Monday, June 25, 2012

Helligaandskirken's new CD and songbook w/ songs from Night Church - "Pilgrim: Songs for Prayer and Travel"

Published in April: "Pilgrim - sange til andagt og vandring" by Mikkel Vale, Night Church pastor at Helligaandskirken on the Strøget inCopenhagen

Promotional video on YouTube with excerpts, footage from rehearsals

Review article by Rasmus Koppelhus, organist in Simeon's Church in Nørrebro, in Kirken i København (link here for the original Danish article and here for an English translation by Google. Says Koppelhus:

Think of a church that Helligaandskirken manages, within its own ranks, to embrace as wide as last year's releases from the church testifies. In the autumn of 2011 appeared "Psalm Tax," which was the result of Carina Wøhlk vicar and organist Hans Ole Thers' cooperation on the 30 new hymns. And now this pilgrim songbook made in cooperation with Church Foundation. Helligaandskirken are not just a parish church for them within the ramparts, but manages through fine publications that parts of creativity works out to all of us outside the ramparts. Thank you.
Koppelhus has this to say about the music:
The composer Mikkel Vale have even tried their hand at Taize genre, and the result may in particular be tested in the song "God is everywhere." The song shows in the finest manner Mikkel Vales understanding of Baroque affective learning (that is, how specific intervals or a melodic progression of thought that could express the exact feelings and moods). Thus, there is almost an octave difference between the words "heaven" (light-register) and "earth" (dark register). The text on top of that is written by an anonymous karmelitternonne, helps give the song a spiritual credibility.

Same formula, but without karmelitternonnen, apply by Mikkel Vales music to the Lord's Prayer. However, it all becomes a bit far-fetched, because the only dissonance that occurs, is present on the first syllable of the word "temptation". The idea is of course good, but perhaps a more economical use of affect doctrine would do well.

That word Google didn't have in its memory bank, karmelitternonnen, is probably the Danish word for a Carmelite nun.

"Pilgrim - sange til andagt og vandring" is a joint publication of Helligaandskirken and Kirkefondet (the Church Foundation) of Copenhagen. Details at The songbook costs DKR 200 and the CD costs DKR 150.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Phil Trier, 1823-2012

Phil Trier, founder of the Old Town School of Music and a major influence in bringing Sacred Harp singing to the Midwest, died June 14. In an email to Chicago singers, Ted Mercer said he "was instrumental in the founding of the Chicago Sacred Harp Singers," when he "presided over a momentous gathering at the Old Town School of Folk Music in November, 1983." He was 89. From Trier's obituary in today's Evanston Review, a subsidiary of the Chicago Sun-Times. The obit appears to have been written by his family. Some excerpts:
Phillip served as Music Director at Lake Forest Academy from 1954 until 1971. He taught courses in music and the humanities and directed the Glee Club, the instrumental ensembles and the beloved annual Carol Service. During his tenure at the Academy he composed five dramatic musical works for his students, including A Walden Fantasia and Young Goodman Brown. He also made numerous arrangements and compositions for his choir including a song cycle of poetry by Robert Frost that brought the poet to Lake Forest for the Academy’s Centennial.

During this time he also began to compose operettas for his own family and friends, especially the folksinging Armstrong Family of Wilmette. These works were performed locally for schools and community centers as well as at the Fox Hollow Folk Festival in upstate New York and included adaptations of well-known folktales such as Rumplestiltskin and The Rootabaga Tales of Carl Sandburg.

Phillip was choirmaster and organist at many churches on the Northshore. He served at St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church in Deerfield for over a decade. He also served at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Lake Forest, St. Timothy’s, The Congregational Church of Winnetka, and The First Baptist Church of Waukegan. In addition to traditional church music Phillip was instrumental in starting a group of “shape note singers” at the Old Town School of Folk Music in 1982, the Chicago Prairie Sacred Harp Singers.

In addition to his academic and church compositions Phillip composed widely in a variety of genres. Among his works are song cycles on poetry of Emily Dickinson, e.e. cummings, Carl Sandburg and Robert Frost, sonatas for viola, tuba, bassoon, and hammered dulcimer. a string Quartet, a brass Septet, a set of Preludes for piano based on the months, and an organ sonata. His “Crazy Inventions”, based on the Bach Two-Part Inventions and Prelude and Fudge for accordion, based on Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in d minor, were frequently performed by him to much acclaim.

And this ...
To his friends he is best remembered as the founder of the feast, the best party-giver on the Northshore. Phillip called these gatherings “musical soirees” and anyone who played an instrument was expected to bring it along and share in the musical festivities. There was also the summer solstice to look forward to when Phillip with his accordian, the Armstrong family with the bagpipes, and assorted neighbors with drums and whistles would arrive at the Gilson Park lakefront to sing up the sun at dawn. (A belated note of thanks to the Wilmette police who kindly looked the other way during this strange once-a-year ritual.)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Prairieland Dulcimers - "Cherokee Shuffle" and "Crooked Ridge"

Emailed over the weekend to people on the Prairieland Dulcimer Strings mailing list:

Hi everybody --
Our next meeting, the regular "third Thursday" session for June, is from 7 to 9 p.m. next Thursday, June 21, at Atonement Lutheran Church, 2800 West Jefferson in Springfield. We'll work on some new songs -- and maybe review one or two we've done before, since we have newbies who will want to learn them -- then go around the circle calling favorites during the second hour.
Thursday will be Mike and Kathe's last session with us before they move to Michigan, and Mike will be teaching two new tunes , "Cherokee Shuffle" and "Crooked Ridge." Mike introduced them this week, and they're grand tunes that were composed recently (which means they're not in the public domain) but have gotten to be favorites in dulcimer jams nationwide. "Cherokee Shuffle" is a bluegrass and old-time breakdown (usually played in A but sometimes also in D, even before the mountain dulcimer crowd got ahold of it), and "Crooked Ridge" is by Pam Kirby, who recorded with the Simmons family for McSpadden Dulcimers Inc.
So you can get an idea what they sound like, here are a couple of YouTube clips of a kid from Kentucky named Ashley Evans playing them chord-melody style:
-- Cherokee Shuffle:
-- Crooked Ridge:
Her arrangements seem pretty close to the tab that Mike found for us.
Finally, while I was on YouTube I went looking for a musical tribute to Mike and Kathe's new home, and I found this from a neighboring state:
-- Football song:
But there isn't any dulcimer tab for it. Maybe that's a good thing!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Church's Desolation as a dulcimer tune

During Friday's open mike at the Dulcimerville music camp in Black Mountain, N.C., I played a shape-note folk hymn called "The Church's Desolation" [Sacred Harp 89] on my Jethro Amburgey dulcimer. While I can't always hear the resemblances in tune families, this one is clearly related to "Barbry Allen." I played it as an instrumental, since I was most interested in demonstrating how good the old folk hymns sound when played on the Appalachian dulcimer in open modal tunings (CGG on my Amburgey). But, as I said Friday night, the words tell a powerful story and the tune is powerful in its own right.
Here's "The Church's Desolation" as sung in January at Southwestern Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, posted to YouTube by user stratfield42 of the Texas Sacred Harp Singers. His channel has a number of high-definition videos at singings in Texas. I've only looked at a few of them, but they seem to be a very good introduction to contemporary Sacred Harp singing at its best.

Words, from The Sacred Harp at (click on "Indexes" and keep scrolling down to where it's indexed under "The"):
89 The Church’s Desolation
Tune: J. T. White, 1844
Meter: 8s,7s Double Iambic (8,7,8,7,8,7,8,7)

Well may Thy servants mourn, my God,
The Church’s desolation;
The state of Zion calls aloud
For grief and lamentation.
Once she was all alive to Thee
And thousands were converted,
But now a sad reverse we see,
Her glory is departed.

And has religion left the Church
Without a trace behind her?
Where shall I go, where shall I search,
That I once more may find her?
Adieu, ye proud, ye light and gay,
I’ll seek the brokenhearted,
Who weep when they of Zion say,
Her glory is departed.

Some few, like good Elijah stand,
While thousands have revolted,
In earnest for the heav’nly land
They never yet have halted.
With such religion doth remain,
For they are not perverted;
Oh may they all through men regain
The glory that’s departed.


The 1911 edition is available on line in the IMSLP/Petrucci Music Library on the International Music Score Library Project website (at
Joe James, in his authoritative footnotes to the 1911 edition, says: "We have been unable to find the name of the author of the words. While they appear in the earliest song books in the United States, none of them, so far as we could find, has given the author of the hymn or the date of composition."

The Digital and Multimedia Center of Michigan State University Libraries has the 1860 edition at and  -- it has two verses in the middle that do not appear in the 1911 or 1991 Denson revisions.