Sunday, November 15, 2009

+Herb Brokering+ 1926-2009: No More Dying, Only Light

Hymn writer Herb Brokering entered eternal glory this past Thursday.

In Lutheran Service Book, he authored the following hymns:
  • 474: Alleluia! Jesus is Risen!
  • 680: Thine the Amen, Thine the Praise
  • 817: Earth and All Stars
  • 879: Stay With Us
His texts are paired with tunes written by his contemporaries, such as Walter Pelz, Carl Schalk and David N. Johnson.  This provides a unique combination, in that the tunes are usually written to reflect the texts.

One text and tune that has grown on me over the years is "Stay With Us."  My ear had to get used to descending down the scale by three notes and turning around and heading up before the dropping to the D.

Normally when the descent is G-F#-E, the next note is automatically a D.  With this tune, our ear is put on hold, since the D doesn't show up until the next measure.  I like it now, but for years it was outside of my aural comfort zone.

Speaking of comfort zones, "Earth and All Stars" is often outside the comfort zone of pastors and musicians.  This will not be the place to lash out on this hymn.  I will say one thing, though.  If "loud, boiling test tubes" are not your thing, review the Psalms 146 through 150 and a few others, then choose the verses that best reflect Scripture.  Also, remember that which we confess in the Te Deum, "All creation worships You, the Father everlasting."

Thinking outside the box, here, but you could change out the lyrics and keep the repetition.

Mother and son,
Father and daughter,
Sing to the Lord a new song!
Uncle and aunt,
Cousin and neighbor,
Sing to the Lord a new song!

Another option is to pair the refrain of this hymn with a psalm tone.  Have a cantor chant the prose text from the psalmody and the congregation respond with "He has done marvelous things.  I, too, will praise Him with a new song."

It's good to struggle with hymnody.  Like all of God's creation here on earth, it isn't perfect.  It takes good knowledge of Scripture, theology, and liturgy to prepare a worship service and to draw on the vast resources of your hymnal.

Check out hymn writer Stephen Starke's retrospective on his blog starke Kirchenlieder.

Recordings of Brokering's texts are fairly scarce on youtube.  This one commemorates the anniversary of Messiah Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Lindsborg, Kansas.

Contemporary LSB: Before the Throne of God Above

Once in awhile an old text picks up a new tune, thrusting it into pop Evangelicalism. If you listen to Christian radio , sometimes you might know the contemporary song before you have the chance to explore it in a new hymnal. Such is the case with Hymn 574 in Lutheran Service Book.

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea.
A great High Priest whose name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me.

My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart.
I know that while in Heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart.

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.

Because the sinless Saviour died
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.

Behold Him there the risen Lamb,
My perfect spotless righteousness,
The great unchangeable I AM,
The King of glory and of grace,

One in Himself I cannot die.
My soul is purchased by His blood,
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ my Saviour and my God!

The words are by Charitie Lees De Chenez (aka Charitie Lees Bancroft, né Smith) (1841-1923). Not much is known about Charitie. Her father was an Anglican priest in Ireland. She was probably widowed twice (hence all her surnames) and died here in the US, in Oakland, California.

One of the more common tunes associated with this text is BRESLAU. The tune is soloed out the second time.

The Lutheran Hymnal Project chose a newer tune, DUNEDIN, for Lutheran Service Book. I couldn't find the tune recorded anywhere, but you might try substituting O WALY WALY. If you grew up in a Lutheran grade school in the late 70's or 80's, you probably know this tune from Hal Hopson's "The Gift of Love." The tunes have a similar arc (they rise and fall in a similar fashion) and overall rhythm, although they are different styles. The tune O WALY WALY can be found in Lutheran Service Book, Hymn 595.

Your local megachurch might be singing this very text. They use a tune written by Steve and Vikki Cook. While LSB breaks the text up into 6 short verses, the Cooks combined the verses to make three long ones. A preview copy of the sheet music has the notation "Celtic feel" just above the time signature.  This setting is by the group Selah.  The sign you see in the video is from the historic Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago.

A word about Pacific Garden Mission: they still produce the radio drama Unshackled.  For an interactive map to see if it broadcasts in your area, click here.  If you'd just like to hear an episode via mp3, click here.

Historic Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago's South Loop

Current location, still in Chicago, but a little further south