Friday, December 26, 2014

Thought for The Second Day of Christmas

Advent has concluded and we are now into Christmastide. Be sure to follow me on Twitter over the next ten days as I will post a thought there for each of the Twelve Days of Christmas.

Salvation is Created
Setting of a Russian text by Pavel Chesnokov (1912)

Performed by the Dale Warland Singers

"Salvation is created in the midst of the earth, O God. Alleluia."

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Musical Advent Calendar 2014, Day 25

Thursday, December 25 (Christmas Day)

In the First Light
Words and Music by Bob Kauflin (1988)

Performed by GLAD

"How much greater will our song be when he comes to rule the Earth!"

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Musical Advent Calendar 2014, Day 24

Wednesday, December 24 (Christmas Eve)

O Magnum Mysterium
Text from the Matins for Christmas
Music by Morton Lauridsen (1998)

Performed by the Choir of King's College, Cambridge

O magnum mysterium
Et admirabile sacrementum
Ut animalia viderent Dominum natum
Jacentem in praesepio
Beata Virgo cujus viscera
Meruerunt portare
Dominum Christum

O great mystery
And wonderful sacrament
That animals should see the newborn Lord
Lying in a manger
Blessed is the Virgin whose womb
Was worthy to bear
Christ the Lord

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Musical Advent Calendar 2014, Day 23

Tuesday, December 23
My apologies for those of you who already saw the originally scheduled post for today that contained a YouTube video removed since I scheduled the post last month.

O Holy Night
Text by John S. Dwight (nineteenth century)
Music by Adolphe C. Adam (nineteenth century)

Performed by Carrie Underwood

"His law is love and his gospel is peace."

Monday, December 22, 2014

Musical Advent Calendar 2014, Day 22

Monday, December 22

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence
Text from the Liturgy of St. James (fourth century), adapted by Gerard Moultrie (1864)
Music a traditional French melody (seventeenth century)

Performed by Cynthia Clawson

"Christ our God to earth descendeth, our full homage to demand."


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Musical Advent Calendar 2014, Day 21

Sunday, December 21 (The Fourth Sunday of Advent)

Of the Father's Love Begotten
Text by Marcus Aurelius C. Prudentius (fourth century), translated by John M. Neale (1854) and Henry W. Baker (1859)
Music is thirteenth century plainsong, arranged by C. Winfred Douglas (1916)

Performed by the Sons of Orpheus

"O ye heights of heaven, adore him."

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Musical Advent Calendar 2014, Day 20

Saturday, December 20

Good Christian Men, Rejoice
Text (Latin) by Heinrich Suso, translated to English by John M. Neale (1853)
Music is a fourteenth century German melody

Performed by the Royal College of Music Chamber Choir

"He has opened the heavenly door"

Friday, December 19, 2014

Musical Advent Calendar 2014, Day 19

Friday, December 19

He Is Born
Traditional French carol, translated to English by George K. Evans (1963)
Setting my Dan Forrest

"Now the time has come at last"

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Musical Advent Calendar 2014, Day 18

Thursday, December 18

For Unto Us A Child Is Born
Text from Isaiah 9:6
Music by G. F. Handel (1741)

Performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus

"And his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor"

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Musical Advent Calendar 2014, Day 17

Wednesday, December 17

We Three Kings
Text and Music by John Henry Hopkins, Jr.

Performed by the Celtic Women

"Glorious now behold him arise"

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Musical Advent Calendar 2014, Day 16

Tuesday, December 16

Joy to the World
Text by Isaac Watts (1719)
Music by Lowell Mason (1839), based on a melody by G. F. Handel

Performed by Faith Hill

Monday, December 15, 2014

Musical Advent Calendar 2014, Day 15

Monday, December 15

The First Noel
Text and Music attributed to William Sandys and David Gilbert (1823 or 1833)
This setting by R. Christopher Teichler

"Then let us all with one accord sing praises to our heavenly Lord."

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Musical Advent Calendar 2014, Day 14

Sunday, December 14 (The Third Sunday of Advent)

Joy Has Dawned
Words and Music by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend (2004)

Performed by Keith and Kristyn Getty

"God's salvation now unfurled, hope for every nation."

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Musical Advent Calendar 2014, Day 13

Saturday, December 13

O Come, All Ye Faithful
Text by John F. Wade (Latin, 1743), translated into English by Frederick Oakley and William T. Brooke
Music is the hymn tune ADESTE FIDELIS

Performed by Celine Dion

"Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing"

Friday, December 12, 2014

Musical Advent Calendar 2014, Day 12

Friday, December 12

Ding, Dong, Merrily On High
Text by George Woodward (1924)
Music from an unknown pre-sixteenth century source

Performed by Jackie Evancho

"In heaven the bells are ringing."

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Musical Advent Calendar 2014, Day 11

Thursday, December 11

Once in Royal David's City
Text by Cecil F. Alexander (1848)
Music is the hymn tune IRBY by Henry J. Gauntlett (1849)

Performed by the Westminster Cathedral Choir

"And our eyes at last shall see him through his own redeeming love."

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Musical Advent Calendar 2014, Day 10

Wednesday, December 10

Angels from the Realms of Glory
Text by James Montgomery (1816)
Music is the hymn tune REGENT SQUARE

Performed by the Church of God of Edmonton Youth Choir

"God with man is now residing"

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Musical Advent Calendar 2014, Day 9

Tuesday, December 9

Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming
English translation of German text by Theodore Baker (1894)Music by Michael Praetorius (1609)

Performed by Renee Fleming and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

"True man, yet very God, from sin and death now save us."

Monday, December 8, 2014

Musical Advent Calendar 2014, Day 8

Monday, December 8

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
Text by Charles Wesley (1739)
Music by Felix Mendelssohn (1840) and William H. Cummings (1856)

Performed by Chris Tomlin

"Joyful, all ye nations, rise, join the triumph of the skies"

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Musical Advent Calendar 2014, Day 7

Sunday, December 7 (The Second Sunday of Advent)

Jesus Christ the Apple Tree
Text from the eighteenth century (author unknown)
Music by Elizabeth Poston

Performed by the Choir of St. John's College, Cambridge

"The trees of nature fruitless be compared with Christ the apple tree."

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Musical Advent Calendar 2014, Day 6

Saturday, December 6

Wake, Awake, for Night is Flying
Original German text and music by Philpp Nicolai (1598), translated by Catherine Winkworth

Performed by the Wartburg Choir

"O come, you Blessed One, Lord Jesus, God's own Son."

Friday, December 5, 2014

Musical Advent Calendar 2014, Day 5

Friday, December 5

Who Is He?
Text and Music by Benjamin R. Hanby (1866)

Performed by the Brigham Young University Men's Choir

"Who is he who from the grave comes to heal and help and save?"

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Musical Advent Calendar 2014, Day 4

Thursday, December 4

What Child Is This?
Text by William C. Dix (1865)
Music is the hymn tune GREENSLEEVES, a sixteenth century English melody

Performed by Josh Groban

"Joy, joy, for Christ is born"

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Musical Advent Calendar 2014, Day 3

Wednesday, December 3

O Little Town of Bethlehem
Text by Phillips Brooks (1868)
Music by Lewis H. Redner (1868)

Performed by Frank Sinatra

"O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel."

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Musical Advent Calendar 2014, Day 2

Tuesday, December 2

Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus
Text by Charles Wesley (1744)
Music (the hymn tune HYFRODOL) by Rowland Prichard (1830)

Performed by Fernando Ortega

"Born to reign is us forever, now thy gracious kingdom bring."

Monday, December 1, 2014

Musical Advent Calendar 2014, Day 1

Monday, December 1

O Come, O Come Emmanuel
Text is a twelfth century Latin hymn, translated into English by John Neale (1851)
Music is the fifteenth century hymn tune VENI VENI EMANUEL

Performed by Barlow Girl

"Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel."

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Resources for Advent

Today, Sunday, is the First Sunday of Advent. It is the beginning of the liturgical year and the beginning of the season of preparing for Christmas, the celebration of the Incarnation. It is and always has been my favorite time of year, originally, when I was a small child, because of the fun and presents, and still now that I have the (if I may be so bold) intellectual and spiritual maturity to appreciate the significance of the season to redemptive history. But enough about me, and more about Jesus!

I would like to highlight two devotional resources for this Advent season.

The first is a new devotional by Ray Pritchard (my former senior pastor), Why He Came. You can get the ebook for FREE on Amazon today through Thursday (after that it will cost $2.99). Ray's seasonal devotionals (he usually writes one for both Advent and Lent each year) are always good; I highly recommend you download a copy for yourself!

The second is the fourth edition of my Musical Advent Calendar. I started this in 2011, my first year out of college, and have been blessed with positive responses from family, friends, and colleagues over the years. A bit about it for those of you unfamiliar: 

Each day from December 1 through December 25, I will have a different Advent- or Christmas-themed song featured here on my blog. The twenty-five selections are a mix of songs from across the centuries and styles, and are performed by an equally wide variety of artists. Each day’s post will be live at 5 AM Central Time. You may visit the blog each day or, to have the posts delivered directly to your email, please subscribe to my blog if you have not already (see the "Follow by Email" feature directly below my picture in the right-hand column). Please feel free to share my calendar with the people you know!

And those are just two of what I am sure are many, many other resources that focus on Christ, the Word become Flesh, in the context of this Advent season. Are there any others you would recommend? Please share in the comments below.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Achieved is the Glorious Work

Last night, the Wheaton College Artist Series presented Haydn's THE CREATION with John Nelson, conductor.

It was easily the most complex production of my young career. According to my boss, Tony Payne, Creation at Wheaton was also the most complex production of his over three decades at Wheaton. After well over half a year of coordinating, discussing, organizing, and re-organizing the details of all that was involved in all the activity leading up to and surrounding last night's concert, I think it is safe to assume that all of my colleagues and I, not to mention all the Wheaton students who were involved, are now breathing a collective sigh of relief. I was actually in a bit of a daze at church this morning, and not just because of the lack of sleep. After months of continuously thinking about this project, with all the details and their multilayered connections, spinning in my head, I woke up this morning with the very liberating feeling of no longer needing to mentally hold it all.

This is not a confession that I almost had a break down or anything like that. Sure, there were moments when I was, as I put it to a friend yesterday, "professionally annoyed." And of course I know I did not do everything perfectly; I certainly hope to learn much from this experience to apply to my future work. But, truthfully, I am also breathing a sigh of satisfaction, and I think that is true for the others as well.

There are so many things I could say about the Creation at Wheaton project. Hearing from music students about the thrill of rehearsals with John Nelson. Seeing a group of high school students engaged in their special workshop. Witnessing the fine work of my student staff, aptly executing every task I assigned to them (I must pause here at say thank you to Matthew James, Anna Krcek, Cathrine Peistrup, and Sameah Villaca). I was also, at the risk of sounding conceited, very gratified to see people use the hashtag #WheatonCreation that I created for the whole project back in February. Needless to say, I have yet to fully process everything (and being still short on sleep as I write this, I will likely not finish doing so today.)

So I will simply offer a few reflections on last night. First, we had a tremendous audience, both in scope as well as in style. Moments like that, when Edman Chapel is alive with energy and excitement, are always special, and last night took it to a new level. Everyone was enjoying the evening.

Second, we had a tremendous group of musicians. Wheaton College is indeed blessed to have such quality student music ensembles. They performed with such passion last night, no doubt driven by the fact that the piece they were performing is a part of their faith. I was in the backstage corridor with the ensemble directors when the students all came back at the conclusion of the performance, and it was so special to see 260 very happy musicians walk past us.

And third, I had the unique experience of having one of my best friends from my days at Wheaton College, my senior year roommate Nathaniel Olson, as one of the featured guest professional soloists!

All told, an experience I will not forget anytime soon. I am so grateful to have been part of it.

And now a couple pictures from last night...

My senior year roommate and one of my best friends from Wheaton, Nathaniel Olson, sang the role of Adam in THE CREATION.

Maestro John Nelson, flanked by the soloists and backed by the Wheaton College choirs and orchestra, greets the audience to begin the concert.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Classical Music Concerts

I read a great piece by Swiss conductor Baldur Brönnimann, "10 Things That We Should Change in Classical Music Concerts." Some of his points I agree with completely, and with others I have reservations. Please read his list (it will not take long) before continuing to read here.

Welcome back!

And now, my responses.

1. The audience should feel free to applaud between movements.

Maybe. Perhaps after the first movement of a concerto, if there was a cadenza involved. Perhaps after each item in a song cycle or series of dances. It can show that the audience is following and affirms the conductor's interpretation of the overall piece as it progresses through the movements. But I think it would be difficult to derive a new standard here. Applaud only after loud, fast movements? Temper your applause to up to fifty percent of what you would give at the very end? What if people start to applaud just as the conductor preps the downbeat to the final movement? I certainly think there's room for a shift from a universal frown, but where to redraw the line is a challenge.

2. Orchestras should tune backstage.

Should they also refrain from meandering out to the stage fifteen or twenty minutes before curtain and quietly (or maybe not so quietly) playing this or that passage from the evening's program? To me, the entrance of the conductor is what signals the true start of the concert; the tuning does not affect my hearing of the actual pieces of music.

3. We should be able to use mobile phones.

People are doing it anyway. Is an orchestra really going to lose money because a few quick photos, even from the new iPhone 6, or even some 15-second Instagram recordings are circulating on the Internet? I would even say orchestras should create hashtags for each program in their season and ask people to tag their posts from the concert accordingly! Appropriate etiquette must be observed, of course: silent mode, and lowest brightness, so as not to disturb people who, in their own discretion, wish to focus solely on the music and musicians, and react later.

4. Programs should be less predictable.

This idea has merit. While it is true that the repertoire is often the selling point, a well-chosen theme, with the exact pieces announced from the stage, can sell well also. Not to mention headliner soloists! Seriously, does it really matter what Yo-Yo Ma is going to play? Yo-You Ma is going to play!

5. You should be able to take your drinks inside the hall.

I will not embarrass her, but I was once at a concert with a friend and no one prevented her from bringing her slushee into the hall after intermission. There was an audible slurp during a quiet moment of a Dvorak Symphony.

As long as straws are not involved, I have exactly zero problem with folks having their coffee or tea or beer or cocktails in the hall. No aluminum cans, though. Very tacky.

6. The artists should engage with the audience.

Absolutely yes. I would love it if conductors would say a few words about how they arrived at the interpretation they are about to present. Do keep it short, though. And not for every piece on the program. And yes to mingling with concertgoers after the concert. Probably not backstage, where stagehands will be at work and dressing rooms will be train stations, but why not in the main lobby?

7. Orchestras shouldn't play in tail suits.

Here I must hold out as a traditionalist. Uniforms are important. I really have no idea what purpose the tall white hat serves in a kitchen, but it is part of the package.

8. Concerts should be more family-friendly.

Yes and no. I firmly believe that every professional performing arts organization should devote part of its time, energy, and resources to programming suitable for children. But on the other hand, some works of art are hard to understand, and take more attention, patience, and critical thinking. Those works are part of the canon, and just because children are unable to understand them, adults should still be able to engage without the children around.

9. Concert halls should use more cutting-edge technology.

There is merit in this idea. Depending on the configuration of the hall, I have no inherent problem with image magnification (though sometimes seeing the full breadth of the orchestra from the highest balcony, with each bow moving in unison, is very much worth being far away). Downloadable content, yes. Digital acoustic enhancements, sure. As long as it all supports the music, rather than creating something that is more artificial than not.

10. Every program should contain a contemporary piece.

Maybe. As long as the inclusion is for the sake of presenting quality music, not for the sake of presenting a contemporary piece. Present the best music from across the ages, rather than meeting quotas. 


What do you think about all those ideas?

Brönnimann himself responded to some of the comments on his original post; his responsive thoughts are worth reading as well.

Friday, October 10, 2014

On Being Present

Yesterday was my twenty-sixth birthday. I had dinner with two friends, and one of them asked me what my goal was for my year of being twenty-six. I thought for a moment and responded, “I want to be more present.”

It seems simple, conceptually, but as most of us alive today know, it is very difficult, practically. I am no exception – I thrive on thinking ahead and planning and all of that. I think as human beings we are naturally drawn to what is ahead of us.

If that tendency manifests itself as hope, then I think we are on solid ground. But if that tendency manifests itself as a way of avoiding the current reality, and not engaging with the needs of the current time and place, then we may be missing the mark.

For example, Advent is approaching – it will be here in seven weeks. Advent is the season that I define as the season of hope. As we in the Christian church reflect on the hope of Israel for its promised Messiah, so we on this side of the Resurrection hope for the promised return of our King. I think Advent has always been my favorite liturgical season precisely because it resonates with my tendency to be forward-thinking, always making a plan and charting out the next steps.

I of course want to be hopeful for things large-scale and small-scale, from the things I have to accomplish on my next day at work, to my relationships with other people, to the long-term flourishing of the institutions I care about, and to my personal growth as a follower of Jesus.

I can overdo it, however – I speak from experience. If I have something I am eagerly anticipating on my calendar, whether in my professional life or my social life, it is sometimes difficult to focus on the mundane of the day to day.

But that “mundane” of the day to day is where Christ calls me to be. Not every day is going to be opening night or Christmas morning or wedding day or get-away day or launch day. But every day is a day when I can see the people around me – my family, my friends, my colleagues, and even the myriad of people I encounter for the merest sliver of time – and invest the mind, body, heart, and soul that God has given me to meet their needs. Every day is a day when I can, to borrow from the prophet Micah, do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with my God. Every day is a day when I can, to borrow from the prophet Jeremiah, seek the welfare of the city where the Lord has sent me into exile. Every day is a day when I can sit at the feet of Jesus, like Mary, and learn how to follow him more closely. Every day is a day when I can proclaim that the Kingdom of God is here – here in the every day, here in the present moment.

There is work – Kingdom work – to be done today, and I want to spend this year of being twenty-six not missing a moment!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

At the Close of Summer

Well here we are - Labor Day Weekend. Pumpkin Spice Lattes are back on the menu at Starbucks. Fall is upon us, and the summer is drawing to an end. 

I have decided that this was a good summer, both personally and professionally. First, professionally: 

We had a transition in the worship and music ministry at Calvary Memorial Church. Under the leadership of our interim worship pastor, Dan Svendsen, we have continued the passionate, enthusiastic, congregation-driven, God-oriented corporate worship that has become our hallmark at Calvary. Sanctuary Choir rehearsals begin this coming Wednesday, and the Chamber Orchestra will begin an active fall schedule soon after. 

At the Wheaton College Artist Series, we had a series of successful community outreach and promotional events throughout the summer months, from visits to retirement communities, presence at events in downtown Wheaton, to the Fourth of July Parade. We also worked hard on pre-production for our nine - nine! - concert events in the coming year. I hope all my readers in the area will take advantage of our diverse offerings. 

The summer was also a very refreshing time for my personally. I attended four different performances at the Grant Park Music Festival (though I wish it had been more!). I spent a lot of time with my small group and the broader young adult community at church - porch parties, music in the city, a Cubs game, and helping one friend move a piano. I attended the weddings of two good friends from college - one here in Chicago and the other in Kansas City, giving me the opportunity to visit the city for the first time (please read my detailed recap of that trip). Just a few weekends ago, another good friend from college who I had not seen in over two years was in town for a convention and took a night off to enjoy Chicago with me. 

All in all, a satisfying summer. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!  

And now I turn to all I have this fall - many, many things I am eagerly anticipating. As I said, we are about to begin our fall schedule at church, and the school year has begun at Wheaton College as well - this first week was an exhausting one, but a lot of good happened, including a great address on hope in times of doubt and discouragement by President Ryken at convocation on Wednesday. I hope to keep you updated here on all that develops in the months ahead!

Friday, August 22, 2014

My Writing Career

Needless to say to my blog readers, I consider myself a freelance writer. Most of my work is limited to this blog itself, but I have had a few pieces published elsewhere online. Just yesterday published an article I wrote, "Choosing Songs for Corporate Worship."

You can see my full bibliography of published pieces via the the menu above (or here if you are reading this through an aggregator). It is short at this point, but I already have another piece in the pipeline and I hope many more to come!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Kansas City Vacation

This past weekend I took a brief vacation to Kansas City. The main event was the wedding of a good friend from college, Jon Young, but I also had the opportunity to visit family and explore a bit of Kansas City, a place I had not visited before.

I arrived by air on Friday, early afternoon, and without trouble claimed by bag, picked up a rental car, and checked into my hotel. It was hot in Kansas City (ninety-seven degrees!) and humid too! 

A short while later, I drove to nearby Leavenworth, Kansas, where my cousin Greg, his wife Melissa, and their thirteen-month-old daughter, Ava, make their home. Leavenworth is where they make their new home, I should add – they just moved there three weeks ago. Melissa gave me the tour of their house, a comfortable two-bedroom on a quiet street, and then Greg and Ava returned from a grocery store run.

Ava and Greg
I helped Greg distract Ava (out in the backyard, see the picture) while Melissa finished dinner, and then we all sat down to eat chicken tacos from the crockpot. I enjoyed the chance to see them all for a few hours and hear about their settling into their new home. I headed back to my hotel for the evening, taking a few minutes to visit the hotel pool before turning in for the night.

The following day was the wedding day, but not until four, so I took the morning to explore Kansas City. As I was staying at one of the official wedding hotels, I had been given on arrival a gift bag from Jon and Natalie (his bride) containing a few snacks and a welcome letter indicating some of their favorite tourist spots and restaurants in the area. As I said above, this was my first visit to Kansas City, so I took advantage of their suggestions.

My first stop was Loose Park, a large urban park with extensive gardens and walking paths. My only exercise in the last forty-eight hours had been a few laps in the pool, so I took a stroll on one of those paths, circling the park’s perimeter. The path led me past a few Civil War-era markers (Kansas City being an active location during that conflict).

Jacob Loose, the park's namesake
A view of Loose Park paths and some Civil War markers

Lunch was at a burger place in the Westport area of Kansas City, also recommended by the bride and groom, and then I headed to the one place in Kansas City of which I had previous knowledge – the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Though I love Chicago, one thing it does not have is a municipal performing arts center, so it is something I only get to see when I visit other cities. I spent a few minutes at Kauffman, taking pictures and taking in the grandeur of the relatively new facility.

I drove back to my hotel, changed, and headed to the wedding, held in a church not far from the hotel. I was almost immediately greeted by another good friend from college, Nathaniel Olson, who was serving as an usher.

My old roommate, Nathaniel, ushering

Given that both the bride and groom are professional musicians, I was not surprised at the quality and quantity of music that Jon and Natalie included in their service. They were successfully wedded, and exited the church to a shower of bubbles.

All of us guests made our way to a nearby country club for the reception. I found my table with several other Wheaton grads, with an excellent view of the bridal party’s introduction. It was a fun party – good food, a DJ who may have been having the most fun of anyone, and a photo booth. It was also really fun to see some of those Wheaton friends for the first time in over a year in some cases.


As things were winding down, I said goodbye to my friends and headed back to my hotel, tired but refreshed by all the day’s activity. The following day I again without trouble checked out, returned my car, and flew home to Chicago. It had been a most refreshing weekend.