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Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day Songstories 23: Song of Songs (lyrics by Claire Cooney,GIA, 1998)

Claire and I on her birthday in 2010
Since I wrote recently about Claire's and my incursion into music together, the collection entitled Keep Awake published in 2000 by World Library Publications, I wanted to share with you the one song we wrote together that is not on that collection. It's a short story, but that's all right, because it's Valentine's day, and you have better things to do.

Claire wrote her paraphrase of a famous section of "Song of Songs" and gave it to me with other texts. Who couldn't be taken by the directness, almost the formal equivalence, of her take on this divinely inspired paean to carnality and desire:
"There you are, a stag upon the hill,
Strong and silent, swift as a gazelle.
You bid me dance away,
'The winter rains are gone,' you say.
The flowers know the time for singing comes."
As I sat with the song and was thinking about a musical setting, I thought of the harmonies and ballads of Randy Newman, and wanted to in that direction. I started with a little introduction that became an interlude as well, and went on to write the melody. A couple in our parish were downsizing their home, and gave us a 1910-era Steinway upright grand that needed some work, but we had never had a piano, and took it. We put a few hundred dollars into making it playable and tunable, and I used it to write a number of songs, including this one, before we too gave it away to a family whose children were ready for lessons. I dedicated this song to them, since it was the first song I wrote on that piano. Dick Meinhard had been a member of the choir at St. Anne for years before I had arrived, and his wife Mary was active in the parish as a grief counselor.


When Gary and I were culling through the songs for inclusion on the Keep Awake collection, I could tell immediately that he liked "Song of Songs," but he didn't think it was appropriate for the teen audience. Something about needing to smoke a cigarette after singing it, I think he said. So we held onto it, and it became one of the pieces we included on the GIA collection Today in 2006.

Here's a link to last year's Valentine's Day song, "Every Morning in Your Eyes," my setting of Psalm 34 for weddings.

Have a lover-ly day. iTunes link to the songs, with some Valentines Day specials, below. ;-)