)
O Adonai
(Hebrew word for God)
O Radix Jesse
(stem or root of Jesse)
O Clavis David
(key of David)
O Oriens
(dayspring)
O Rex genitium
(King of the Gentiles)
O Emmanuel

If one were to look at the first letter of the second word of these titles, each with verses translated by John Mason Neale in various hymnals of our time, you’d find an acrostic, SARCORE.  When spelled backwards, and this is where the interesting-ness continues, you get “ero cras,” which in the Latin means “I will be present tomorrow.” Every one of the Latin titles anticipating the coming Messiah, Jesus are from the Old Testament except “Emmanuel,” which is found both in Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew 1:23, as mentioned above. Matthew quotes Isaiah virtually verbatim—“Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel”—with the exception that Matthew adds the phrase: “which being interpreted is, God with us.”

O Come, O Come Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee,
O, Israel.

I love the longing in the words of this prayer…like Israel amidst it’s waiting for liberation…like those in the 400-year period of silence, waiting for Messiah to come…we too are longing, waiting to be ransomed out of this earthly captivity.  So we wait…but we rejoice, because, like the writer who penned the “rejoice” chorus, we know how the story ends.  Messiah did come…and will come again. IN the meantime, “Maranatha…Lord, come quickly…and thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”

Music’s Power to Evoke Hope & Peace

Today is one of those days where so many in the brotherhood of humanity are looking to lean into something…something that will offer a glimmer of hope and a vision of a day when peace will abide.  Music has, time and time again over the course of history, spoken into such situations…and today is no different.  In the wake of such a terrible tragedy as we’re seeing unfold in the events in Paris, France over the last 24 hours, I am reminded of a piece I did with my choir in Atlanta during my first year there.

1910504 (1)The origins of this poem are found in the origins of war…inscribed on a World War II Concentration camp wall, attributed to a  child, composer Z. Randall Stroope  has sewn together the fragments from what was written on a wall in 1943 in Cologne, Germany.  Today, I’m leaning into these words…a piece called “Inscription of Hope.”

“I believe in the sun
even when it is not shining
And I believe in love
even when there’s no one there

And I believe in God
even when He is silent
I believe through any trial
there is always a way.

But sometimes in this suffering
and hopeless despair
My heart cries for shelter
to know someone’s there
But a voice rises within me saying
‘hold on my child’

I’ll give you hope
I’ll give you strength
Just stay a little while
I believe in the sun
even when it is not shining

And I believe in love
even when there’s no one there
And I believe in God
even when He is silent

I believe through any trial
There is always a way

May there someday be sunshine
May there someday be happiness
May there someday be love
May there someday be peace.”

We long for the day when no person will ever again have to scrawl out a message of hope on hell’s dark wall – but instead, from a place of realized hope and bright sunshine.

Psalm 34:14, 18
14 Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it..The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

PAX…