Again this year I was able to participate in the New Year’s Day Harmonia Sacra singing in Elkhart (Indiana), ably led by James Gingerich and Matthew Lind. I’ve learned a lot in the last year, and so I think it was all the more enjoyable and pleasant to be there. In December, I sang with the Goshen Sacred Harp group, which traditionally sings out of the Harmonia Sacra for the second half of their December singing. Then, I chose New Monmouth (midi file), to which is set perhaps my favorite hymn text:
Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.
O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
We arruved at the New Year’s singing just in time for me to lead it.(“Ebenezer” means “stone of help,” and refers to the Old Testament story of a monument set up by Samuel: “Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, Hitherto hath the LORD helped us.”)
Dirk Lind (as he does, traditionally) Dedication Anthem (midi file), known in Mennonite circles as 606 (from its page number in the Mennonite Hymnal) or even the “Mennonite National Anthem.” We were graced with the presence of Mary Oyer, the octogenarian hymnologist responsible for much of the Mennonite Hymnal and for training a generation of Mennonite students in hymnody–including Gingerich and Lind. She may have been present last year, but this year I knew who she was.
I traveled with good friend Dean Knuth; it was his first Harmonia Sacra singing. On the way back, he introduced me to some of his music, including some tracks by Martin Frank and Eric Whitacre. Perhaps if Dean reads this, he’ll comment on the specific pieces he played for me.