Saturday, January 30, 2016

Paul Baloche -- workshop videos on contemporary worship


Paul Baloche, who wrote "Rise Up and Praise Him" in this week's worship set at Atonement-Faith-Luther Memorial, is a singer-songwriter and worship pastor at Community Christian Fellowship in Lindale, Texas. He has several instructional videos out. Including:

Vocal (2:15:29)

Band (1:01:37)

... and in performance -- at Bethel Church, ________(?), 2013

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Contemporary service, Epiphany IV (Jan. 30)

Gathering/Call to Worship: "Rise Up and Praise Him" (team) - ...

Worship Set:

  • "Let Everything That Has Breath"
  • "Forever"
    **sharing of the peace
    "Forever" (chorus)
  • prayer - leading us into...
  • "Holy and Anointed One" (like last week)


Special Music: "God of This City" (Rob, Bob, Michele, Jessica?)


Lord's Prayer

Sending: "How Awesome is the Lord Most High"

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Holden Evening Service -- 30th anniversary edition out this month

Says Marty Haugen on his website at

Holden Evening Prayer (or "Vespers '86" as it is still known at Holden Village) was written during the winter of 1985-86 when I was living with my family at Holden. As each part of the vesper service was written. it was prayed with the community as part of evening worship. The final version represents a very real collaboration with the winter community at Holden. I believe that one of the reasons it continues to be used is because it reflects the very real prayer of a particular community.

To mark its 30th anniversary GIA is issuing a new edition of Holden Evening Prayer. I have written three new supplmental psalms that can be included during the seasons of Advent and Lent. There is also a new handbell part, in addition to the keyboard, guitar and C instrument parts. Look for it here or at GIA's website after January 16.

More at

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Worth a thousand words ...

Hat tip to Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Charlotte, N.C., and its Facebook feed. Check out Holy Trinity's webpage at, too. They're making great use the World Wide Web.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Contemporary service, Epiphany III (Jan. 24), Atonement-Faith-Luther Memorial blended congregation

Michael W. Smith -- "Ancient Words"

Here is the plan for Saturday's worship at Springfield's new ELCA congregation:

Gathering/Call to Worship: Made to Worship --

Worship Set:

Special Music: Ancient Words (we'll do this as a team, perhaps divide verses up) --

Closing: Shout To The Lord --

Friday, January 15, 2016

Here's a name for mainline churches that want to do outreach

With a hat tip to the "Church Sign Maker" at, here's my suggested name for the new congregation being formed by the merger, or "blending," of the three smaller ELCA congregations in Springfield:

It's tongue-in-cheek, of course. But churches are in the business of herding cats these days, at least in the western democracies of Europe and North America, so why not?

Besides, I got the idea from an accomplished herder of cats, former night church pastor Mikkel Vale of Helligaandskirken (Church of the Holy Spirit) in Copenhagen. His Night Church was a Friday night service designed to mix and match musical genres ranging from Gregorian chant and early Reformation chorales to Taize, jazz and art music in order to attract the majority of Danes who no longer go to church.

"While the Sunday service puts the emphasis on the forgiveness of sins, we try at Night Church to preach God’s presence at the center of each human life," he told the diocesan magazine Kirken i København (the church in Copenhagen). "This is partly done by an emphasis on personal prayer in worship. It is important for us Christians to learn that God is alive and present. … God goes with us. Always. I hope we can help to convey that to people, so they too can feel it when they leave the church again."

In another Kirken i København article, in 2011, Vale said, "we postmodern people are both misguided sheep and independent cats" and suggested a new role for the church: "We shall be shepherds to cats."

I quoted the articles July 31, 2012, in a post headed "Natkirken reaches out to unchurched 'seekers' in Copenhagen: 'We shall be shepherds to cats'." Permalink

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Sigur Rós - down the rabbit hole with a classical, minimalist "post-rock" band from Iceland

Isn't life grand? Sometimes you go down the rabbit hole looking for one thing, and you come back up with something entirely different.

And that's pretty much what happened when I was looking for tablature for old Lutheran chorales in Iceland and found instead a "classical[,] ... minimalist ... post-rock" band from Reykjavik called Sigur Rós (more at I haven't been this blown away by a new band (showing my age here) since I discovered Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Jefferson Airplane, Ian Anderson, Jethro Tull and progressive rock 45 years ago in a kinder, gentler and perhaps more musically sophisticated era.

Well, Sigur Rós aren't really a new band (showing my age here, too, I guess). They've been around since 1994.

And they don't sound very much like Thick as a Brick, either, but I haven't heard very many bands as interesting musically since punk, metal and other genres took over the airwaves in the 1970s and 80s.

Here they are on a tune called "Hoppípolla" (which apparently is an Icelandic word for hopping around in puddles). It was shot live on location in Iceland, and the production values on the video also blow me away.

Sigur Rós - "Hoppípolla" - live from Heima DVD

Sigur Rós would mean "victory rose" in English, and it is the name of frontman Jón Þór Birgisson's sister. The clip of "Hoppípolla" shown here is from Heima, which means "at home," or homeland. It is a two-disc documentary and music video set from a home-country tour in 2006. Here's a trailer:

Personnel on the DVD : Directed by Dean DeBlois, with Jón Þór Birgisson / Georg Hólm / Kjartan Sveinsson / Orri Páll Dýrason / Hildur Ársælsdóttir / María Huld Markan / Sigfúsdóttir / Edda Rún Ólafsdóttir / Sólrún Sumarliðadóttir. Venues and track list at (Those odd extra letters -- Þ and ð -- have a "th-" sound in English. I try not to worry about them too much.)

One of my favorites so far is "Olsen Olsen." At first I thought it's a name, but it isn't -- it's in a made-up language called "Volenska" (a nonce word made up of the Icelandic word roots for hope + land + the suffix -ic) or "Hopelandic" in English, and it carries no meaning beyond the sounds of the words. Birgisson, who more commonly goes by Jónsi, sings it in a haunting falsetto:

"Olsen Olsen" - live from Heima DVD

But those gorgeous vocals on the video clip don't mean anything -- other than the playful, lilting, ethereal meanings suggested by timbre and melody, and there's plenty of that.

Says Eren Livingstone in a track review on a blog called al niente dal niente, "An interesting note about this invented language is that it doesn't have words, meaning or any context, but instead a focus on sound, syllables and melody. This really brings to light one of the best things about this band: how Jónsi Birgisson's vocals are really more like an instrument itself than a method to portray a message ..." I'm not sure I even want to mention this, but an internet troll on the Mudcat Cafe discussion board apparently took advantage of that ambiguity to claim the lyrics were satanic. They are not.

Chris Foster, an Englishman who has moved to Rekyjavik and sings Icelandic folk music with his wife Bára Grímsdóttir, dispatched the troll on the same thread ("Sigur Ros - meaning?" "The B.S. above about the band´s religious inclinations is exactly that, B.S." He also noted, "you'll catch a glimpse of some genuine Icelandic kvæðalög (that´s traditional singing to you and me)" on the Heima videos. I wish I knew enough about Icelandic music to recognize that, let alone catch it, but it's more testimony to the complexity of Sigur Rós's music.

"Oh and by the way," Foster added, "they are 4 very nice, ordinary blokes (I´ve met them and drummers Dad is good friend of mine) their down to earthness also comes across in the film."

Not much written about them in the commercial media, but a Google search will turn up some decent advance stories on their tours in Europe and the United States.

Good article -- in French, though but with links to lots of videos: "Quand Sigur Ros joue, les volcans islandais font silence". Agora Vox Nov. 20, 2010. I'll quote and translate (with help from Monsieur Google):

Le plus souvent, la furie semble contenue et l’eau s’écoule en formant de jolis ruisseaux qui serpentent au coeur des vertes pâtures islandaises. On est alors saisi par des ambiances musicales subtiles, éthérées, et par la voix magique de Jonsi (Jon Thor Birgisson). Parfois le feu jaillit et la glace se métamorphose, en forçant les ruisseaux à devenir des fleuves impétueux que rien ne peut arrêter ... / Most often, the fury seems contained and the water flows forming beautiful creeks that meander in the green pasture Icelandic . It is then seized by subtle musical atmospheres , ethereal and magical voice of Jonsi ( Jon Thor Birgisson ) . Sometimes the fire springs and ice metamorphosis , forcing the streams become raging rivers that nothing can stop ...

Friday, January 08, 2016

Allt eins og blómstrið eina -- Icelandic funeral hymn by Hallgrímur Pétursson

Allt eins og blómstrið eina is a traditional Icelandic funeral hymn. Words by Hallgrímur Pétursson, who lived in the 1600s and has a good claim to be Iceland's national religious poet -- at least since saga times -- or, as Wikipedia has it, Iceland's answer to Lutheran chorale composer Paul Gerhardt (bio and bare-bones details atétursson).

Wikipedia has an important note for non-speakers of Icelandic: "This is an Icelandic name. The last name is a patronymic, not a family name; this person is properly referred to by the given name Hallgrímur."

Hallgrím's funeral psalm was appended to his Passion Hymns, or psalms, which are still read on Iceland's state radio during Holy Week.

Beautiful solo arrangement by Ragnheiður Gröndal on the rom the album Þjóðlög

Sung by Kór Langholtskirkju (choir of Langholts church) in Rekjavik

  • Allt eins og blómstrið eina · Kór Langholtskirkju

  • Mín sál, þinn söngur hljómi (Google: Mín sál, þinn söngur hljómi)
  • ℗ 1998 1998 Fálkinn
  • Released on: 2015-11-26
  • Composer: Erlent lag (foreign song)
  • Lyricist: Hallgrímur Pétursson
I can't find sheet music on line, but here's the melody as it appears in Ari Sæmundsen, Leiðarvísir til að spila á langspil (1855; see blog post immediately below on Jan. 5). Sæmundsen's tab is similar to sifferskrift (although, since it uses letters instead of numbers, I guess it would be something like bokstaverskrift in Norwegian. Since the letters reflect the note values of standard notation, I wonder how it would compare to today's ABC notation.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Citation to an 1855 book by Ari Sæmundsen with psalmodikon-style sifferskrift for the Icelandic langspil

Editorial note, September 2016: I can no longer find the the passage quoted below about the 2014 Nordic Harp meeting on line, but there is a discussion of Ari Sæmundsen's book and its possible relation to the psalmodikon on pages 9-10 of Hildur Heimisdóttir's study of the Langspil and Icelandic Fiðla cited below. Her conclusions are properly tentative for a graduate conservatory student, but I think she's right that the psalmodikon "almost certain[ly]" influenced Ari Sæmundsen's notation for the langspil.

I'd been more-or-less aware of this already, but it fairly jumped off the page at me this afternoon ...

It was in the description of a breakout session at the Nordic Harp Meeting in 2014 on the langspil and fiðla by Icelandic folk musicians Bára Grímsdóttir and Chris Foster:

One part will be to look at the book ‘Leiðarvisur til að spila langspil og til að læra sálmalög’, published by Ari Sæmundsen in 1855 and try out playing some of the hymns from the charts in the book. This book was really an Icelandic version of the psalmodicon idea. It is also, as far as we know, the only book ever published about and for the use of the langspil. Albeit, the instrument was already on its way out at that point. The book is digitised on google books and people can look at it here.)

The other thing Chris would like to do is to get together a group of langaleik, hummel, langspil etc. related instrument players (and anyone else who is interested) to see what we all do and to share information, ideas and so on to see how our instruments connect with each other, or not. Chris will bring powerpoint slides with info about langspil and fiðla to feed into the discussion, but it is very much intended to be just that, a discussion with our instruments.

The Nordic Harp Meeting is "an annual gathering of people who play, build or simply like the harp, lyre, kantele, langeleik, hummel and related string instruments in the Nordic countries. We meet to get acquainted with each other, learn and teach tunes and play music together" ( Bára Grímsdóttir and Chris Foster, of Rekjavik, have a duo called FUNI that does vocals and "accompaniments using the traditional Icelandic langspil and fiðla, guitar, kantele and hammered dulcimer as well as singing in the old two part harmony style called tvísöng."

(In the for-what-it's-worth department, I'm pretty sure they were at Common Ground on the Hill in 2013 and I bought one of their CDs. I'll have to look for it in the basement.)

Heres's that book:

Puer natus in Betlehem in tab:

Please see also tab for Allt eins og blómstrið eina in post above on Jan. 8.

Hildur Heimisdóttir has this:

In the year 1855, Ari Sæmundsen published the treatise Leiðarvísir til að spila á langspil, or A manual to learn to play the langspil, in Akureyri, the principal town of North Iceland. It is not only the first book ever that had the purpose of teaching langspil playing to beginners, but also the very first music teaching material ever published in Iceland. The work may have been influenced by the development of the instrument Psalmodikon. (I think it is almost certain that it was) The psalmodikon was invented be J. W. Bruun in Copenhagen the year 1823, but the prototype for that instrument was the medieval monochord. Psalmodikon became very popular in Scandinavia, especially in Norway and Sweden, and was mostly used for singing in the church and at schools. The psalmodikon was developed and spread specifically to teach people the tunes in a new hymn book that was published in Sweden in the early 19th century. Scandinavian musicians wrote teaching material to help the public to learn to play the psalmodikon and these books may have inspired Ari Sæmundsen to write his extended treatise on the langspil. Ari’s work provides specific information about the fret design of the instrument and how to tune it in different ways, and acceptable bow technique. He also gives the reader ground knowledge in music theory.

Ari Sæmundsen’s book quite possibly made a big impact on the preservation of the tradition of the langspil, since very precise guidance to how to build a langspil appeared in the book as well. Many people tried to use it to build their own instruments. However, the drawing of the fingerboard was not printed correctly and the frets were not completely in the right places according to the book. When people used the guidance to build a langspil of their own, the results would be an instrument that was quite out of tune. In the north of Iceland, two men in the north of Iceland, Benedikt Jónsson and Sigtryggur Helgason, found a solution to that problem by building a portable fingerboard for other people to use in order to correct their own langspils.

Hildur Heimisdóttir, Langspil and Icelandic Fiðla: The history, construction and function of the two Icelandic folk-instruments. Candidate studies in the violoncello, 2012. Det Jyske Musikkonservatorium, Aarhus,

Worship set, contemporary service, Atonement-Faith-Luther Memorial, Epiphany I, Jan. __


This weekend we celebrate Epiphany. Scripture is Matthew 2:1-12 (story of the wise men). We are going to focus the worship set on giving the gift of ourselves, our worship to Jesus, the King. Here is the plan:

Opening/Gathering - [...]

We Fall Down --

Lord I Give You My Heart -- -- or --

There is None Like You --

Special Music (around scripture reading): One King (Michele, Jamie, Jessica - hopefully trio)

Sending: He Is Exalted

Friday, January 01, 2016

"Parting Glass" -- an old Irish song to usher in the new year (with a hat tip to an old dulcimer buddy who's now in Arizona)

As luck would have it, the first piece of music I heard this year was one of my favorites. It's called "The Parting Glass," and it dates back at least to the 1700s. It has both Scottish and Irish antecedents. It's known today chiefly as a trad Irish song, first popularized in 1959 by Tommy Makem and the Clancy Brothers, but according to the fountainhead of all useful knowledge at Wikipedia, it was said to be the most popular song of farewell in Scotland before Robert Burns wrote "Auld Lang Syne."

Which no doubt has something to do with how I came to be hearing it the first thing in the morning on New Year's Day.

[*If you're interested in knowing more about the tune, see FOOTNOTE below.]

In Irish music circles, it's associated with partings, from wakes and funerals to closing time at pub sessions, with its lovely refrain,

So fill to me the parting glass
Good night and joy be with you all.

The same events and transitions, in other words, as "Auld Lang Syne." So yesterday evening on New Year's Eve, my old dulcimer-playing buddy Ryan Reeves posted a very fine arrangement by the High Kings to his Facebook feed. You can link to it here or watch this stunning a cappella arrangement by the UCD Choral Scholars of University College Dublin:

Ryan was an adjunct English instructor at Springfield College in Illinois before it got absorbed into Benedictine, and he played with the old Prairieland Dulcimer Strings when his schedule permitted (he was an adjunct teaching night classes, so his schedule didn't permit very often), but he bought one of Steve Endsley's dulcimers and got to be quite good at it. He moved on to greener pastures in Arizona several years ago.

(Tangent: There's something about that phrase "greener pastures in Arizona" that makes me wonder if I ought to find another cliche. But there's something in my sense of irony that enjoys this one very well, thank you. At least the high Sonoran desert country doesn't have a governor hell-bent on shakin' it up these days.)

Anyway, when I saw Ryan's link from New Year's Eve, opened it and played it, I sent him this one in reply. It's amateur footage from Liam Clancy's funeral in Co. Waterford in 1969, and I get a lump in my throat every time I hear it (which is fairly often, because I love the music -- they also sing a verse of "Wild Mountain Thyme" at graveside):

Which got me to thinking -- why don't we play this at the latest reincarnation of the Prairieland dulcimer group? We have two sessions coming up this week:

  • At Clayville Stagecoach Stop Historic Site, Ill. 125, Pleasant Plains, Saturday (tomorrow), 10 a.m. to noon.

  • Our "first Tuesday" session in the narthex (lobby) at Atonement-Faith-Luther Memorial Church, 2800 W. Jefferson, Tuesday, 7 to 9 p.m.

Plus I found dulcimer tab in what seems like a reasonable key for singing.

Dave Holeton has it in B minor -- which is a variation on "D for dulcimer" since Bm is the relative minor for the key of D -- at in the Everything Dulcimer website's tab collection. His tab is for an instrument tuned to DAD, which is most often used to play tunes in Dmaj, but from looking at the notes on the page (OK, OK, the notes on the computer screen), I think it should work out all right. If you get some funky discords, just flat-pick the melody note.

And, just to prove you never know what you're going to find in Wikipedia, I just learned that the melody got into the American shape-note tradition, by way of William Walker's Southern Harmony.

Stands to reason. So many of Walker's folk hymns were in an Anglo-Celtic oral tradition (for lack of a better word for it) that came to American with the Scots-Irish immigrants of the 1700s. It's in the Sacred Harp, too, where it's known as No. 42 CLAMANDA. In the Sacred Harp tradition, the tempo and dynamics are very different to what we know from trad Irish music. Here's a video of CLAMANDA being sung at the First Ireland Sacred Harp Convention, held in 2011 at University College Cork:


* A FOOTNOTE (really): Everything you've ever wanted to know about the song is available on line in Jürgen Kloss, "Some Notes On The History Of 'The Parting Glass'." 30 March 2012. ....Just Another Tune: Songs & Their History.