Global Music on World Communion Sunday

As mentioned in a prior post, Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church’s celebration of World Communion Sunday on October 1 featured a sermon on where was the Reformation headed today.

As that sermon mentioned, the service included global music. Our Westminster and Global Choirs joined together to sing five anthems from other countries and to lead the congregation in singing five hymns from around the world. [1] Our leaders were Dr. Melanie Ohnstad, Organist and Minister of Music and Arts; and Tesfa Wondemagegnehu, Director of Choral Ministries; Barbara Prince, Director of Global Choir; and Jeffrey Gram, percussionist.

Introit

The Introit or hymn which is sung at the start of a worship service was “Somlandela,” a traditional South African anthem that was arranged by Barbara Prince. It had one verse in Zulu, another in French and one in English, the last of which stated, “I will follow, I will follow Jesus, I will follow everywhere he goes.”

Offertory

The Offertory anthem was “Indodana,” also from South Africa in traditional isiXhosa, which is one of the country’s official languages and spoken by about 18% of the population, and arranged by Michael Barrett and Ralf Schmitt. Luckily for me as a bass singer, most of our lines were “oo” and “oh”with “Zjem Zjem zja baba” (three times) and “Ho Baba Baba, ho Baba Baba, Je ho Va!” (twice). Just being part of the choir’s singing this beautiful piece brought tears to my eyes. [2]

The church bulletin provided the following English translation of the lyrics: “The Lord has taken his son who lived amongst us, the son of the Lord God was crucified. Hololo Father Jehovah, Zjem zja father.” (“Hololo” and “Zjem zja” are expressive words with no English translation.)

Holy Communion

During the distribution of the bread and the cup for communion, we sang three anthems.

The first was “Nasibi (My Portion),” a Palestinian Hymn arranged by Maggie Hamilton. Its Refrain was in Arabic (English translation: “The Lord is the only strength of my heart, so says my soul”). The text, which were sung in English, was the following:

  • “The Lord is my portion for evermore, so says my soul. In heav’n above, who else have I? Who else, on earth, might I desire? The Lord alone is all I need, true treasure of my soul. For God, I’ll give my wealth away, strew valleys with unwanted gold, that God may be my only prize, my portion and my share.”

The second was “O Jumalan Karitsa” by Matti Rantatalo and sung in the original Finnish language with the following English translation in the church bulletin: “O, Lamb of God, who takes away the sins the world, have mercy on us. O, Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, give us peace and blessing.”

The third anthem was “Ukuthula,” another South African piece sung in Zulu. Again, the English translation was provided in the bulletin: “Peace in this world of sin (Hallelujah) the blood of Jesus brings peace. Redemption in this world of sin (Hallelujah) the blood of Jesus brings redemption. Praise (gratefulness) in this world of sin (Hallelujah) the blood of Jesus brings praise (gratefulness). Faith in this world of sin (Hallelujah) the blood of Jesus brings faith. Victory in this world of sin (Hallelujah) the blood of Jesus brings victory. Comfort in this world of sin (Hallelujah) the blood of Jesus brings comfort.”

Congregational Hymns

The global theme of the service also was emphasized in the following five hymns.

“In Christ, There Is No East or West” (No. 317 in Glory to God: the Presbyterian Hymnal) whose first verse states, “In Christ there is no east or west, in him no south or north, but one great fellowship of love throughout the whole wide earth.” This and the other verses were written in 1908 by John Oxenham (a/k/a William Arthur Dunkerly) and the music is an African-American spiritual, which was the very first such music used in a mainline North American hymnal in 1940.

 “O Lord, Have Mercy” (No. 578) is the traditional “Kyrie eleison:” “O lord, have mercy, O Lord have mercy, O Lord have mercy, have mercy on us.” The hymnal also contained the verses in Greek and Guarani, which we did not sing.

“Sheaves of Wheat” (No. 532) has music and text (in Spanish) by Cesáreo Gabaráin, a Spanish priest and composer, but we sang the English translation by Mary Louise Bringle. The first verse goes this way: “Sheaves of wheat turned by sunlight into gold, grapes in clusters, like rubies on the vine, feed our hearts as the precious blood and body of our Lord: gifts of heaven from earthly bread and wine.”

“Holy, Holy, Holy” (No. 594) has music and text by Guillermo Cuéllar, a Salvadoran composer, with English translation by Linda McCrae. The choir and the congregation sang the refrain in Spanish: “Santo, santo, santo, santo, santo, santo es nuestra Dios, Señor de toda la tierra. Santo, santo, es nuestro Dios. Santo, santo, santo, santo, santo, santo es nuestro Dios, Señor de toda la historia. Santo, santo es nuestro Dios.”

“May the Love of the Lord” (No. 549) has music by LIM Swee Hong, an Asian Christian, and text by Maria Ling, who are the parents of a son who stopped breathing at one day old , but who was revived by the prompt action of nurses. The hymnal has Chinese and English lyrics, the latter of which says, “May the love of the Lord rest upon your soul. May God’s love dwell in you, throughout every day. May God’s countenance shine upon you and be gracious to you. May God’s Spirit be upon you as you leave this place.”

Conclusion

In the shorter, earlier worship service that day the Global Choir with augmentation by some of the Westminster Choir members sang all but “Indodana” of the anthems and only one of the hymns (“In Christ There Is No East or West”), but we also closed that service by singing the Refrain with the congregation joining in the stanzas of “Halle, Halle, Hallelujah!” (No. 591 in the Hymnal), which has a traditional Caribbean melody with stanzas by Marty Haugen. The words of the first stanza are these: “O God, to whom shall we go? You alone have the words of life. Let your words be our prayer and the song we sing: hallelujah, hallelujah!”

There were so many things happening in these services, I once again discovered by reviewing the service, re-reading the pieces that we sung, researching about the composers and lyricists and writing this blog post enhanced my understanding and appreciation of the services.

Although I joined the Global Choir in 2014, it was created in 2001, and for the regular church calendar (September through May), we sing nine times in the early worship service in the church’s Chapel. Just contact the church to join the Global Choir! All are welcome.

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[1] The church’s website has the bulletin for the main service.  A video of the service also is there; go to http://westminstermpls.churchonline.org/ and click on the icon with three white dots and lines at the top of the video screen; next you will see small screens with the dates of services; then select “Oct. 1, 2017.”

[2] Beautiful performances of “Indodana” by (a) the combined voices of the University of Pretoria Camerata, the Missouri State University Chorale, and the Emory and Henry College Choir at the University of Pretoria Musaion, (Pretoria, South Africa) and (b) South Africa’s Stellenbosch University Choir are available on YouTube.

 

 

Joyous Worship Services at Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church

Westminster Presbyterian Church
Westminster Presbyterian Church

Last Sunday (October 2) Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church joyously celebrated World Communion Sunday with Cuban and other Latin American music.[1]

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Our musical leader was Charanga Tropical , a Minneapolis group that performed in the 2015 International Danzón Festival in Havana and whose leader, Doug Little, is a Westminster member. To the right is a photograph of the group in Cuba.

Their Prelude was “Centro La Libertad Güira de Melena” (danzón); their Postlude, “A Gozar Con Mi Combo” (son), both by Orestes López, a prominent 20th century Cuban composer and bandleader.

At the 8:30 chapel service Charanga Tropical also accompanied the Global Choir, of which I am a member, in our singing, “Enviado soy de Dios,” a traditional Cuban melody with Spanish lyrics. Here is an English translation of the first verse and refrain of the lyrics: “I am sent by God, I’m ready to serve; to make the world a place of justice and peace. The angels cannot do the work that must be done, to change a hurting world into a world of peace. The task is giv’n to us to build a better world. Please help us, God to do the things you ask of us.”

The two hymns at both services were sung in English and Spanish. One was “O Sing to the Lord/Cantad al Seńor,” a Brazilian folk melody; the following is its first verse and refrain: “Cantad al Señor un cántico nuevo, Cantad al Señor un cántico nuevo, Cantad al Señor un cántico nuevo, ¡Cantad al Señor, cantad al Señor! Oh, Sing to the Lord, oh sing God a new song, Oh, sing to the Lord, oh, sing God a new song, Oh, sing to the Lord, oh, sing God a new song. Oh, sing to our God, oh sing to our God.”

A Latin American folk tune was used for the other hymn, “Heaven Is Singing for Joy/El Cielo Cantga Alegria.” The English translation of the first verse and refrain of the Spanish lyrics that were written in 1958 for an Argentinian picnic of theological students was the following: “Heaven is singing for joy, alleluia, For in your life and in mine Is shining the glory of God. Alleluia, alleluia! Alleluia, alleluia!”

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Another musical highlight of the main service was the Westminster Choir’s singing the World Premiere of the beautiful anthem, “Love Is,” by our Director Choral Ministries, Tesfa Wondemagegnehu, whose photograph is to the left.

The Old Testament text for the day was Psalm 33: 1-15, whose first stanza states: “Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous. Praise befits the upright. Praise the Lord with the lyre; make melody to him with the harp of ten strings. Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.” (Emphasis added.) The New Testament text was Ephesians 4: 1-7, 11-13; its first three verses state: “I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Rev. Dr. Timothy Hart-Andersen
Rev. Dr. Timothy   Hart-Andersen

Rev. Timothy Hart-Andersen in his sermon, “What New Song Shall We Sing?,” said that the Psalms passage provides “a wonderful image: God eagerly watching the people, listening for the melodies rising from around the globe, in a variety of languages and cultures. The Creator delights in it, in the sound of song from every people in every land. Singing shows that God’s people have not gone stale, that their hearts can still praise God.” After praising the use of music in worship, Rev. Hart-Andersen challenged Westminster and the Christian church generally to “sing our faith in ways that give life, in ways that connect us to the Source of the song.” He concluded with these words: “Our lives change, the world changes, language changes, music changes. But the song of faith, the song of praise, the song of thanksgiving, the song of hope and love and justice is as old as the covenant of God with God’s people.”

The joyous music and words of these worship services were infused by our congregation’s special connections with Cuba. For the last 14 years we have had partnerships with the Presbyterian-Reformed Church in Cuba (Iglesia Presbiteriana-Reformada en Cuba) and one of its congregations in the city of Matanzas on the north coast of the island east of Havana.[2] Many of us in Minneapolis have welcomed visits by Cuban pastors and members and have been on mission trips to our partners, and I have been on three such trips. During the service I prayed for all of our Cuban brothers and sisters.

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[1] A video of the main service in the Sanctuary is available online  as are the bulletin for the services and the text of the sermon.

[2] A list of posts about Westminster’s connections with Cuba is found in the “Cuba & Minnesota” section of List of Posts to dwkcommentaries—Topical: Cuba.

The Global Choir of Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church

The Global Choir is one of several choral groups at Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church.

Since 2001 this small Choir has explored the vast landscape of sacred music from all over the world. It generally sings once a month at the 8:30 a.m. service in the Chapel and is directed by Barbara Prince, who serves in many capacities in the church. It includes members of the church’s regular choir and others regardless of age or experience. (I recently joined this Choir even though the last time I sang in a choir was nearly 60 years ago when I was a member of the Youth Choir at the First Methodist Church in Perry, Iowa.)

The Global Choir is one way that Westminster seeks to be in solidarity with her sisters and brothers around the world and to remind us in Minnesota that our Christian faith perspective is not the only one in the world. Another way is congregational and individual participation in our ongoing partnerships with churches and other organizations in Cuba, Cameroon and Palestine.

To illustrate this choral mission, here are the anthems from the Choir’s most recent appearance and from the forthcoming early worship service on February 16th.

January 19, 2014

On January 19th, the Global Choir sang Palestinian and Israeli anthems.

The Palestinian anthem, Truth Is Our Call, has the following lyrics:

  • “Truth is our call and justice our claim. The will of our God is our vanguard and aim; the God of us all, of mercy and love, of freedom and peace for all of humankind.
  • Refrain: We’ll strive and we’ll strive and we will not be still to lift all oppression with God’s help and will. We’ll raise high the banner of righteousness and truth, we’ll strive and we’ll strive and we will not be still.
  • We shall not give in to fear or to hate; we will speak the truth and we’ll strive to be just. With love we will stir the conscience of the world; with patience and faith we’ll save our home and land.”
  • Refrain.

Truth Is Our Call was composed by Rima Nasir Tarazi, a musician, an activist, a community leader and, above all, a humanist and a loving grandmother. After 1967, she started writing the lyrics for her compositions. Through those songs she documents the inhumane daily events taking place under the Israeli military occupation. She expresses the voice of Palestinian mothers, prisoners and children who all yearn for freedom, dignity and peace. Although Rima’s songs are about a dispossessed and suffering people, yet they are full of hope as they communicate the dreams and aspirations of the Palestinian people.

The Israeli anthem was Sim Shalom—Prayer for Peace. Here are its lyrics:

  • “Grant us peace Thy most precious gift, O Thou eternal source of peace. Bless our country, that it may be a stronghold of peace. May contentment reign within its borders, bonds of friendship throughout the world. Plant virtue in every soul and love for Thy name in every heart. Give us peace.”

Sim Shalom (Song of Peace) was composed by Max Janowski (1912–1991), a composer of Jewish liturgical music, a conductor, choir director, and voice teacher. Born in Berlin, in his early 20’s he became head of the piano department at a music academy in Tokyo, Japan, but emigrated to the U.S. in 1937 and served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. After the war he was the longtime music director at a synagogue in Hyde Park, near the University of Chicago.

Sim Shalom is dedicated to the U.S. African-American diplomat Ralph Bunche, who was awarded the 1950 Nobel Peace Prize for his work as the United Nations’ chief mediator in assisting Israel and its neighbors (Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria) in negotiating the 1949 Armistice Agreements that ended the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and established Armistice Demarcation Lines.

February 16, 2014

On February 16th in honor of U.S. black history month the Choir will sing an African-American spiritual and an anthem from Uganda.

The spiritual is “Who Will Be a Witness” with new words and music by Donald Moore, an Ohio-based composer, arranger, lyricist and author of over 800 sacred, secular, educational and pop choral works.[1] Its words are the following:

  • “Who will be a witness, O my Lord? Who will be a witness, O my Lord?  Who’ll be there beside me?  Who’ll be there to guide me?     Who will be a witness, O my Lord?                                                                   I’m goin’ to heaven, want to do it right. I’m goin’ to heaven, I’ll be dressed in white.
  • Who’ll be there to meet me? Who’ll be there to greet me?                   Who will be a witness, O my Lord?                                                                   Don’t want to stumble, don’t want to fall.                                                     I’m goin’ to heaven when the roll is called.                                                   Heaven bells are ringin’. Saints are all a singin’.                                         Who will be a witness, O my Lord?                                                                   A witness, a witness, O my Lord.                                                                       Who’ll be there beside me? Who’ll be there to guide me?                     Who’ll be there to meet me? Who’ll be there to greet me?                   Who will be a witness, O my Lord?”

The Ugandan anthem is “Come and Let Us Worship God,” which was composed by Cranmer Mugisha, a Bishop of the Church of Uganda, a “Jesus-loving, Bible-believing, Spirit-filled Anglican Church engaged in the mission of Jesus Christ in today’s world.” The anthem’s words are as follow:

  • “Come and let us worship God, turn to serve the living Lord, move from where we are misled, do as ancient prophets said.
  • Oh our living God, We, the creatures of your word, come to make our home in you, knowing that your word is true.
  • Let us hear our Maker’s voice, and let Christ inform each choice.
  • Sister women, brother men, let us turn to God again.
  • Oh our living God, We, the creatures of your word, come to make our home in you, knowing that your word is true.

[1] Moore also is the President and CEO of Moore Racing Enterprises LLC, which maintains a competitive midget race-car team, and a smooth-jazz/greatest-hits solo performer.