Friday, October 2, 2020

Looking for Peace? Find It in Daily Prayer


When I was growing up, people often referred to their daily quiet time with God as “devotions.” I always loved that word. It described a holy time in the day – not a time for Bible study or theological reading, but a time for simply being in the presence of God and meditating on the written word.

Much later I discovered the services of Daily Prayer. First, as an Episcopalian, I found the service of Evensong – often expressed in the church with chanting, hymns, and the sublime music of a carefully rehearsed choir. (Even today, I often call myself a Lutheran with an Episcopalian aesthetic.)


Later, I used the forms in the Book of Common Prayer, for my own devotional time. I learned that  Daily Prayer has been part of our Christian heritage for some time – closely tied to the ancient monastic practice of praying at certain hours of the day.

I am so happy to have had the opportunity to provide Daily Prayer services on YouTube during this season of “Covidtide.” – not an official season of the church year, but one that provides some unique opportunities.


I hope that people will use these services in their homes. Using this resource will also help you to become familiar with these services as presented in Evangelical Lutheran Worship.


Both services include a reading that is updated for a specific day. If you wish to use a different reading, simply pause the video and fast forward. Check the comments for readings that may be used on subsequent days. Both services also allow you to include your own petitions during the prayers. If you need more time, feel free to pause the video. Also, everything you need (music and texts) is included.

Here is more of what to expect:

Morning Prayer
(usually less than 15 minutes)
An opening dialog begins the service.

A setting of Psalm 95:1-7, also called the Venite. Start by learning the refrain, then sing the entire psalm.

The reading comes from a lectionary that complements the Sunday lectionary and can be found in Evangelical Lutheran Worship.

The Gospel Canticle is set with an assembly refrain and stanzas sung by a cantor.
The Prayers include thanksgiving and intercessions, followed by the Lord’s Prayer.


Evening Prayer (a little over 20 minutes)

An opening dialog begins the service.

A Hymn of Light is sung. Music and text are provided onscreen. For now, we are using “Christ, Mighty Savior” – a modern tune with an ancient Mozarabic text from the 10th century. The people who first sang it were Christians living on the Muslim-controlled Iberian Peninsula.
The Thanksgiving for Light recalls the creation (“Let there be light!”) and God leading Israel through the wilderness – by a pillar light!
The Evening Psalm has an assembly refrain with stanzas sung by a cantor.
The Word (readings) is the gospel reading from the daily lectionary in the Book of Common Prayer.
The Gospel Canticle is a metrical setting of Mary’s Magnificat set toa joyful Lutheran choral tune. We usually sing “In Thee is Gladness” with this tune.
The Prayers follow. They include the current list of prayers from the people of St. Mark’s as available at the time of recording. It also includes the Lord’s Prayer.

A blessing concludes the service.

Additional Notes

I like to prepare for Morning Prayer with a tall glass of cold water. It helps me to remember my baptism and makes me thankful for God’s nurture of all creation.

Since a candle is often lighted for Evening Prayer, you may want to light one at home.

Both services can be used by individuals or small groups.

Look for these services on our YouTube channel at

May God hold you close as you use these services, and may peace be with you.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Planning In the Time of Covid-19


One of my favorite things about being a Cantor is planning! I love choosing new music and hymns that complement the readings for Sunday and help us focus on the seasons of the church year. You can see how excited I was about planning in this Facebook post from a year ago:


A lot can happen in a year – but who could have guessed a global calamity like Covid-19 would make even the simple act of planning so difficult?

Choirs can’t even meet to rehearse; so how can they gather on Sunday morning to lead the church’s song? How do I plan choir music for this situation?

Then there are the cries from social media platforms and the news outlets. I know you’ve heard them too:  



To be honest, I’m proud of the church and how we’ve responded – and not just at St. Mark’s. We (all the church) immediately learned new technologies and moved our services online while our members joyfully welcomed us into their homes. At St. Mark’s, Pastor Daniel Locke got “trickier and trickier” with each new service. Who will ever forget this powerful sermon that honored our feelings and also caused hope to spring up within us?

One benefit of on-line worship (for me) is that I can visit lots of Sunday morning worship services and see what my colleague/friends are up to. I haven’t just heard great music, but some very fine sermons too. One of my favorite services came from Norway where the liturgy (very ably sung by the Pastor) was accompanied by the church’s cantor on an accordion! I was deeply moved. You can view that service at the following link. It’s in Norwegian, but don’t be surprised if you know exactly what is going on – at least most of the time.

Yes, the choirs are mostly absent, but not in all cases. Some churches, through the use of choral scholars (masked and socially distanced), have still provided high-quality choral music. Others have used smaller groups and soloists. Organists and pianists proclaim the gospel through preludes and postludes while praise bands lead people to sing in their homes. The church’s song, though perhaps stifled, has persevered.

So, where is my planning for St. Mark’s now?

I haven’t ordered new music for the fall, or even for Christmas – but that doesn’t mean we won’t have a choir.

For the Sundays we are able to meet in the house of the Lord, I have a plan for choir rehearsals that looks something like this:

We’ll have “virtual” choir rehearsals in addition to our Wednesday night meeting because our time together will be reduced.

We’ll wear masks during rehearsal. Choir members will be asked to warm-up on their own and be ready to sing as soon as they enter the choir room.

We’ll practice for 20 minutes, then take a 20- minute breathing break OUTSIDE so people can distance and remove their masks.

We’ll meet in the nave for a final 20- minute rehearsal, still with masks and lots of distance between singers.

With a 40-minute rehearsal (instead of the usual hour and a half) we’ll only be able to work on music for the coming Sunday instead of working 4 -5 weeks like we normally do.

Our St. Mark’s Ringers will rehearse every week – socially distanced and wearing masks, of course. If we are scheduled to play on a Sunday where church will not be live, our music will be pre-recorded for inclusion in the on-line service. (BTW, we have room for two more ringers. Let me know if you’d like to play!)

Even these plans are flexible. We may need to make changes based on CDC guidelines and guidance from government officials.

Some day we will have a vaccine against Covid-19 and we’ll be able to gather, speak, and sing freely while standing next to each other. We’ll shake hands and hug our neighbors as we say, “The peace of Christ be with you.” Until then, the church’s song still goes on, proclaiming the good news of God’s love to all the world.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Music for the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost: August 2, 2020

Opening Voluntary Two Settings of “Soul, Adorn Yourself with Gladness” (Schmücke dich)

1. Johann Gottfried Walther, 1684-1748   2. Johannes Brahms, 1833-1897

The text and tune are at Evangelical Lutheran Worship 488.

Gathering Hymn Praise the One Who Breaks the Darkness (Nettleton) ELW 843 

Hymn of the Day All Who Hunger, Gather Gladly (Grace Eternal)

This hymn appears in ELW with the tune Holy Manna, but today we sing it with a newer tune by Jacksonville composer Bob Moore. His tune, Grace Eternal, feels like a folk hymn you’ve been singing your whole life.

Moore recently released a full choral version of All Who Hunger that our Festival Choir was to sing just before Covid-19 caused Sunday morning gatherings to go on hiatus.  Don’t worry, it’ll be back in our choir folders as soon as we’re able to rehearse again. We can’t wait to share it with you!

Music During Communion Holy Manna  setting, Don Hustad, 1918-2013

Hustad’s career as a church organist includes work in six different decades – including appearances with the popular gospel singer George Beverly Shea. This is a setting that I’ve enjoyed playing for a very long time and I chose it because it is the tune that ELW pairs with All Who Hunger, Gather Gladly. It’s also a nice excuse to feature our organ’s clarinet stop.

Sending Hymn O Living Bread from Heaven (Aurelia) ELW 542 

Closing Voluntary O, When Shall I See Jesus? (The Morning Trumpet) setting, Don Hustad

During this season after Pentecost, you may have noticed that I’ve been pairing the psalm refrains with tunes from folk songs, folk hymns, and early hymnody.  Only a few have fit easily – some needed a bit of coercing.

This morning I chose a tune by Benjamin F. White (1800-1879), The Morning Trumpet – a Sacred Harp tune. This is a setting of the full hymn with its text by John Leland (1754-1841), an American Baptist minister.

We’ll hear two trumpets from our organ; first the (pipe) petite trompette that was installed with the organ in 1984, then the (digital) festival trumpet makes a brief appearance at the end.


Friday, July 24, 2020

Music for the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost: July 26, 2020

Opening Voluntary Hymn Partita on “Jesus, Priceless Treasure

(jesu meine freude)      

chorale settings from Service Book and Hymnal (pub. 1958, Augsburg Publishing House) and Evangelical Lutheran Worship (pub. 2006, Augsburg Fortress)

Organ settings:

Jan Bender (1909-1994

David A. Schack (b. 1947)

J. S. Bach (1685-1750)


During these summer months and this time of pandemic, I’ve been taking some classic Lutheran hymns (for more on what makes a hymn “Lutheran,” see a former post at and having sung stanzas interlined with organ settings. I’ve decided to start calling these arrangements “partitas.” A partita is a suite of pieces – I’ve just elected to fill my suite with the voices of different composers writing on the same tune.

 jesu meine freude comes from a secular song written in bar form, which is to say it is arranged in three phrases where the second is a repeat of the first – or AAB form. Many Lutheran hymns, including some by Martin Luther, utilize bar form. At some point, a non-musician got ahold of this knowledge and started the rumor that Martin Luther based all of his hymns on tavern songs. It has been a hard story to live down. Although some Lutheran tunes began in the secular realm, it is more like singing What Child Is This to Alas, My Love, You Do Me Wrong, than it is to singing A Mighty Fortress Is Our God to A Hundred Bottles of Beer on the Wall. (That doesn’t actually work, by the way. I’m just making a point.) Incidentally, jesu meine FREUDE, or Jesus, my joy, “was originally Flora, my joy. . .

The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field. . .

 In his cantata Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen (BWV 12), J. S. Bach “buries” this well-loved tune in an aria for tenor. You can hear the aria, hear the tune, AND see the score at this link: The entire cantata is worth your time, but you can skip to the 18:58 mark to hear just this aria.

This is the most recent Bach cantata sung at St. Mark’s – and we used an oboe instead of a trumpet.

"Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen" Bach Vespers orchestra and choir at St. Mark's
November 17, 2019

Gathering Hymn O Day of Rest and Gladness (haf trones lampa färdig)

If someone ever asks “Why do Christians worship on Sunday?” you can respond with verse 2 of this hymn.

This hymn appears in ELW with the tune Ellacombe but I’ve never felt that was a good pairing. The Episcopalians sing it with a tune that I adore – Es flog ein kleins Waldvögelein – but I try not to introduce new tunes for online worship. A perfect solution seemed to be Haf trones lampa färdig, the Swedish folk tune that we sing with “Rejoice, Rejoice Believers” in Advent.


Hymn of the Day Neither Life nor Death (neither death nor life)

ELW 622

The refrain for this hymn by Marty Haugen is easily learned. In fact, you may have it memorized after the second stanza. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself humming it later in the week. Thanks to Pastor Daniel for leading this hymn and playing it on his guitar!

Marty Haugen is a prolific composer of hymns and liturgical music. Probably his most famous work with Lutherans in “Holden Evening Prayer.”

Sending Hymn Give Thanks for Saints (repton)

ELW 428

I’ve loved this tune for awhile now, at least since 2009 (but longer, really). Here’s proof from a Facebook post in 2009:

 Closing Voluntary When Morning Gilds the Skies (laudes domini)

setting, Robert Lind

“May Jesus Christ be praised” no only when morning gilds the skies, but also “when evening shadows fall.” 

And it’s not just a song for humankind to sing, but also the earth, “sun and stars of space” and all creation. The text begs for this refrain to be sung all day – and not just this day, but forever.



Hymnal Companion to Evangelical Lutheran Worship

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Music for the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost: 7/19/2020

Opening Voluntary O Blessed Spring
setting David Cherwien, b. 1957

Gathering Hymn Praise and Thanksgiving (Bunessan)
ELW 689

Hymn of the Day For the Fruit of All Creation (Ar hyd y nos)
ELW 305

Sending Hymn On What Has Now Been Sown (Darwall’s 148th)
ELW 559

Closing Voluntary Wie schön leuchtet
setting, J. C. Bach, 1642-1703

Friday, July 10, 2020

Music for the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost: July 12, 2020

This week's service is on-line, so please join us on our YouTube channel on Sunday morning at 9:30. 
Find us here:

Opening Voluntary Ensemble CCCXCVII (5036)    
William Schirmer, b. 1941
Eric Olson, oboe; Ellen Olson, viola
Dr. William Schirmer
courtesy of Bob Moore

Ellen and Eric Olson in a performance at St. Mark's
Dr. William Schirmer, Professor Emeritus at Jacksonville University, wrote this piece for the San Marco Chamber Music Society. It was debuted at the annual benefit for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund in 2014.

I’m excited to hear this piece again since Dr. Schirmer was one of my professors when I was a JU student in the 80s. Performing his Missa Universalis with the JU Concert Choir was one of the most thrilling moments of my college career. Andy Chopra studied composition with Dr. Schirmer.

Schirmer is a prolific composer – as evidenced by “5036” which is the opus number!

Visit the San Marco Chamber Music Society's web page:

Gathering Hymn Lord Jesus Christ, Be Present Now (Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend)
ELW 527

I was surprised to realize we have not sung this hymn since ELW came out in 2006. The tune is predictable, but also rhythmic. The introduction is the straightforward chorale setting, but with echoes.  The statement is by the organ’s trumpets and the echo comes on the french horn.

This is the rhythmic style of the tune, but there is also an isometric version that loses the syncopated dance quality. For more about the difference between isometric and rhythmic, see my discussion of “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” at :

I found a good recording on YouTube that will help if you would like to review it. Most Lutherans will find it familiar

Hymn of the Day As Rain from the Clouds (Afton Water)
ELW 508

Ayrshire, Scotland is home to the small river called Afton Water. Robert Burns wrote about it in 1791 and 46 years later it was set to this gentle melody composed by Jonathan Spilman.

          Flow gently, sweet Afton, among thy green braes,
          Flow gently, I’ll sing thee a song in thy praise.
          My Mary’s asleep by thy murmuring stream,
          Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not her dream.

          Thou stockdove whose echo resounds through the glen,
          Ye wild whistling blackbirds in yon thorny den,
          Thou green-crested lapwing, thy screaming forbear,
          I charge you, disturb not my slumbering fair.

Burns’ idyllic setting evokes a natural garden where things grow and birds flourish. Perhaps that is why this hymn text is so suitable for this tune.
Celtic Mist - from their Facebook page
Celtic Mist, a musical trio, has a recording you will enjoy:

Sending Hymn The Spirit Sends Us Forth to Serve (Chesterfield)
ELW 551

Closing Voluntary Prelude in D Major
J. K. F. Fischer, 1656-1746

J. K. F. Fischer

Johann Kaspar Ferdinand Fischer was a Baroque composer known for bringing French influences to music in Germany. His own teacher had been the famous French composer Jean-Baptist Lully. Said to be one of the great composers of his day, his music is rarely heard due to the rarity of his musical scores.

A Fond Farewell

One of the voices you've been hearing on our prerecorded services belongs to St. Mark's member Cindy H. Cindy has received a job offer and will be relocating sooner than we'd like. We will miss her voice in our choir and her ringing in the St. Mark's Ringers. Farewell, Cindy, and thank you for all you have done in our music program at St. Mark's.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Music for the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost: July 5, 2020

It has been nearly four months since we became, as some have said, a “church in exile.” This seems a little extreme to me, but the point is well taken. As we return for the first time this Sunday, there are some important things to know.

We have decided not to cut out congregational singing. That said, we have limited the verses being sung and will remain seated as we sing. Further, we are asking everyone to sing sotto voce.

Sotto voce is a musical term that literally translates as “under the voice.” Choral directors use this term when we don’t want our choirs to “over-sing” – often because a rehearsal is going to be very long, or we want them to conserve energy for more vocally demanding music to be sung later in the rehearsal.

During this time of pandemic, worshipers are requested to sing and speak sotto voce, and to wear a mask that covers their mouth and nose.

Opening Voluntary Festive Processional “Entrata Festiva”
David Lasky
This morning the organ leads us into worship with the rousing sound of trumpets. Such sounds are usually reserved for the end of the service but it has been nearly four months since we last gathered in the nave, so something celebratory is definitely in order. David Lasky’s piece satisfies that need.

Gathering Hymn Come to Me, All Pilgrims Thirsty (Beach Spring)
ELW 777
It turns out that “Beach Spring” is a misspelling since the composer, Benjamin Franklin White (1800-1879), wrote the tune and named it for Beech Spring Baptist Church in Harris County, Georgia.

Psalm Refrain
During the summer months I have been choosing folks songs and global music to accompany the refrain singing. This week I’ve chosen Alegría by Pablo Sosa (1933-2020) who was born in Argentina, then educated in Buenos Aires and New Jersey at Westminster Choir College. He also studied at Union Seminary in New York. He died on January 12, 2020. Read his obituary here:

Rev. Sosa was a strong advocate for the use of regional music in worship services – thus this song is written in the carnavalito style. The original is found at ELW 664. It’s a popular song for choirs too. Here’s a link to a video by the UU Children’s Choir:

I was unable to find any information about the choir itself.

Hymn of the Day If You but Trust in God to Guide You (Wer nur den lieben Gott)
ELW 769
This hymn was first published in 1657. The composer, Georg Neumark (1621-1681) captioned it a “Hymn of Consolation.”  He explained: That in God’s own time God will sustain and keep each person according to the text “Cast your burden on the Lord who will sustain you.” (Psalm 55:23)

Trusting God is not a prerequisite for God’s guidance; rather, trusting God enables us to see God’s hand already at work in our lives.

Sending Hymn God of the Ages (National Hymn)
Probably more widely known as “God of Our Fathers,” this is a suitable hymn to sing on the same weekend we celebrate our nation’s birthday.  National Hymn is merely a tune a name. This hymn does not have any official designation as a national hymn.

Closing Voluntary If You but Trust in God to Guide You
setting, J. S. Bach