Friday, November 17, 2006

The Beautiful Story Behind Some Beautiful Music

I'm not all that sure that anyone will be all that excited about this, but what the heck. It's still a cool story.

This Sunday, my choir (at St. Paul Cathedral) will be doing a piece of music for the very first time. At first, I frankly didn't like it very much. But it has really grown on me over time. Especially when I found out about why the composer wrote it in the first place.

The piece is called, "E'en So, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come", and was written by a guy called Paul Manz. Apparently, it's regarded as one of the finest church anthems to be written in the past 100 years. But I had never even heard of it until earlier this year when our music director threw it in front of us and insisted that we learn it.

There's a particularly excellent recording of it on the publisher's website. It's free of charge, and can be obtained here. I think it might be the King's College Choir from Cambridge; at the very least, it sounds like an English choir that still uses boys instead of women to sing the high parts. They do a very good job with it, whoever they are. I've been listening to it over and over again all week.

But back to the story. Paul Manz is still alive today, but is quite old at this point. 50 years ago, however, he was a young father facing the very worst thing that can happen to any parent. His 3 year old son was in the hospital. The child was dying, and the doctors had told the parents that there was simply nothing more that they could do. Every day, the child slipped a bit further away.

The parents stayed at the child's side as much as they could. The mother sat there during the day, while the father handled the nights. Eventually, it became clear that the end was very close. The mother, reading her Bible, found a passage which asked for the Lord to come quickly. When the father arrived at the end of the day, the mother pointed the passage out before going home for the evening.

That night, as he watched over his dying child, Paul Manz began setting the text to music. And suddenly things started to look brighter. The boy got stronger and was soon out of danger and back at home. The full story, along with some details about the composer and his wife, can be obtained from Minnesota Public Radio.

Somehow, knowing this story makes listening to this piece very special for me. Maybe some of you will have a similar reaction.

1 comment:

Cha said...

Thank you soooo much for posting this. I have been searching for that exact recording, but the next best thing I could find was the Kansas city choir rendition on Itunes. The link to the rendition you posted is by far my favorite. It's really amazing how some of our greatest hymns were written at some of the darkest times in peoples lives. It confirms the love and glory of God is a greater hope than even the darkest hours. Thanks agian!! -Charles D., West Chester, PA