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Journal 4

WELCOME TO THE CHOIR RESOURCE. You can download the choir anthems presented here from the Download Menu. If you wish to play the anthems online, just go to the Playlist Menu. Tip: You can open up several web tabs, one on this page, the other at the Playlist, and another at the Download page, so that you can cross-reference the anthems to the write-up here as well as the lyrics, at the same time. 

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You are Mine 
From Noel Ong: 'You are Mine' is one of the most beautiful contemporary Catholic liturgical music pieces created by Michigan-born composer, David R. Haas. Current director of the Emmaus Centre for Music, Prayer and Ministry, David Haas set the scriptural texts of  Psalm 46: 10  Isaiah 43:1  and  John 14:27  to music, exhorting all to rest in God - our abiding hope, light, strength and peace. These heartfelt words has resonated with many listeners around the world, and Mark Hayes, the choral arranger, has sensitively set the text and music so that it reiterates the main message: 'YOU are MINE'; immensely calming and profoundly reassuring.

It is Well with My Soul 
From Noel Ong: People unfamiliar with this hymn, 'It is WELL with my SOUL' would have thought the author, Horatio G. Spafford, wrote the lyrics during a happy occasion of his life. Instead, these enlightening words, 'when sorrows like sea billows roll...it is well with my soul' were written when Spafford plunged to his emotional lowest, having suffered unimaginable personal tragedy to his life and business. The year 1870 marked the start of the time of his life when things could not have gotten any worse: first, his 4-year old son was killed by scarlet fever; thereafter, his real estate holdings were destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire. As if this could not be more terrible, his four daughters save his wife perished when the steamer, 'Ville de Havre' sunk as it crossed the Atlantic. Upon hearing the terrible news, Spafford boarded the next ship to join his bereaved wife. On this journey, he penned the lyrics of his great hymn, drawing inspiration from  2 Kings 4:26  where though the Shunamite women's soul was vexed within, she still maintains that 'It is well'. Indeed, Spafford's song reveals a man whose trust in the Lord is as unwavering as hers was. This great hymn has been set to a new and riveting arrangement with piano and organ accompaniment by Mark Hayes that has a quietly reflective a cappella middle section. 

Thy Will Be Done 
From Noel Ong: Using the scriptural text of  Matthew 26: 36-42  as the overarching theme depicting the emotional upheavals experienced by Jesus at the Garden of Gethsemane, 'Thy Will be Done' is a stirring choral piece, written by esteemed American choral composer, Craig Courtney, during his time as choir director at the Salzburg International Baptist Church in the 1980s. In a dramatic opening with equally vivid imagery: 'Our cup was filled with darkness. Our cup was filled with death. Christ took our cup and drank it, and gave us life, and gave us hope, gave us Himself', the composer sets the mood for the choral work that mirrors the emotional agony that Jesus went through as he struggled to align his emotions and will in whole-hearted and unflinching obedience to God's will for him as the sacrificial lamb and Redeemer for the sins of the world. Indeed, may this message of 'Thy Will Be Done' resonate in our daily meditation of the significant sacrifice of Christ, especially so in this lead-up to Easter.

Lord, Here Am I 
John Ness Beck was a composer and arranger of choral music who died in 1987. He was best known for his work in sacred music. In this particular piece, he set his majestic tune to the absorbing words of Fanny Crosby, a blind poet who dictated these lyrics in 1877. Fanny has written some 9,000 hymns at the turn of the last century, many of which are still unpublished in standard hymnody today. 'Lord, Here am I' was one of the lesser known text which has that profound power of captivity. It reminds us of our responsibility to respond in obedience to commitment and ministry, whenever the God who loves us, calls us to serve. There are many examples in scripture when God's servants have heard His call and utter these same words of 'Here am I' (Abraham, Moses, Isaiah and Mary, for instance). What if we hear God's call ourselves? Do we have the faith and courage to say 'Here am I, I am Yours'?

Laura Story is one of the most gifted Christian music artists today. In this wonderfully tender composition, Laura asks these poignant questions when life becomes hard: 'What if your blessings come through raindrops? What if your healing comes through tears?' Laura revealed that the inspiration of this song came when her husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and questioned 'Why didn't you just fix it, God? You're all powerful and all loving... just fix it.' She would later realized that spending time with her husband was what God wanted of her as that would make her happy and a better person. Her modern ballad has indeed touched the hearts of millions who have shared similar experiences and in 2012, the song would win her the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Christian Music Song. Heather Sorenson kept the arrangement simple, thoughtful and respectful that allowed the beautifully crafted lyrics to speak to us as an anthem of hope and assurance, It is a true lesson about God's blessings in disguise. I hope we will get to sing it one day. 

On Eagle's Wings 
'On Eagles' Wings' is a powerfully moving 'prayer of passage' composed by Father Michael Joncas, a Roman Catholic priest, in 1979 after Vatican Council II, when the Roman Catholic Church began using vernacular hymns at Mass. Loosely based on  Psalm 91  and  Isaiah 40:31 , it lovingly speaks of God as our deliverer and protector - our source of safety. While the title of this devotional song suggests that the wings belong to a single eagle which is metaphorically our God, Father Joncas said that he could also make an argument for 'On Eagles' Wings,' indicating wings that belong to many eagles, for many wings are needed to lift up the multitude of people in covenant with God. This choral interpretation was beautifully put together by Mark Hayes.

My Eyes Have Seen the Child 
This emotionally rich piece is also taken from the Christmas cantata, Heaven's Child, by Pepper Choplin. It recounts the advent joy of Simeon, an old priest, longing to see heaven's Child before his time of earth is done.'Could this be the day that I can lay my eyes on the redeemer of Israel?' he wondered as he waited and eyed all who passes through the gates of worship. And as a couple carrying their newborn approached, his old heart was suddenly fueled with a surge of youthful warmth as the Spirit revealed to him that the Child is the holy One. With the vigour of a younger man, he quickly hopped up to meet them. A smile creased his weathered skin while his eyes beamed with joy and relief as he welcomed them with his praises and blessings. Indeed, he has seen the Child and now, he can go in peace. This anthem also featured a verse from the Christmas carol 'Hark! The Herald Angels Sing'. 

How Great is our God 
According to TIME magazine, over 40 million people sing the songs of Chris Tomlin each week, suggesting he is likely the most often sung Christian artist in the world. And 'How Great is our God' won the coveted 'Worship Song of the Year' twice (in 2006 and 2008) at the GMA Dove Awards. Indeed, church congregations worldwide feel a connection with the lyrics and music Chris writes. Strangely enough though, the history of 'How Great is our God' has quite a humble beginning. In one of his interviews, Chris revealed that the song started with that simple repetitive chorus as a declaration of the greatness of our sovereign Lord, one which we could all sing tirelessly. The melodic verses and uplifting bridge were only introduced later at the insistence of a friend. Jack Schrader aptly completed this arrangement by adding the chorus of the traditional hymn 'How Great Thou Art'. 

Join the Music of the Angels 
From Noel Ong: 'Join the Music of the Angels' is the finale piece of the Christmas cantata, Heaven's Child, written by Pepper Choplin. Adapting familiar components of the Christmas story like the visitations of the angels and the poignant truth experienced by Simeon (see Luke 2:28-32  ), this song exhorts one and all to respond with shouts of joy and jubilation as we hear the stirring message of the angels. Indeed, as each of us have seen the truth of the Child, let us rise up to join heaven's angels to celebrate Christ the Lord, our Saviour and Redeemer! 

Adoration Medley 
This is one of the anthems that we will be singing for this year's Music Sunday. It is a beautiful coupling of Theodore Dubois's 'Christ, We Do All Adore Thee' and the familiar inspirational song 'Glorify Thy Name'. Theodore Dubois's oratorio was written in 1867 and is actually the final movement from  Les sept paroles du Christ  ('The Seven Last Words of Christ'). The a cappella setting of the introduction sets a tone of reverence and draws upon the choral tradition of our past. On the other hand, 'Glorify Thy Name' is a classic of its own in the praise and worship genre. Old and new are joined by the common theme of adoration to God. Building in excitement and grandeur, Adoration Medley then ends with a quiet moment of intimacy. 

Here I Am, Lord 
'Here I Am. Lord', initially known as 'I, the lord of sea and sky,' is a well known composition written by Dan Schutte in 1981 after Vatican Council II. Its words are based on  Isaiah 6:8 and  1 Samuel 3 . Lloyd Larson puts an emotive and personal feel to it in this arrangement. Despite its Catholic origins, Schutte's hymn is often sung in many Protestant worship services as well, particularly services that are contemporary rather than traditional in structure and format. In 2004, a survey conducted by The Tablet, an international Catholic magazine, reported Dan Schutte's hymn, 'Here I Am, Lord' as its reader's favourite. Another interesting poll conducted by the National Association of Pastoral Musicians found among members, the same Schutte's hymn came in second among 'songs that make a difference'. No wonder it is often adopted as the clarion call of many missions-oriented organizations, including our very own Methodist Missions Society. 

We Sing the Glory of God 
Why do we sing? Well,  Psalm 66:2  asks us to 'sing the glory of his name; make his praise glorious!' For when we sing the glory of God and His Name, we declare and reflect on who He is, what He has done, and what He will do. God wants us to sing of His glory because He is like no other. Indeed, the heavens also resound with the glory of God, declaring His majesty... and so does this exuberant anthem of praise, so joyfully and energetically crafted by Patti Drennan and J Paul Williams. So, let us celebrate God and His glory again and again with the same enthusiasm and reverberation!

Speak, O Lord 
One of the highlights of this year's Aldersgate Service was the performance of 'Speak, O Lord' by the Wesley Methodist Church Choir. It is such a touching and impactful anthem that I hope our choir will have the opportunity to sing it too. The quality of the melody and lyrics of this hymn can be attributed to the collaborative work of the British trio - Keith & Kristyn Getty and Stuart Townend - the great song-writing geniuses of blended worship today. Lloyd Larson added a particularly poignant and sensitive arrangement to this piece. Filled with rich imagery and meaningful lyrics about our salvation through Jesus Christ, this song reminds us of the power of God's holy Word as it changes and affects our lives. 

Banquet of Love 

This beautiful anthem, written for Holy Communion by John Parker and Lloyd Larson, is a gentle reminder of God's love for us. It reminded me of King Solomon's reflection in  Sg 2:4'   He brought me to his banquet hall, and raised the banner of love over me.' How often has He welcome us to His fabulous banquet hall, complete with every good thing imaginable - joy, hope, forgiveness, healing, peace and love. God has already paid the price of the feast despite our unworthy and ungrateful nature. The banquet invitation may seem frivolusly free to us but remember it costs God His Son. May we reflect on these at every Holy Communion.

Uncreated One 
This wonderful song by Chris Tomlin and JD Walt, beautifully arranged by Tom Fettke, has such a strange title. But as we listen and read more into the song, it would probably dawn upon some of us that we may not have fully acknowledged God for who He is. How often have we limit our understanding of God rather parochially as only the 'Creator God', and not the 'Uncreated One'. Thankfully, there are many passages in the bible (e.g. creation account in  Genesis Psalm 90:2 John 1:1 Hebews 13:8 , etc) that alluded to the omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience, infinity and eternity of our trinitarian God. God cannot be created for He stands outside of all that He has created, including time, matter and space. It's such an unfathomable mystery and yet a fundamental truth.

He is Jesus 
Another masterpiece anthem by one of my favourite composers, Cindy Berry. This time, it is a lovely emotive piece that extols our Saviour Lord. The song brings us from a reflective realization of what Christ has done for us on the cross, to our heartfelt response of praise unto the Holy One, and finally to an elevated glorious worship and recognition of Jesus as our Lord. It is indeed an appropriate anthem for Eastertide.

Mary, Did You Know?
During this season of Lent as I was reflecting on Jesus on the cross, I wondered what it would mean to Mary, the mother of our Lord. After all, she did conceive Him, brought Him up, saw Him suffered and died in the most humiliating way. The passion of Christ would have caused her tremendous grief and pain. And then there's that helpless sense of loss any loving mother would feel when her precious child is laid to rest. This poignant choral anthem, so wonderfully written by Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene, and arranged by Tom Fettke, asked these searching questions on whether Mary really knew that her son was also the Son of God, the Lord and Saviour of mankind, who is the Great I Am. What do you think? Luke 1:30 gives us a clue...

Thank You for the Valleys
From Noel Ong: Someone once said: '...the darkest time is just before the light breaks through. But even if light never comes, the darkest night travelled with God is brighter than the most brilliant day travelled alone.' This exact sentiment is so exquisitely reiterated by Cindy Woods Berry, Houston-born Christian composer and arranger of sacred choral anthems, in her choral work, 'Thank You for the Valleys'. Drawn from her personal experiences when she encountered various 'valleys' in her life, Cindy paints a picture of faith and hope in God that even in the midst of our weary trials and tribulations, we should trust God that HE is sovereign above all though we may be doubting and lacking in faith. Let us be encouraged that even when thrust with life's darkest moments where there is no longer even a glimmer of hope, we can rest assured that God is not only steadying us when our legs feel weak but He also holds us up for 'the eternal God is our refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms'. ( Deuteronomy 33: 27 )

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