Musical Musings: December 31, 2020-January 7, 2021

Hello members and friends of UUCC, 

Happy New Year to all of you! Or perhaps it would be more appropriate to phrase it a bit differently this time around…here’s wishing you all a sincerely heartfelt Happy End of 2020! 

One thing that will happen early in the new year is that I will be leading an adult RE group. This group will meet on Sunday mornings at 10 a.m. for six weeks beginning this coming Sunday, January 3rd. We’ll be exploring the music of our two UU hymnbooks, digging into some of the deeper history and spirituality found in those songs, from old favorites to hidden gems. I hope you can join me in these sessions – click here to register:

Of course, I hope you’ll all be able to ‘attend’ this Sunday’s online service as well. This week’s service will focus on our First UU Principle of the inherent worth and dignity of every person and we’ll have some special music within that service – see below for this week’s Music Notes: 

Music Notes for January 3rd, 2021

Music 1: O, the Beauty in a Life – Filipino folk tune, words by Toribio Quimada

For most UUs living in the United States, “O, the Beauty in a Life” (#182) is one of the less familiar hymns in our Singing the Living Tradition hymnal. The bouncy, rolling tune is based on a Visayan (Filipino) folk melody, and the words were written by Bishop Toribio Quimada, a native Filipino minister and activist who founded the Universalist (now Unitarian Universalist) Church of the Philippines. This Sunday, the hymn will be led by UUCC’s Chancel Choir with Mike Carney, piano.

Music 2: Spirit of Life – Carolyn McDade 

“Spirit of Life” is #123 in our Singing the Living Tradition hymnal and is a favorite hymn of many UUs. The composer of “Spirit of Life”, Carolyn McDade (b. 1935), describes herself as “a songwriter, spiritual feminist, and social activist” ( Originally, McDade was reluctant to see “Spirit of Life” included in our hymnal, as she thinks of her song as a personal and living prayer as opposed to a hymn. Despite her misgivings at the time, “Spirit of Life” has become the most frequently sung hymn within UU congregations around the world – many UUs know the words by heart, and some of our sister churches sing this song together every Sunday. This Sunday, “Spirit of Life” will be led by our Chancel Choir with Mike Carney at the piano, and the words will be projected on the screen (even though you may not need them). 

Music 3/Offertory: Lift Thine Eyes – Felix Mendelssohn

“Life Thine Eyes” was originally written as a vocal trio within the oratorio Elijah (Op. 70) by German composer, pianist, and conductor Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (1809-1847), more commonly known simply as Felix Mendelssohn. Mendelssohn was one of the most important musicians of the early Romantic period, and his most famous works included the concert overture A Midsummer Night’s DreamSongs Without Words for piano, and the melody for the Christmas carol “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing”. The 1846 oratorio Elijah is also counted among Mendelssohn’s best-known works, and was written in a quasi-Baroque style as an homage to Bach and Handel, whose music was well-loved by Mendelssohn. Within Elijah, “Lift Thine Eyes” is sung by a trio of angels and the piece is still frequently performed by treble choruses today. In this week’s service, “Lift Thine Eyes” will be performed as a clarinet trio by UUCC’s own Anne and Steve Sanford, who used the wonders of digital recording to play the three parts simultaneously with just two musicians.

Postlude: Better Times Will Come – Janis Ian, arr. Mike Carney 

Janis Ian (b. 1951) is an American folk musician, poet, composer, and 2-time Grammy Award winner. Ian’s professional career began at the age of age of 14 when she wrote and recorded her first single, “Society’s Child (Baby I’ve Been Thinking)”, a song about interracial love that became a hit – despite the fact that many radio stations refused to play it because of what many considered taboo subject matter at the time. Over her career, Ian has achieved commercial and critical success with several other songs, including “At Seventeen”, “Love Is Blind”, and “Fly Too High”. Ian’s songs have been performed and recorded by dozens of other artists, including Joan Baez, John Mellencamp, and Nina Simone. Written in her home in the spring of this year, “Better Times Will Come” is Ian’s anthem to 2020, and the song prompted her to launch the Better Times Project, intended to help artists who are struggling financially during the Covid-19 pandemic. Ian has encouraged artists everywhere to submit their own versions of “Better Times Will Come” on social media and asks that listeners support these artists. UUCC’s Music Director Mike Carney created an arrangement of “Better Times Will Come” for mixed choir, which then became a virtual choir video featuring Good Company: A Vocal Ensemble. You’ll see and hear that virtual choir performance as the postlude of this week’s service – keep an eye (and an ear) out for several UUCC members who appear in that video performance! 

-Mike Carney, UUCC Music Director