October 4, 2009

New Hymn Arrangement--O My Father

When I write musical arrangements, perhaps because I am using a pre-written melody, I feel that I am not really composing, but simply putting a puzzle together. And once I have completed a piece, I feel that every note is in the exact spot it should be in, and that it's not because I was inspired, but because I have solved a riddle. What amazes me, is that given the same tunes, other composer/arrangers will come up with something completely different! However, even knowing that, I feel extremely hesitant about writing popular and oft-arranged hymns.

O My Father is a particularly popular hymn, and I have played many different versions of it, all of them very good. When my father-in-law passed away earlier this week, and my husband Dave and I were asked to play O My Father for his funeral, I had no reason to write my own arrangement, but I felt strongly that I didn't want to play any of those arrangements for Ron, I wanted to play my own.

I can't say that I've ever suffered like a real artist often does to find material in the creative process, but never has an arrangement come so quickly to me--in spite of my general reluctance to tackle any well-loved hymn. You can interpret that in a couple of ways--that either I happen to work well under pressure, or that I had some help from above.

At any rate, I just hope that Ron would approve.

Here is the performance from Ron's funeral with my husband Dave on the piano:

O My Father


Marci said...

I had two different teachers in Jr. High and High School that had two different opinions about composing. One thought it was just a regurgitation of previous work, ordered in a different way. And the other thought it was all inspiration. I'd like to think it's both. Without the knowledge of other music, there is no way to put your own "thoughts" on the page. Yet, I have never attempted to write or arrange anything worthy that I was not aided by the Spirit. In many cases, it was almost entirely inspired. Those are the pieces I hold dearest.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure he approves!

Judy said...

Dearest Jen,

God has given you beautiful temporal and spiritual gifts and you have combined them in an exquisite heartfelt arrangement. To me, these shades of Rachmaninoff and Chopin evoke the deepest yearnings of the human soul to find our way back Home. From the first bars entoning the simple truth that we are children of God arriving on earth in innocence and trust then on to experiencing weakness, struggle, sometimes failure, loneliness and sorrow but ever reaching for the Father who gave us life. The last bars just shimmer with the inexorable climbing and soaring into light as we return to our Heavenly Home. You said it all. Your arrangement is truly a tender mercy to you--and to all of us.

Well done, thou good and faithful servant.

Amy said...

Beautiful hymn and beautiful arrangement! You were truly inspired. You and Dave have such a great gift.

Unknown said...


Arranging is an art, too - I really, truly believe it can be a way of combining messages to convey a deeper, comprehensive message. It can add meaning.

Just my $.02. :)

And that was... exquisite.

Happy Thought, Indeed! said...

I get nervous using the word "inspired" when talking about my own work. I don't want to presume that I am good enough to represent God's voice. On the other hand, when the notes fall into place on their own, I know that I cannot take full credit for that, either.

Thanks for all of your kind comments.