March 30, 2023

If you are like me, you can’t wait for Lent to end. Whether you gave up coffee, chocolate, alcohol – or even if you didn’t  – Lent can be a real slog.  The lectionary gives us prayers and psalms that constantly remind us of our sin. Our churches usually (or, in my opinion, ought to!) feature music that doesn’t shy away from the darkness of the season. There’s nary a trumpet in sight – and you can forget about alleluias!... Read more

March 12, 2023

“Preach the Gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.” This famous phrase is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi. Although there’s no proof the quote originated with him, its enduring legacy attests to its provocative power. Some have embraced it. They agree with the sentiment at its core: that true witness to our faith comes principally from our actions. Many others have challenged it. For some, the idea of focusing on actions can keep us from learning how to... Read more

June 2, 2022

Ruach is a new composition that dramatizes the sudden, chaotic, and shocking moment when the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples on Pentecost. Composed in 2018 and revised in 2022, Ruach is a sacred concert work that is inspired – figuratively and literally – by this mysterious yet earth-shattering event: When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole... Read more

April 5, 2022

Guest post by Rev. Jonathan Evens.     For over 50 years, pop musicians in all genres have explored the meaning and significance of Jesus in their music. The result is a rich collection of songs that consider important spiritual questions like faith, doubt, and prayer in unique and often provocative ways. Delvyn Case and I have recently been in conversation in a short series for HeartEdge to try to mine this rich resource to share rock and pop music for... Read more

December 17, 2021

There’s a Christmas song that makes me really uncomfortable. It makes me think about things I’d rather not – especially this time of year. And as a Christian, it makes me feel ashamed. No – it’s not “Baby it’s Cold Outside” – though that song has always been problematic. It’s not Santa Baby, with its creepy sexualization of old Kris Kringle. It’s not even Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers’ “I Believe in Santa Claus”, which – while starting out promisingly... Read more

August 10, 2021

Sam Cooke’s “Touch the Hem of His Garment” retells a famous Bible story – but with one significant omission. That’s why it’s so powerful. This classic 1956 song appears on a recording by the Soul Stirrers. Written several years before he “crossed over” to secular pop music, releasing romantic classics like “You Send Me” and “Wonderful World”, this great song is much more than just a musical version of a familiar story. Listen to the song here. Here is the... Read more

March 31, 2021

Sometimes words are not enough – especially when we contemplate the great mysteries of our faith, like Christ’s crucifixion. That’s when we need music. As we commemorate Good Friday, I offer my choral work Tenebrae factae sunt.  It is a dark and dissonant musical setting of some Jesus’s final words from the cross. It’s not an easy piece to listen to. But then again, its words are not either. Last year I wrote about this piece in an article for... Read more

March 9, 2021

A full-voiced choir. Trumpets, cymbals, and drums. THIS is the kind of music best suited for the Almighty King. Except…is it? Psalm 19 begins: The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the wonders of his work display the firmament. The most famous musical setting of these lines appears in Franz Josef Haydn’s oratorio “The Creation” from 1798.  It’s a blazing and glorious piece that has become a standard church anthem: Take a listen:   The Bible often describes... Read more

December 18, 2020

Hark! These bells bring peace and joy – but something else as well. They call us to contemplate the Incarnation. The “Carol of the Bells” is a song you definitely know, even though you might not know its name.  Written by the Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovych in 1914 and given lyrics by Peter J. Wilhousky, it is a remarkable composition. (It also has an extraordinary backstory, including a political assassination…) Unlike most joyous songs of the season, it is in a minor... Read more

December 10, 2020

Join me on a musical exploration of Mary’s great song of praise. It might just change your view of this extraordinary poem. The “Magnificat” is the name given to the poem we find in Luke 1:46-55.(“Magnificat” is simply the Latin translation of the beginning of the first line.) It is Mary’s response, spoken when she visits her cousin Elizabeth, to the news she has received from Gabriel: that she would bear the Son of God. The Magnificat is a traditional... Read more

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