Anthem: Shall the Blessed Saints Surround Us

Shall the blessed saintsFor the 150th anniversary of Emilie United Methodist Church in Levittown, Pa., I was commissioned for an anthem, sung this morning by their choir, led by Music Director Ryan Fleming.

It’s SATB accompanied by either organ or piano. I’ve actually written out two separate versions, rather than a one-size-fits-all “keyboard” version (don’t read too much into that statement: I’ve written anthems with those kinds of accompaniments, too).

The anthem is based on a hymn (pictured), an unusual one if for no other reason than that I wrote the words, too. The text is based on this striking passage from Hebrews, chapter 12:

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

I wrote all about the hymn here, including the complete hymn text and what I hope is not too much of a stretch, vignettes about Shostakovich and The Philadelphia Story, which are merely special pleadings that hymn-writing is difficult. I don’t know why, especially, I thought that you would think that it wasn’t, but there it is. My thinking about the rhyme and what turned out to be an unusual hymn rhythm is also described.

I want to congratulate Emilie United Methodist on its anniversary, and to thank them and Ryan for this opportunity!

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