Tag Archives: choir

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?

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.

Hosanna (In Round)

Need a spiffy little call to worship for your church choir? Wanna teach your high school choir about modern composition techniques in a way that’s accessible and singable? Wanna grow thicker hair faster, and lose those last 20 pounds? Try all new and improved “Hosanna (in Round)”.

Check out the Sibelius Music page (link below). It’s free, so do me a favor and try downloading it, just to see how it works. If you end up performing it somewhere, let me know.

Hosanna (In Round)

Our Father, Vindicate – Finished!

On May 28th, 2008, I jotted down the first few notes of Our Father, Vindicate. I stared with the melodic theme (E – D#, F# – D#), and the sound of that flat 6 suspension in bar 26. One year and one month ago today.

A few minutes ago, I just finished the final mix of the recording. It’s such a huge feeling of accomplishment to see this thing come together, and to have something solid in hand, something people can hear and respond to. I’ve loved writing this piece, I’ve hated it at times, I’ve put more hours into it than anything I’ve ever done, and I feel like I’ve grown a lot as a musician because of doing it. I’m glad it’s behind me, but I’m very glad to have done it.

So, here it is.

Our Father, Vindicate
By Michael A. Lee
our-father-vindicate.mp3

Downlod the chart: Our Father, Vindicate.

The vocalists are, in order of part from top to bottom:
Anthony Maglione
Brent Froelich
David Loucks
Jessie Bullock
Kyle Campbell
David Kress
Lucas Short
Phil Nash

Additional vocals by Michael Lee, and Harold Clousing.

Creative By Committee: A Christmas Miracle

In this week’s episode of the popular and ongoing “Creative by Committee” series, the fabulous collective musical genius of the roadhouse will be helping The Right Revered Professor Lee (DMA, MA, SPF, Esq.) assemble the musical soundtrack to that most miraculous of seasons, Stressmas. NervousBreakdownmas. Noseefamilymas. Can I get a shout out from all the pastors in the house?

So, I’m looking for three things this christmasy season. First, I’m in desperate and immediate need of choir music suitable for eager and hardworking seasonal choir members of limited reading experience. In token and pledge of gifts to come, I present to you “Child of Peace“, done by our choir last year, freely yours to use this year. Dan, I’m looking your way. Share the love. The lovely, lovely love. If your piece is picked, you will be the proud winner of a complementary set of rehearsal tracks, recorded for my choir, free to use for yours.

Second, I’m looking for hymns, psalms and spiritual songs that have fallen by the wayside, and deserve to be picked up, dusted off, and lovingly reused as either congregational worship or special music, possibly with string quartet. Chad, I know you have some good good in your back pocket for this one. Aly, I’m looking at you too.

Finally, most contempo worship for Christmas belongs in the crap drawer, next to contemporary music for weddings and contemporary music for funerals. If you happen to be in secretive possession of that most elusive of finds, a singable up-tempo modern Christmas song that doesn’t make you want to drink yourself into oblivion and start a fist-fight with the nearest lyricist, then by all means, share.

It is hereby moved and seconded, the motion carries, Creative by Committee is now in season … er … session.

You Knew Me When I Was Young

Why is this so important?  What is so fundamentally important about reconnecting with people who knew you when you were young, (younger)?  

This past weekend was a gift.  

Old wounds seemed insignificant.  Old friendships seemed vibrant.  The rhythms and pace of our collective experience re-clicked into place like dismantled yet interlocking parts cut to precise tolerances.  I have often said that the friendships that mean the most to me are the ones that can simply be resumed after years and months of separation, without any passive/aggressive subtext.  I had that experience over and over this past weekend.  

Most of my friends have sharpened their musical chops in ten years.  I have never heard a University Choir with the vocal horsepower present in that room.  Ever.  Not in Bonner’s heyday, not when we were there.  Rod Cathey’s comment was, “You guys came ready to peel the paint off of these walls.”  

When Steven Reineke came into the Friday rehearsal and hit the first downbeat of the first tune, there was a moment of unmistakable, unfakable delight that crossed his face.  Surely, hearing that he was getting a pick-up choir of alums wasn’t the best news of his year.  He didn’t know we were coming to play.  He didn’t know he was getting the all-star team.    

We actually ran into him, hours after the concert, late on Saturday night (Sunday morning) in the hotel lobby.  He said we were one of the most delightful choral experiences of his career.  I don’t think he was blowing sunshine.  He gave some very specific thoughts about the ethic that we displayed.  People blowing sunshine lack specificity.  

But still, I keep coming back to this:  Why is it so important to know, and be known by those who knew you when you were young?  Does is somehow validate your adult life?  Is there something in our minds that wants to reaffirm that friendships forged as young men and women are still valid 10 years (or more) up the road?  This is not me in ironic, detached mode, in case the intertubes aren’t helping me translate my tone.  I was genuinely struck by the sincerity of the experience.  

Nearly everyone I spoke with said the same thing…  I wasn’t sure how this was going to be, but the second I got here, I just started having so much fun.  Perhaps it was because we got to actually do the thing we used to do together, rather than just sitting around and talking about the thing we used to do together.  Perhaps that’s the secret to a good reunion.  

I’d sing with these people anytime, even you babies that call yourselves college students.  I will refrain from attempting to give too much advice to you all, but I will say this:  Forget the drama.  Forget the sniping.  Forget the politics.  Ten years from now, you won’t care, Lord willing.  Embrace your friends.  Love on them.  Try not to wound them, for it does take time for those wounds to heal, and you’ll profoundly regret inflicting them when you see your friends again.  

Finally, young bucks, I will say one more thing.  You aren’t as good as you think you are, and this is a good thing.  I can tell you with complete and utter clarity that there are few things in life more satisfying than knowing that you have been allowed to become more competent at your craft as the years pass, rather then settling into a “Glory Days” mentality.  Keep getting better.  There are rewards coming that you cannot yet understand.  

This was a gift.  Thanks, Rod.  Thanks APU.

Your Will Will Be Done

I’m working on a new composition, a setting of The Lord’s Prayer for slovenly pirates and bellicose ne’er-do-wells. Or, I guess they just go by “Men’s Chorale”, but you get my point.

The Lord’s Prayers (the Matthew version, which all the cool kid use) is traditionally understood as 7 petitions:

“Our Father, who is in heaven,

  1. Make holy your name,
  2. Bring your kingdom,
  3. Manifest your will on earth, as in heaven,
  4. Give us our daily bread,
  5. Forgive our debts, as we forgive our debtors,
  6. Do not lead us into temptation,
  7. Deliver us from the Evil One.”

In writing this piece, I’ve been thinking about the theological implications of composition. I know, I know, make fun of me later. For now, just smirk to yourselves and read on.

I’m working out the 3rd petition in the piece right now, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

This is no great mystery to the songwriters in the crowd, but that phrase can be sliced and diced and setup across the music in dozens of ways, and each one shifts the weight around on the ideas contained in the phrase. The words are the words, and they carry their own meaning, but the shades of emphasis are mine to play with.

If I make your a pickup, and land the word will on the downbeat, the emphasis moves. If I shift the phrase over, and begin with your on the downbeat, again, the emphasis moves.

When Albert Malotte write his well-known setting of the piece, he chose to put a strong divide between be done and on earth. I think that one choice has made a permanent shift in how most English-speaking people understand the prayer. Malotte made “on earth as it is in heaven” a descriptive supplement to “thy will be done.” In his rendering, there is almost an implied “(so that it will be) on earth as it is in heaven.” It makes the petition wistful, almost mournful.

Matthew’s greek text does not have that same grouping. It places the break (as nearly as we can tell; this kind of thing is always a bit subjective) between on earth and as in heaven. With that reading, the emphasis is on the present, immediate manifestation of God’s will, here, now, on earth, in this place. It’s not a far off vision of some future transformation, it’s a call to arms for the establishment of the Kingdom (in line with the first 2 petitions).

I’m sensing, as I write this piece, the power of setting words to music. There is actually the ability to shift theological meaning in the mind of the listener, and the performer, based on choices we assume are merely aesthetic.

It’s the mind of the performer that’s been heavily on my own mind as I write this piece. This is not a pretty piece of music. It’s an epic, Fortissimo! final judgment, second coming kind of piece. It emphasizes the prayer as an eschatalogical petition, a subversive rendering of the Hebrew Kaddish to invoke the overthrowing of the world, and the establishment of God’s Kingdom. It’s a call to arms.

The men’s chorale that will be performing it has a special place in my heart. The conductor has made it a workshop for turning awkward boys into godly men. They come in, adrift and insecure, cut loose from family and friends and home church, and are thrown together on campus with 10,000 people they don’t know. Men’s Chorale becomes a band of brothers, a sanctuary, and a training ground for how to grow up into a man. The way they sing reflects that.

When I finish this piece, I will hand it over to them, and they will learn it. Any given audience will hear it once, but they will sing it dozens of times, they will memorize it and perform it with passionate intensity. The meaning of the words will not be lost on them – I talk to these men frequently, and they are thoughtful and articulate. They chew on things.

As I spill ink on this new composition, I’m very aware of my obligation to these men, to take care for the ideas I hand over to their repetition and consideration.

Stuff I Learned from UC&O…

This weekend, something special happens.   It’s the closest many of us will get to a 10 year reunion, and we play a gig to boot.  

See, back in the day, The Azusa Pacific University Choir and Orchestra used to sing from time to time with the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra.  I think it happened twice when I was in school.  We’d do an Americana concert, or a Disney night, or something.  It was sort of a pain in the rear, back then, if I’m being honest.  Lots of new music to learn.  A Saturday night out… in choir outfits.  

This year, they called again.  Turns out the concert was on May 31st, about three full weeks after the end of the school year.  The choir has disbanded, so someone (I’m assuming Rod Cathey) got the hot idea of inviting alumni to participate.  

University Choir was a quite a thing in many of our lives.  We devoted years to it.  It was (in many respects) our social world during the time we were at school.  It was a little cult-like.  When I saw the list of who was participating, I got all giggly.  It was like reading a roster of all the people I liked and hung out with during those years.  The thing about reunions, is that you basically spend the whole time talking about old times, and the things you used to do.  The cool thing about this, is that we actually get to go do the thing we used to do, including making fun of the music.  (Hey Alan Jackson, don’t know the difference between Iraq and Iran?  Read a book, hillbilly!)

So, in honor of our upcoming weekend, a random list of stuff I learned in UC&O, circa ’95-’98.  

  1. If it’s rehearsing once, it’s worth rehearsing 5,643 times.  
  2. Women who love Jesus also must have huge, teased hair.
  3. Men who love Jesus shall not be scruffy, earringed, or have a mullet.  
  4. The closer you stand to the middle, the closer you are to heaven.  
  5. Whitey can’t groove.  He tries.  He can’t.
  6. Always, always watch the conductor.  If Jesus Himself descends behind the conductor, still, you shall not look away from the conductor.   
  7. When we modulate, it makes Baby Jesus smile.
  8. Cymbals, however, make Baby Jesus cry.  He much prefers the Tom-Toms.    
  9. 6/8 time makes any old white dude shake his rear end.  
  10. Practice doesn’t make perfect, it builds flexibility.  (also true in Yoga… although I didn’t know this at the time… because I was a fatass)
  11. The notes on the page and improvisation are two sides of the same coin.  You must be ready to flip it at any given moment.  
  12. Never, under any circumstances, sing louder than the lead soprano.  She, along with her mellifluous tone, has laser beams behind her eyes.  They’re issued with the dress.   
  13. (for Ash) Remember people, Moses did NOT fit the battle of Jericho.  
  14. Fear the host home.  
  15. A functional Christ-centered community does better when it has a clear purpose.  Even in all it’s dysfunction, UC&O was more of a real church body than most “real” church bodies.  (Hey ABF, where the hell are we going?)
  16. You should know every solo, because you never know if he’s gonna point to you.  At the same time, don’t get too attached to a solo, because he may not point to you.
  17. (for Bobby) The universally recognized word for a French Horn mistake is “SPEEE-AAAAH!!!!”
  18. (for Mike and Rach) Splitting the chair?  You’ll survive.  
  19. The Holy Spirit is a “Him,” not an “It.”
  20. Singing in the round is one of the coolest things ever.  
  21. If it’s worth rehearsing once, it’s worth rehearsing 5,644 times.  

 

Those who are in the know, feel free to add to my list.  See everyone Friday!  

15 Hymns: Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

I have always loved this song, but it never seems to work for congregational singing. So, I built my own congregation, out of cloned replicas of myself. Oh man, that would be the greatest church ever. Wait … never mind. On second thought, that would be the worst church ever.

Let_Mortal.mp3

let all mortal flesh
photo by Automatt