Sunday, April 16, 2006

In Christ Alone

When it comes to Christian music, I am drawn to the sacred and ancient melodies and words of our faith. Our forefathers do not have a monopoly on setting spiritual truths to music in a deep and musically rich way, however. Every once in a while a contemporary will pen something that just leaves me in awe because of its spiritual depth and truth.

Keith Getty and Stuart Townsend's In Christ Alone is one of those masterpieces. The words are firmly grounded in scripture - no fluff here - and they are combined with a rich melody. I can think of few hymns I would rather sing on the day that we celebrate Christ's resurrection, so I was excited to see it in the worship schedule for today :). I feel like I've been copying, pasting, and posting my favorite lyrics a lot over the past few days, but sometimes it is best to let others, who are more skilled and schooled in God's truths, say what is hard to put into words.

In Christ Alone

In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm

What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand

In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save

'Til on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him laid
Here in the death of Christ I live

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again

And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ

No guilt of life, no fear of death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny

No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
‘Til He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand

- Keith Getty, Stuart Townsend


Adrian C. Keister said...

Ah, yes. One of the very few CCM songs that I like both the tune and the words. My sister Alynn introduced this one to me, out in Iowa.

In Christ alone.

Anonymous said...

I love this song too. It has the feel of the old hymns. I listen to a lot of CCM rock. I do enjoy it for entertainment purposes, but the theology to the words are very weak. I wish singer/songwriters would get together and write sound lyrics to rock music. A few groups that do this are Third Day, Mercy Me, and Jars of Clay.

Sherrin said...

We sing this at my church, and I love it too! We mostly sing old hymns (Amazing Grace, How Great Thou Art, etc). They seem to choose the songs for their content at my church, and I think they do well. What I love about old hymns is their depth of content - but there is no reason why people can't write similar good music now.

zan said...

Never heard of that song.

Don't listen to a lot of CCM. However, I did buy an Alan Jackson CD of him singing gospel music. I usually stay away from country type Christian music because I think it sounds a little silly. However, this CD was very well done and not over produced. It was neat for me because there are baptistic type hymns that I have not heard in ages after going to Presbyterian churches for so long.

BTW, I am still going to send you pictures of Harry. I have been having trouble remembering how to send them. I also took some pictures of Harry after church yesterday and they are a lot better than the ones I had. I am also in them and look better. The only other pictures of me and Harry are after I had just had him. I look like death.

Why do people insist on taking your picture after you have just had a baby? Talk about unflattering!

Anyway, I read your post on Good Friday? I just learned about Maunday (have no idea how to spell that). It is celebrated by some churches on Thursday night. It is to remember the last spupper of Christ and His passion in the garden. I flet so stupid that I did not know about it.

My parents (they go to a Lutheran church) went to the Thurs. service and said it was very good. At the end of it the minister asks everyone to leave the church in silence instead of greeting one another like usual.

Anyway, anyone ever heard of this and how do you spell it????

Jessica said...

Oooh...I LOVE that song! And I know exactly what you mean about it being one of the few contemporary songs with the depth of old hymns. Have you ever heard "How Deep the Father's Love for Us" also by Stuart Townsend? That one is another incredible hymn (since hymn does just mean "a song of praise to God") can see the lyrics and listen to the melody at

And Zan...since you asked, I believe it is spelled Maundy Thursday.

Have a glorious day!

Lydia said...

My cousin had that song played and sung at her wedding last summer. It didn't strike me as a wedding song but I thought it was very nice. I agree, the lyrics are powerful.

I was just bemoaning to my mom the other day how most modern day worship music has such shallow words. I mostly listen to classical music and Bible-preaching on the radio. I turned on the local CCM station just to see what was playing and most of it sounded the same. It sounds like the all-male, rock band sound is the rage right now in CCM. They seem to have the message be man-centered rather than Christ-centered even if it does have allusions to Christ. However, there are a few lighthouses out there.

I just love the music of the Wilds Christian Association. It is so majestic and the words really cause you to think about Christ, not ourselves. I also like a lot of Steve Petite's music. I like a little of Majesty Music but I think some of it has rather trite lyrics because they use so much rhyming in the words. Why do the words always have to rhyme? Can't people be more creative and thoughtful in writing lyrics?

I tend to lean a little toward the "high-church" sound in worship music even though I am definitely not Roman Catholic in my doctrine. I love baroque, highly classical sounding sacred music. A little Latin thrown in wouldn't hurt either. I went to the performance of Verdi's Requiem last weekend and loved it. Why can't we have that kind of music in churches today?

If you want to find some incredible lyrics, look at the Music Room section of my blog. I plan to post the words to an Easter song we sang yesterday in the service.

Thanks for sharing these lyrics. I love writing out song lyrics for others to read.

Susan said...

I'd prefer no unsigned anonymous comments please. Even just a pseudonym at the bottom would be nice :).

Oh goodie, Zan :). We've been hoping that you send a picture! I understand your delay, though ;). You have plenty on your plate. . .

I've heard of Maundy Thursday, though I've never been to a Maundy Thursday service. I had been hoping that our church would do one this year, but I was just happy to get a Good Friday service :). My mom grew up in a liturgical Presbyterian church, and they had a Maundy Thursday service every year.

I haven't heard that other Townsend hymn, Jessica, though I'd heard before that it is good. I can't turn up the sound on the computer now, but will try to listen to that tomorrow.

I've enjoyed many of the lyrics you've posted on your blog, Lydia :). I also love more rich, deeper music, though my exposure has been limited. I love Handel's Messiah. Now that is good music!

Jessie said...

Yes, I love this one too. They've sung it once or twice at my dad's church and I do really like to sing it. The melody is beautiful as well. Thank you for reminding me of it!

Adrian C. Keister said...

If you liked Handel's Messiah, try his Israel in Egypt, and Bach's St. Matthew Passion. Also really great is Beethoven's Missa Solemnis, which he regarded as his greatest work.

O, yes, I can recommend music right up there with books!

In Christ.

Susan said...

Ah, so now you're the walking book/music/movie recommendation. *raises eyebrows* That sounded like If you like _____ you may like ______ .

My friend who just got married wanted to use the Hallelujah Chorus as her recessional. She opted not in the end, but it really wouldn't have made sense anyway. She was 21, her husband 20, and they had only been "getting to know" each other for a year.

Any particular versions on those pieces? I've been wanting to get a few good classical music CD's, as we only have a few. I really like rich music like that, but have had limited exposure :(. Give me classical, sacred, or bluegrass over CCM any day!

Adrian C. Keister said...

I think the Hallelujah Chorus would be ridiculous at a wedding, frankly. "Hallelujah! They finally got married. Er."

Ah, here are some recommendations. Now you have to understand that I'm supremely biased in favor of orchestral music, which unfortunately is out of favor these days. Although I play the piano, the violin is really my favorite instrument; beyond that, it's actually the sound of many violins playing in unison that I love best in the world. So here's recoomendations for starting a classical music collection, with a focus in orchestral.

One general principle: most of the time, your best recordings are ones which group like works or related works together. So a collection of all of Beethoven's Symphonies is almost certainly going to be better than "Beethoven's Greatest Hits." Never get classical music that has the words "Greatest Hits" in the title! Quite aside from the quality of the recording, I think you'll find such CD's difficult to work with. If you want to find a particular piece, it's so much easier when you have them grouped in a logical way, as opposed to random collections.

Another note: all performers that I mention here are really good. They're kind of the "chestnuts"; you can never go wrong with them.

1. Beethoven. Symphonies. Get all 9 of them. I recommend the Deutsche Grammaphon recording, Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic. New price: about $36.

2. Bach. Brandenburg Concertos. There are six of these, usually on two CD's. I recommend the Philips label with the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields and Sir Neville Marriner. $34.

3. Vivaldi. The Four Seasons. Loads to choose from here. After trying several out on Amazon, I think I like the Telarc label, Seiji Ozawa and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. $15.

4. Beethoven. Piano Concertos. There are five of these. I recommend the Alfred Brendel recording (there's more than one) or the Rudolf Serkin recording, again with Seiji Ozawa and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Note: Beethoven's Fifth Piano Concerto is my all-time favorite piece of music in the world.

5. Brahms. Piano Concerto Number Two. I'd recommend the Sony label, Andre Watts on the piano with Leanard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic. This recording also has the Haydn Variations, another wonderful work. $12.

6. Handel. Messiah. Unquestionably the best recording is the EMI label, with Andrew David conducting the Toronto Symphony, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir. You get Kathleen Battle as soprano and Samuel Ramey as bass, two of the very best singers in the world. $33.

7. Bach. St. Matthew Passion. I'm partial to my own recording of this, which came in a gigantic Bach collection (not to be confused with any "Greatest Hits" collection.) We got this collection at a Half-Price Books in Minnesota. It had quite a lot of cd's in it, for only $80. In any case, this recording has Stephen Cleobury conducting the King's College Choir, Cambridge (in my opinion, the very best choir in the world) and the Brandenburg Consort.

8. Dvorak. Symphonies 7, 8, 9. You can get a very conveniently packaged pack of these: Christoph von Dochnanyi conducting the Cleveland Orchestra on the Decca label. I haven't actually heard this recording, that I know of, but the conductor and orchestra are very well known, and you can't go wrong with them. $14.

9. Brahms. Symphonies. There are four of them. I'd recommend getting all of them. You could go for broke on these. You can get Deutsche Grammaphon with Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic, again. $14.

10. Mozart. Sinfonia Concertante. Get Deutsche Grammaphon, with Itzhak Perlman (my favorite violinist) and Pinchas Zukerman, and Zubin Mehta conducting the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. $17.

I have to go to church now. I will continue.

In Christ.

Adrian C. Keister said...

Continuation of Recommendations.

11. Violin Concertos by Beethoven, Dvorak, and Brahms. Each of these composers, to my knowledge, wrote only one concerto for solo violin; they are all masterpieces. You can get a collection of these with Perlman playing, plus various orchestras and conductors on the EMI Classics label for $33. That collection does not include the Dvorak. You can get Perlman playing that, plus the exquisite Romance by Dvorak on the EMI Classics label, with Daniel Barenboim conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra. I'm not sure that one's still in print, as Amazon does not sell it new. But that is a fabulous recording.

12. Bach. Mass in b minor. I have the Robert Shaw recording, which is quite good. That is on the Telarc label, and Shaw conducts, as usual, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. Price: $23.48. The great thing about Shaw is the consonants. He is a choral director, one of the greatest ever, and he pays especial attention to consonants. You can hear every one.

13. Handel. Water Music. I should have listed this long ago; it's the very first cd my parents ever got. But I never liked the horns: they always sounded out of tune. The recording I have is wonderful, though even it could be improved: on the Seraphim label, Sir Charles Mackerras conducts the Prague Chamber Orchestra. On disc 2, you have the Music for the Royal Fireworks, Yehudi Menuhin plays the violin and conducts the Menuhin Festival Orchestra.

14. Handel. Israel in Egypt. Amazon didn't seem to have many options here. I think there's a King's College Choir, Cambridge recording. Go for that if you can.

15. Mendelssohn. Elijah. Amazon is similarly disappointing here. I have the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields with Sir Neville Marriner. I can't say for sure, but I'd guess it was on the Philips label.

16. Opera. I am not a huge fan of opera, mostly because so many opera stars are singing at the top of their lungs constantly, and employ an enormously wide vibrato such that you can't actually tell what note they're singing. Granted, there are exceptions, but I do prefer a different style of singing. More narrow vibrato is better for me. Hence my love of King's College Choir, Cambridge; they are a boys' choir, and sing without any vibrato.

17. Some miscellaneous pieces that I really like. Anything by Arvo Part. The "a" in Part is an umlaut. His music takes a little getting used to, but I really like it. He is intending to get across the suspension of time. I also like some works of Morten Lauridsen, especially his Lux Aeterna, Ave Maria, and O Magnum Mysterium. You can get all of those on am RCM label disc with the Los Angeles Master Chorale and Sinfonia Orchestra for about $14. One or two works of Rene Clausen are fantastic. His Magnificat is tremendous.

18. Beethoven. Missa Solemnis. Beethoven himself regarded this as his greatest work. He wrote on it something like, "From the heart to the heart." I have the Sony Classics recording with Eugene Ormandy conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Singing City Choirs. You can't get it new, I don't think. But there are plenty of other good recordings out there. I could, in all good conscience, recommend the Robert Shaw recording on the Telarc label. That one is $19. Or the Bernstein recording, conducting the Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam. That's on Deutsche Grammaphon for $18. You get the 9th Symphony also, with a different orchestra.

19. I'm going to recommend this, though I know many people would hate it. I love the Gorecki Third Symphony. You can get a fantastic recording of it on the Elektra Nonesuch label, with David Zinman conducting the London Sinfonietta, and Dawn Upshaw singing, for $14. Warning: you have to be in an extremely contemplative mood to enjoy one solid hour of very slow music like this. The effect it has on you is remarkable, however. Listen to it complete, without interruptions and without extraneous noise.

Hmm. Well, no doubt there are loads of things I'm not including that I should be. I would say this, though. If you got everything on this list, you'd certainly have a majority of the mainstream orchestral music and large choral works. In addition, you'd have a few tangential works that I, for one, enjoy tremendously.

One final note. You live in Atlanta. Ransack your public library before you buy anything! I doubt not but your library has lots of the music I have listed. You can listen to it first, and then decide if you want to buy. That's what we did. So if you decide that you really don't like Haydn String Quartets all that much, you don't have to get them. Now if you decided you didn't like Beethoven's Fifth Piano Concerto, I'd have to hurt you. ;-)]

Happy collecting!

In Christ.

Susan said...

Well, I agree with you on the Hallelujah Chorus for a wedding. I just chuckled when my friend first told me, and when she opted not, I told her I agreed with her decision. Hehe.

I love violins too - probably my favorite as well. It was always a dream of mine to play the violin, but I never did anything about it. Ah well. One of my dad's cousins has 9 kids and they started each of them on the violin at about age 4ish - playing by ear. It is absolutely delightful to hear them perform at reunions, playing to their dad's piano accompaniment. The oldest especially is excellent. Of course it makes a sweet picture too, with all of them lined up stair-step style, the boys in matching slacks and plaid buttoned-down shirts and the lone girl in a coordinating plaid dress - and yes, no shock, they homeschool ;). In fact, the only extended family we have that does, I think.

You are making me quite jealous with your exposure to and knowledge of classical music! Mine is severely limited, though the little exposure I have had, I have liked very much. I have a few (2 or 3) classical CD's that I listen to quite a bit, and I've played classical piano off-and-on over the years, but that's about the extent of my exposure to classical music :(.

I ask for recommendations for 4 pieces, and what does he give me? A tome, as he predicted. Haha. I collect things slowly, unless I find them really cheap, like at thrift stores and garage sales - my specialty :). I'll keep your list on file for future purchases, though currently I'm thinking of starting with one or two discs/sets.

Sadly our public library catalog is rather limited in their CD collection. I think, if my memory serves me correctly, they are phasing CD's out, because of all the problems they have had with breakage, scratchage, stealage, et ceterage. My online library catalog searches were very unfruitful. Thankfully, provides wonderful clips of most of the CD's, which is a good alternative :).

I was searching on Ebay for some of your recommendations and almost none of the listings were from American sellers, and I didn't feel like paying an arm-and-a-leg for international shipping. Are all of your recommendations foreign recordings or do Americans just have no appreciation for good music? Or both.

Adrian C. Keister said...

Reply to Susan.

Yes, a lot of the recordings I mentioned are foreign. And Americans don't appreciate good music too much. I know that sounds snobbish, but if we understand beauty and culture the way Myers talks about it, it's true.

Bravo on the Beethoven Symphonies! I recommend listening to numbers 6, 5, and 9 first, in that order. The 6th is my favorite of his symphonies, whereas the 5th (the most famous piece of music in the world) and the 9th (the second most famous piece of music in the world) are simply obligatory. They're good, don't get me wrong. But I like the 6th the best, especially the first and last movements.

You're never too old to start in on classical music (unless you're deaf). My Mom and Dad, while they grew up with a very little classical, really got into it much later. We didn't start our CD collection until Lane and I were at least 6 years old. My advice? Instead of beating yourself up over not having started earlier, just enjoy it now, and praise God for it.

In Christ.

Susan said...

I love the recordings of Beethoven's Symphonies I ordered :). I know you say that the 5th is "simply obligatory," but the intro to the 5th (one of the few classical pieces I can identify quickly) has always given me chills down my spine. The 6th is absolutely wonderful, so I'm not disagreeing with you there. I do favor the 5th currently, though.

As for only being too old to start on classical music if I'm deaf, that's comforting :), though, didn't Beethoven compose some of his most famous works when he was deaf ;)? What made your parents become interested in classical music?

Adrian C. Keister said...

Reply to Susan.

Well, you're in good company for liking the 5th the best. In polls seeing what is the most popular classical music, Beethoven's 5th and 9th symphonies are always number one and two, but not necessarily in that order. Also in the top six are usually Messiah, the Water Music, The Four Seasons, and the Brandenburg Concertos. Loads of Baroque.

Ja, Beethoven wrote the 7th symphony when he found out he was going to be deaf. Listen to the slow movement: it's really something. But he was already into music.

My parents have sort of always been into classical. Their parents all liked it, and got records when those came out. They went to concerts. Speaking of which, you've got the Atlanta Symphony and Chorus right there, with the enormous legacy of the late Robert Shaw. I'd highly recommend going to live concerts periodically. Perhaps for special occasions. One invaluable thing you get from live concerts: the realization that performers are human, not machines. They make mistakes, and it's good to hear those sometimes. It helps you identify with them more.

In Christ.

Susan said...

Well, didn't you know that I am partial to the 5th because it is so popular??? You know of my weakness for the opinion of the majority ;). The beginning of the 5th really is magnificent. On further exposure to them, I do think the 6th is more beautiful, though the 5th inspires more awe.

Yes, yes, I know Beethoven was already into music. I was joking about that :).

Atlanta does have a very fine symphony. I heard the ASO perform a few times, a number of years ago, for homeschool field trips. My problem going to an ASO concert now would be finding someone to go with me. I don't know a whole lot of people interested in that sort of thing :(. Ah well. There really is nothing like hearing music live. With modern recording technology, we have access to superb recordings, but it's just not the same as live music.

Adrian C. Keister said...

Reply to Susan.

Perhaps another reason live performances are so great is because of mistakes. You can really believe that even the greats like Itzhak Perlman make mistakes. I'm currently listening to Minnesota Public Radio's stream, and a pianist is playing Moussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, and making an enormous number of mistakes (though fewer than I would!). It's absolutely thrilling, though, because the raw energy is making up for it.

Yes, the 6th is not quite so powerful, but I like its beauty better.

Shall we TIOC?

In Christ.

Susan said...

I actually did get to hear a live piano performance this past weekend. I went with my dad to hear one of his calculus students in her hour-long senior recital. It was so beautiful, especially Chopin's Nocturnes.

Agreed to TIOC :).