Your Kingdom Come: Winning entries from our first hymn competition

There is no "Hymn of the Month" in this issue. Instead, we present the results of the first hymn competition held by Reformed Worship. In RW 29 (September, 1993) we announced that a number of churches in Edmonton, Alberta, had collected funds to underwrite a competition. Joachim Segger, director of music at West End Christian Reformed Church, wrote:

Some time ago the West End, Ingelwood, Hope, and Covenant Christian Reformed Churches got together for a hymn festival. As chairman of the organizing committee for this event, I suggested that we sponsor a hymn-writing competition and collect funds for this through an offering. The committee supported this idea hut felt it would be more effective if we gave the generated funds to Reformed Worship to set the guidelines and administer the competition.

That we were glad to do. It gave us the opportunity to encourage people who have a gift for writing poetry and composing music to try their hand at writing or composing a new hymn. There is nothing like an invitation with a deadline to help both experienced and new hymn writers get started!

One of the advantages of sponsoring a hymn competition is that it provides an opportunity to select a theme that may have been somewhat neglected in current hymnody and thereby fill some gaps in our hymnal contents. For example, the two hymns included in service planning (see pp. 18-19) in this issue were composed for a hymn competition on the theme of stewardship of creation. That theme is a newcomer to hymn literature, one that is certainly needed.

We chose the theme "Your Kingdom Come," a petition from the Lord's Prayer. We invited poets and composers to help Christians pray that prayer in terms of the issues we wrestle with in our day. The theme is cosmic in scope—as broad as the kingdom of God. So it came as no surprise that the entries varied greatly. Here is a summary of what happened:

  • Writers submitted twenty-seven texts.
  • Judges awarded one first place and four honorable mentions.
  • Those five texts were sent to all composers who requested them.
  • Composers submitted thirty-seven tunes for those five texts.
  • Six tunes, set to four of the texts, were chosen for honorable mention by the judges; no first place was awarded.

Judging a text is not an easy matter, but judging music in terms of a given text is even more complex. One of the things that needs to be considered is the appropriateness of the tune for the text. On the pages that follow, you will find two texts set to two different tunes as examples of how differently a text can be conceived in terms of mood and spirit. Each of those tunes was chosen by two of the judges.

Another consideration is the "singability" of the tunes. Congregations have varying levels of ability to handle new music. Some of these tunes may well be more appropriate for soloists or choirs to sing before trying them out on the congregation.

Incidently, before the judging took place, all the entries were numbered and names were removed. Joachim Segger, who began the whole project, asked whether it would be appropriate for him to submit any entries. I assured him that all entries would be anonymous throughout the competition. Neither the judges nor I were aware that he was the composer of one of the selected tunes until I prepared letters to all the entrants informing them of the judges' decisions.

Our thanks to the many people involved in initiating, supporting, writing, composing, and judging all these entries. We are pleased to now send these new hymns out to all RW readers (and singers). We hope you try them out. Time will tell whether any of these songs find their way into the worship life of churches or into future hymnals. If any other individual(s) or church(es) would like to consider underwriting another hymn competition, let us know!

Gate-Crashing God

The first-place text was written by Rosalind Brown, a member of the Community of Celebration, a religious order of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh based in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania. She was born and raised in England, where she worked for many years as a town planner. She is currently studying at Yale University in the Berkeley Divinity School.

Brown made the following comments about her opening phrase:

[I am] aware that it might be a bit startling to some, even shocking. I tried alternatives when I was writing it but could not find anything else that conveyed the impact of God breaking into the human world with the agenda of heaven. It is not a bad thing to be startled occasionally by God's acts.

The various stanzas of the hymn would lend themselves well to a variety of liturgical uses: Advent/Christmas (st. 1), healing (st. 2); hunger (st. 3). As mentioned in the introduction, this text is set to two very different tunes.

NEW HOPE by Jonathan Kohrs

Jonathan Kohrs is Minister of Music and Parish Life at Grace Lutheran Church in Northbrook, Illinois. He is a graduate of Concordia University, River Forest, Illinois, where he received a bachelors degree in education and a masters in church music. His music has been published by Augsburg Fortress Publishers and Concordia Publishing House. He and his wife have a son, Aaron.

Kohrs wrote this tune in the rich key of G-flat major. However, a note at the bottom of his score indicated G major as an alternate key. We present it here in G major (which has one sharp), figuring that anyone wanting to play it in the original key (which has six flats) would also have the capability to figure out the changes required by the accidentals in the final phrase.

ALIQUIPPA by Dorothy Sheets

Dorothy Howell Sheets began piano study with her father at age five, and also studied the violin. She is a graduate of Peabody Conservatory, with certificates in both violin and organ, and has a masters degree in sacred music from Union Theological Seminary.

Sheets served in the Navy during World War II, and then held organist-choir positions in New Jersey, Connecticut, and most recently in Bethany Christian Reformed Church in Muskegon, Michigan, where she continues to live with her husband. They have one son. Sheets is now retired, but continues to compose both organ music and hymn tunes. Several of her tunes have been included in recent hymnals, and several of her organ compositions have been published.

O Wind of Heaven,

Richard A. Smith chose a Pentecost theme for his text. Smith is Director of Music Ministries at the Memorial Presbyterian Church (USA) in Montgomery, Alabama, where he lives with his wife and two children. He is also Music Director of the Montgomery Chorale. Smith was born in Birmingham and received his training in choral music at Birmingham-Southern College.

He wrote, "I look forward to hearing a new tune; no old one quite fits."

BREATH OF THE SPIRIT by Charles Stark

Charles John Stark was born in Rockford, Illinois, and grew up in Beloit, Wisconsin. He holds degrees in church music from Augustana College (IL) and in music education from Syracuse University (NY) and Indiana University.

He has taught elementary music in the Beloit public schools and music education at Iowa State University, and served as organist and choir director in several churches in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Iowa. Since 1988 he has lived once again in Beloit, where he is active as a composer of music for school and church, as a writer of curriculum materials for music education, and as organist for Our Savior's Lutheran Church.

One of his major interests as both composer and church musician is that of congregational singing. He has composed over one hundred hymn tunes and over sixty hymn concertati.

OPEN EARS, by Jonathan Kohrs.

For more information on Kohrs, see p. 37.

One of the judges placed this tune first on his list because of the "melodic integrity, fine harmonic progression, and balanced structure" which fit the text like a glove. However, all three expressed concern about the wide melodic range for congregational singing. This tune may be one of those better introduced by soloist or choir.

To God We Pray, "Your Kingdom Come"

John A. Dalles took the most direct approach to the theme, incorporating the petition from the Lord's Prayer in the first line of every stanza. No submitted tune was chosen by the judges for his text, so it is presented here as poetry. However, he suggests that FOREST GREEN PsH 422; RL 9, 193, 253, 481; TH 119 or ELLACOMBE PsH 378; PH 89, 181, 288; RL 10, 282 would be appropriate tune choices.

Dalles began a career as an architectural designer, then was called to the ministry. He is a graduate of Lancaster Theological Seminary and Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Dalles is currently associate pastor of Fox Chapel Presbyterian Church, a congregation of 2,400 members in suburban Pittsburgh, where he lives with his wife and two children. He has written over two hundred hymns, including two published in the 1990 Presbyterian Hymnal.

When Did We See You, Lord?

Phyllis Van Andel wrote that in working on this hymn, "the challenge of Matthew 25 became very real to me." Van Andel, a graduate of Calvin College, retired from business four years ago. She now does freelance writing, along with homemaking, gardening, and elderhostal studying in the US and abroad. She lives with her husband in Dearborn, Michigan. They have three married daughters.

BOYLE STREET by Joachim Segger

Born in Germany, Joachim Segger immigrated to Canada at the age of two. He has formally studied piano and organ in Alberta, Austria (Mozarteum, Salzburg), and the USA (Eastman School of Music). He continues to perform piano solo and chamber music concerts while maintaining an active teaching career as associate professor of music (piano and theory) at The King's University College in Edmonton.

Joachim Segger also performs in duo with Marnie Giesbrecht; their recent compact disc "Dancing Ice" features solo and duo Canadian organ works. Joachim and Marnie codirect the music program at the West End Christian Reformed Church in Edmonton. They have two children, Mark, age 13, and Christopher, age 7.

Segger commented: "The first time I read this text by Phyllis Van Andel I felt the mourning and lament that the text evokes. Using melodic sigh motives and short phrases in the first part of each stanza, the hymn tune reflects the cries of those who are suffering. From the middle to the end of each stanza the melodic sighs are transformed into rising thirds with longer phrase lengths. The text calls God's people to action. We see the Lord in those who are suffering; the suffering see the Lord in us." Segger chose the tune name after a street in an inner city neighborhood in Edmonton, near the old campus of The King's College.

Blessed God, Creator

Zechariah's song after the birth of John was the inspiration for James Brumm's "Hymn on the Benedic-tus" (Luke 1:68-79). Brumm wrote that he used this hymn text for a Christmas card.

James L. H. Brumm is copastor (with his wife Kathleen) of the Grahamsville, New York, Reformed Church (RCA). A graduate of Westminster Choir College and New Brunswick Theological Seminary, he is author of a history of RCA hymnals, Singing the Lord's Song (reviewed in RW 23), and of various articles on worship and hymnody. He has had other hymns published by Selah Publishing Company and the Choristers Guild.

MOORE by Kathleen Hart Brumm

In a remarkable coincidence, the tune chosen to accompany this text was composed by Kathleen Hart Brumm, wife of the author. They are obviously a team: Kathleen is copastor of Grahamsville Reformed Church with her husband James. She too is a graduate of Westminster Choir College and New Brunswick Theological Seminary, and is the author of several children's musicals and hymn tunes.

Excerpt

JUDGES

Text

Bert Polman, professor of music, Redeemer College, Ancaster, Ontario.

Henrietta Ten Harmsel, professor of English emeritus, Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Lorna Van Gilst, professor of English, Dordt College, Sioux Center, Iowa.

Music

John Derksen, professor of music, Knox College, Toronto, Ontario.

Alfred V. Fedak, director of music, Westminster Presbyterian Church, Albany, New York.

Jacobus Kloppers, professor of music, The King's College, Edmonton, Alberta.

Emily R. Brink (embrink@calvin.edu) is Senior Research Fellow for the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship and former editor of Reformed Worship.