Announcing my newest published choral piece: Jubilate Deo.
A few weeks ago, Jubilate Deo was picked up by Hinshaw Music and rushed to print in time for its performance at the ACDA Southern convention by the Rivertree Singers. The recording above is by the Rivertree Singers and is also the official “demo” track.
This superb setting of the traditional Latin text from Psalm 100 fairly dances off the page in joy! Singable, natural-sounding mixed meter, a memorable melodic line, and a buoyant feel throughout make this one of the most appealing and musically satisfying works you will hear. Highly recommended!
This is a story that I have only shared with a few people to date. Given recent happenings, it seems appropriate and timely to share here now.
I, like many of my friends and colleagues, was saddened to hear about the passing of Dwight Gustafson. It would be an understatement to say that my life has been impacted by his. The legacy he left at my alma mater (to say nothing of the opportunities I had to be under his baton, few though they were) benefited me directly and indirectly in numerous ways that I probably won’t even realize this side of heaven.
But God also used an “accident” in his life to shape the direction of my life and current church ministry.
2013 was full of exciting moments for me. Here’s a summary of the most noteworthy happenings/accomplishments in my life this past year, in no particular order.
1. Comedy of Errors with Summer Shakespeare
This year was my third time being in a Shakespearean comedy with the Greenville Shakespeare Company. And this year, I also wrote the original music cues for the production. You can listen to some of the sound clips.
I started out the year by writing a few new hymn tunes for general use. It was both a writing exercise for me as well as a means of creating material for possible future arrangements. One hymn tune was MACKEY, for the text “If You Will Only Let God Guide You.” First Baptist Church of Lebanon, PA commissioned it to honor their senior pastor on the occasion of his retirement. It’s now been inserted into every one of their hymnals for them to sing in the future.
4. Remixed Eric Whitacre’s VC4 song, “Fly to Paradise”
Perhaps the most unexpected happening this year might have been the notoriety that resulted from crafting a remix of “Fly to Paradise” which caught the eye (and ears) of the composer himself, Eric Whitacre.
5. Christmas concerts with Rivertree Singers
Always a highlight of the Christmas season, the Rivertree Singers gave two concerts in Greenville (at Daniel Chapel on Furman’s campus and 2nd Presbyterian downtown) and one evening of music for guests at the Biltmore house.
6. Best of Conference presentation at HighEdWeb 2013
I went to Buffalo, NY to attend and present at a conference for higher education web professionals. Out of 70+ presentations in 6 different tracks, mine was voted Best in Conference by peer evaluations. A very prestigious honor in my industry, the award has resulted in a lotofadditionalattention to my work and that of my talented coworkers at BJU, particularly our work with Responsive Web Design.
7. Launched the new BJU.edu
After several months of planning, designing, programming, writing, and testing, our office launched the latest redesign of BJU.edu on December 16th – just in time to enjoy a relaxing Christmas break. Here’s some of the technical details behind-the-scenes for those interested.
As a musician, you expect to get asked to play for weddings with some frequency. But, after a friend’s wedding this summer and my brother’s wedding this fall, somehow I’ve managed to emcee more wedding receptions than weddings I’ve played for…
10. Horsed around for Faculty Body
This is just a goofy one, but doing comedic sketches for a few thousand students, faculty, staff, and friends at school is pretty memorable.
11. Ran my first 10K
I took up jogging for exercise a year and a half ago and have now run a 5K and a 10K. My (somewhat ambitious) goal time was 1:00:00. I ended up crossing the finish line at 1:00:45… close enough.
Now, I’m looking forward to 2014 in which I will:
Have the most prestigious choral performance of my life thus far
More than double the number of pieces of music I have in print (more on that soon…)
This past week I released a remix of “Fly to Paradise,” Eric Whitacre’s new piece for virtual choir which debuted earlier this summer, on my SoundCloud account. Shortly after posting it, it was shared across Eric’s social media profiles by the man himself, congratulating me on a job well done. Because of that, I thought I might share a little bit about it and story behind the unexpected attention it received.
When Virtual Choir 4 was released to the world back in July, there was a bit of confusion on the part of several Whitacre fans who did not anticipate the arrangement to be heavily influenced by electronica, techno, and the like. There seemed to be a calling for a remix that (a) featured a more traditional accompaniment and that (b) featured the choir and soloists more prominently. I began working on a remix to accomplish just that shortly after the assets were released for download. (Personally, I neither love nor hate the original, but I do feel a bit apprehensive sharing a video with my friends starring a PG-13 anime angel… the animation of which was pretty clunky, IMHO.)
I decided on a pretty standard instrumentation for my remix early on—strings, piano, and supporting winds, brass, and percussion in places. It took a few weeks of tinkering on-and-off until I came up with a few bars that felt right. I shared this on SoundCloud as a “preview” of what I was working on—in reality it was all that I had done at the moment. It was enough, though, to spark my imagination for the rest which I finished in just a couple of days.
Fast-forward to Wednesday night. I spent a few hours before bed making some more tweaks to my remix and recording the last few instrumental bits. I remember thinking, “I could keep tweaking this thing for days and days. But I’ve got other projects I need to move on to and this is leaching too much of my free time. It’s not perfect, but let’s just post it and be done with it.” And so, at midnight, I released it to the world, posted about it on Facebook and Twitter and got ready for bed.
As I crawled into bed, a little while later (knowing full well that I would pay for this late-nighter in the morning), I decided to check my phone out of curiosity to see if anyone had played it yet, even though I was sure most of my friends were asleep. I noticed a notification in Twitter… someone had mentioned me just 30 seconds ago. But not just anyone… apparently Eric Whitacre was getting an early start on the day over the pond in London! For a second, I was shocked. Then I remembered that he normally cross-posts on Facebook, as well. Could it be? Sure enough, less than an hour after posting it, my music had been endorsed by the composer himself to over 150,000 fans.
The message that graced my phone at 1am.
Then the comments, likes, shares, and plays started rolling in. And I didn’t fall asleep for another hour and a half. Yeah, Thursday was rough…
But I had my virtual “15 minutes of fame.” I got some fan mail, received a handful of fan tweets, and read dozens of very positive comments on Facebook and SoundCloud. Apparently, for many Whitacre fans, my remix was what they wished the original had been like. Sorry, Eric, but… mission accomplished.
As of now, my remix is one of the most listened to, commented on, and liked of the 80+ remixes uploaded to the Fly to Paradise Remix group on SoundCloud. If you haven’t already, listen to it below and download it here, if you like it. (Incidentally, I burned through my 100 download limit imposed by SoundCloud in the first 24 hours, so now it’s on Dropbox). Enjoy!
This new tune for Georg Neumark’s wonderful old text was commissioned by my former church, First Baptist Church of Lebanon, PA, for their pastor’s retirement. George Mackey, for whom the tune is named, retired this month after 45 years of full-time ministry, including 15 years at FBC. The church desired to honor him with a song based on his life verses, Proverbs 3:5-6. After some searching, this 17th century text stood out.
If you will only let God guide you,
And hope in Him through all your ways,
Whatever comes, He’ll stand beside you,
To bear you through the evil days;
Who trusts in God’s unchanging love
Builds on the Rock that cannot move.
Only be still, and wait His leisure
In cheerful hope, with heart content
To take whatever the Father’s pleasure
And all discerning love have sent;
Nor doubt our inmost wants are known
To Him Who chose us for His own.
Sing, pray, and swerve not from His ways,
But do your part in conscience true;
Trust His rich promises of grace,
So shall they be fulfilled in you;
God hears the call of those in need,
The souls that trust in Him indeed.
Exciting news! Next month, the Rivertree Singers (of which I am a member) will perform Jubilate Deo in historic downtown Charleston, SC for the Piccolo Spoleto arts festival. For the second year running, we are performing a concert as part of the festival’s “Spotlight on the Art of Choral Music” series.
The concert will be held on Sunday, June 2nd at 2pm in the historic St. Philip’s Church. Tickets are $11. More information and a link to purchase tickets can be found on the Rivertree Singers website.
I’m excited for this opportunity to sing my own work alongside those of composers that I highly admire such as Eric Whitacre, Dan Forrest, Moses Hogan, William Byrd, Ola Gjeilo, Mack Wilberg, Bob Chilcott, and more. (As it happens, the program order has my piece bridging the gap between Byrd and Gjeilo!)
I hope you can make plans to be there!
Update: We’re giving an early performance of our Spoleto concert on Thursday, May 30th at 7:30pm in downtown Greenville at 2nd Presbyterian Church. This fundraising concert will help defray the expenses of travel, lodging, and food as we represent Greenville choral music in Charleston. Tickets are $10/person and children 12 and under and free – pay at the door. Hope to see you there!
This new tune for Samuel Davies’ text was spurred on in part by my pastor’s recent sermon series in Titus, particularly chapter 3. “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
This is a new tune to a familiar text. I actually wrote this my sophomore year of college and forgot about it until recently. You never know what you’ll find when you start rummaging through boxes and binders of old stuff. Anyways, I figured it’s time to dust it off and release it for others to use.
Black Friday means two things: the shopping season has hit full bore and it’s time to bust out the Christmas music. Here’s a freebie from me to you.
What child is this, who, laid to rest,
On Mary’s lap is sleeping,
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The babe, the son of Mary!
Why lies He in such mean estate
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christian, fear: for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce him through,
The Cross be borne for me, for you;
Hail, hail the Word Made Flesh,
The babe, the son of Mary!
Raise, raise the song on high!
The virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy! joy! for Christ is born,
The babe, the son of Mary!