Advent

Favorite Advent and Mary Songs

Nick Alexander here... We are already into our second week of Advent, with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception before us, as well as the Solemnity of Our Lady of Guadalupe. And Christmas is merely weeks away. Are you aware that TopCatholicSongs has a number of playlists already available to correspond to your Seasonal needs? And, as is the benefits of these lists, you can immediately link to the iTunes page, where you can listen to the tracks first, and then purchase them--and instantly have them downloaded onto your computer. From there, you can listen freely, or you can upload them onto your own MP3 player, or burn them directly onto a CD. If you like any particular song in the list, you are further free to explore that artist's full output, also on the iTunes page. Or, you can click to any number of direct links on these lists, and have access to a Catholic or independent music retailer, where you can purchase the full CDs (perhaps as a gift?) How do you have access to the Advent Lists? Or the Mary Lists? Or the Christmas lists? Easy. On the bottom of each entry there are a number of Tags. Click on the tag that you would want to listen to (say, Advent), and immediately all the Advent pages will come up. It will be fun just sorting through them all. In the meantime, do you have any favorite psalms/hymns/spiritual songs that are befitting for the season? Feel free to share them... leave a comment below!

Advent Healing and Hope Mass

On Tuesday evening, I played for a charismatic "Healing and Hope" mass for the Archdiocese of Hartford. For those unfamiliar with such liturgies, it is an opportunity to incorporate the dynamic elements in an informal prayer gathering with a formal Catholic liturgy, oftentimes with tremendous results. It's always thrilling for me to play these masses, because it gives me the freedom to do what I love to do best--lead congregations with a mixture of contemporary and traditional worship songs. I believe wholeheartedly that the elements from these types of songs complement each other--a traditional liturgy has solemnity and reverence, whereas the music from contemporary praise choruses have a personal, vibrant quality. The former emphasizes God is Holy, and the latter emphasizes God is closer than your best friend. Both are needed. Being the season of Advent, I focussed my song selection with laser-like precision to focus on Advent themes: particularly the expectancy of Jesus' imminent return. Choosing songs that stayed true to the Advent season, while being appropriate for a healing liturgy (singable, congregation-friendly, God-centered, and beautiful). Having the original "Holy Is the Lord" (Steubenville Press) and a CCLI license at my disposal, I worked hard to get a plan in order. First off, was the prelude before the liturgy. Charismatic healing liturgies sometimes allow for a few up-tempo songs to be played before the actual formal liturgy begins. My job was to find those songs that people knew, or people could easily pick up, so that they could join in singing. The songs I chose were:
  • Soon And Very Soon / Come And Go With Me to that Land medley
  • Jesus is Coming Again (Vineyard, from Winds of Worship 11-Australia)
  • Prepare the Way (Passion, from Charlie Hall and Louie Giglio)
Only "Jesus is Coming Again" did I print out on the page, the rest were simple enough that people could pick them up without using a songsheet. Then came the songs for the liturgy. The entrance hymn was:O Come O Come Emmanuel (verses 1, 5 and 6).I knew that the verses correllated with specific weeks in the Advent calendar, but for here I guessed that verses 5 and 6 were meant for week 3 of Advent. The responsorial psalm was sung, by an original melody that I tried to keep as simple as possible. Homily: Obviously, I don't play any songs during the homily--but the priest was a singing priest, and he insisted in getting the congregation to sing at certain points, particularly an original, lovely "Alleluia" setting, as well as the classic songs "Spirit of the Living God" and "There's Just Something About that Name." I wish more priests did this. Offeratory: At the Name of Jesus (Jim Cowan's rendering). Personally, I could have gone after any number of melodies for this hymn, but Jim Cowan's rendering is the most familiar for this crowd, and is the simplest to pick up for neophytes. It also sounds pretty good. Very strong Advent themes, particularly with the last verse. Communion. The antiphon text was Matthew 1:23 (His name will be called Emmanuel, which means God is with us). This was great, because there were a number of songs that used this very text, including the very popularly used Emmanuel by Bob McKee. But McKee's rendering wasn't long enough, so I searched for a complementary song that can flow together. To my surprise, the solution was already in the "Holy is the Lord" resource at my disposal, a simple song His Name Shall Be Called, which borrows a melody from classical music. The songs can be forced in the same key, and they play right off of each other. Of all the musical achievements last night, this I was most proud of. Recessional: Come Holy Ghost. At a healing mass, as the prayer teams are lined up, this sort of song is mandatory. This, to me, was the only derivation from the Advent season. After this, I was free to sing whatever song I wanted, in a muted tone, keeping a worshipful flow. I created special resources that allowed me to keep the focus specifically tailored to both Advent and the ministry of healing. The songs I chose (to the best of my memory) were the following (and not in this order):
  • Lord of All (Jim Cowan)
  • Jesus, Come to Us (David Haas)
  • Even So Come (Kevin Prosch)
  • Even So (Terry MacAlmon)
  • Lo He Comes With Clouds Descending (chanted a cappella with Tantum Ergo melody)
  • To You O Lord (Graham Kendrick)
  • Let Us Adore (Hillsong)
  • Emmanuel (Hillsong)
  • Christ Circle Round Us (chanted a cappella)
  • Wonderful Maker (Chris Tomlin/Matt Redman)
  • Help Us Our God (underused classic Vineyard)
The evening was real incredible, and I am just blessed to have been a part of it.

Great Advent Reflections and New Christmas CDs

Susan Bailey writes: From time to time I get more new stuff than I can schedule into the GrapeVine News Minute Podcast or the magazine, so I will mention it here. Sean Ward from CatholicTV in Boston, MA sent me a note yesterday about Advent reflections that they are doing on the website. If you have not visited this site before, be sure and visit it. All their programming is online, proving once again that CatholicTV is staying ahead of the curve. You can find their Advent programs where it says "Now Playing - CATHOLICTV SERIES" - scroll down a bit to find the Advent link. Of their Advent programming, Sean writes, "Check out Fr. Bill Kelly. He has a different reflection every week (along with the other four priests). Beginning next week they are sung. CatholicTV's Advent programming is underway. Each day of the Advent calendar we have a different reflection. Think of it as your thought for the day as you wait for Jesus birthday." Artists have certainly been busy! Just within the last week I've received 3 wonderful new projects, one of which (Popple's new release, "Plaid") will be profiled in the Winter issue of GrapeVine, coming out in February. My schedule with the podcast is full for this month but I just had to mention these two new releases that I've received related to Christmas. Mike Zabrocki has put out his first Christmas project and it contains some traditional songs that I've not heard before including my favorite, "The Cherry Tree Carol" which he does with his wife, Laura. There's also a great Advent hymn on it, "Come O Lord." Listen to samples on Mike's MySpace site. Tom Franzak has put out a wonderful new project which includes members of his family (and they all sing very well!). The packaging for this CD is very unusual and really catches the eye. When it first arrived in my mailbox and I opened the package, I thought it was a Christmas card. That's because the package is designed to be just that. The inside contains the CD, lyrics to all the original songs and a picture of Tom and his family. It's beautifully done. I listened on the way into work this morning and really enjoyed hearing both spiritually-based songs ("Emmanuel," "Behold the Child," "Let It Be Done," etc.) and songs with traditional secular Christmas themes ("A Christmas Card," "On Christmas Day," "Through the Eyes of a Child," etc.). I always love anything that's new and innovative. Tom's daughter Lucy, especially, is a wonderful singer. Great job, all you Franzaks! You can find their project at www.littlewaychristmas.com. That's it for now. Stay tuned for this weekend's podcast which will feature Lynn Geyer talking about her Merry Christmas New York City show at Carnegie Hall. Peace and Happy Advent! Susan Bailey

The Coming of Our God

Just found this in one of my older hymnals. They just don't craft songs like this anymore. The Coming of Our God C. Coffin, 1676-1749. Tr R. Campbell, 1814-1868, and compilers The coming of our God Our thoughts must now employ Then let us meet Him on the road With songs of holy joy. The co-eternal Son A Maiden's offspring see; A servant's form Christ putteth on To set His people free Daughter of Sion, rise To greet thine infant King; Nor let thy stubborn heart despise The pardon he doth bring. In glory from His throne Again will Christ descend And summon all that are His own To joys that never end. Let deeds of darkness fly Before the approaching morn, For unto sin 'tis ours to die And serve the Virgin-born. Our joyful praises sing To Christ, that set us free; Like tribute to the Father bring, And Holy Ghost, to Thee.

Story Behind the Song: Wait With Me

Susan Bailey writes:

Wait with Me is based on readings from a book detailing the locutions received by Fr. Don Stefano Gobbi, the founder of the Marian Movement of Priests from the Blessed Mother. In these readings, Mary speaks about her waiting for the Christ Child to be born. I found these readings to be a wonderful way to reflect upon Advent, a beautiful season of joyful expectation that is so overshadowed by the noise and chaos of the commercial Christmas of the world. Written in the first person and arranged and performed in a simple and peaceful manner, you can imagine the Blessed Mother sharing her reflections with you on the coming of Christ Jesus as a baby into the world. This song is available on through iTunes, and is on two albums: Wait with Me: Advent of the Promised Son and Mater Dei. Visit my website to see how you can purchase the albums. You can listen to the song in its entirety here (or here for dial-up users).

Wait with Me based on #462, #484 and #508 of To the Priests, Our Lady’s Beloved Sons by Don Stefano Gobbi Beloved child, enter in this mystery This blessed time as we wait for the Holy Son Come inside of my immaculate heart And wait with me, oh wait for Him to come! Come feel my sigh of expectation The spark of love, the moan of desire As I wait now in labor With a love that burns like fire The nightime comes and darkness swallows The fading light, the end of day And yet His light envelopes me In His ecstasy, His way Prepare your hearts now for this moment In quiet solitude and song And let the tranquil peace of soul Mark the passage of night to dawn

Twenty Advent Songs You Have to Know (Part 2 of 2)

This is the second part to this article.

We Shall Prepare by Janet Vogt and Mark Friedman, is in Spirit and Song II. Hopefully, one day the friendly folks from www.spiritandsong.com would put this song up on iTunes.

Twenty Advent Songs You Have to Know (Part 1 of 2)

Besides "O Come O Come Emmanuel".

This is Part I of an article initially published in Grapevine magazine. This list focuses on the top Traditional Advent Songs. The second list of Contemporary Advent Songs, is available here.

I've begun to witness the beginning stages of our coming Christmas season. Stores have set aside space for outdoor electronic reindeer and nativity displays. Several catalogs for Christmas music and books have arrived in my mailbox.

Soon enough, I can expect another year of the same: radio stations dedicated to "Holiday Music." Television channels will be replaying favorite movie classics; sometimes, the same movie lasts a whole day. Watchdog groups will take account of which superstores wish their customers a "Merry Christmas" or not. News stations will focus on which city governments decided to create Christmas displays ... or inter-religious "Holiday displays" ... or no displays at all ... without infuriating a vocal segment of the population.

In the midst of this cacophony, I ponder... what happened to Advent?

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