Tag Archives: charles ives

Choral Report: Second Sunday of Ordinary Time

The organ console is being replaced in our church, so rather than being in the loft at the east end (back) of the church, the choir sat in the first couple of rows of the nave. I liked being close to the sanctuary (and having kneelers), but rather dislike having to stand facing the congregation to sing. (I’m probably a candidate for the Traditional Latin Mass in this regard.)

For the offertory, we sang the absolutely gorgeous piece Sing My Soul by Ned Rorem that we have done many times before. Here is a performance by the Truett-McConnell College Chamber Singers.

During communion, the choir sang this unison chant Serentity by Charles Ives (text by poet John Greenleaf Whittier). This is a solo version sung by Sigune Von Osten.

In a keynote address on Ives, Kyle Gann says this about Serenity:

…[In one song Ives managed to do without the climax altogether. I mean, of course, “Serenity,” the song which most explicitly embodies Ives’s sense of a song as a timeless piece of eternity. The two chords between which this song rocks back and forth for three minutes could have occupied Arvo Pärt for a full half hour. The poem by Quaker abolitionist poet John Greenleaf Whittier finds Zen in its Christianity:

O Sabbath rest of Galilee!
O calm of hills above,
Where Jesus knelt to share with Thee
The silence of eternity
Interpreted by love.
Drop Thy still dews of quietness
Till all our strivings cease
Take from our souls the strain and stress
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of thy peace.

The two flat-five chords that bring the song to an arbitrary close have a purely conventional function of stopping the song. They’ve always disappointed me, because the song could go on forever, like Tibetan or Gregorian chant, and I want it to.

I have to say that I prefer it as a solo piece.