I’ve mentioned before that one of my favorite things here at GIA is going through the back catalog and wandering the not-right-off-the-presses areas of the warehouse, because there are so many treasures there—sometimes we get caught up in the allure of whatever is shiny and new and forget how much amazing stuff is still out there from years gone by.
This CD of music by John Bell of the Iona Community is one of those for me, and it’s one I like to pull out every Advent to help pull me into the season. God Comes Tomorrow is this lovely assortment of music for Advent and Christmas—chorally rich and lovely, accessible to the ear, melodically gorgeous, and with the sense of spare and un-encumbered writing that I love so much about John’s work. (The phrase “Less is more” has become a cliché; if you want to hear it in action, in a non-cliché way, go and listen to John Bell’s music.) It’s more than 20 years old, but to my ears this music still wears well.
One of the things I think I like best about John Bell’s music is how, in this world of sometimes hard-and-fast division between classifications of “traditional” and “contemporary,” this music seems to both bridge and transcend these divisions. And I love the idea that Christmas music doesn’t need to be huge and grand and triumphant all the time—these lovely gentle carols with John’s elegant and often subversive texts are a wonderful palate-cleanser from the cultural excess of the season that’s about to be thrust upon us.
So I hope you enjoy these—these are my 9 favorite cuts from a much longer CD, and in this time when things start getting more and more frenetic and we can so easily get bogged down in all the Stuff we have to do (or is that just me?), I pray that we might all remember:
He will come when we’re least expecting him, when agendas have been set,
And the deadlines have been finalized, through which needs are seldom met—
Though for us it’s out of season, God decides the place and time.
(John Bell, “He will Come”)
Peace and good will to all! Wishing you all a joyful close of our liturgical year, and a joyful and rich Year of Grace to come!
Music heard on today’s podcast:
Two African Christmas Carols: Good News for Everyone and Poor Folk Hear Him Gladly, G-5487
Fae Heichts o’Heiven, G-5498
(Note: The octavo for “Fae Heichts o’Heiven” contains both the Scots dialect and a standard singable English translation for those who wish.)
Cloth for the Cradle, G-5495
Sing Gloria, G-5488
SingAmen! the Podcast, with Jennifer Kerr Budziak
Sound by Jim Bogdanich
SingAmen! opening music: Promenade, by Bob Moore (from Let Every Instrument Be Tuned for Praise, CD-491, from Liturgical Suite #4, G-4789.. ©GIA Publications, Inc).
SingAmen! closing music: Amen, (from More Sublime Chant, CD-459, The Cathedral Singers, Richard Proulx, conductor. ©GIA Publications, Inc.)