I think I've mentioned this before, but one of my favorite musical forms is the hymn. I love their moving parts, their rich and powerful texts. I have vivid childhood memories of listening to the aching loveliness of Christmas carols with their resonant, majestic chords and evocative words. I love the music of worship from the early Catholic church. I love the old European hymns of the Protestant faiths. And I love the American hymns, often simpler by comparison, yet every bit as stirring, even haunting, in their expression of faith.
One of my favorite hymn composers is a man named William W. Phelps, a founding member of the LDS Church which I attend. The words he wrote reveal something of the person he must have been--deeply faithful, deeply spiritual, deeply connected to the beauty and hope of his beliefs. I am often struck, when I regard the literature and other creative expressions of that time, how manifest God's presence was in the minds of the people living then, how there was a deep and abiding synthesis between spirituality and the daily concerns of life.
I am presently working on a choral arrangement of Glorious Things are Sung of Zion. The melody and some of the words are mine, but the following text was written by Phelps:
Glorious things are sung of Zion,
Enoch's city, seen of old,
Where the righteous, being perfect,
Walked with God in streets of gold.
Love and virtue, faith and wisdom,
Grace and gifts were all combined.
As himself each loved his neighbor,
All were one in heart and mind.
Such pure and simple words, such a beautiful vision.
Although the choral arrangement is not yet complete, I love singing an a capella version with Izzy. These are some of the sweetest moments we share together--filled with laughter, sharing, and a certain intimacy which comes through the communion of beautiful music.
This is our duet.