top of page

Music Notes from Denise, March 16, 2024

This Sunday, you will have a guest musician directing the choir and playing the piano for our worship the next two weeks. I would like to welcome Cathy Smith, who has recently retired from a prolific career teaching vocal music and directing choirs for the Parkway and Wentzville school districts. She now holds faculty positions in the vocal music departments at Lindenwood University and St. Charles Community College. This Sunday will be the 5 Sunday of Lent when we read about Jesus’ proclaiming his coming death in John 12: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified”.


The Sequence hymn will be My faith looks up to thee. Ray Palmer (1808-1887) wrote these words while employed as a teacher at a private girls' school in New York, just after graduating from Yale. He had experienced a difficult year of illness and loneliness and was inspired to write this verse one night after meditating on a German poem that depicted a sinner kneeling before the cross of Christ. He later stated, "The words for these stanzas were born out of my own soul with very little effort. I recall that 1 wrote the verses with tender emotion. . . . When writing the last line, "O bear me safe above, a ransomed soul!" the thought that the whole work of redemption and salvation was involved in those words." (as quoted in Louis F. Benson, Studies of Familiar Hymns, p. 77). One day in 1831 in Boston, he met with Lowell Mason, who asked if Palmer had any hymns he could use for a music book he was going to publish. Though it was never intended for publication, Palmer showed the poem to Mason, who thought it was a fine text and included it his book. (Psalter Hymnal Handbook,


St. Martin’s Choir will sing a simple yet ethereal arrangement of What Wondrous Love is This by L. Eugene Oldham who stated: "What Wondrous Love Is This is about the mystery of divine love yielding to death in order to rescue the dying. It portrays sorrow alongside bliss, death giving way to eternal life, sacrifice leading to salvation. My goal in this arrangement was to evoke the sense of awe and wonder that these paradoxes, which are so central to the Christian faith, inspire." (2022


The final hymn will be When I survey the wondrous cross written by Isaac Watts. One Sunday afternoon the young Isaac Watts (1674-1748) was complaining about the deplorable hymns that were sung at church. At that time, metered renditions of the Psalms were intoned by a cantor and then repeated (none too fervently, Watts would add) by the congregation. His father, the pastor of the church, rebuked him with "I'd like to see you write something better!" As legend has it, Isaac retired to his room and appeared several hours later with his first hymn, and it was enthusiastically received at the Sunday evening service the same night. (John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology) The Lutheran Hymnal Handbook includes this little narrative about the hymn “With regard to the practical application of the final stanza, Father Ignatius of St. Edmund’s Church in London is reported to have blurted to his congregation: ‘Well, I’m surprised to hear you sing that. Do you know that altogether you put only fifteen shillings in the collection bag this morning?’ While Watts might not have been talking explicitly about money in the last line of his text, there is the expectation that we dedicate ourselves entirely to God, for God demands not just a piece of who we are, but “our soul, our life, our all.” This can be an incredibly difficult line to sing with any sense of honesty. Devotional author Jerry Jenkins writes in his book Hymns for Personal Devotions, “Perhaps it’s the distance between where Watts encourages me to be and where I truly am that makes this hymn so hard to sing. It’s a lofty and worthy spiritual goal to say that ‘Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all,’ but how short I fall!” (Jenkins, 44). And so as we sing this hymn of love and awe, we must sing it with a prayer in our hearts, asking God to enable us each day to live our life wholly for him. (


bottom of page