Tag Archives: John French

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)

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

The American Organist, Sept. 2014, p. 26

TAO.Sep2014A blurb about organ and choral premieres, along with my mug shot, in TAO this month because I used the simple technique of mentioning the names of organist Alan Morrison, Abington Presbyterian Church‘s music director John Sall, the Church of the Holy Trinity‘s music director John French, and The Rev. Alan Neale, Rector of CHT.
These—all—are wonderful people with whom to be mentioned. I must keep doing this. The projects we worked on were the Two Meditations on Freu dich sehr for organ, and for SATB on a Shakespeare text, And Good in Every Thing.
And my photo is across the page from Emma Lou Diemer‘s!

And Good in Every Thing

AndGoodInEveryThingAnd Good in Every Thing
SATB, 5 minutes

Commissioned by Organist/Choirmaster John French for the choir of The Church of the Holy Trinity, Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia, to honor The Reverend Alan Neale for ten years of service as Rector. Premiered 15 June 2014.

This work caps my first year as Composer in Residence at the Church of the Holy Trinity, and I am grateful for the support of Alan Neale, the vestry, the choir, and of course, John French. They have used my anthems throughout the year, but John wanted to commission something special for Alan’s 10-year celebration to be observed, fittingly, on Holy Trinity Sunday.

When John mentioned the possible text he was rolling around in his mind for this, I laughed incredulously. I love Shakespeare, wish I knew more, and am no expert. But when he began the first words of the text, I recited it along with him because they were the very words I memorized for my brief acting stint at the Free Library of Philadelphia, which I wrote about here.

And this, our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in every thing.
—William Shakespeare (1564–1616), As You Like It, Act 2, Scene 1

The music for the beginning of the text, up to “sermons in stones,” almost wrote itself. It rarely happens that I compose quickly, and I am wary of the result when I do, but my joy on pronouncing it good was quickly tempered by the fact that my putatively five-minute anthem had used up all of 60 seconds.

I had only five words left for the remaining four minutes of music.

I didn’t know how I was going to wriggle out of this, but just kept writing, trying different ways of setting “and good in every thing” (I love that “every thing” is two words). I lingered on “and” almost, I admit, to buy me some time, but it is something I have found I love doing: accenting supposedly unimportant words.

But then a musical phrasing fell into place that seemed to welcome slight variations, subtle shifts from E-flat to C minor chords, and as I toyed with it, it occurred to me that it could go on for a while. And it struck me that I could spend an entire four minutes on those five words and those two sonorities, and as I got part-way through I said to myself, “Really? You’re going to do this?” and I answered, “Why not?” and I just kept at it.

It isn’t a “sacred” anthem in that the words are not religious nor of course from Scripture, but in setting this, I thought about what would the music be like if I believed, if I really believed, that there was good in every thing. The first reading for Holy Trinity Sunday—which I had forgotten, but which I was reminded of before church by Alan—is from Genesis, where God looks on what He created, and calls it good.

Here’s the live recording of the premiere. This also is, by the way, the piece wherein I use the infamous chord I wrote about here.

Jesus, Thou Joy of Loving Hearts

JesusThouJoyThe Church of the Holy Trinity, on Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia, has added an anthem of mine, about once a month, to its services since appointing me Composer-in-Residence back in the fall. John French is the organist/choirmaster, and yesterday he programmed “Jesus, Thou Joy of Loving Hearts.”

It’s coming up on 30 years ago that I composed the original music for this well-known hymn text, first as a solo, for the wedding of my brother-in-law Sam and his wife Mary Lou. We just had dinner at their house last week, come to think of it, a belated Christmas get-together.

It’s a moderately easy anthem, the melody, chant-like; one of those tunes where the quarter notes kept refusing to step in any regular quarter-note meter. So I threw the whole thing into 3/2 and let the beats fall where they may.

Click on the image above for the first page of music and that’ll give you some idea.

Yesterday, Normand Gouin, the music director at Old St. Joseph’s in Philadelphia (and a fine composer) also had his choir sing “Jesus, Thou Joy,” I missed both services as I was busy at mine, but I am grateful for John and Normand both. Delighted, too, with the beautiful voices at the Church of the Holy Trinity, which you hear in the clip below.

Jesus, thou Joy of loving hearts,
Thou Fount of life, Thou Light of men,
From the best bliss that earth imparts
We turn unfilled to thee again.

Our restless spirits yearn for thee,
Where’er our changeful lot is cast;
Glad, when thy gracious smile we see,
Blest, when our faith can hold thee fast.

O Jesus, ever with us stay;
Make all our moments calm and bright;
Chase the dark night of sin away,
Shed o’er the world thy holy light.

Introduction to Holy Trinity, Rittenhouse Square


Sunday morning at 11 is my official introduction to The Church of the Holy Trinity in my capacity as Composer-in Residence; Organist/Choirmaster John French has placed my anthem Unto the Hills in the service. It’s a setting of the Sandon hymn on the appointed Psalm of the day, 121.

I wrote this in, yikes, college, for the choir I was in (now Cairn University) and touched it up just a bit last year or so ago. It’s older, even, yikes, than O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, or did I say yikes already?

Thank you, John, choir, Rev. Neale, and The Church of the Holy Trinity!

New Composer-in-Residence position

HolyTrinityRittenhouseJohn French, Organist/Choirmaster of The Church of the Holy Trinity, has just announced my selection as Composer-in Residence:

On October 20th The Church of the Holy Trinity, Rittenhouse Square will welcome Kile Smith as Composer-in-Residence. The choir will perform his anthem “Unto the Hills” a setting of Psalm 121. Over the year we will sing many more of Kile’s wonderful choral compositions. The residency will also include a lecture/performance by Mr. Smith and a newly composed choral work for the choir at CHT. Very excited about this new adventure with my good friend.

I’m delighted as can be in looking forward to working with John and the choir, with the Rector, The Rev. Alan Neale, and with the staff and of course congregation of The Church of the Holy Trinity. I’m thrilled to be a part of the ministry of this church as it leads in worship and reaches out to all people.

I’m also grateful to the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Boston for my residency there the past two years, which involved the use of much of my choral and service music, and culminated in the commissioning of The Chambered Nautilus.

Unto the Hills sets the popular “Sandon” hymn tune; the hymn text is based very closely on Psalm 121, the Psalm appointed for October 20. Those words are a perfect blessing on someone about to begin a journey, and so I feel it’s appropriate that John chose this anthem to inaugurate the residency.

Above thee watching, He whom we adore
Shall keep thee henceforth, yea, forevermore.