Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Revealing: Suites for the Season of Epiphany

We think of Epiphany as the day when the Magi arrive—January 6. (Always late every year, aren’t they?) But Epiphany becomes a whole season, stretching until the beginning of Lent. As an added bonus, Epiphany is VERY long this year—because Easter is VERY late (April 24).

This season is sometimes called “Ordinary Time,” but I don’t think it’s ordinary at all. It’s a green growing season in which we hear all about the young Jesus—the baby, the child, the young man beginning his ministry. I often wish we had more stories of Jesus as a child. We don’t, but those we have belong here.

Here's some music for Epiphany. It starts out sounding like Christmas music, but then it moves through stages of Jesus’ life and work. After his baptism, Jesus calls the disciples (we’ll save the temptation in the desert for Lent). He goes fishing for people. He teaches and heals. People flock to him and praise him for the amazing things God is doing through him. And finally, Jesus is transfigured on the mountaintop, marking a solid line between his earlier ministry and turning toward Jerusalem and his eventual crucifixion. We’ll also save that part for Lent, of course.

Mixed in at various points are the three movements of Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms. Aside from being my favorite choral piece ever, these psalms connect us to Jesus’ Judaism, a piece we should never lose track of. They are sung in Hebrew, and I have tried to tie their content to the topic of each suite as best I can. The psalms Bernstein sets are …

Movement 1: Psalms 100 and 108
Movement 2: Psalms 2 and 23
Movement 3: Psalms 131 and 133

In addition, the music gets folksy sometimes, because Jesus hung out with regular folks. It has children’s songs, because Jesus loved children. It’s not just straight-up pop music—some of it is choral, some gospel, some country, some liturgical worship music, some electronic instrumental, some mellow pop, some alternative rock. Come to think of it, it’s a pretty bizarre mix. But I think that makes it an adventure. No doubt, every day with Jesus of Nazareth must have been a pretty wild ride. Enjoy the ride.

Yes, these recordings are under copyright, but the way I have mixed them into suites is original to me. If you hear something you like, please go buy it. I also welcome feedback on Epiphany music I might use to expand these suites next year!

(Right-click each header to download the suite.)

Epiphany Suite 1: Incarnation
Sufjan Stevens - The Incarnation/ Plainchant - Hodie Christus Natus Est [Procession]
Sufjan Stevens - Star of Wonder
Leonard Bernstein - Chichester Psalms 1
Barenaked Ladies & Sarah McLachlan - God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen/We Three Kings
Natalie Merchant - Wonder
Benjamin Britten - This Little Babe (from ‘A Ceremony of Carols’)
Sufjan Stevens - What Child Is This, Anyway?

Epiphany Suite 2: Baptism
Sufjan Stevens - Tahquamenon Falls
Alison Krauss - Down to the River to Pray
Church of the Apostles [COTA] - Come to the Water
Sufjan Stevens - Alanson, Crooked River
The Fifth Dimension - Let the Sunshine In

Epiphany Suite 3: Calling
Kermit the Frog - The Rainbow Connection
Susan Werner - Don’t Explain It Away
Sheryl Crow - Light in Your Eyes
Sufjan Stevens - Vito’s Ordination Song
Gonzo the Great - I’m Going to Go Back There Someday

Epiphany Suite 4: Fishing
Leonard Bernstein - Chichester Psalms 2
Mindy Smith - Come to Jesus
Chip Taylor - Dance with Jesus
Stevie Wonder - Have a Talk with God
Kanye West - Jesus Walks

Epiphany Suite 5: Teaching
XTC - The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead
The Beatles - All You Need Is Love
England Dan & John Ford Coley - Love Is the Answer
Lenny Kravitz - Let Love Rule

Epiphany Suite 6: Healing
Isaac Everett - Ministration
Sufjan Stevens - Oh God, Where Are You Now (In Pickerel Lake, Pigeon, Marquette, Mackinaw)
Judy Collins - Amazing Grace
Leonard Bernstein - Chichester Psalms 3

Epiphany Suite 7: Praise
George Harrison - My Sweet Lord
The Doobie Brothers - Jesus Is Just Alright
Stevie Wonder - As
Sixpence None the Richer - Melody of You

Epiphany Suite 8: Transfiguration
George Harrison - All Those Years Ago
Plainchant - Hodie Christus Natus Est [Recession]/ Isaac Everett - Misconception
Church of the Apostles [COTA] - Awaken Us to Your Glory
Sufjan Stevens - The Transfiguration

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