Musical Musings

Music Notes – Sunday, September 25th:  

This Sunday’s musicians are Aaron Burkle, UUCC Pianist Karin Tooley, and the UUCC Chancel Choir.   

Opening Hymn: #1042 Rivers of Babylon – McNaughton, Reyam, Farian, and Dowe

#1042 in our Singing the Journey hymnbook, “Rivers of Babylon” was written in 1970 by Trevor McNaughton, George Reyam, Frank Farian, and Brent Dowe for the Jamaican Reggae/Rocksteady group The Melodians. The original recording was not widely heard outside of Jamaica, but a 1978 cover version by Boney M. became a number one hit in the U.K. and reached the top 40 in the U.S. The title “Rivers of Babylon” refers to a time in the 6th-5th centuries B.C.E., when the Jewish people were led off into exile following the destruction of their nation and temple. These experiences produced a literature (reflected in Psalm 137, “By the rivers of Babylon…”) that expressed a desire for repentance and reconciliation with God, and a return to the land of Judah. (includes material from

Centering Music: In a Landscape – Cage 

John Cage (1912-1992) was an American composer, music theorist, and music educator. Considered by historians to be one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century, Cage was at the forefront of the musical avant-garde, being among the first composers to experiment with electronic sounds and with non-traditional uses for instruments, such as prepared piano. Cage also composed numerous works of aleatoric music (where an element of chance determines some or all of the notes and/or rhythms that will be performed), and his 4 Minutes, 33 Seconds challenged the central notion of what constitutes music in the first place. During the middle and late 1940s, Cage embraced the notion that the purpose of music was to “to sober and quiet the mind, thus rendering it susceptible to divine influences”. This spirit is at the heart of “In a Landscape”, a 1948 composition for solo piano or harp that was written to accompany a choreographed dance. “In a Landscape” was influenced both by the work of French pianist and composer Erik Satie (1866-1925), as well as the music from various cultures within eastern and southern Asia, which Cage immersed himself into during the 1930s and 40s. In the score for “In a Landscape”, Cage instructs the pianist or harpist to “Play without sounding, release pedals (thus obtaining harmonics”), thus blurring the harmonic and melodic lines of the piece.

Sung Meditation: #95 There Is More Love Somewhere – African American Spiritual

#95 in Singing the Living Tradition, “There Is More Love Somewhere” is an African American spiritual, possibly originating from the Georgia Sea Islands. As many spirituals do, this song expresses a hope for a better world on the horizon. However, in contrast to some other songs from the spiritual tradition, “There Is More Love Somewhere” makes no mention of actually reaching the figurative promised land. Instead, the lyrics (“I’m gonna keep on `til I find it”) express a sense of hope, but only through the lens of determination. As you sing along on Sunday, don’t forget that if the arc of the moral universe is to bend toward justice, it will take many determined souls pulling hard to make that happen.

Offertory music: The Road Home – Paulus

Stephen Paulus (1949-2014) was a prolific American composer of classical music. He wrote over 600 works, receiving premieres and performances throughout the world as well as a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Classical Composition in 2015. His musical style has been described by The New York Times as “lush and extravagant,” and critics from the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Cleveland Plain Dealer, and many others have praised his work. He was a recipient of both NEA and Guggenheim Fellowships. (from “The Road Home is Paulus’s choral setting of the Southern Appalachian hymn tune “Prospect”. Our Singing the Living Tradition hymnal uses this tune for hymns 15 (“The Lone, Wild Bird”) and 232 (“The Hills Are Bare at Bethlehem”).

Closing Hymn: There Is a Love – Norton/Parker

“There Is a Love” is a simple but powerfully moving song with words and music by two strong UU women. The music was composed by Elizabeth Norton (b. 1959), who is a performer, composer, and the longtime music director at First Parish (UU) of Concord, Massachusetts.  The words were written by the Rev. Dr. Rebecca Ann Parker (b. 1953), a minister, author and theologian who served as president of the UU Starr King School for the Ministry from 1999 to 2014.

Postlude: Draw the Circle Wide – Miller/Light

American composer, conductor, and performer Mark Miller (b. 1967) believes passionately that music can change the world. He also believes in Cornell West’s quote that “Justice is what love looks like in public.” Mark’s dream is that the music he composes, performs, teaches and leads will inspire and empower people to create the beloved community. Mark serves as Assistant Professor of Church Music at Drew Theological School and is a Lecturer in the Practice of Sacred Music at Yale University (from First published in 2011, “Draw the Circle Wide” is Miller’s reimagining of an earlier piece of the same name by Canadian songwriter and Anglican minister Gordon Light (b. 1944). The song’s refrain reminds us that “no one stands alone, we’ll stand side by side.” This Sunday, “Draw the Circle Wide” will be sung by UUCC’s Chancel Choir with some help from pianist Lucy Carney and percussionist Aaron Burkle.

                                                                                    -Mike Carney, UUCC Music Director