My newest choral anthem is a collaboration with my good friend Christian Shockley and my virtual neighbor, Fred Rogers.
Christian and I met when I was in junior high (!) but we became good friends in high school through mutual friends and also through the Academy of Arts Ministries in Taylors, SC. We connected very quickly through our mutual love of art, coffee, and theology, as best as we could understand any of those things at the time! Our first artistic collaboration was actually in high school––we made some truly awful music videos that I think/hope have mostly been lost to humanity for good.
In college, Christian devoured his studies and I saw him quickly developing into more of a thinker and artist than I ever hoped to be. Our paths haven’t crossed in years, but as I saw him go off to London to get a degree from King’s College London, craft the most stunning blackout poetry I have ever seen (http://www.crs.work/blackout-poetry), and continue to have ambitious dreams for his future, I knew I wanted to have a true artistic collaboration someday.
Fast forward to last March –– I was finally doing some composing again and was looking for a text to set. I happened to start scrolling through Christian’s Instagram feed and came across this handwritten poem:
I was immediately struck by the simplicity of the text and the quote by Mr. Fred Rogers that Christian used as a jumpoff point for the rest of the poem. Those on the set of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood said that Fred prayed this prayer (“Dear God, let some word that is heard be yours”) before each session of filming. In what was without question the hardest year of my life, professionally and personally, this poem helped reorient my thoughts to others instead of myself. I had way too much time to myself last year, and there was a lot of time for my own “vain defenses” to build up––feeling unappreciated, lonely, and feeling like I made a huge mistake in moving across the country for a job that I just wasn’t feeling connected to or talented enough for. The idea of begging God to purge me of any selfishness or feelings of unworthiness and and allowing me, in all my many weaknesses, to be used of Him was, and is still a daily challenge to me! A life of “grace in acts of love” doesn’t often describe me, but that’s part of the beauty of the text –– it is a DAILY prayer for each new day, and one that requires intentional daily humbling before God and others.
After asking Christian if I could set the text to music, I remembered a melody and chord progression I wrote in undergrad and based the piece on that. I’m excited to now have others be inspired by this text through its performance. The premiere is scheduled for early May by the Plano Chamber Chorus, but I imagine that will be postponed to a future date. Hope you enjoy listening at the link below: