Search This Blog

Friday, March 15, 2013

Albums - Do Not Fear to Hope (1986)

I was beginning to hit my stride a little at my first job as a full-time music and liturgy director at St. Jerome in Phoenix. There is a story in there, about how I went from being a travel agent and weekend warrior to a full-time pastoral musician, but I will tell it a different time, probably during Holy Week, for the synchronicity of it.

In September of 1985, Gary and I started attending classes at the Corpus Christi Center for Advanced Liturgical Study in Phoenix, an institute founded by John Gallen, SJ, when he moved to the area to take over liturgy direction at the Franciscan Renewal Center. The CCCALS (I'm sorry, it just takes so long to say, like Peter Schickele's "University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople") only lasted four years, but opened a "branch" school in Las Vegas during that time, so that liturgists and musicians in that diocese could also have some training. I think I remember that he may have done the same in Albuquerque. A lot of us in Phoenix did that two-year program: Jaime Cortez, Mike Wieser, Jody Serey, Ginny McKinley-Temple, Suzanne DiGiovanni, Mark Mellis, Frank Dominguez. Well, I don't remember everyone, but probably over a hundred. I'm not sure whether it was the classes we liked so much, or the going out afterward for music and a nightcap, listening to Beth Lederman play jazz at Timothy's. This also may be why I don't remember more.

But that fall we started working on a new recording, with Tom Kendzia producing. It was recorded at Vintage Recorders, a little studio on the corner of 11th Street and Camelback road in a one-story concrete block building. You Alone had been recorded at the NALR studio, and I'm not sure exactly why we moved to a "real" studio, but I'm certain that Tom was behind it. Maybe it was the crickets at NALR. More likely there was more varied and groovier sound equipment there. Certainly the nearby restaurants were better.


Tom had a friend from college (Manhattanville) who had played on his new album No Greater Love. Stacy Widelitz was (is) a keyboard whiz whom Tom brought in to play some of the orchestral parts I'd written. He used a new sampling synth made by Digital Keyboards Inc., called Synergy. Stacy co-wrote "She's Like the Wind" (ka-CHING!) with Patrick Swayze for the movie Dirty Dancing, a feat for which I'm sure he's had to pay with a life of excess and idleness. But what he was able to do in the studio was amazing. Listen to the intro to "Save the People," written for a woodwind quartet. All of those instruments were from the Synergy, and if I'm not mistaken, so was the guitar. I've also posted the original version of "Song of the Chosen," the one that got anthologized in Glory and Praise Comprehensive 1st Edition and Gather Comprehensive 1st Edition. The album began with that keyboard portamento you hear at the top of the track. The insane (to me, anyway) solo in the original version of "We Will Serve the Lord" was also a keyboard part that Stacy played.


My friends are so good that even their friends are amazing. And that's part of the great mystery of all this, the people who have played and sung on my recordings over the years. I'm not worthy to undo the thongs of their musical sandals, and yet their art has made my songs shine more brightly than I thought possible.

There still was no "Cooney-Daigle-Donohoo" entity of which to speak at this time. My best recollection is that, after Do Not Fear to Hope and before Mystery, we were driving together with John Gallen on the way to or from Allentown PA to visit Fr. Jim Lopresti and had a discussion about forging a firmer business/ministerial relationship as a trio. But it certainly began to emerge as we recorded this album. Terry and Gary did the lion's share of the vocals, but Tom, Daniel (Cyprian) Consiglio, and the amazing and wonderfully kind Steve Rio also sang on a couple of the cuts.


Looking back on this album, what I myself see is some progress in songwriting. For those who don't know, I almost always start the process of songwriting by writing a text. I'm not the kind of composer who comes up with melodies out of the clear blue, or crafts melodies out of thematic ideas. Being someone who started as a poet/writer, I suppose that's where my prejudice is. So my tunes try to express the words I've written, to the extent that I'm able to do it. Sometimes I suspect that I settle too quickly and that there's an element of predictability about where things are going musically. At this point, I was probably also pitching entire songs too high, a vestige both of being a tenor and guitar player. ("Faithful Family," for instance, probably would be better in F for congregational singing, but it sits better in G on guitar.)

The other thing I've noticed in hindsight is my annoying "messiah complex" coming out in the song titles. Of the 13 titles (ten, really, excluding the psalms and the setting of the Gloria), five contain "command" words to start. Six, if you count "Serve the Lord," which I don't. I've gotten so paranoid about this that I just start lyrics over if I find myself doing it now. Even if it's scripture, I try to find a way that everyone isn't telling everyone else to do something, unless it's to do it together. Like "Come to Us."

The songs

Do Not Fear to Hope was released on vinyl and cassette, and never was a CD. Now out of print, some of the anthologized songs were re-recorded on later OCP collections.

Side One
1. Song of the Chosen. Gary and Terry did the verses on this version. I wrote this song while I was on an undirected personal retreat at my high school seminary which had become a retreat center, St. Vincent's in Montebello. The verses are a paraphrase of Psalm 33 (34), the refrain is a pastiche of texts from the epistles. There are lectionary refrains as well, including "Happy the people you have chosen," used on some Sundays, and for the Rite of Acceptance in the RCIA.
2. Come to Us. I wrote this after being inspired by a homily preached by Fr. Vernon Meyer, a previous pastor at St. Jerome and a fine biblical scholar. But it is a consistent theme in my writing: the assembly needs to hear itself as the ministering Christ. Yes, Christ ministers to us. But we need to understand also that "the ministry of reconciliation has been entrusted to us," and the spirit poured out on us in baptism and the eucharist we receive shape us into Christ's identity. We don't say to the poor and confused, "Go to Christ." We need to say, "Come to us." The singers on this were all members of a family who sang at St. Jerome, the Denks: Gary, Pamela (Parafiniuk), and Maria.
3. Faithful Family. The original refrain is suggested by Eph 4:32-5:2, but the verses are my own metric translation of the Ubi Caritas. I still think this is a really good song, I wish other people felt the same way! That whole process of "natural selection" is such a mystery to me.
4. Save the People. This is a choral setting of a tune I wrote for the 19th century text, slightly adapted, by Ebenezer Elliott, called "The People's Anthem." It was also appropriated (without attribution) by Stephen Schwartz in Godspell. 
5. Psalm 103: The Lord Is Kind. You're not going to believe this, but I am going back into this blog and adding this song in, because when after I wrote this I realized then when I imported my album into iTunes (from which I took the song order) I forgot that I was missing this song. Wow. Well, again, this is a lectionary refrain, but I used the metric psalm text of Psalm 103 that was written by the great James Montgomery, written in the early 19th century (and again, used without attribution by Stephen Schwartz in Godspell.) I think this is one of my most dramatic psalm settings, and captures the soaring imagery of the psalm's elation with God's salvation of the psalmist.
6. We Will Serve the Lord. Arguably, the best known of all the songs on this recording. Just listening again to the original recording, I am reminded that the first stanza was sung by one of the young women who sang with me at St. Jerome, Kathy Schmitt. There were several really talented young people (younger than me, anyway, by about fifteen years) who sang with me during those years. Terry, Gary and I sang the other verses.

Side Two
1. Do Not Fear to Hope. I got the idea for this song from an article I had read in the Christian Century, called "Fear to Hope," about the malaise in European Christianity, particularly in the shadow of Reagan-era NATO missile deployments which made western Europe ground zero for World War III. Terry's voice brings a confident warmth to the song, and her interpretation has, I know, helped hundreds, if not thousands, of people and communities through dark times over the years.
2. All the Ends of the Earth (Psalm for Christmas). My setting of Psalm 98. I had always been attracted by the work of Richard Proulx, who had set this psalm with at least half a dozen refrains that could be used with the same verses. I did the same here, using the Grail translation. The recorded refrain is the seasonal refrain for the Christmas season.
3. Cry for Justice. Daniel Consiglio graciously sang this song on the recording, and the strength and energy he brought to the singing lifts up the song and the whole album. I can't remember now whether he or Gary played the guitar solo, or both of them, but in any case, for a song that never went anywhere, I really love it. I especially love the Davids Byrne & Bowie effect that Tom used in recording it, having Dan sing in two octaves for part of it.


4. Seek After Peace. I wrote a suite of music for mass called Missa America. Yeah, I know. So clever. I was trying, if overreaching my ability, to use both blues and jazz influences into mainstream liturgical song with the melodies. The Glory to God (see below) was in 7/8, in alternating measures of 4+3 and then 3+4. It actually sang pretty well in the years I used it at St. Jerome. The Alleluia was also in 7/8. The Sanctus was based on a standard blues riff, and sang well too, but a lot of the mass was less successful. There were three hymns, too: a new melody for "God of Our Fathers" (National Hymn) which I refashioned as "God of the Ages," a closing hymn that escapes me but was fairly pretentious if well-intentioned, and a communion song, called "Seek after Peace." All I can say is, "A man's reach should exceed his grasp, else what's a heaven for?"
5. Psalm 128 for Weddings. Using a motif somewhat suggestive of one in "Sunrise, Sunset," I wrote this setting for two cantors and choir. I still use this setting. I think it has worn very well and is versatile to many instrumental settings. Again, in the recording, the woodwind parts are the DK Synergy synth. They still sound amazing. Tom may have used a real flute in places to fool the ear.
6. Glory to God from Missa America. See track 4 above.
7. Nightprayer. When I was preparing to work for Youth Sing Praise as a prayer minister, I wrote songs for morning and night prayer as part of the experience for the youth attendees, all parish musicians. This simple little canon was the night prayer contribution; "Morningsong" would wait until my 2001 collection for WLP called Keep Awake before it would be recorded. I like the atmosphere of this song and the text I wrote for it. Stacy used a number of strange instruments, including wind chimes and some kind of Japanese bell, in moody accompaniment. The text is short so I'll include it here.
Candlelight, this night give praise:
Bless the Lord who lights our days.
Lend your glow to us who know
The Lord alone is God. 
Song, take flight on darkened wing.
Moon and stars and planets, sing.
Whippoorwill, make music 'til
The daylight makes reply. 
Son, be here tho' this be night,
Shine your everlasting light
That its rays may find no trace
Of darkness in my heart. 
(© 1986, Epoch/NALR)
It's one of the few liturgical songs that uses the word "whippoorwill," anyway.

Hits and misses
The songbook cover, artwork by
Gary Palmatier, Ideas to Images

Of the songs on DNFTH, seven found their way into printed anthologies: "Song of the Chosen," "Come to Us," "Faithful Family," "We Will Serve the Lord," "Psalm 103: The Lord Is Kind," and "Do Not Fear to Hope" were in the original and highly successful hymnal, Glory and Praise Comprehensive, as well as in other incarnations of NALR-only repertoire hymnals. The "Glory to God" from Missa America also appeared in the service music section. Five of the songs (excluding "Psalm 103") appeared in GIA's Gather Comprehensive (first edition), though by the current third edition only "Come to Us" and "We Will Serve the Lord" have survived. We re-recorded "Do Not Fear to Hope", "Come to Us," "Faithful Family", and "We Will Serve the Lord" on Change Our Hearts when DNFTH went out of print. "Song of the Chosen," re-recorded with the refrain "Happy the people you have chosen", along with the Psalm for Weddings, Psalm 103 "The Lord Is Kind," and Psalm 98, re-recorded with the refrain "The Lord comes to rule the earth with justice," were part of Cries of the Spirit, Volume 2, the second part of my psalm collection released by OCP in the post-NALR years.

Without a doubt, "We Will Serve the Lord" was the most commercially successful song on this recording, in no small way because of Tom Booth's recording of it, and its inclusion in the hymnals of other publishers.

As for the "misses," I have to say that I felt the songs on this recording had a really good run. My single regret, or puzzlement, anyway, is that what I consider my very versatile and tuneful setting of Psalm 98, in which each (Grail) verse is set to its own unique melody and for which there are five or six different refrains available, never found a wider audience. I suspect that it's just a matter of there being so many versions of Psalm 98 available, and the association with Christmas has probably also called forth many, many local settings that have become beloved over the years.

Thanks for reading, folks. I can still say, we can still sing to one another, "Do not fear to hope."