Saturday, November 29, 2008

Arranging Horns

It is a week and a half from our annual Christmas Celebration, and our choir director has asked me to have horns on a couple of the songs. This is one of the pleasures of working in a church community with a lot of talent-- when the time comes, we can add brass players to the band.

The first tune I am arranging horns for is one of my own, "Bring Your Praise to the King." I originally wrote the song with a swing feel, and the choir parts were rolicking and exhilarating. Two years ago, we did a custom recording with the song included, and our producer dropped the song back to a half time slow hip hop feel. Many of the vocals are the same, but the form changes significantly. In addition, the producer laid down some synth horns in the arrangement that had never been played by real brass.

Synth horns are usually played by keyboard players and in this case, he played parts that are higher than most trumpets play! Typically synth horns are unison lines, too, with a couple of harmony parts that are keyboard oriented.

Real horn arranging is more subtle, more varied, and better articulated. It is fun to write in articulations like staccato, accents, and ties, and hear them played correctly.

Also, pop producers frequently play synth horns in a Vegas style, and I prefer a dry, Steely Dan-style horn section that is closer to Memphis with a little Lee Morgan mixed in.

So yesterday and today I have been sitting at my computer with Finale 2008, arranging horns to go with Christmas tunes. Hundreds of music directors do this kind of thing, but I thank God we can all be working in our own congregations with musicians who love Jesus, and making unique praise offerings that are custom crafted.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Servant Song

"Here is my servant whom I have chosen,

the one I love, in whom I delight;

I will put my Spirit on him,

and he will proclaim justice to the nations.

He will not quarrel or cry out;

no one will hear his voice in the streets.

A bruised reed he will not break,

and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,

till he leads justice to victory.

In his name the nations will put their hope."
--Isaiah 42: 1-4

The above passage comes to us from the prophet who perhaps has more Messianic prophecies than any other Old Testament source.

Jesus quotes this passage in Matthew 12 as he is healing people and telling them not to tell who he was. See how he fulfilled the phrase, “he will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets.”

As Christians we would do well to study more about Jesus bringing justice and the ultimate victory that justice will enjoy in the final day. In the spirit of Advent’s first Sunday, Jesus’ coming is a source of hope for the nations.

Millions of people in our world look to the skies each day and murmur, “Lord, how long…” There have been days when I felt that way. Life just isn’t fair in humanistic terms. Some folks get bailed out while others are allowed to die in silent misery. It is unjust.

Justice is a subtle aspect of the local church’s calling. Jesus the Messiah is come to bring the message of justice – he will proclaim it—and to actually carry out justice by responding compassionately to the broken and bruised.

In our music ministry, we are seeking to act justly, from opportunities to the content of our repertoire. Just actions are not always easy to appreciate, since some of us feel the effects of realignment, and we feel like someone is being unfair. And sometimes justice is realized over time, not overnight. Some day, it will be immediate.

I have been blessed to be able to write several Christmas anthems and this year the youth ensemble sings the Servant Song of Isaiah as a reflection on Isaiah’s message of hope. Merry Christmas, everybody!

About Me

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I am a person who is perceived as youthful, although I am in my late 50s. I play and sing music, and it tends to keep me in the culture, like a lot of young people do. I am a "high I" on the DISC Behavioral Test, which means I'm optimistic, enthusiastic, a team player, and I motivate others toward goals. I don't like exercise, but I have a high metabolism, so I don't tend to be overweight at this time in my life! I have recently been doing moderate exercise and physical therapy for a shoulder condition.