Conversation and information about music and liturgy from a confessional Lutheran perspective.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Ah, Pentecost!

I know a pastor who got this silly idea into his head that "the reason the music for Pentecost isn't as grand as for Christmas or Easter is because the Holy Spirit just humbly points to Jesus." Now, I certainly believe, along with the rest of my confessional Lutherans, that the Spirit's work is indeed to create faith in our hearts. He calls, gathers, and enlightens us in the one true faith. And, to be sure, He also gives us spiritual gifts, aids the Church in her mutual conversation and consolation, and provides countless other blessings, even as the chief work of the Spirit is to call us by the Gospel and keep us faithful. That's why He enlightens us with His gifts!

But to therefore justify the lackluster way many parishes celebrate Pentecost and to even say that it is fitting and appropriate to have a diminished celebration on purpose is quite bizarre. To the contrary, because the Holy Spirit performs the miracle of creating faith in our hearts, so that we can believe in this Jesus and own the forgiveness of our sins, the Feast of Pentecost should be grand and glorious - just like Christmas and Easter. For without the Spirit, we could not believe in the One whom God our Father has sent! Jesus' death for us would then be in vain.

So, in the end, it is all about Jesus. And the Holy Trinity is blessed co-equally even as we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit and praise Him for His wonderful works on Pentecost Sunday. In the comments section, for those who are interested, I'll share some of the things we'll be doing at Bethany this Lord's Day. I hope you will take some time to let us know what you will be doing as well.

May your Divine Services be glorious indeed this Sunday.


Phillip Magness said...

So, what's cookin' at Bethany? Well, this wouldn't be FINE TUNING without at least one Liturgy Solutions plug, but, seriously, this is a great piece that the choir wants to sing every year: Dawn Sonntag's Verse for Pentecost. A great SAB setting. If you haven't picked it up, you really should. From the LS catalog, we'll also be singing my stanzas on "Holy Spirit, Light Divine" during the liturgy of the Lord's Supper.

Because the choir will be small this Sunday, due to many folks travelling (irony: we'll have almost everyone on Trinity Sunday, even though it will be on Memorial Day weekend!), we won't be singing a special Voluntary this year. However, we will still sing Craig Carnahan's setting of "Come, Let Us Eat" during communion, a wonderful setting with bells, zymelstern, and finger cymbals. We'll also sing Veni Creator Spiritus in Latin as the Gradual of the Day, with the congregation singing the selected stanzas in English afterwards, to the metrical version, KOMM GOTT SCHOPFER. (In other words, stanza 1 of LSB 499, in Latin, sung by the choir, followed by stanza 1 of LSB 498, in English, sung by the congregation, etc.)

At the services without the choir, a soloist will sing the Veni Creator stanzas, for which our Associate Cantor, Susan Keller, has written a tasty introduction for 2-octave bells. (SUZ - get that into Finale and we'll put it up on the website!) And it would not be Pentecost at Bethany without "Alabaré" - accompanied by brass, percussion, and piano. I think the is PD, so, is anyone interested in the brass parts? Let me know and I'll put 'em up! ;)

We're also teaching "Holy Spirit, the Dove Sent from Heaven" to the congregation. (LSB 502) A marvelous text paired with an uplifting Latin American tune. We'll be using the setting by Robert Hobby, published by CPH, which I heartily recommend. Excellent brass and percussion parts. The brass will also accompany the Canticles on the liturgy and play on the Lutheran Pentecost standards, "Come, Holy Ghost, God and Lord" (my arrangement) and "O Holy Spirit, Enter In" (arr. S. Drummond Wolff).

I think that is "all" - but at Bethany you never know. (chuckle) Hope everyone wears red!

IggyAntiochus said...

A tradition at my church is to sing "Cantad al Senor," with the choir singing Spanish verses and the congregation singing the corresponding English verses. We use these stanzas:

O sing to the Lord...

O shout to our God who gave us the Spirit...

For Jesus is Lord, amen, alleluia...

Since the three verses reference the Trinity, we sometimes sing it for the following Sunday as well.

Oh, and I'll be looking at that Verse for Pentecost. Good SAB music is sooo hard to come by!

Steve said...

I don't have anything to share on selections for Pentecost as I have that Sunday off, so to say. But I'll see what awaits at 8:00 AM Sunday morning,sitting
"downstairs" for a change! It's always feels a bit odd, yet....good!

I've looked at your post here and there over the past few. That statement from the pastor about Pentecost is a strange one to say the least. I don't know situation obviously. Maybe he was just not delivering what he meant in the right words - and then again, perhaps he did. You should know!

How can we pick ANY service being "less worthy" of emphasis or effort? I love how you put it using the word "co-equal." Otherwise we are really "grading" our services in a sense. Those services are based on what God has done and what in particular we are focusing on that day or season. So (I'm actually laughing as I type) let's see....Rising from the grave - you get an A+, Maundy Thursday - you get a B+, and Pentecost - ehhhhh, just a C-. Sorry, you're not as exciting.

What was he thinking? Or was he? I applaud your efforts seeing your selctions for the day. No matter the focus on that particular day, we can still sing just as loud as Easter. All though.....we all know material is a bit harder to find. But it still exisits and we can certianly use additional talent to polish it up and make it shine like the rest!

Still laughing here, or in modern tems "ROTF." Transfiguration Sunday, you're boring -you get a D+! LOL...

I wonder what Martin Luther would have to say on this? "Take a load of's not a the big one!"

I have to lay off the caffeine....sorry.

T. said...

This Sunday we are doing:

Give Me Jesus, arr. David von Kampen, Christ is With Me, by Rev. Coleman, and a cool "random ring/sing" I am crafting from a collection called "Creative Choir Sounds," by Larry Finke. It will serve as an extended introduction to LSB 497. (The choir was so taken by the random ring idea, they thought maybe they should get T-shirts!) I like doing those to encourage singers that they, too, can ring a [selected] chime, reassuring them that nothing will sound wrong!

The Holy Spirit is a lifeline--comforting, enlightening and creating faith in Jesus!

Phillip said...

Hey, Iggy, Hope Cantad went well.

I'll be putting up my version of that this summer: the congregation sings Cantad al Senor as the refrain, and then I have through-composed verses of Psalm 95. So it functions as a Venite for Matins. It was well-received at the District Convention back in 2006. CPH was going to publish it, but then changed their minds.
I've been meaning to load it up - along with so many other things!

Steve, thanks for joining the conversation. It should pick up over the summer. Between end-of-year activities at our day school, the feast days, and my efforts to promote Rev. Harrison for synodical president (see, I've let Liturgy Solutions go to the back burner for a while.

Just to be clear, though, on what my pastor friend was trying to say: he was trying to somehow say that the hymns of Pentecost were somehow less celebratory because the Holy Spirit points to Jesus and so wants Easter to have the biggest feast. I know, muddled thinking (at best), but not as bad as what you were thinking. He'd want us to do our best with these "less exhuberant" hymns, to be sure. (I just think he is wrong about the character of Pentecost).

T&Amp. How did the random ringing go? And how did your choir do on the Kampen and the Coleman? I haven't done Kampen's setting on "Give Me, Jesus", but it is one of my favorite spirituals. And I think "Christ Is With Me" is a wonderful piece.

On to Trinity Sunday!

Steve said...

Whew.....Phillip, that's good to know. Sorry, but I was like "whaaattt???" I think you caught on!

Good look on the Harrison efforts. He seems like a great choice! We can't forget, whatever happens - It's God's plan for whatever reason. The hardest part of being a Christian as we all know.

The good news is - Trinity Sunday tomorrow. We have all three to focus on this week!
I'm expecting "exuberance" in song x 3.

Phillip said...


You are absolutely right: it is God's plan, no matter what happens.

"God's good and gracious will is done even without our prayers. But we pray in this petition that it may be done among us also."


"Trust not in rulers, they are but mortal. Earthborn they are and soon decay."

In God alone shall we trust.

(And this is ironically the reason I have taken the unusual step of getting involved in this: Rev. Harrison's leadership style is one that relies on the Gospel, rather than on structure & governance.)

And Trinity Sunday was a roof-raiser at Bethany. Brass & choir stuck around for all of the late service. :) I am blessed to have such brothers & sisters leading the Lord's song with me.

I hope you all had a similarly glorious time at your parish - and at the parishes of whomever else might be reading this little blog.


IggyAntiochus said...

I was at the 2006 district convention and remember that Cantad. I didn't know who you were or anything, though.

I did borrow from it. You switched out "God" for "Him," as in, "O sing Him a new song..."

This pronoun thing is the subject of an entire post (or thesis!), but theology aside, the lyrics flow nicer with the use of "Him."

IggyAntiochus said...

Oh, and I was out-of-town last Sunday so the choir did not sing.

Phillip said...

Yes, it flows much better with "Him", is more natural (our song shouldn't sound like Bob Dole, but use pronouns like we all do and like the Bible does!), and, yes, is better theologically.

It is also how the song was in an earlier publication. I remember being surprized when LCMS used the "politically correct" version. Maybe had to do with copyrights & permissions. May be how it is in Portugese. (It's from Brazil, so both the English and the Spanish are translations) I'll have to ask.

I'm not sure where I saw this originally, so will need to do more research before I can be quoted on this. I'm out-of-town right now, but will check HS 1991 from GIA when I get back. I think that is where I first saw this....

T. said...

Well, the random ringing/singing didn't go as fluidly as we'd practiced twice before....Some of the folks got nervous last minute, I guess. I was frustrated. But someone in the congregation came up and told me afterwards that the introduction was such a neat thing, which helped. We'll just have to practice that technique more, in the future.

The 2 other pieces went well, thankfully. In my small choir, I have only 5 men, 6 women and 4 youth, but we do apparently sound balanced when everyone comes. I try not to miss or think about the benefits of a larger group and program.... Christ is present with 2 or 3, so we press on here, in His service-!

Phillip said...

Hey, T&Amp,

Your little tribe of minstrels sounds great to me! Reminds me of my choir in my first church.

Does your choir take the summer off? How do you do the propers in the summer time?

T. said...

Yes, our choir takes the summer off. (I usually need to recharge!) Generally the propers are spoken; occasionally the pastor will chant the Collect of the Day and the Proper Preface. I usually switch gears in the summer and highlight student instrumentalists. If I had more energy after the school year, I would probably ask soloists to serve. But, it's nice to have a rest.

Phillip said...

So, spoken Psalm & Verse, then? (I was referring to the propers normally assigned to the choir; the proper preface is, of course, for the presiding minister). That's the way to go if the congregation doesn't chant.

Reminds me of a WELS church I visited where the pastor spoke the Verse of the Day before the Gospel. I thought it was great that he kept that even though there wasn't a choir. (The congregation did chant the psalm, though, with a sung refrain)

I asked him about it afterwards and he said they did have a choir on feast days and so sang the Verse then, but otherwise he just spoke it. I thought that was commendable.

And this is not unusual, I've been at several liturgies in smaller churches where the folks speak the Introit responsively. It's a good practice to have: it keeps the appointed propers in the custom of the parish. And the bonus is that when a choir or soloist/cantor becomes available, it is very natural then for those parts to be sung again.

Blessings on your work with student instrumentalists this summer. :)

T. said...

Thank you. :)

Christian Worship has some great musical antiphons. Since the Hymnal Supplement included some, I thought they would be present in LSB....that was disappointing. I usually write them myself, but it can be a relief to not, at times!

Phillip said...

Yes, CW did a nice job with their psalm settings. I think LSB was going to do that - like HS98 - but hymnal space is like "real estate in Hong Kong".

All the more reason to download your antiphons today from Liturgy Soluuuuuutions. (grin)

Seriously, we'll be putting more stuff up this summer. Lots more! :)