Wednesday, October 14, 2020

God of Mercy, Lead Us Home

 

God of Mercy, Lead Us Home

It is always great to be able to hear my work performed, but recently that pleasant occurrence had new sounds and considerations. It is interesting to hear one's work when all singers are wearing masks (COVID). The only ones not affected by this new wrinkle were the wonderful cellist Christopher French and equally wonderful pianist Yuri McCoy. Otherwise, "new ears" are required when hearing a familiar melody produced vocally with masks.

The masks...the miracle devices that are the only components that allow us to have a musical life to compare somewhat with our lives of yesteryear. And...it's okay. My ears are adjusting, and captions help too. We just need to help the singers a bit by providing the text.

When you watch and listen to the above video of the performance of "God of Mercy," keep a few things in mind.This piece was crafted from a prayer offered by Greg Funderburk on the evening of Maundy Thursday of 2020's Holy Week. Think about the context of the "Service of Shadows" when it really occurred with Jesus and the disciples. Jesus was saying things the disciples did not understand. He began washing their feet, and talked about his impending death. He talked about some of them, too, and it was quite clear that whatever he wanted them to "get" was not being absorbed. A mother approached him with an interesting request. His time with the disciples was coming to an end, and I'm sure he was in a place of disappointment and fear. They just didn't get it.

All of the above thoughts were going through my mind as I wrote this arrangement. Now....make the transfers. Since our new COVID-19 lives began, we have experienced life as never before. We had no idea what this virus might be, how it spread, how to avoid it, how to treat those who contracted it, how it behaved after-the-fact, how long the incubation period might be, how long the immunity time might be following illness (still unknown), etc. We were confused. We had little information. We didn't understand what little information we had. We were scared. Parents were frustrated with their children, as they were now their children's teachers. Parents love their children, and husbands love their wives. It's sort of "For better....for worse....but NOT FOR LUNCH!" I saw Moms cry on Zoom because they didn't know how to teach their children. I saw friends grieving, because they missed their lives as they knew them. One realization for me: If we pour ourselves into church or school and it is taken away, we do not know what to do with ourselves. We are required to participate in major adjustments. We grieve and then some. Do you see the parallels between the disciples on Maundy Thursday and ourselves in the initial stages of COVID?

Greg's words in "God of Mercy, Lead Us Home" suggest all of the aforementioned uncertainties and frustrations. You will hear those emotions in the context of the arrangement. 

I created a video that might provide possible insights for you as you prepare for choral performance.

Insights from Earlene Rentz

Complimentary High/Medium/Low Solo Voice editions are a gift from Earlene Rentz Online Publications, LLC with purchase.

Here is a Low Solo Voice performance earlier this year. Hopefully, you will find numerous ways to include this octavo in your worship experiences, as the days seem to be more frustrating as we continue in uncertainty. God of mercy, lead us home. Lead us back to the place where we find comfort and familiarity in our lives. Return us to your grace.




Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Velvet Shoes - Text by Elinor Wylie

 


The popular poem Velvet Shoes by Elinor Wylie inspires yet another creative choral setting describing a quiet winter's walk through the snow. With "velvet" steps, we are surrounded by the white lace of snow on trees, shrubs, and other gifts of nature.

This setting is available for 3-Part MixedSSASAB2-Part, and Unison. Imitation and easy harmonies are used, emphasizing "We will walk through the white snow." 

•Solo versions of this composition (with accompaniment) are complimentary with purchase (High, Medium, Low). 

•Complimentary Rehearsal Preparation Sheets also come with purchase. 

•As always, purchase the Octavo file of your choice (PDF), then make as many copies as you choose for your choir.

In the following video, Earlene Rentz discusses her setting of "Velvet Shoes," with insight into its performance:

Velvet Shoes - Insights


Visit Earlene Rentz Online Publications to see the latest choral octavos published for your choir: SchoolSacredHoliday


Hang in there during these tough COVID days! I'm cheering you on!!





Monday, October 5, 2020

EROP Chorals for Veterans Day

 


Choral directors, thank you so much for all you are doing in your classrooms and churches these days. You are doing an amazing job with online and in-classroom teaching and online worship services. You have blessed millions with your creative approach to an undesirable situation. Hang in there, and know that I'm your biggest fan!!

Oh...my...goodness. Life just keeps getting crazier and crazier. There are so many conflicting reports about every situation these days, but I think we can all agree that throughout history, human sacrifice for freedom has been valiant, appreciated, necessary at times, and is a constant reminder that our country should learn from history. It is always a good thing to "remember," and somehow, in loss it comforts us to know that others remember our losses. We cannot change history, but to know that others have not forgotten "the sacrifice" is a wonderful thing.

Earlene Rentz Online Publications has a variety of patriotic publications to call to remembrance the difficulties of war and the hardships of those who are left as a result of war's toll on families. Take a look at the various titles and voicings you might find accessible for your groups. 

The Willow: This SSA setting for voices and piano incorporates the wonderful lyrics of Pamela Stewart, and a willow tree is the "narrator" in the song. A young boy plays beneath a willow tree as a child, and as he grows into an adolescent, young adult, and adult, he cherishes the willow tree as a symbol of love and comfort. The willow tree feels love for the boy as well, and a friendship unknown to the boy is expressed in this setting. The young man falls in love, marries, goes to war, dies in battle, and the willow tree remains to grieve with the young widow. This video might assist you in preparing this octavo for performance. 

"The Willow" Insights

In Flanders Fields: The wonderful poem by John McCrae has been set for voices, piano, and optional French Horn. It is a miracle these words made it into history, as McCrae had discarded this poem to the trash. One of his fellow comrades retrieved it, and we thank that person, else our society could have forgotten the sacrifice of World War I young men who were serving in Belgium...in the Flanders region. I think your students will enjoy these settings: SATBTTBBSAB3-Part MixedUnison. Check out the following video, as it might provide some ideas for your rehearsal.

"In Flanders Fields" Insights

When Johnny Comes Marching Home: The familiar American folk song is arranged for voices and piano, using lots of countermelodies and obligato material. The independent countermelodies will be easier for students than homophonic material, as they create harmonies in their independent presentations. Check out these recordings and Previews: SATB3-Part MixedSABSSATTB 

Son of Liberty: The text of Lynwood Cash recalls military events from Washington Crossing the Delaware through the Afghanistan War. The style is robust, with many expressive elements included for moments of reflection. TTBBTTBTB

"Son of Liberty" Insights

The Rising of the Moon: A call for unity! This piece is actually from the Irish Rebellion of 1798, but is a great way to encourage your men to sing out! We can "fix" the sound if we can hear them. There is lots of unison and the harmonies are consistent per verse. Check it out! TTBBTTBTB

The Rising of the Moon - Insights

Okay...as always with purchases from Earlene Rentz Online Publications, you purchase a PDF file, and make as many copies as you choose for your choir. 

A complimentary Rehearsal Preparation Sheet for teaching the music easily is included with each purchase.





Sunday, September 6, 2020

Over the Moon in Love

 

Earlene discusses "Over the Moon in Love"

Over the Moon in Love is an upbeat, jazzy tune, with "celestial" terms appearing throughout. Wanetta Hill's lyrics are wonderful for any light concert selection, and the style can be enjoyed by small ensembles, large ensembles, and show choirs. High school and community choirs likely the age group to be more successful in performing this piece, but certainly, there are several middle schools who would be successful in performing the SSA Voicing.

It is available for purchase on my website, and is voiced for SATBSSA, and SSAA.

During these days of our "unique" school structure, I am happy to write low, medium, and/or high voicings for you, compliments of Earlene Rentz Online Publications, LLC. Write me at "earlenerentz@yahoo.com" to request Solo Editions. They will be sent following purchase of the choral voicing.

Our website is the sole source where music from my online company may be purchased. The copyright appears at the bottom of the page, and grants the purchaser the privilege to make multiple copies for his/her choir. Keep the purchased choral file in a safe place, and even if you must use the Solo Voice Editions this year because of COVID, the purchased voicing (SATB/SSAA/SSA) will be there in the future. The copyright privilege continues for as long as you own the file.

Recordings of voices are on the website for SATB and SSA. As you listen, click on the "Preview," and follow along. 

If you have questions, feel free to write "earlenerentz@yahoo.com."

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Easy Arrangement for Choirs in Fall/2020 ("A Mountain Medley")

Earlene Discusses A Mountain Medley

These are difficult days in the choral classroom. This arrangement of A Mountain Medley includes three folk songs with the "mountain" theme.

For these days of distancing ourselves in choral rehearsals, countermelodies might be a good solution that will teach musicianship with short, independent melodies in voice parts. They will all come together to create harmony, but the tough homophonic textures that require so much listening vertically can be replaced with an easier, linear alternative. This arrangement has limited homophony and lots of independent melodies.

These three folk songs are familiar, fun, and fresh. They come together as components that compliment each other, yet stand alone. 

Available in 3-Part MixedSSA, and 2-Part. If you are interested in having a Unison voicing, or if you want Solo Versions of this arrangement, just send me an email at "earlenerentz@yahoo.com" (on the website, too), and once I see that you have purchased an octavo for your library, I'll get you the Solo Versions for these "days of Covid." Keep the purchased file for the "Glory Day" when we return to singing as in "the old days," and make as many copies as you choose for your choirs. There is a complimentary Rehearsal Preparation Sheet (RPS), too. Send your students the PDF file of the RPS, and they can rehearse from home. 

Let me know how I can assist. We will figure out a solution for your choral groups. If you have questions, just ask. 

Be safe, wonderful folks! These days won't last forever....but it surely does seem like it sometimes! We need each other!!
 

The Ninety and Nine

 

Earlene Discusses "The Ninety and Nine"

One of the hymns I learned in childhood was in the old Broadman Hymnal. There were some pretty "involved" hymns in that old hymnbook (some 2-Pagers!), but our little country church of about 100 people sang them anyway...with gusto. I remember as a child seeing The Hallelujah Chorus in the back portion of the hymnal, wondering if we would ever sing that hymn. We didn't...but we did sing Peace, Be Still and some other fairly impressive hymns. Those hymns contributed to my life in huge ways. They were the foundation for my musical life and my life of faith. 

I loved going home from church as a five or six-year-old, and "picking out" the hymns from Sunday morning on our old upright piano. It was sooo old (the crusty black stuff). After I began taking piano lessons at six-years-old, Mom purchased a beautiful Kohler and Campbell spinet piano, and I thought I was great stuff. The only problem was that the piano could only do what I was committed to bring to it. In other words, I had to practice, and that was not enjoyable for me...the person who wanted to "get it done" so I could go on to more important things. 

The problem I had with the piano lesson bit was that the concepts of rhythms (durations in time) and lines and spaces (pitches) were really not concrete enough for me to understand at such a young age, much less apply those concepts to another object (the piano). It was just too much. I had a really good teacher, but it was more fun to "not worry about such stuff"...then I would trick my piano teacher into playing it for me....whereupon, I would just play it back to her while I looked at her. Success!! Ah....the days of really good ears! She kept telling me to look at the music, but that was a real hindrance to accomplishment. I "had it going on" for a while, but she called me out, and would no longer play anything for me. If it was going to "happen," I was going to have to figure it out and "make it happen."

It was only a few years afterward that I began to be able to play almost any hymn in the hymnal, and because the old hymns in The Broadman Hymnal spoke to me, I had a great time practicing the piano. They were not what I should have been practicing, but they were fun to play. They were meaningful. My mom always washed dishes while I practiced, and she enjoyed my hymns. All good.

The Ninety and Nine is a hymn about the parable of the lost sheep (Matthew 18:12-14). The parable primarily meant that even though a person might be "astray," the Shepherd will leave the 99 in the flock to search for the one sheep that is lost. Of course, the point was that we are all of the greatest value to the Shepherd...every last one of us.

This arrangement is written for a cappella voices, but feel free to use the optional accompaniment, if you choose. The voices provide the introduction on "Ah," and the same type of connective material is used between verses. 

Take a look at the webpage on Earlene Rentz Online Publications, and see the visual of the sheep in the photo. That sort of brings you into the imagery of the parable. As you will note in the descriptors, I have also written Solo versions for Low, Medium, and High Voice. Listen to the audio, and follow along on the Preview

With the COVID restrictions of late, you might not be meeting as a choir just yet, so use the Solo Voice editions now and save the SATB Voicing for later, when our choirs return. 

As a friend said to me, "When I hear this arrangement, it takes me back to the old Fox Theater in Atlanta, Georgia." For those of you who have been to the Fox, you remember the clouds floating by and the ornate surroundings. That is exactly what I "heard" as I created this arrangement.

I hope you will enjoy singing this piece. Please watch the video above to have a better idea about the entire pastoral scene depicted in this arrangement.

Enjoy...and please stay safe.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Performance: God of Mercy, Lead Us Home

 God of Mercy, Lead Us Home

There was a performance of God of Mercy, Lead Us Home recently at South Main Baptist Church in Houston, Texas. Since very few choirs are singing in worship these days, I have begun to write High, Low, and Medium Solo Voice editions of all my music. The performers in the video above are Chuck Stanley (baritone), Christopher French (Cello), and Dr. Yuri McCoy (Piano). Dr. Carey Cannon was the organizing force behind "all of the above," and I am always grateful to him for his support.

This particular choral setting is based on Greg Funderburk's thoughtful prayer that was included in the Maundy Thursday worship experience that occurred during Holy Week in the early days of this pandemic. In fact, we were in the initial phase where we were lacking more information about COVID-19 than is known today, and we were somewhat ridden with anxiety and uncertainty. Greg's prayer spoke to me...a plea for the God of mercy to awaken, hear the children praying, and lead us "home." 

"Home" can be anything...a return to the familiar security of yesterday...a place where comfort and peace may be experienced...a heavenly home...joy in human relationships...a feeling that knows no anxiety, while it somehow gives permission to enjoy the culmination of "all things working together for good." These are some of the ideas that might be considered "home." The interesting thing is that Greg's words will mean one thing to one person, yet interpreted differently by another.

When a loved one in my family was experiencing Alzheimer's disease, I was interested that she was always searching for "home." Even though she actually was home in many cases, she continued her quest. We all have this insatiable desire to make things "feel right" around us. We want to be able to say to ourselves, "this is how it should be. I'm 'good' with this." 

People ask sometimes how I "take it" when I hear some of my music. I love it! It is always great to hear the different interpretations of various aspects of musical notation. I am not the only artist necessary in the process of getting my work into the "aural realm." I rely on others to bring their own artistic excellence into the arena of sound and silence. I have learned to relax, and allow the artists to "speak" however they choose.

I hope you will enjoy this performance of God of Mercy, Lead Us Home. May you find "home" today and in the days ahead.