Monday, November 03, 2008

Musical Monday #1 -- Songs in His Presence

Years ago (and for you young things, I'm talking about the late '70's here) I bought a set of paperback books of "praise and worship music" published by Servant Ministries in Ann Arbor Michigan. Collectively, they were known as the "Songs of Praise" series, and were the outgrowth of the music ministry of the then-extant Word of God ecumenical community. I eventually also bought a couple of copies of the hardbound composite edition, and the cassette tape-recordings of most of the songs. (I tried to find some kind of a link, but they are so thoroughly out of print that even the used book sellers don't have them.) I loved that music. I wore out the tapes. I tried everything on my guitar. I figured out flute parts for a lot of them. And then, well, life intervened.

I had six kids. We left the independent, evangelical congregation where we met and married. Roger returned to the Catholic church, and our kids grew up there. I joined the choir, and learned that some Marty Haugen music is not too bad. (I also learned that if your director loves Marty Haugen, don't rock the boat if you want to sing.) And then...

Actually, I can't remember exactly when or where or how I found out. But I did find out that in the Diocese of Lansing there was a Catholic Christian group of musicians called "Songs in His Presence". Furthermore, they were the "descendants" of the "Songs of Praise" people. Some of them were even the same people.

Last Christmas Roger bought me the first three CD's. For my birthday in February, I got the matching songbooks. Glorious! I love pretty much everything on them, but one of my favorites is Hymn of Heaven. The words are by St. Bernard of Morlaix (Cluny), translated by John Mason Neale, and the wonderful new tune is by Sr. Sarah Burdick. If you follow this link, you can hear a little bit of it (you need RealPlayer installed.)

Hymn of Heaven

Brief life is here our portion;
Brief sorrow, short-lived care;
The life that knows no ending,
The endless life is there.
O happy retribution!
Short toil, eternal rest;
For mortals and for sinners
A mansion with the blest.

And now we fight the battle
But then shall wear the crown
Of full and everlasting
And passionless renown;
And now we watch and struggle,
And now we live in hope,
And Zion in her anguish
With Babylon must cope;

But He, whom now we trust in
Shall then be seen and known;
And they that know and see Him
Shall have Him for their own.
The morning shall awaken,
The shadows shall decay,
And each true-hearted servant
Shall shine as doth the day;

There God our King and Portion
In fullness of His grace
Shall we behold forever
And worship face to face.
Jesus in Thy mercy bring us
To that dear land of rest;
Who art with God the Father
And Spirit ever blest.

(If you're like me the first time I heard this, and those last lines tickle your memory, it's because they're also used in Jerusalem the Golden, which I sang as a kid. CyberHymnal has all the verses -- as usual it plays quite loudly.)


Jen said...

Beautiful song! I have no musical talent or ear. Seriously, I cannot hear the difference between good and bad singing. I have to ask my husband.

Arwen said...

We sang this at Mass on Sunday! You must be tuned in to the CTK vibe...

Diva said...

Good news. A couple of the original recordings from The Word of God are available on CD. Click here.