The following is a continued reflection on songs used in worship by the handbell choir directed by Mitchell (Campus Edge’s Emerging Leader).
Pie Jesu (follow link to listen)
The words of the Kyrie, a part of the mass from the ancient Church are “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.” The basic liturgical formula used today by Catholics, Episcopalians and Lutherans was standardized some time before 1000 C.E. Some of the key parts are the Kyrie, Alleluia, Sanctus and Angus Dei. The Angus Dei is a prayer for penitence (“Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.”) It is these words that Andrew Lloyd Weber uses for the basis of “Pie Jesu” in his Requiem:
Merciful Jesus, who takes away the sins of the world, give them rest.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, give them rest. Everlasting rest.
Weber also uses the ending words of the Dies irae, a text used for the ancient requiem mass: “Merciful Lord Jesus, grant them rest. Amen.” Together these words are a powerful reminder of our bleak mortality, but also God’s ability to forgive.The text with Weber’s music is a beautiful song of lament and resolve.
Timbrel and Dance (follow link to listen)
Aside from “Pie Jesu”, in October we also shared joy with “Timbrel and Dance”, an original piece for handbells. The phrase “timbrel and dance” comes from Psalm 150, which offers wonderful insights for church musicians. I particularly enjoy the KJV version of the text. (The world timbrel means “tambourine”).
Praise ye the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power. Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness. Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp. Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs. Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high-sounding cymbals. Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord.
The driving rhythms, and joyful energy in the piece shout “Praise ye the Lord!” I picked this piece because I remember hearing it played by the youth handbell ensemble when I was young, and it always made me feel excited.
I’m Just a Poor Wayfaring Stranger (follow link to listen)
In November, we played “I’m Just a Poor Wayfaring Stranger”, a piece of American folk music probably first sung in Appalachia in the early 1800s. Little is known about the song’s origins, but the hardship expressed in the song could reflect any number of antebellum issues including famine, hardship and immigration. The song has probably persisted because of the universality of the lyrics. Consider the first verse:
I’m just a poor wayfaring stranger,
I’m trav’ling through this world below;
There is no sickness, toil, nor danger,
In that bright world to which I go.
I’m going there to see my father,
I’m going there no more to roam;
I’m just a going over Jordan,
I’m just a going over home.
The journey of the wayfaring stranger could be a life of physical hardship or a spiritual lament yearning for the presence of God. What do the words mean to you?