Are you teary-eyed? Is anything more beautiful than young voices singing a majestic hymn with a meaningful text? The Girl Choristers from Washington National Cathedral sang this several years ago on their recording Voices of Angels to introduce the then newly-published Wonder, Love and Praise supplement to the Episcopal hymnal. Not surprisingly, this hymn is a favorite at conferences for church musicians.
As newborn stars were stirred to song when all things came to be, as Miriam and Moses sang when Israel was set free,so music bursts unbidden forth when God-filled hearts rejoice, to waken awe and gratitude and give mute faith a voice.
In psalms that raise the singer’s sense to universal truths, in prophet’s dark-toned oracle or hymn of three brave youths: the song of faith and praise endured through those God called to be a chosen people bearing light for all the world to see.
When God’s redeeming Word took flesh to make salvation sure, unheeding hearts attuned to strife refused love’s overture. Yet to the end the song went on: a supper’s parting hymn, a psalm intoned on dying lips when sun and hope grew dim.
But silence won no vict’ry there; a rest was all it scored before glad alleluias rose to greet the risen Lord. The church still keeps that song alive, for death has lost its sting, and with the gift of life renewed the heart will ever sing.
As newborn stars were stirred to song was commissioned in 1995 by the San Francisco chapter of the American Guild of Organists. Its author, The Rev. Carl Daw, wrote many texts that we sing regularly, including the marvelous words for the tune JERUSALEM, O day of peace that dimly shines (Hymn 597) and Like the murmur of a dove’s song (Hymn 513). Karl Hirten’s tune for the text above reminds me of riding on a hilly country road, with phrases that rise and fall in comfortable, and yet surprising ways.
Daw catalogs the power of song from the moment of creation, through the exodus of the Jews from Egypt and in the Song of the Three Young Men (Meshach, Shradrach and Abednego), who sang their praises to God during times of persecution, before alluding to the singing of psalms at the Last Supper, and the brief silencing of song as Jesus lay in the tomb. Perhaps the musical joke, a rest is all it scored, is misplaced at that solemn moment in our story, but there can be no doubt that the church still keeps that song alive and I hope you will be all the more certain that you have received the gift of life renewed and that you will give mute faith a voice when singing as part of a choir or a congregation.