Thursday, March 17, 2005

Promised Land

I have discovered yet another way to waste time. It is an online version of the Southern Harmony. Oh, how addictive.

My favorites include this tune called "Restoration" which appears in the United Methodist Hymnal as #340. There are just a couple of the really old shaped-note hymns where the old harmonization is used in our current hymnal.

I also like Wondrous Love but this one, Promised Land always will hold a special place in my heart's treasure box. I will never forget taking communion "inside the square" at an old Methodist Church. It was a wooden structure with no insulation so that the entire building acted as a sound box. There were birds nesting in the rafters on that hot Georgia summer afternoon. There was dust in the air that danced in the golden sunlight. The chairs were set up in a "square" for a singing. The person conducting stood in the center. The shaped note singing is a different sound -- the melody is carried by half the sopranos and the tenors and is called the "treble" -- the sopranos mostly sing harmony. It's a haunting sound, minor and the pacing and tempo is a driving beat, with strong accent on the 1st and 3rd. We took communion in the center of the square, one at a time, by intinction, with the sound of this ancient hymn beating and swirling around us and in us. "I am bound for the promised land, I'm bound for the promised land, O, who will come and go with me? I am bound for the promised land."

I used this hymn sung by the Alabama Shaped Note Singers as the background music for a film I did last year on Communion -- it is so ingrained in my soul as a Eucharist hymn. A song of Thanksgiving.

I worked it into the background music for our Maundy Thursday service. The principal accompanist and I just finished scoring the music to play in the background as the passion narrative is read. We are having a "Last Supper" tableau in the background with music and scripture, footwashing and communion -- the music is going to be continuous, with several hymns to be sung by the congregation and two anthems by the choir.

So much to write, so little time! All that's left right now is a sermon for Monday's Lenten Lunch and an exegesis paper for Tuesday.

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