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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Songstories 19 - Sing We Maranatha (1989, GIA)

Emmanuel. God-with-us. I shall be with you always.

I was thinking about how I would like to repackage some of our music into seasonal collections, like "Cooney-Daigle-Donohoo: The Advent Songs", or "The Purple Album - Lenten Music", or "Green, Green, It's Green They Say: Ordinary Time." You know, just to give people who maybe WEREN'T ALIVE the first time around a chance to hear what we have been up to, and see if it falls on older ears differently after a decade or two or three of separation. I always say to Gary that we pretty much own Advent, because I feel the material we've written over the years is really strong, and more adventurous, if you don't mind my saying it, than the umpteen settings of the O Antiphons that seem to be part of every Advent song these days. But, for those who need them, Gary has one of those too!

Just thinking about Advent, we could easily assemble a set worth a second listen, especially if we include the music of the Dameans' Light in the Darkness, which we could because Gary was a big part of writing that music. (A playlist at the end of this post has many of these songs in it, those which are available on iTunes.)

Keep Awake (from Keep Awake, WLP)
Thy Kingdom Come (from Change Our Hearts, OCP)
Advent Gathering (from Praise the Maker's Love)
O Antiphons (from Light in the Darkness)
Advent Herald (from On Christmas Day in the Morning)
Come, O Lord (from the Dameans' Remember Your Love)
Blessed Be the Lord (Canticle of Zechariah) (from Light in the Darkness)
Carol of the Word (from Safety Harbor)
Canticle of the Turning (from Safety Harbor)
Save the People (from Do Not Fear to Hope)
Walk in the Reign (from Safety Harbor)
Sing We Maranatha (from Safety Harbor)
Your Mercy Like Rain (Psalm 85) (from Vision)
Remember (Psalm 25)  (from Vision)
Winter Magnificat (from Stony Landscapes), which also has the text "The King Shall Come When Morning Dawns"
Psalm 72 Justice Shall Flourish (from Cries of the Spirit, Volume 1)
The Wilderness Awaits You (from Today)
Do Not Fear to Hope (from Change Our Hearts)
Carol of the Mother (from Mystery) (SoundCloud link - full recording)
Turn Around (unpublished, with Advent verses) (SoundCloud link, excerpt)

See? That's almost two collections, without even resorting to Christmas songs. But of course it cuts across the lines of publishers &c &c which makes my reverie even more of a fantasy. Still, if I do say so myself, it's a robust musical experience of Advent, and it could even be more satisfying with the addition of a couple of the non-liturgical pieces we've recorded over the years, like the duets "Say the Word" and "To My Surprise."


One of the songs I keep coming back to is a little choral piece I wrote for Advent in 1988 or '89, dedicated to John Gallen's mother Mary, who had recently died. Entitled "Sing We Maranatha," the song is about the Advent faith expressed in the texts that are in the first line of this post, that God is with us always as Emmanuel, and that God reveals self in all kinds of ways, as the "source and heart of everything," and our Advent prayer is thus, "let us see you where you are." The music is madrigal-like, accompanied by guitar (on the recording) with flute, finger cymbals, hand drum, and tambourine.  The lines, "Father's hand and mother's breast / Spent in love and laid to rest" was meant as a tribute to Mrs. Gallen, and to all deceased parents and godparents who have opened for us the path to the reign of God by word and example.

"Maranatha" is one of the last words of the New Testament (Rev. 22:20), the Greek rendering of an Aramaic phrase (either "marana tha" or "maran atha") which means "The Lord has come" or "Come, Lord," depending on how it's parsed. If Revelation mirrors 1 Cor 16:22, the prayer "Come, Lord" is the more likely translation. It's the quintessential Advent word, but of course it's a core Christian prayer as well, you might say the natural response to Kyrie, eleison. There's not so much more to say about this, but I think it's worth sharing the text because it begins to dive into what it means to say that God is with us in Christ, and how we participate in that by praise and gratitude as well as by our union with Christ in baptismal life of the Spirit.  I'll give you the whole text here, hoping it might give you another perspective on Advent as we progress into this first week of the season. Really, what's not to like about Anticipation? It's not just a (great) Carly Simon song!

Sing We Maranatha
by Rory Cooney
Copyright © 1989 GIA Publications, 7404 S. Mason Avenue, Chicago IL 60638

Here in laughter, there in tears,
Each embrace that chases fears,
Every nightmare kissed away inches forth your day.
Here in mourning, there in birth,
Every groaning of the earth,
In each tested love proved true, Christ is born anew.

Let us see you where you are, 
Breath of lovers, seed of star.
Source and heart of everything,
Sing we "Maranatha!"

Here in lily, there in stone,
Every stranger welcomed home,
Each response to hunger's cry brings the morning nigh.
Here in robin, there in trout,
Every choice and every doubt,
Every heart that learns to give leads to where you live.

Let us see you where you are, 
Breath of lovers, seed of star.
Source and heart of everything,
Sing we "Maranatha!"

Here in labor, there in play,
Justice chosen on the way,
Each revenge refused its right drives away the night.
Father's hands and mother's breast
Spent in love and laid to rest,
Life consumed by sacrifice: Christ before our eyes.

Let us see you where you are, 
Breath of lovers, seed of star.
Source and heart of everything,
Sing we "Maranatha!"