Lord, in times of grief and pain, we are grateful that Your love will not let us go and that we can rest our weary souls in you. Grant us peace and rest in our hearts for the hour that we will see you face to face is hastening on.
Little is known about the writer or the origins surrounding the hymn "Be Still My Soul." We know that it is the only work of Kathrina von Schlegel to be translated into English. In 1927, the lyric was published to a tune called FINLANDIA, which is an excerpt of the orchestral tone-poem by the same title composed by Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (who, incidentally, at one point dreamed of being a concert violinist and not a composer.) (Also of note, I have had the pleasure of playing Sibelius' original work in its entirety as part of a symphony and it is well worth giving a listen.)
Oh Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go was penned by George Matheson who gave the following account: "[This hymn was] written in the Manse of my former parish (Innellan, Argyleshire) one summer evening in 1882. It was composed with extreme rapidity; it seemed to me that its construction occupied only a few minutes, and I felt myself rather in the position of one who was being dictated to than of an original artist as I was suffering from extreme mental distress, and the hymn was the fruit of pain." It was set to the tune ST. MARGARET (Peace) composed by Albert L. Peace about whom nothing seems to be known save the dates of his birth and death and that he brought this tune into being.
Tonight's arranger/performer is Dr. David Madeira, director of music at St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church, a professor of music theory and theology/worship studies at Belmont University, and a prolific composer, percussionist, pianist and arranger. An expert in the field of congregational psalmody, Dr. Madeira is best known for the creation of the twelve-point chant, a new format that makes chanting the Psalms accessible for modern congregations. His "The Twelve Point Chant Psalter" includes all 150 Psalms for congregational use and is available for purchase HERE. David and his wife Elizabeth, a teacher and community organizer, live near Nashville, TN with their three kids.
When I first came to St. B's as my church is affectionately called, I spent two entire years simply being a parishioner. A person who came to church (whenever I wasn't on the road) and sat in a pew. In that season of life to be honest, my soul was both weary and wary of church and needed space to breathe and grow. When I knew that I was being nudged to once again be a participant and not just a partaker of the worship service, I had no idea the kind of leader and friend I would find in the guy whose name was printed next to "Director of Music" in the bulletin each Sunday.
Over the past 8 years, David has entertained each one of my thoughts & ideas with careful consideration as he does for each one of the many volunteer musicians he shepherds. His leadership style is to simply make each musician assume we are capable of whatever arrangement he creates for us and then through his confidence we each find that we somehow ARE equipped to play whatever is set before us. His gift for choosing music that follows the lectionary cycle and world events is so strong I'd venture to say it can be categorized in the realm of prophetic, but his humility and "nose to the grindstone" work ethic would prevent him from ever admitting to as much. On any given Sunday you can find him playing piano or drums (or sometimes both in the course of a single service) while simultaneously directing the choir, band and cantors through an entire mass of music - typically around 14 songs per service - the bulk of which he has written or arranged.
I had this whole hymns project brewing in my mind last Sunday and "O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go" was already on the list when I logged on to watch the first livestream service from St. B's that morning. David was faithfully seated at the piano and began leading our congregation with "Be Still My Soul." Instantly I knew that these two hymns with their similar tempos and deep, thoughtful lyrics would arrange together beautifully and so a few text messages later this arrangement came to be. We had the immense gift of using it as the prelude for this morning's service (which you can go back and watch HERE) and we pray it beckons your soul to rest in the confidence that God's love will never let you go.
Stories and thoughts and current happenings in music and life
Bethany is a freelance violinist/fiddler and tour manager who works with artists & events such as Kelly Minter, Cultivate: A Gathering Around The Word and Laura Story. She and her husband Keith live in Nashville, TN with their daughter Clare, cat & 6 backyard chickens. For more info on Bethany, visit her bio page!!