Miracle at Terrace Park

Have you ever seen a musical miracle?

I saw one 2 years ago. 

It happened at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Terrace Park, OH, a neighborhood on the north-east side of Cincinnati. 

Janae and I had just decided to move our family to Utah after 9 wonderful years. Janae was excited. I was a mess. The kids were happy. The schools were great. The music scene was amazing. 

But these were not the main reasons I didn't want to leave. I didn't want to leave my friends in the Parish Choir at St. Thomas. 

During the time we made the challenging decision to move, I was writing a new 5 movement cantata for St. Thomas. The middle movement was a setting of Psalm 23. I had really poorer my heart and soul into this movement. It took longer to get it right than it did to get the rest of the cantata right.  

2 years ago this week I had gone to rehearsal for 2 purposes. To sing through my new setting of Psalm 23 with the choir, and to tell my friends that I was moving far far away. 

I tried to hold in all the emotions that I was feeling, but I lost my composure a bit as I broke the news and told them how much they meant to me and how sad I was to leave them. 

After some heartfelt remarks and hugs, we sang through my new piece. And this is when the first part of the miracle occurred. 

It wasn't only that we sight-read the 8-part a cappella piece almost perfectly (wonder of wonders), but some kind of magic happened as we sang of "one heart and one soul." (Acts 4:32) It was a beautiful unifying experience. We really felt something together. We all looked around at each other in silence as we finished. It was a miraculous moment that had a whole lot more to do with people and our shared intent and desire than about a bunch of little black dots I had written on the page. 

The second part of the miracle came a couple months later when we performed the new cantata in an evening service at St. Thomas. Right as we began, the sun came shining through a high window above the organ and nearly blinded us. In my 5 years of singing at St. Thomas, I had never noticed the sun distracting me as a sang. At first, it was quite annoying. But as we sang, I had this special feeling come over me, as if the sun was heaven smiling on us and approving of our musical offering. 

And I wasn't the only one. My librettist, Phyllis Wocher, came right up afterward all excited, "Did you see the sun! God loved our piece!"

The real miracle was that a group of people who cared both about each other and the people they were singing to, sang a piece written with a unique intent for the express purpose of uplifting and inspiring those who heard and performed it. It was all a big act of service. And that made all the difference.

And what a great way to end our time together! 

Luckily I'm still composer-in-residence at St. Thomas and hope to be for a very long time.

I hope you enjoy listening to my setting of Psalm 23 on this Sunday evening. 

You can hear it by clicking the picture or the link below.


If you'd like to hear the subsequent performance we had at BYU-Idaho, you can find a video at this link (just scroll down a bit from the top):


A very happy Sunday evening to you all,


Music I wrote for President Monson

Music I wrote for President Monson

Attending LDS General Conference this weekend and feeling the absence of President Monson who watched from home, being ill, reminded me how much I owe him.

When I first arrived in Poland in the fall of 2011, I was pretty messed up emotionally. I had made a wildly difficult decision to go on a Fulbright scholarship overseas without my family, as money wouldn't stretch to support us all abroad. The guilt I felt was overwhelming. 

A lively hymn discussion

A lively hymn discussion

One of my favorite parts of a worship service in any denomination is the singing of congregational hymns.

Singing hymns with my Polish Catholic friends during my year an in Warsaw was, once I got over the difficulty of singing in Polish, so much fun! You should hear them sing their favorite Christmas carols. We were practically stomping our feet to some of the choruses in the Cathedral.

"...lead Thou me on..."

"...lead Thou me on..."

The book of Moses has a simple little phrase that has made all the difference in my writing of sacred music.

"...for it was given unto as many as called upon God to write by the spirit of inspiration..." - Moses 6:5

Moses was referring to a "book of remembrance," or journal. But I believe the very same can be said for any kind of writing. Of course I'm thinking about composing.

Musical buddy system for the win

Musical buddy system for the win

My favorite type of music making is collaborative music making. 

To me there's nothing more fun than playing or singing music with others. Chamber music, art songs, barbershop quartet, singing in a choir, accompanying my kids at violin recitals, playing in an orchestra.

Maybe that's because I'm a composer and a pianist who spends a lot of time alone in the composer cave.

The girl with the flaxen hair

The girl with the flaxen hair

In September 2002, I sat in a master class at BYU-Idaho waiting for my turn to accompany one of the class violinists. 

I wasn't thrilled to be there because the new freshman violinists were all scheduled to perform and they were almost always out of tune and scratchy sounding. Not my favorite.

A beautiful freshman girl with flaxen hair had her turn and I was pleasantly surprised.

Winds and Brass pieces appropriate for Sacrament Meeting

Winds and Brass pieces appropriate for Sacrament Meeting

If you love playing beautiful, Spirit filled music in church, I've got great news.

Last week I put together a little questionnaire for LDS Winds and Brass players. I received many wonderful thoughts and heartfelt ideas about music in the church generally as well as insights into what you are looking for when it comes to playing your instrument in a church service.

For the past few months I have been testing out many new ideas for LDS hymn arrangements written specifically for Woodwind and Brass instruments. 

An Easter Concert Review from a very opinionated music/composer/ conductor/singer/sacred-music nerd. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square.

An Easter Concert Review from a very opinionated music/composer/ conductor/singer/sacred-music nerd. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square.

This is the first Easter season that I have lived in Utah. During the previous 9 years, I had been extremely spoiled as a classical musician living in Cincinnati. The Lenten and Easter season on the Cincinnati scene is always packed with fantastic concerts of sacred music, many of which I sang in, and for several of which I composed the Eastertide music as composer-in-residence at the beautiful St. Thomas Episcopal Church.

Naturally, when I heard of this year’s Mormon Tabernacle Choir Easter Concert, which included a not too often performed, albeit beloved Beethoven sacred cantata, as well as a world premiere by Mack Wilberg, I was interested in attending.