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Friday, March 8, 2013

Albums - You Alone (1983)

The story

In the old days, Terry used to say that I was the "best kept secret in liturgical music." She probably would say it now, too, only it would just be sad.

For what seemed like so many years (it wasn't, but when you're young, everything takes forever) I had been working in church music, singing in and leading choirs, going to conference, trying to write songs as needed, being a "weekend warrior," sometimes playing Sunday masses in two different parishes while working in the travel business to make a living. Then, North American Liturgy Resources relocated to Phoenix, and I made the acquaintance first of Paul Quinlan and later of Tom Kendzia. Paul asked me, in 1980, I think, to direct a choir for John Michael Talbot's The Lord's Supper, which was to be one of the linchpins in an event NALR was producing called "The Phoenix Festival of Sacred Music."

Ray Bruno, the owner of NALR, had just brought Tom Kendzia to Phoenix and made him the inhouse producer for NALR's recordings. Tom was at the Festival, and afterwards, asked me whether I might be interested in directing a choir at the 1981 NPM convention in Detroit that would debut some of his new music from his album Light of the World. I've said before that not only was this the beginning of a long friendship with Tom and his family, (still going strong after 33 years), but it was the beginning of my appreciation for what a fine musician and songwriter Tom is. At any rate, sometime after this, Tom and Paul asked me to get a group of what I thought were my best songs together and make a presentation to the company for a recording. Out of this came You Alone, my first recording, released at the end of 1983. The music book and sheet music were released in 1984 and so this part of the journey began.

Two quick stories from those days, if you will indulge me. I didn't know whether this would also be my last collection of liturgical music, so I wanted to involve as many of my friends and colleagues both from the Phoenix scene and from my seminary days as possible, as a gesture of friendship and gratitude. In addition to choir members from St. Augustine and Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral where I was working at the time, friends like Ed Murphy, C.M., and Bill Fraher came from across the country to sing in the choir or, in Bill's case, play the organ. Among those who came from far away was my friend from both high school and seminary years, Frank Karl, and his wife Terry Donohoo.

Gary Daigle was still almost four years in the future for us. My intention was to spread the solos for verses etc. out among my friends and me. Tom had never heard Terry sing before, and I had asked her to sing the verses on "Change Our Hearts." The recording studio at NALR was a fairly large brick room with modern-looking tiered modular seating (it doubled as a small amphitheater for meetings and presentations.) Across from the narrow vertical windows on the street side of the room was the sound booth itself with speakers, tape machines, and mixers. Separating this room from the sound studio was a  small window, about shoulder high, from which the engineer and producer could monitor the action in the studio.

When Terry finished her first take of "Change Our Hearts," Tom gave me the "Tom look" from the dark shadow under his forehead, and summoned me with crooked "come hither" forefinger into the soundproof booth. "Are you going to have her sing anything else?" he asked. I told him that, well, maybe, but I wanted to spread the solos out among all my friends who could sing. Tom said, "You might have a lot of friends who can sing, but none of them sing like that." It was as simple as that. Terry also sang part of "Yours Today," the title song of the album "You Alone," and a duet with local singer Betty Rhodes on my still-available Grail setting of Psalm 66, "Let All the Earth Cry Out." The rest is history, I guess. For the next album, Gary came onto the scene, and soon we were a trio. And in addition to being the voice of "Cooneytoons" over the years, Terry has recorded Tom's music as well as Dan Schutte's, the Dameans', and Liam Lawton's. (Note: this recording of the original title track is on Soundcloud. You can just listen to it in your browser, no extra software is needed, and it can't be downloaded or purchased, but I love this song and Terry's voice, and thought you might like to hear it.)

One song was recorded live at St. Maria Goretti Church in Scottsdale, where Tom was also music director. My song "Kenosis Hymn," written in the summer after I left the seminary, had a text by my English professor from college, Sister Josephine (Jody) Burns, D.C. She had done a poetic reimagining of the text from Philippians (2:5-11) in heroic meter (iambic hexameter), which I set to music that began with a chantlike introduction, moved through a hymn section with the refrain "Put on the mind and heart of Christ the Lord," and ended with a choral canon with the organ playing a sort of toccata, and then a final refrain. With great effort, all the recording equipment and the choirs were moved to the church for this one song, and Bill Fraher, who later became the music director at Old St. Patrick's Church in Chicago, a position he still holds, played the Möller pipe organ for the piece. No one remembers much about that hot night. The air conditioning cannot be on during recording because it makes too much noise on tape. We managed to get through it though. And though the air conditioning sound never made it to tape, chirping crickets did, an eternal testament to the early days of remote recording.

Well, eternal until the last vinyl recording is destroyed. You Alone is out of print. It was only available as a cassette tape (whatever that is!) and vinyl disc (everything old is new again.) The songs that were anthologized in hymnals we re-recorded in the late 1990s on the CD Change Our Hearts, after the move to Illinois.

Oh, one more quick story: "Le Reveil" (The Awakening) was the second cut on side 2, an instrumental prelude to "Yours Today." It was for solo violin, my one and only attempt to write a melody based on a 12-tone row. Looking back on it, it might just be 11, like the apostles after the suicide of Judas.  Whatever it was, the open "C" arpeggio at the beginning of "Yours Today" is a welcome relief. 

The songs

Side One (I admit it - I love typing this. It's been years: CDs don' t have sides!)

Psalm 122: The Road to Jerusalem
Change Our Hearts
Psalm 23: The Lord Prepares a Banquet
Psalm 22: Why Have You Abandoned Me?
Kenosis Hymn (Ph. 2: 6-11), text by S. Josephine Burns, D.C.

Side Two

You Alone
Le Reveil (The Awakening)
Yours Today
Psalm 16: Path of Life
Psalm 66: Let All the Earth Cry Out
Thy Kingdom Come
Psalm 118: This Is the Day!

Hits and misses (apologies to Joni for the plagiarized title)

Of the songs on You Alone, several were in NALR hymnals (Glory and Praise 3 and 4 and Comprehensive editions) as well as Assemblybook, and then in OCP's worship aids and GIA's hymnals since then. Change Our Hearts and Psalm 66: Let All the Earth Cry Out are still available and anthologized by OCP, and Change Our Hearts also appears in some GIA hymnals. Thy Kingdom Come appeared as late as in the forest green (1989) first edition of Gather Comprehensive. Yours Today has been one of my best-selling octavos at OCP over the years, and was re-recorded for the CD Change Our Hearts. Road to Jerusalem, along with Psalm 66, were re-recorded on my second psalm collection for OCP, Cries of the Spirit, Volume 2, along with Psalm 66: Let All the Earth Cry Out and Psalm 22: Why Have You Abandoned Me.

Misses: I miss having Thy Kingdom Come available in hymnals for Last Sundays liturgies and even Advent 1, and I think that Yours Today is a unique and simple Easter anthem that easily takes a place in the heart of those who sing it, so wish it had been anthologized more as well. But the one that makes me shake my head the most is the obscurity into which You Alone has sunk since it appeared in Glory and Praise Comprehensive. John Gallen loved this song, and used to praise it as a text that the Augustinian monk Martin Luther would have loved, I'm guessing because of its sola fides sensibility and allusion from Confessions. I'm not sure, though. It might just have been Terry's voice, and a sigh from John's searching, restless heart.


  1. I actually HAVE that cassette - and the music collection. Fell in love with it. Still love "Road to Jerusalem" which we sing as the 'seasonal' psalm almost every November. (Always makes me wish for trumpets. ;-)

    And of course, there is Change Our Hearts, one of the best songs ever.

    Thanks for writing songs that speak to the heart and soul of musicians... and people in the pews.