Category Archives: holidays

Do You Hear?

What time is it?

Do You Hear?

Awwwww yeah, it’s that time! This is the orchestral interlude to the epic Christmas opener for this year. The sound is straight out of Sibelius, so … be gracious. I’m including the score for those who wish to geek out. The section you hear starts on page 5, bar 48.

XMAS-OPENER_11x17_SCORE

Sing, Ye Christmas Choirs

Working on the opener for the big APU Celebrate Christmas concert. It’s going to be a big epic choir & orchestra setting of “Do You Hear What I Hear?”, building up into a new anthem that I just finished last night. I’m kind of loving this.

Sing, Ye Christmas Choirs

Sing, ye Christmas Choirs
Ring, ye wild bells ring while darkness flees

Sing the Light of Heav’n
Sing of peace o’er all the earth while darkness flees,

O sing, ye choirs
O sing, ye choirs
Ring out, ye wild bells ring

Ring out Christmas bells
Ring out songs of joy for God has come

O Son of Israel
O Zion’s Daughter, sing! our God has come

Brightest of Adam’s wandering sons
Joined with the light of the holy one,

O sing, ye choirs
O sing, ye choirs
Ring out, ye wild bells ring

What’s That Stank? Oh, It’s Just This Christmas that I’m Laying Down

To me, my men and women of valor! To me, in my hour of need! To me, and aid me, so that I don’t have to do my own work!

I’m writing a big epic opener for the 2010 APU Christmas Concert, with soloists, handbells, orchestra, choirs, the whole shebang. The piece opens with “Do You Hear What I Hear” sung by antiphonal choirs, and then into the final verse of that song:

Said the king to the people everywhere
Listen to what I say
Pray for peace people everywhere
Listen to what I say
The child, the child
Sleeping in the night
He will bring us goodness and light
He will bring us goodness and light

The piece is not quite epic enough to sustain the energy through the end of the piece, so I’m looking to transition from the song “Do You See” to something else. This is the part where you help me out. Any suggestions?

O Holy Night – Instrumental

I know, it’s a few weeks late. Just bookmark it for next year.

A few hours before our Christmas Eve service, I knocked out an arrangement of “O Holy Night” for tenor sax and piano. It came out … pretty well, I think. Jonathan Proctor played, and that guy has turned into a very fine player indeed. Great tone, phrased the part wonderfully.

So, in the fine tradition of this blog, and in recognition of the fact that printed music publishing no longer exists as a viable income stream, I present the arrangement here for your perusal and use. The lead part is simple, you’ll find it useful even for high school players. The piano part is written for me, so basically nothing is written out. Enjoy!

O Holy Night – Bb Tenor Sax

O Holy Night – Score

If anyone wants the Sibelius file to print parts for other lead instruments, shoot me an email on the contact page.

Behold, Emmanuel

So, this guy I know wrote this really cool choral piece for men’s choir.

I’ve gotten to know a very cool local choir director (she’s Zane’s piano teacher too) who roped me into playing percussion for a couple choir concerts, as well as doing a recording of her community choir singing last Christmas season’s program.

Like most music majors, I sang in the big choir at school, and was exposed to some pretty cool music back then. And like most “commercial” musicians, I don’t hear or write that sort of thing in the course of my typical pop/rock record production gigs.

So, inspired by this reemergence of “serious” choral music in my life, I thought maybe I should give it a try. Janine, the aforementioned choir director encouraged me to write something for Christmas, and offered to have the choir sing it, assuming it passed muster.

I came up with this.

behold_emmanuel_DEMO_071009.mp3

Behold, Emmanuel

Obviously this is just a demo… Thanks to Michelle, Alissa and Ryan for singing the parts I couldn’t.

Janine seems to like it. She’s offered to show it to a bunch of mucky-mucks she knows in that world, so who knows where it’ll go. I’m sure I’ll be losing all sorts of street cred as a hip pop/rock producer by dipping a toe in the choral music world, but I figure in the spirit of “lots of irons in the fire” it can’t hurt.

Let me know if you’d like to see the score… I’ll email it to you.

Christmas Chainsaw Massacre

If you’re wondering what to buy your 4-year-old and 6-year-old nephews, allow me to highly recommend getting them a toy chainsaw that makes real chainsaw noises, and also has a spinning beaded metal “chain” that causes burn marks when they slam it against their brother’s shin and pull the trigger.

Who wins this round of Christmas? Uncle Michael, that’s who.

Audio Christmas Card 2008 – Jingle Bells

So, this is our little family Christmas Miracle for 2008.  We’ve done this for the past few years, but this year we felt like we were only going to have time for one track, instead of the 2-3 we’ve done before.   So… we decided to get the whole family involved.  I have perhaps the most hilarious video ever of Zion, our almost three year old, tracking vocals on this one.  It’s priceless.  I’ll YouTube it and get it embedded here ASAP.  

In the meantime, Merry Christmas from Chad, Erica, Ella, and Zion Reisser 

jinglebells_mix.mp3

10 Days of Christmas: Mary Ponders

Posts in the 10 Days of Christmas series

  1. 10 Days of Christmas: Rulers from their Thrones
  2. 10 Days of Christmas: Matthew 1
  3. 10 Days of Christmas: Mary and her Donkey
  4. 10 Days of Christmas: Of The Father’s Love Begotten
  5. 10 Days of Christmas: The Kenosis
  6. 10 Days of Christmas: Mary Ponders
  7. 10 Days of Christmas: The Meaning of It All

How much did Mary know about the things that were happening in her, and through her? How much of Isaiah and Micah had percolated into her understanding from brother or father, some man who had received some formal training, who had been taught to read the texts? When she breathed the word “Messiah”, what collection of ideas did that word stand in for?

Mary treasured up these things, and pondered them.

I would love to know the pathways that her mind ran down as she marveled. The months between the angel and the birth must have seemed an eternity – certainly long enough for doubt to creep in. Did he really say … does this really mean … will he really be …

When the shepherds arrived, with stories and songs, it must have been a flood of emotions, confirming everything that Mary had been told.

Unto you is born this day a child, and He is Christ the Lord.

Previous in series: 10 Days of Christmas: The Kenosis

Next in series: 10 Days of Christmas: The Meaning of It All

10 Days of Christmas: The Kenosis

Posts in the 10 Days of Christmas series

  1. 10 Days of Christmas: Rulers from their Thrones
  2. 10 Days of Christmas: Matthew 1
  3. 10 Days of Christmas: Mary and her Donkey
  4. 10 Days of Christmas: Of The Father’s Love Begotten
  5. 10 Days of Christmas: The Kenosis
  6. 10 Days of Christmas: Mary Ponders
  7. 10 Days of Christmas: The Meaning of It All

What an absurd celebration we have embraced to remember the incarnation.

We celebrate by filling up. Calendars, full. CD players, full. Gift lists, full. Credit cards, full. Belly, full. Every moment of this season is dedicated, months in advance, to being filled up. Not all of the filling up things are bad things – time with friends and family are good things, gifts given out of selflessness and friendship are always a good thing.

But taken all-together, the result is a season that is every moment filled up, without a second to breathe, and no time to think or reflect.

What an absurd way to celebrate the incarnation. I wish we could push all of that to Easter, the great celebration. Let’s move our Lenten fast to Christmas, and celebrate the incarnation by imitation.

Who, being in very substance God, did not consider his divine prerogatives as things to be gripped tightly, but emptied himself. Made himself nothing. Humbled himself.

This is the Christmas story that has captured me. The folding down of the divine person into the frail and corruptible human story, the setting aside of every perfect glory to take up this mundane flesh. All the redeeming that is to come begins in that moment.

Christmas is the great emptying out.

Previous in series: 10 Days of Christmas: Of The Father’s Love Begotten

Next in series: 10 Days of Christmas: Mary Ponders

10 Days of Christmas: Of The Father’s Love Begotten

Posts in the 10 Days of Christmas series

  1. 10 Days of Christmas: Rulers from their Thrones
  2. 10 Days of Christmas: Matthew 1
  3. 10 Days of Christmas: Mary and her Donkey
  4. 10 Days of Christmas: Of The Father’s Love Begotten
  5. 10 Days of Christmas: The Kenosis
  6. 10 Days of Christmas: Mary Ponders
  7. 10 Days of Christmas: The Meaning of It All

As sung by the APU Men’s Choir. Sorry this link will only work if you have a facebook account, but it is so amazing, it might be worth signing up just to hear it. We saw this concert live twice, and got a little weepy both times.

UPDATED: Here’s the same thing, now hosted on YouTube for all to hear.

Of The Father’s Love Begotten
Of the Father’s love begotten, ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega, He the source, the ending He,
Of the things that are, that have been,
And that future years shall see, evermore and evermore!

At His Word the worlds were framèd; He commanded; it was done:
Heaven and earth and depths of ocean in their threefold order one;
All that grows beneath the shining
Of the moon and burning sun, evermore and evermore!

He is found in human fashion, death and sorrow here to know,
That the race of Adam’s children doomed by law to endless woe,
May not henceforth die and perish
In the dreadful gulf below, evermore and evermore!

O that birth forever blessèd, when the virgin, full of grace,
By the Holy Ghost conceiving, bare the Savior of our race;
And the Babe, the world’s Redeemer,
First revealed His sacred face, evermore and evermore!

This is He Whom seers in old time chanted of with one accord;
Whom the voices of the prophets promised in their faithful word;
Now He shines, the long expected,
Let creation praise its Lord, evermore and evermore!

O ye heights of heaven adore Him; angel hosts, His praises sing;
Powers, dominions, bow before Him, and extol our God and King!
Let no tongue on earth be silent,
Every voice in concert sing, evermore and evermore!

Righteous judge of souls departed, righteous King of them that live,
On the Father’s throne exalted none in might with Thee may strive;
Who at last in vengeance coming
Sinners from Thy face shalt drive, evermore and evermore!

Thee let old men, thee let young men, thee let boys in chorus sing;
Matrons, virgins, little maidens, with glad voices answering:
Let their guileless songs re-echo,
And the heart its music bring, evermore and evermore!

Christ, to Thee with God the Father, and, O Holy Ghost, to Thee,
Hymn and chant with high thanksgiving, and unwearied praises be:
Honor, glory, and dominion,
And eternal victory, evermore and evermore!

Previous in series: 10 Days of Christmas: Mary and her Donkey

Next in series: 10 Days of Christmas: The Kenosis

10 Days of Christmas: Mary and her Donkey

Posts in the 10 Days of Christmas series

  1. 10 Days of Christmas: Rulers from their Thrones
  2. 10 Days of Christmas: Matthew 1
  3. 10 Days of Christmas: Mary and her Donkey
  4. 10 Days of Christmas: Of The Father’s Love Begotten
  5. 10 Days of Christmas: The Kenosis
  6. 10 Days of Christmas: Mary Ponders
  7. 10 Days of Christmas: The Meaning of It All

We don’t know if Mary rode a donkey to Bethlehem. We like to think she did, because what kind of a jerk would make his pregnant wife walk from Nazareth to Bethlehem?

But that raises a different question, one I haven’t heard much about. Why did Mary make the trip at all? The census (maybe, probably) required only the male head of household to register, so Joseph could have legally made the trip alone.

I don’t know much about 1st Century Judean birthing practices, but somehow I don’t picture the husband hunched over the birthing bed, coaching his wife through her Lamaze breathing. I’m going to rely on the evidence of pre-1980′s world-wide cultural norms here, and say that most of the time the husband waited in the front room smoking the hookah with the fellas while the women of the family (and maybe a trained midwife) coached the mother through her labor. The husbandly role, throughout history, has been to fret nervously in a different room, then boisterously take credit once the child is born. Mary didn’t need Joseph around during the delivery, she needed her family, her female relatives, the local support network. Why go to Bethlehem?

The trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem is about 100 miles, through some rough terrain, and the hill country along the way was constantly populated with bandits (the parable of the Good Samaritan starts with a man being mugged along some of these same roads).  I got nervous when my wife walked a few miles through Rome on a hot summer day while pregnant. I can’t imagine Joseph’s stress over Mary making the trip with him through that rough country. Again, why make the trip? Why not leave Mary in the care of her family while Joseph went to fulfill his legal obligation.

Luke tells us why Joseph went to Bethlehem. Why did Mary go?

There are a few possibilities, I guess. Maybe Joseph was a thoroughly modern and sensitive husband, and just couldn’t stand the thought of his wife giving birth without his support. Maybe Mary was a rock-hard badass, and the thought of grunting out our Lord and Savior un-aided in the barren rocks above Jericho just made her shout, “Bring it on!” Maybe Luke invented the census and the trip to Bethlehem in order to make the birth narrative fit Micah’s prophesy, in which case of course Mary had to go along.

There is another possibility. Maybe Mary had no reason to stay. Maybe the embarrassment of the pregnancy left her estranged from her friends and relatives, with no support and no family. Maybe nobody had added up the dates yet, and everyone was assuming it was Joseph’s child. Perhaps Mary was eager for a chance to get out of town, and give birth away from the chattering gossips and back-biting spinsters, away from the prying questions that an actual birth date would inevitably give rise to.

I don’t know. Maybe you have some better ideas.
laboroflove.mp3

labor of love
photo by introspectre

Previous in series: 10 Days of Christmas: Matthew 1

Next in series: 10 Days of Christmas: Of The Father’s Love Begotten

10 Days of Christmas: Matthew 1

Posts in the 10 Days of Christmas series

  1. 10 Days of Christmas: Rulers from their Thrones
  2. 10 Days of Christmas: Matthew 1
  3. 10 Days of Christmas: Mary and her Donkey
  4. 10 Days of Christmas: Of The Father’s Love Begotten
  5. 10 Days of Christmas: The Kenosis
  6. 10 Days of Christmas: Mary Ponders
  7. 10 Days of Christmas: The Meaning of It All

The story of the birth, as told by Matthew.

Matthew_01.mp3

The story of the birth, as retold by Andrew Peterson.

matthews-begats.mp3

Previous in series: 10 Days of Christmas: Rulers from their Thrones

Next in series: 10 Days of Christmas: Mary and her Donkey

10 Days of Christmas: Rulers from their Thrones

Posts in the 10 Days of Christmas series

  1. 10 Days of Christmas: Rulers from their Thrones
  2. 10 Days of Christmas: Matthew 1
  3. 10 Days of Christmas: Mary and her Donkey
  4. 10 Days of Christmas: Of The Father’s Love Begotten
  5. 10 Days of Christmas: The Kenosis
  6. 10 Days of Christmas: Mary Ponders
  7. 10 Days of Christmas: The Meaning of It All

And Mary danced before the Lord. Hands raised, head thrown back, spinning with the joy of the young, an innocent girl in the presence of a Holy God. And Mary sang.

His mercy extends to those who fear him
from generation to generation
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts
he has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.

He has brought down rulers from their thrones.

empty-throneThe last shall be first, and the first shall be last. The humble will rejoice. The proud will be brought low. We celebrate Christmas as the advent of peace and hope – but also as the emphatic statement of God’s intent to upend the established order. The Kingdom of God brings down rulers from their thrones. It raises up the humble. It gives voice to the voiceless, and makes a mockery of those who cling too tightly to this world.

When we read the Christmas story, perhaps we should pay more attention to the role of Herod. Christmas is the great subversion of Herod’s kingdom, and those who, like Herod, abuse their power. “Peace on Earth” is a rallying cry – peace is coming, and it will come on the backs of those who love violence and celebrate fear. For them, Christmas is the first rumblings of the coming revolution, the beginning of God’s culminating restoration and remaking.

Peace on Earth. But fear and trembling for those who love their thrones.

Next in series: 10 Days of Christmas: Matthew 1

XV

December is a big month. Clearly. In addition to the obvious, in our family, we also celebrate my parents anniversary (47 years and counting!), our eldest son’s birthday, one of our niece’s birthdays, our anniversary and my grandmother’s birthday. Those celebrations fall on December 23rd for my parents, December 22nd for both kiddo’s birthdays, Dec 21st for us and Dec 28th for Grandmother………..why yes, I’d love another helping of crazy…to go with my crazy…on top of my crazy. Oh, and can you pour me a glass of crazy while you’re at it? Thanks! So, amidst the crazycrazycrazy, my beloved Brian and I have managed to carve out an anniversary celebration each and every year since our mullet-heavy nuptials 15 years ago. The high point was probably 1998 BC (Before Children)…we celebrated our fifth anniversary by returning to our honeymoon spot: Sun Valley, Idaho for skiing and, ya know. The low point (and this has nothing to do with the joy and blessing of being parents) was probably our 10th anniversary when I was six months preggers with our second son. We went to Santa Barbara for the weekend and ended up in a hotel room next to newlyweds who had, apparently, saved themselves for their wedding night and were intent on making up for lost time. It was nearly lewd and very loud, and reeeeeaaaaally tiring. And, like many a six-month preggers woman, I did not possess the hormonal fortitude to withstand a long night of no sleep. It was only the tiniest shred of propriety that kept me from lugging my weary, rotund self over to knock on their door and plead with them to keep it down. (Hmmmm….and now that I think about it, I probably wouldn’t have had to actually say anything…the mere sight of me, all crying and pregnant and generally unattractive might’ve seriously put the damper on their baby-makin’ activity. Oh well.) So yeah, the no sleeping and the having to stop every 30 yards to either pee, eat, or not pass out as we strolled around picturesque Santa Barbara on our 10th anniversary did not make for a particularly romantic experience.

This year, thanks to our 19-year-old niece who is all that (ie: babysitter extraordinaire!) we’ll be escaping to an uber hip hotel near Lake Tahoe for a couple days to celebrate our anniversary. Sadly, we’ll be missing out on some Christmastime events that we’d very much like to participate in, but the truth is, having such a valid reason to take a break from It All, right in the middle of It All, every December, has proven to be a Very Good Thing Indeed. It almost makes up for the general lousiness of having our anniversary be 4 days before Christmas. (Whose idea was that anyway?!?!? Oh. Right. It was mine. Oops.) Also this year, since it’s our fifteenth anniversary (and any anniversary year that is evenly divisible by five seems particularly noteworthy, which is fairly random and weird if you think about it) I’m taking the time to note, worthily, just how awesome my beloved is. But, since this is an online venue and I don’t want to completely and utterly repel all the nice folks here with my Song of Songs tendencies that I easily lapse into when dwelling ‘pon that quiet (and awesome…have I mentioned that he’s awesome?) man from Michigan with whom I live life, I’ll limit myself to an online-appropriate list-o-love. Just know that this list falls profoundly short of expressing the sublimeyness that is the true love I know, live and feel for him of whom I speak…but like I said, this is the internet and I don’t want to gross anyone out toooo much…cuz’ I am, after all, big on propriety.

Fifteen thoughts on our Fifteenth anniversary for my awesome husband:

1. I was a sad, sad girl with some biggish issues and baddish hair when we met. You saw past the hangups and the baggage and the frizzies and thought I was great. Thanks for that. Thanks forever for that.

2. You’re a little artsy. I’m a little more artsty. It works…mostly because you are grounded and unwavering on what matters most and perfectly flexible about everything else. Thanks for that.

3. Thanks for helping me wash my face when I was in an ICU for nine days. And, for not crying around me. Thanks. For that.

4. For being dependable…thank you!

5. For being hot….thank you!

6. For playing the piano in the house. Thanks for that every single time…it will always get you out of many a pesky chore…because I don’t want you to stop playing!

7. When you wrote that song about falling in love with me, recorded a track, burned it to a cd, put it in your car stereo and then sang it to me live as we drove somewhere in 1993, I could’ve died. Are you for real?! Sheesh. Thanks!

8. When you wrote an original version of the wedding march, with those big, fat, beautiful chords that sound like you need fifteen fingers to play each one of them, and had your old pianist friend from college play them for us as I walked down the aisle at our wedding, I could’ve died. You are so for real and I am one lucky girl!

9. My favorite moment in our wedding was seeing the look on your face when you saw me. (Not that our flowers being undelivered and the photographer catching on fire and your best man nearly passing out wasn’t all really cool and fun and all.)

10. Not having ever been to Sun Valley without you, I don’t want to ever be in Sun Valley without you. It wouldn’t be “Sun” Valley if you weren’t there…it would be Dark, Cold, Lonely, Sad, Forlorn, Ugly, Unsexy Valley. (Bye everybody…I know this one has made all the readers depart…thanks for stickin’ in this long!)

11. When I’m like at Zane’s school and like, some of the other moms start like kvetching about their husbands and they’re all like, well, like bitchy and mean, I’m always like thinking “Man, you’re sounding kind of like bitchy and mean and like, maybe that’s all, like, true, and if so I’m like really sorry for you and if you like knew how great my husband is, you’d like hate me!”

12. I thought you were pretty stinkin’ cute and cool when you were 21….you are immeasurably cuter and cooler now. I’m particularly fond of those little gray hairs around your ears…and your highly evolved interior self. Gray hair + maturity = mucho sexy.

13. I am, in fact, “Never gonna give you up, Never gonna let you down, Never gonna run around and desert you, Never gonna make you cry, Never gonna say goodbye, Never gonna tell a lie and hurt you.”

14. The first time I saw our custom-ordered wedding bands I, um, well, I thought they were kind of ugly. But, being high-minded and all, I lovedlovedloved the fact that you had your heart set on the braided style to represent a “chord of three strands.” Now, I think they are super cool…and I’m glad I sucked it up for the sake of your awesome idea. I don’t know what my deal was back then….er…and sometimes now….keep bringing the good ideas…you have lots of ‘em!

15. As my oldish mom said to my old dad recently, thanks for loving me as much as I love you.

Happy Anniversary babe!