Category Archives: Anthem

Give Ear, O Heavens

Give Ear, O Heavens. SATB, 4′. Commissioned for the 40th Anniversary of the Ordinations of the Rev. Dr. Michael G. Tavella and the Rev. N. Amanda Grimmer, pastors of Holy Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Abington, Pa. Text is the canticle Audite Caeli. Premiered 23 Oct 2016, Holy Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church Choir, Jacqueline Smith, organist and director of music.

If you would like to see the whole score, just let me know and I’ll send it!

Give ear, O heavens, to what I say,
and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth.
Let my teaching fall like the drops of rain;
my words distill like the dew,
like gentle rain upon the grass
like showers on the growing plants.
I will sing of the LORD’s renown,
extol the greatness of our God,
the Rock, whose work is complete,
for all his ways are just;
a faithful God, who does no wrong,
righteous and true is he.
Remember the days of old;
consider the years long past;
ask your father to show you
and your elders to tell you.
The LORD will vindicate his people
and will have compassion on his servants.
Rejoice with him, you heavens;
all you gods, bow down before him.

—Canticle based on Deuteronomy 32, the Second Song of Moses

Rejoice in the Lamb

Rejoice in the Lamb. SATB, 5′.

To Dr. John H. French, on the 25th anniversary of his ministry as organist/choirmaster of The Church of the Holy Trinity, Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia. Premiered 2 July 2017.

Live recording of the premiere:

 

Using the same title as the Benjamin Britten 17-minute cantata, and using words from the same monumental Christopher Smart poem, Jubilate Agno, that Britten used, this is a 5-minute a cappella anthem or concert work. The first two lines of my setting (text below) are also in Britten’s, but the other two lines are not. John French had asked if the Britten work, which he loves and has often conducted, could possibly inspire another setting, and so I looked closely at Britten’s piece, and then Smart’s original poem.

After long consideration—the poem is huge—the text began to take shape around the occasion I was asked to celebrate, French’s 25 years as organist and choirmaster at one of the great churches of Philadelphia, and a landmark on Rittenhouse Square, The Church of the Holy Trinity.

Smart was a profoundly pious man, and that did not make his life a smooth one. Taken to falling on his knees in the street and praying, he was viewed as unstable and was committed first to a mental asylum and then to a debtors’ prison. He wrote part if not all of Jubilate Agno in confinement.

The life of this poet and the circumstances of this poem colored the music’s character. The shifting between E major and a parallel mode of A lydian came out of this. I thought that the halting, almost-too-sweet “Give the glory to the Lord” was appropriate, as were the repeating Hallelujahs, driving to an ecstatic proclamation at the end.

I have been Holy Trinity’s resident composer since 2013, fortunate to have most of my anthems and another commission sung in that historic church. Among the distinguished leaders who have served there are the rector Phillips Brooks and the organist Lewis Redner, who created “O Little Town of Bethlehem” at that church for a Sunday School class in 1868. John French serves as the descendant of Redner, organist Robert Elmore, and many others who were dedicated to the spiritual growth of the congregation and the integrity of the music they produce, just as they are descended from Asaph of the Psalms, “the musician of the Lord.”

Rejoice in God, O ye Tongues; give the glory to the Lord, and the Lamb.
Hallelujah from the heart of God, and from the hand of the artist inimitable.
For a NEW SONG also is best, if it be to the glory of God; and taken with the food like the psalms.
Let Asaph rejoice with the Nightingale—The musician of the Lord! and the watchman of the Lord!
—Christopher Smart (1722-1771)

O Thou Who Camest from Above

O Thou Who Camest from Above. SATB, 4 ‘. Commissioned for the 90th Concert Season of the Greenville College Choir and Chamber Singers, Jeffrey S. Wilson, director. The tune is Hereford by Samuel Sebastian Wesley (1810-1876), the text is Leviticus 6:13 and the hymn by Charles Wesley (1707-1788), is based on the Leviticus verse.

In April 2016 I was the guest composer for the Greenville College Schoenhals Fine Arts Symposium in Greenville, Illinois. At the end of my few days’ residency there, during which I taught classes and heard performances of works of mine, the chair of choral activities Jeffrey Wilson asked me if I would be interested in composing a work for their annual choir tour. They tour every year, and in 2017 they would be coming to Philadelphia and the East Coast, as it happened, during their 90th concert season.

[Live recording from Greenville’s Spring ’17 Home Concert]

I was happy to be asked to write for his excellent choir. Greenville is a Free Methodist university (previously a college, they received university status on 1 June 2017), and Jeff wondered if I might like to arrange this work by the great Methodist hymnodist Charles Wesley, set to music by Charles’s grandson Samuel Sebastian Wesley. I did not know the hymn but immediately liked both words and music, the tune Hereford.

Noting that the hymn was an application of one verse from Leviticus, I decided to set that verse as well, using it to open and close the arrangement. While setting those words, I only then noticed the assonance of its final words “go out” with the opening of the hymn, “O Thou,” so that explains the musical overlapping. To transition back to Leviticus at the end, I added the “Amen,” which in earlier generations ended the singing of every hymn.

Written for a college choir of about three dozen singers, this is of moderate difficulty and workable for any church choir with balanced sections.

[Here is the Greenville College Choir singing it at the WRTI studios, stopping by on 17 March 2017 to rehearse some of their tour concert. Jeffrey Wilson conducts:]


The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out.
—Leviticus 6:13

O Thou who camest from above
The pure celestial fire to impart,
Kindle a flame of sacred love
On the mean altar of my heart!

There let it for Thy glory burn
With inextinguishable blaze;
And trembling to its source return,
In humble prayer and fervent praise.

Jesus, confirm my heart’s desire
To work, and speak, and think for Thee;
Still let me guard the holy fire,
And still stir up Thy gift in me.

Ready for all Thy perfect will,
My acts of faith and love repeat,
Till death Thy endless mercies seal,
And make the sacrifice complete. Amen.
—Charles Wesley (after Leviticus 6:13)

Residency at Greenville College

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Jeff Wilson rehearsing the College Choir

What a great three days I enjoyed in Illinois as the guest composer for the 32nd annual Greenville College Schoenhals Fine Arts Symposium. A Thursday night concert and a Friday morning college chapel performance of seven pieces wove around seven classes, a composer master class, rehearsals, a coaching, a reception, a tour of the college radio station… and lots and lots of eating.

Anthems O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, The Word of God, and God So Loved the World, along with last year’s commission from Lyric Fest and Singing City, The Heavens Declare, were sung gorgeously by the Greenville College choirs and the Greenville Free Methodist Sanctuary Choir, all excellently prepared and conducted by Jeff Wilson, who along with being the Director of Choral Activities and Music Department Chair at GC, directs the music at the church.

Chris Woods, who teaches music theory, composition, low brass, and is an excellent bass trombonist, led the brass quintet in two works of mine, a newly refurbished St. Theodulph March (on the hymn tune to “All Glory, Laud, and Honor”) and my arrangement of Benedetto Marcello’s Psalm 19. They also used the brass arrangement I had made for O Come, O Come, Emmanuel and one I put together two weeks ago for The Word of God.

Soprano Caitlin Hadeler sang brilliantly my Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins, with riveting accompaniment by Catherine Burge. I was so happy to have met Catherine a couple of months ago for coffee on Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia, where we talked over the songs; she was in town for a workshop. Caitlin is brand-new at the college and simply won everyone over with her reading of these fairly challenging songs, and surprised me by doing them from memory (after using music at the rehearsal). Good show!

O Come, O Come, EmmanuelThe Word of God and The Heavens Declare were repeated for the chapel, where I also spoke about what it’s like to be a composer with faith in a world that is often without it. I chose the text of John 21:1–14, wondering why on earth John would tell us that there were 153 fish in the net. The Schoenhals Symposium was founded to explore the interaction of creativity and Christian faith.

Chris Woods was my second composition teacher, back when I was beginning my college career at Philadelphia College of Bible, now Cairn University. He is as humble, unassuming, supportive, and spiritual a soul now as he was then. And he still rocks the bass trombone. I was blessed to have known him then, honored to know him now, and thankful to have shared a few days with him. I’m so glad we renewed our friendship a few years back.

Sarah Todd accompanied the choir beautifully; thanks to her and to all the staff at GC who put the details together to make this happen. Thanks to the faculty for inviting me into their music, theology, and communications classes, and to the church choir for letting me insinuate myself into their bass section at rehearsal! A special thanks to the Schoenhals family—specifically, Carolyn and Dale Martin—for their support, their warm welcome, and for keeping such an enriching idea alive. Greenville’s a great place to be.

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Concert sound-check

 

Smith Anthems Lent–Easter, Church of the Holy Trinity

HolyTrinityRittenhouseThe Church of the Holy Trinity on Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia is presenting my anthems beginning Ash Wednesday, on each of the Sundays of Lent, and into Easter. I’m so pleased to be Composer in Residence there, and to work with John French and the wonderful people in the choir!

Any of the links below takes you to Anthems on my Choral page. Samples of the music are there, as well as recordings, texts, and for the especially intrepid, further notes and links for more information. Some of these anthems go way, way back, and some are quite new.

If you’d like to receive a copy of any of the anthems, just let me know (kile at kilesmith dot com) and I’d be happy to send any of them along. A blessed Lenten season to all.

February 10 Ash Wednesday: Jesus, Thou Joy of Loving Hearts

Lent 1, February 14: My Shepherd Will Supply My Need

Lent 2, February 21: Unto the Hills

Lent 3, February 28: God So Loved the World

Lent 4, March 6: I Sought the Lord

Lent 5, March 13: Come, Ye Sinners

March 20 Palm Sunday: Holy Mountain

March 26 Easter Vigil: The Word of God

March 27 Easter Day: Behold, the Best, the Greatest Gift

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel published by Concordia

OComeOComeCPHI’m happy to announce the publication of my anthem O Come, O Come, Emmanuel by Concordia Publishing House.

Here’s the link to the publisher’s page, with a PDF excerpt and a recording of it.

My excessively elaborate notes on the piece, written up for the Broad Street Review, are here.

I’ve been handling all my music myself, including anthems, yet have continued to experiment with different ways of getting the music out, including the wonderful MusicSpoke people (five works here), and the first foray in years and years with traditional publishers. I was impressed with Concordia Publishing House and am interested to see how things go with this quite early work of mine, which I polished up just about two years ago. The story behind that, again, is here.

At the American Choral Directors National Conference

ACDAlogoI couldn’t be there, but my music could, thanks to The Crossing and MusicSpoke. The American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) National Conference just concluded in Salt Lake City, and was a huge success by all the reports I’m getting. And these reports are not just from people familiar with my music, no, no, but are also from, you know, normal people.

MusicSpoke is “a marketplace committed to musicians. We don’t publish pieces of music. We find gifted composers that we believe in and give them the tools and freedom to promote themselves.” They are a brand-new and exciting venture for composers and I’m honored to be included in their first wave. They’re growing quickly and are part of the new world of music distribution. They go on:

We provide an easy way to find high quality sheet music. Our platform makes it easy to search by composer, ensemble, theme, and other tags. Each score has its own page allowing users to hear and see the entire piece. Scores are available for immediate digital download and printing, based on the number of licenses purchased.

And it’s true; it’s quick, easy, and there’s lots of wonderful pieces there from very gifted composers I’m happy to be getting to know. My anthem Holy Mountain was included in a MusicSpoke reading session at ACDA. So far, I have five choral pieces with them: in addition to Holy Mountain is the anthem God So Loved the World and concert works And Good in Every Thing (Shakespeare), The Chambered Nautilus (Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.), and How Do I Love Thee? (Elizabeth Barrett Browning, for girls choir).

You can look at entire scores and hear the works by going to this page.

The Crossing also had a presence at ACDA, and had me along with a few other composers represented. Here is the page they created for the works of mine they’ve performed; I should get them to take over my website as this is so cool.

The Consolation of Apollo (with percussion), The Waking Sun (with Baroque ensemble), Where Flames a Word (a cappella), and Vespers (with Renaissance instruments) are all described, and for parts of Apollo and Where Flames they’ve created video with music, where the score turns pages by itself as they sing. I don’t know how that’s done or if it’s easy to do, but it is definitely the coolest thing.

Thanks, MusicSpoke and The Crossing!