Hymn #14, #15, #16: Traditional Doxology, And Can It Be, and When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

Wednesdays and Thursdays are (remote) piano teaching days–long days! but I will do my best to keep Hymn-A-Day going anyway.

I keep trying to grok what this whole pandemic crisis means to me, and I can’t. My life and destiny are not mine to control–I could get sick and die. My mind just completely rebels at that, we are in a medically advanced age, I don’t have to worry about that, right? No. The harder I try to save myself, the more my life and what I want slips away from me and greater the sense that no one will care. These hymns directly address that kind of thinking: they teach about the love that God gives all of us, my amazement that God would want me–someone with a lot of brokeness–(And Can It Be That I Should Gain) and the wonder that Someone would love me so much that He would die for me (When I Survey the Wondrous Cross).

P.S.: I discovered that Hymn #13 All Creatures of Our God and King is actually an alternate Doxology called the Keswick Doxology. The words are the same for the fourth verse, but I did not recognize the melody and just figured I was playing it badly! Actually you all know the traditional Doxology that is used in the Catholic church, although many other churches use it as well. I did a short recording:

Hymn #13: All Creatures of Our God and King (Doxology)

I grew up with this hymn being sung every service (Congregational denomination), and have always liked it.  The act of praising God for this life, whatever befalls me, just seems so right especially now and has truly helped me not panic and worry.  I hope it does the same for you.  This version of the hymn sounds deceptively simple, but is a true finger twister and was particularly difficult for me to learn in a short amount of time.

[edited: put up a better recording–I shouldn’t be doing this late at night!]




Hymn #12: I Surrender All

What a great service today.  I especially liked Tresa’s message, as she talked about being humble and surrendering all to God.  She made reference to this hymn and so I present it here.  Can I let go in the face of grave danger and perilous times?  Can I accept that I don’t run this show?  Can I be utterly grateful for the life I’ve been given, and to give back and help others?  I have many failures and deep regrets–can I truly surrender all, the good and the bad, to God?

PS:  There were supposed to be a couple of prior hymns for the last two days, but they didn’t sound very good, so I’ll try again another day.


Hymn #11: I Know Who Holds Tomorrow

I feel like this hymn really speaks to me, especially these days.  I have worked so hard doing the strict quarantine thing to keep us safe–but the reality is, I don’t really control very much.  That’s such a hard concept to grasp, because it seems like, at least in a normal life, that I control so much, and I would be criminally negligent if I didn’t frantically do all this stuff.  But on some level, I recognize I control a lot less than I think I do, and I am sure I would be happier, even now, if I remember what this hymn teaches me.  Seems like that would be a whole lot more peaceful way to live.

May you experience a deep peace and comfort through the times ahead.

Hymn#8: Bach Prelude in C

This isn’t a hymn, but is thought to be the classical music basis for the famous Ave Maria by Schubert (yup, that’s coming at some point).  I love doing hymns and improvising on them, but deep down I’m a classical player.  And the trouble with classical work is that it requires practice–so a Classical-A-Day ain’t gonna happen, although you will get a Classical-A-ThreeMonths if you want one!  I will be posting variations in style and genre; I think listening here could get repetitive if I didn’t vary what you hear.  I appreciate your listening and all the compliments!


Hymn #7: For the Beauty of the Earth

These days, I need the reminder of being thankful for all that I have, including the deep satisfaction of being able to play music in troubled times.  I mowed the lawn, I don’t think I’ve ever been as thankful as now to do that!  It was a beautiful day, I enjoyed the smell of the cut grass, and immersed in a chore that felt like things were back to normal!



Hymn #5: Were You There

I will have to pace myself a bit–that last one was a lot of work, as it’s been 10-15 or so years since I put all that music in a box!  And, this was a busy week for teaching and getting my performance pieces going (Khatchaturian Toccata and the last movement of the Haydn Concerto in D). I will do my best to keep going with a Hymn-A-Day, but will have to skip a day here and there.

Good Friday makes me think of one person in particular–Pontius Pilate.  There is no way I would ever approach the character strength of Jesus, but Pontius Pilate had the unique position of being in the right place at the right time to stop a monstrous mob evil stupidity.  From what I have read, it looks like he did recognize the stupidity, and pushed back on it, but gave in at the end.  I wonder if he didn’t know or didn’t recognize how extremely important Jesus was, didn’t really care that much, or was terrified that the mob would turn on him and he did what he had to to survive.  The reading seems to indicate the latter.  I often picture myself in his shoes, would I have done any better?   If I am in a position to do something that really matters at some level of risk to myself, would I (e.g., deliver groceries to someone at risk)?  For me, this is the day to reflect on who and what I am, and can I do better.

I added another recording that I think I like–the hymnal version is more meditative and reflective of Good Friday.  You choose which you like!




Hymn #4: Air I Breathe

One of my favorite memories playing for church was accompanying Tresa, and this piece I still remember as the best of all.  As I remember it, she held the audience completely spellbound as she sung a soaring soprano line on top of this rhythmic, breathing accompaniment (I rewrote this version to include her melody line, but it won’t be hard to imagine her singing it!).  If ever music evoked a sense of humanity’s unison with all of the universe for me, this was it.  Thank you Tresa!


Hymn #3: A Song of Joy

I appreciate the privilege of being able to play piano for you, to share the beauty from music of the greatest artists of all time.  It helps me so much to get such kind feedback from many of you–thank you.  You give me joy in these dark times and divert my stress over all that is happening.

This piece is a famous adaptation (Orbe-Waldo de los Rios) of Beethoven’s greatest work of all time, the finale of the Ninth Symphony.  It was his last, and it is my understanding that he approached the end of his life with a great sense of joy that transcended life itself.

I love playing piano and teaching, and playing music like this just makes my spirit soar!  May it be so for you too.

Hymn #2: Precious Lord

This is one of my all-time favorite hymns, and is particularly appropriate both for these times and for me.  I will often “decorate” hymns or even completely rework them in an improvisation style–but not this one.  The harmony and my playing is simple but the message is profoundly moving.

Precious Lord, I call to you.  Show me you are here.  Show me what I need to do.  Show me peace in this frightening and devastating time.  Take my hand, and lead me on, through the storm, through the night.