In July, the Moravian Music Foundation and Interprovincial Board of Communication introduced Sing to the Lord A New Song: A New Moravian Songbook. This new songbook contains 80 brand new songs, written by and for Moravians, as a celebration of the vivacity and diversity of music in the modern Moravian Church in America.
As part of the submission process, songwriters were asked to share what led them to create these new works. In this and future issues of The Moravian, we share some of those stories to inspire others to try a new song, or put their hand to creating their own new works.
A quick note: The initial printing of Sing to the Lord… sold out in less than four months. A second printing is on the way and should be available by Thanksgiving.
To learn more about the new songbook, visit www.moravian.org. Copies are available from the IBOC or Moravian Music Foundation for $10 each.
“Bliss Beyond Compare” Hymn 47
The Rt. Rev. Samuel J. Gray—tune
I have always enjoyed singing the “hymns of the day” as printed in the Moravian Daily Texts as part of my morning devotional time. In 2011, I was going through some difficult situations in my personal life and was “blessed” one morning to discover that the hymn I would be singing was “Bliss Beyond Compare.” I read through the words first and realized that a different tune was going through my mind. So, I sang the words to that tune! As I sang, I felt that the verse “Jesus is my joy, therefore blessed am I” really needed to be the climax or finale of the hymn, so I took the liberty of changing the order of the verses so that the hymn would end with a reminder of the joy we share in Jesus. Unlike other songs or hymns that I have written, I can say that this tune seemed to simply be inside of me and I just sang it without having to do any of the work of composing. I truly believe this was a gift from God in a moment when I needed it most. I’m thankful to God for that and hope that others can be blessed by it as well.
“The Manger in My Heart” Hymn 37
The Rev. Rick Beck
The story behind this song dates back to our ministry at Bruderheim Moravian. There were a few men in the church who loved to sing and called themselves “The Boys.” By the time we arrived, the group consisted of myself, Amon Kottke and Bruce Fraunfeldt. We were planning to sing for the Canadian District Advent concert that included George Hamilton IV as guest performer. We wanted something fresh to offer but were unable to find the right piece.
After practice one night, I sat down with my guitar and began writing a song based on a story I wrote and preached during seminary. I finished the song in a matter of hours and it was well-received at the concert. The fourth verse of “Manger in My Heart, ” which goes “With children gone she lived alone, her age was well advanced/and even though her bones were slow, her eyes would skip and dance./I saw her on the street one day with young and old alike/inviting all to celebrate the Savior born that night” reflects the main character of the story. The theme and title of the story and song are the same. It has become a Christmas favorite for my family and many others.
“This Food” Hymn 71
This hymn was inspired by our weekly “Open Table” dinner at the Moravian Church of Downey. The food comes from a local grocery store and has reached its “sell by” date. This free weekly meal is put together by volunteers who come early to help set the table and cook. While eating at Open Table, you can often hear people say, “This is so good!” You may also hear people confess, “I don’t really come for the food—I come for the fellowship.” Open Table has brought together homeless people, local neighbors, millionaires, meat-eaters, vegetarians and folks from a range of cultural backgrounds and social outlooks. The conversation is often full of laughter, sometimes serious and typically quite gritty. Open Table is an extension of the Sunday morning table of Holy Communion. (Or maybe it is the Communion table.) This meal has sustained us through some difficult moments as a community. We marvel at how there is always enough food, and that very often there are plates and storage containers full of leftovers!
From the November 2013 Moravian Magazine