Tag Archives: Cross

Fanfare, Fugue, and Chorale on CRUCIFER (Brass Choir)

The best sacred music is not “background” music, but rather music that proclaims the eternal truths of Scripture whether it is a simple song or one in which the message is written into the music. The hymn “Lift High the Cross” (CRUCIFER) has become an iconic one for many Christians because it highlights the centrality of the crucifixion of Jesus to the faith. Martin Luther speaks powerfully to this dogma in his Theology… Read More »

Thoughts on “O Holy Night”

Of all Christmas carols, “O Holy Night” has one of the most fascinating stories. It is a rather unlikely carol in that the poem was written by an avowed atheist (albeit one well-versed in Christian theology) and the tune composed by a practicing Jew who did not observe Christmas. It was first sung by a Parisian opera singer, but soon after church officials banned the song when it was discovered that the… Read More »

Handel’s Messiah – Biblical, Christological, and Eschatological

In anticipation of the 40th Annual Peoria “Sing-It-Yourself” Messiah tomorrow on the Trinity Concert Series (www.trinityconcertseries.org), I would like to offer these thoughts on the work. Arguably the most popular musical work of all time, Handel’s Messiah sets to beautiful and awe-inspiring music Old and New Testament passages that proclaim the salvation story. According to one scholar,  the librettist Charles Jennens (1700-73) “intended Messiah as a statement of faith in… Read More »

The Connection Between All Saints’ Day and the Reformation

This past Sunday, October 25th, Lutheran Christians celebrated the 498th anniversary of the Festival of the Reformation. However, the actual feast day is today, October 31st. Tomorrow, November 1st, we will celebrate All Saints’ Day. So if these two festivals are on consecutive days, are they connected in any way? The connections are quite interesting and valuable to consider. Let me explain. Frederick the Wise (1463-1525), the ruler of Saxony during the time… Read More »

Thoughts on “Hope of the World”

The thoughts below were prepared for the “Devotions on the Hymn of the Day” project of the Center for Church Music at Concordia University, Chicago. This devotion is on “Hope of the World,” the Hymn of the Day for the Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 24B) on Sunday, October 18, 2015. For additional devotions, click here. For a downloadable PDF version of this devotion, click here. “Hope” is an optimistic word… Read More »

Observe Good Friday with the Peoria Bach Festival

Observe Good Friday this year by watching the Peoria Bach Festival 2010 performance of the St. Matthew Passion. You can find it on the Peoria Bach Festival YouTube page by clicking here or following the link below. Although the performance is in German, English subtitles are provided making the story easy to understand and follow. The translation is a literal one so that the original meaning of the German is as… Read More »

The Paradoxes of “This Little Babe”

Many of you may be familiar with the great choral work “This Little Babe” from Benjamin Britten’s Ceremony of Carols. The driving rhythm, the compelling tune with its unique canonic treatment, and the dramatic shift at the very end from a minor key to its parallel major all make for a memorable and powerful setting of the text (click here for a video). The text explores the paradoxes that came with the birth of Christ, with God becoming… Read More »

A Powerful Statement of Faith in Music

Fuga 4 a 5 from Johann Sebastian Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier, Book I  (WTC I) is not only an amazing piece of music, but also a powerful statement by Bach of his personal faith (click here to hear this fugue and see it unfold). One would not expect to find statements of faith in a purely instrumental work such as the WTC I, but for Bach there was virtually no difference… Read More »

Thoughts on “My Song is Love Unknown”

The hymn “My Song is Love Unknown” features a text from the 1600s coupled with a melody composed in the early 1900s by the English composer and church musician John Ireland (1879-1962). This haunting and beautiful melody was apparently composed casually one day over lunch at the suggestion of fellow church musician and composer Geoffrey Shaw (1879-1943). The poet of this hymn, Samuel Crossman (c. 1624-1683), was a pastor who… Read More »