Category Archives: Recordings

Frequently our friends at church request that Nathan or the choir sing more southern gospel style music. Here ya go.

February is African American History month, a time to be intentional in learning from and about the black people who share and empower our great nation. Gospel music has its roots in the music of African slaves in America.  Here is our honoring of that heritage with a song. Please keep reading below…

“The Gospel of Grace”  ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘I’m New Born Again’ arranged by Mark Hayes


Nathan and I live in the racially diverse community of North Minneapolis. We have begun to ask some questions of ourselves regarding our identity as white people and the assumptions we make about what it means to be black or what it means to be white.

One of those assumptions was challenged last week.

Balerlina

I sit on the Site Council for our local elementary school. At our last meeting we were discussing some of the plans for how to highlight African American History throughout the month. It’s an important theme for all of the kids to understand more about the respective heritages of their classmates. Being that this school is 70% black, February is significant. As some ideas were thrown around about performances, or parents visiting, I kept feeling myself getting stuck by a thought that I finally voiced:

“Sure, there are things that Nathan and I can do that are from African American culture, but I don’t feel qualified to present information about black history and culture, being that I am very not black at all.”

I don’t like to do things wrong. It’s embarrassing.  To try to be helpful but find I’m just making a fool of myself -ugh! These were the hesitations I had about being a voice in the conversation about Black History.  What kind of crazy white people offer to perform a gospel medley to a group of black people? As if we have anything to offer. It seems dangerously cliché. It potentially reeks of naivety (the even more evil twin of ‘doing things wrong’). It feels smug and hints at “let me tell you how it’s done.”

While my concern was received with some understanding, I was promptly schooled by the two African American men in the group:

“It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you are able to share something, and the kids can learn something. As a result, they can say, ‘Hey, I heard this because of African American History month.’”   (my paraphrase)

I was kind of taken aback. They were empowering me with the realization that it’s not about me. It’s about who we are honoring. What’s important is to be spreading awareness, encouraging curiosity, featuring specific cultures, and being a voice in the conversation.

What I had been focused on is the chasm between my skill set and the black music style. On one side is the fact that we are classically trained musicians who primarily rely on printed notes to guide our performance. On the other side of the chasm is the reality that African American music is not from that vein at all. There isn’t notation sufficient to encapsulate the cry in the riff of an African American Spiritual.  

Back on “my” proverbial side – I am rather reserved when it comes to physicality and expressiveness. African American culture is one of more voice, more movement, more color, more of a lot of things than what is normal for my temperament.

With all these difference, what can I even do?

One option is to sit on the sidelines and let others – the “more qualified” – tell the story.

Another option is to pressure myself to learn more, practice more, and try to earn the qualifications to speak up (in the meantime feeling the weight of not-enough-ness)

Or, with the mindset of giving honor where it is due, I can right now reach into my current tool kit, bring out the skills that I have, and use them as mirrors to reflect the beauty and dignity of that something, even if it feels foreign.

Here is a bit of irony.  Whenever Nathan breaks into song around the house, playing with the kids or cleaning, it is almost always in the style of gospel or blues or jazz.  This Swedish homeschooled boy defaults to the soul of the spiritual. Now if that’s not influence I don’t know what is!



P. S. The featured artwork this week is by 9 year old Lina, the daughter of a friend of ours.  She did just what we are talking about here. She reached into her toolbox of drawing skills and washable markers and honored the people she admires.

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P. P. S. If you’re a research nut, you may like this Library of Congress collection of sound recordings of blues and gospel songs.


LYRICS

“The Gospel of Grace”  ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘I’m New Born Again’ arranged by Mark Hayes

Amazing grace! how sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
was blind but now I see.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
and grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
the hour I first believed.

I found free grace and dying love, I’m new born again,
been long time a-talkin’ ’bout my trials here below.
Free grace, free grace, free grace, sinner.
Free grace, free grace, I’m new born again.

So glad, so glad, I’m new born again,
been a long time a-talkin’ ’bout my trials here below.

My Savior died for your and me, I’m new born again,
been a long time a-talkin’ ’bout my trials here below.
I know my Lord has set me free, I’m new born again,
been a long tie a-talkin’ ’bout my trials here below.

Free grace, free grace, free grace, sinner.
Free grace, free grace, I’m new born again.

So glad, so glad, I’m new born again, 
been a long time a-talkin’ ’bout my trials here below.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
bright shining as the sun,
we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
that when we’ve first begun.

I’m new born again!

Featuring the 1904 Edward Stanley song “When My Golden Hair Has Turned to Silver Gray”

After last week’s rather heavy post, we are happy to be having more fun with this week’s song – just in time for Valentine’s Day!

Apparently older songs have a lot more words than newer ones.  The last song we posted  was basically verse-chorus-chorus-chorus-chorus-chorus-chorus.  I’m exaggerating a little. This week’s song is a gem that we found amidst stacks of old – like over a hundred years old – music that a dear man from church passed along to us because for some reason he thought we would be interested.  He was right!

It’s like Anthropology 101, a time capsule, and an art gallery archive all in one.

This particular song, “When My Golden Hair Has Turned To Silver Gray,” paints a narrative of a young couple’s journey to not-so-young-ness. As Valentine’s Day approaches, it seems only fitting to ponder the meaning of love today in some way or another.  We even offer our own relationship advice inside the song. Find out how to strengthen your marriage at 1 minute and 58 seconds in!

As a side note, the very week that I accepted the position as organist at my church, I discovered approximately 11 new gray hairs. My old soul is affecting my body!

Honestly though, I have *almost* no qualms about going gray.  My mom has been silver-haired for as long as I remember, and wherever we go she gets compliments about how gorgeous it is.

This is my mom and me when I was probably three years old:

little naomi and mom - cropped

What you might not know, is that my mom is totally leading a fashion trend: Really important related article, click here.

As you head into this next week, whether with golden or brunette locks or gray – or none whatsoever – know that we love you!

P.S. Thanks again to our friend Will for the treasure trove of music!

P.P.S.  Please check in before sending us the contents of your mother’s attic.

“When My Golden Hair Has Turned to Silver Gray”
(words and music by Edward Stanley, originally published in 1904.)

They were wand’ring in the moonlight
On a lovely summer night,
Were planning for their future home,
Their happiness so bright,
And he told her how he loved her,
And from her he ne’er would part, –
She was his hope, his life, his all,
His true sweetheart.

 She whispered that “no other one
Could win the love she gave,”
She said, “she’d cling to him thro’ life,
Until she reached the grave.”
But a question she would ask him:
“Could life be the same alway?
Would he ever cease to love her?
When her golden hair was gray?”

 [refrain]
When my Golden hair has turn’d to silver gray,
When the years have come and quickly rolled away,
Will you love me then as now,
Will you kiss my furrowed brow,
When my golden hair has turn’d to silver gray?

 Soon they settled in a cottage,
In a green and shady grove,
They worked and saved and battled on,
But never ceased to love,
There was true love by their fireside,
There were baby faces dear,
That came and grew to manhood
With their ripening years.

One evening by their bright hearthstone
He stroked her silver hair,
And said “He’d love her all thro’ life,
As on that evening fair,
When she whispered in the moonlight
“Could life be the same alway?
Would he ever cease to love her
When her golden hair was gray?”

 [refrain]
Wh
en your golden hair has turn’d to silver gray,
When the years have come and quickly rolled away,
I will love you then as now,
I will kiss your furrowed brow,
When your golden hair has turn’d to silver gray?

Upcoming:

In honor of February being Black History Month we’ve got a gospel medley coming next week!

What makes your day?   If we made part of it special in some way, we ask you to please let us know

After your visit (or Skype session) with your grandkids, when the dishes are done, and you’re ready to top off your day with a good book or movie, ask yourself which books and movies you tend to share with others. Which songs make you smile? And who do you like to smile with?  

Our hope is that our songs cause you to pause, think, smile, and feel better, especially as you journey big changes in your life – like changes in hair color, among other things.

If you want someone else to hear our songs and words, please share. Thanks a bunch!

If you missed our pre-announcement about Patreon last week, here’s the low-down.

Today’s song is in a rather different form than what we intended. Actually, what would have been really perfect for this week would have been, as our brother-in-law so aptly suggested, the song:
baby it's cold outside.jpgThis sign hangs in our back hallway. I always like to keep it up a bit past Christmas as the winter continues, but yikes this week’s polar vortex was a doozy.  What was it – a 23 year record?  I think we Minnesotans should all get badges, or certificates, or some sort of award just for living here.

That isn’t our song for this week though. Our song is “You Raise Me Up,” made famous by Josh Groban. You get an inside peek at a more rough version than we had set out to produce.  Ups and downs and sideways brought us on a detour of a journey.

These weekly songs and emails have become an axis for us, centering our focus and helping us learn more about the people with whom we share our music. Even though perfection is intentionally not one of our goals, we do usually like to give something that is free of, well, counting aloud. But that is what you get here – more of a rehearsal run through. It was the scratch track that we listened to for recording the separate tracks to combine a la technology.  Oh technology.  The words of this song have grown into something intensely personal for us this week and the thought of scrapping it all was ridiculous.  The crazy thing is that the quality of the sound was better in this quick simple sit-down-and-sing recording than all of the fancy things we were trying to do to make it greater.

Technology wasn’t our only trouble.

A deep darkness enveloped me. The tears flowed and screams flew and everything looked impossible.

As time passed, as dust settled, and as teeny tiny slivers of the suggestion of an inkling of a possibility of the shadow of hope eeked their way toward me I began to breathe a little more.

I was down. I probably will be again some day.
I was weary. That’s inevitable.
I was troubled. There’s always something.
My heart was burdened. The weight is just too much to bear.

So I sat. Slept. Drove. Sat some more. Slept some more. Waiting. Waiting for it to pass, for the fog to lift.

This week Nathan met me.  My mom met me.  And in them, God sat with me.

As my breaths became deeper and my steps became surer, I was met again.  I’m not one to always tout the “no such thing as coincidence” line, but you have to admit that this morning could not have been a more perfect time for this particular podcast meditation that I selected.  We had already planned on releasing this song. We had endured the bumpy road of the recording snafus and personal wreckage. As I listened, on my yoga mat, I was stunned at the timeliness.

Here are some of the words that hit me most…

“Expect to be distracted by the earth.”
“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”
“God might use you to help someone else lift their eyes from earthly noise and chaos to heavenly peace.  How can you help someone else experience what is above?”
“Lord God, help me choose what is above.”
You have been raised up with Christ, so keep seeking the things above.” (Col 3:2)

I want so badly to manage myself well. I want to be productive.  I want to be positive.  I want to be hopeful.  And I want to not fight my war with depression on a regular basis.

Sometimes my mountain is about the size of a step stool, but compared to the hole I just crawled out of I practically scaled Everest. Sometimes my stormy seas are about the depth of a full sink of dishes, but I might as well have surfed a tidal wave.  Sometimes the shoulders I stand on are themselves shaking with sobs.

And in our quaking togetherness we become more than we can ever be on our own.

If this song touches you at all, would you be so kind as to share it with someone who may need a lift? Would you, through this, sit with them and wait?

“You Raise Me Up” (Words and Music by Brendan Graham and Rolf Lovland)

Listen on SoundCloud
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When I am down, and oh, my soul’s so weary

When troubles come and my heart burdened be

Then I am still and wait here in the silence

Until you come and sit a while with me.

You raise me up so I can stand on mountains.

You raise me up to walk on stormy seas.

I am strong when I am on your shoulders.

You raise me up to more than I can be.


A couple other songs of ours that you may like:

Better Than I (From Joseph King of Dreams)

The Curse (From Rigoletto)


 

Coming soon! – Consider joining our flock of patrons! 

click here to play song on SoundCloud
“If With All Your Hearts” from the oratorio Elijah by Felix Mendelssohn


For a moment, I want to say, “Thank You.” You, our audience member, our listener, our reader, are why we do this. Thank you for being on the other side of that screen and for giving thought to the chance that music matters.
We really like you.


This aria comes at a point in the Old Testament narrative where the people were in utter despondency because of the drought that God had brought on the land.  Mendelssohn chose to smoosh together with a dash of creative license, two other biblical texts for this aria’s lyric; Joel 2:12 and Job 23:3.

The two were written centuries apart.  Joel and Job weren’t buddies.  Also, neither context has anything explicitly connected with Elijah’s story.  However, in juxtaposing these two texts Mendelssohn captures something totally human, the internal conflict between our awareness of God’s nature, and our state of being.

This aria swings back and forth between the voice of God and the thoughts of man. God says through the prophet, (actually quoting Joel, my paraphrase) “If you’re all in, I’ll meet you there.  I don’t want you half-way.”  The other flavor present is the prophet quoting Job (again my whine-implied paraphrase); “I wish I could just come talk to you because I really think if you just knew my side of the story you’d understand.”

When we were dating, we help lead a youth group in producing a staged dramatic reading of the entire book of Job.

The story goes like this: God allowed Satan to do lots of horrible things to Job to test Job.  Job’s friends, and even his wife, and Job himself are trying to explain away why all of this is happening and God shows up in the end and says, “I’m God, you’re not going to figure me out,” and goes on to learn ‘em good.

Despite the reality that God’s ways are past finding out, the pursuit of Him with our entire hearts is a good way to live life.  Or at least to try.


TEXT
‘If with all your hearts ye truly seek Me,
Ye shall ever surely find Me.’
Thus saith our God,

Oh! That I knew where I might find Him,
That I might even come before His presence!


Rabbit Trail Trivia: Mendelssohn wrote the soprano role of this oratorio especially for the Swedish opera singer Jenny Lind, who some know of primarily from her part of the story line of The Greatest Showman. (Enjoy the movie, but please don’t tell yourself that that is actually what she sounded like. Thank you.)

Coincidentally, the local public school where our kids attend is named after this famed singer.  I find this ironic, considering that the student population now is approximately .000000001% Swedish. Don’t quote me on that. You get the point. Being in the minority is a new experience for us, unless you include homeschooling. But even then, when assessing the ethnic representation in our kids’ respective classes, they were definitely in the majority.


Previous post: Bring Him Home, from Les Misérables 

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In “Bring Him Home” Jean Valjean sings a prayer over Marius while he sleeps that sounds like it’s part lullaby, part heart cry, part reflection on his own mortality.  Valjean is anticipating a horrible battle the next morning with the odds stacked against them.

Kretzmer’s words show a change in Valjean through this song. At the beginning of the song the character remembers God’s provision: “in my need you have always been there.” By the end of the song, however, Valjean is reminding himself of the truth that God has the ultimate power: “You can take. You can give. Let him be. Let him live.”  For Valjean to say “If I die, let me die, let him live” I’m reminded of John 15:13.  “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

I’ve known for a while that the first change that our prayer makes in the world is not to change our circumstances, or others, or God, but our prayer must first change us.  Prayer adjusts our perspective to put us in our place and refresh our awareness of God’s place.

This song begs the question, however.  Am I willing to be the answer to the prayer that I am praying?  Even if it means I lose everything?

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—-

 

Lyrics:

“Bring Him Home” from Les Misérables

Music by Claude-Michel Schönberg, Words by Herbert Kretzmer

Performed by Nathan and Naomi Bird

 

God on high, hear my prayer.

In my need You have always been there.

He is young. He’s afraid.

Let him rest, heaven blessed.

 

Bring him home. Bring him home.

Bring him home.

 

He’s like the son I might have known

If God had granted me a son.

The summers die, one by one.

How soon they fly, on and on,

And I am old, and will be gone.

 

Bring him peace, bring him joy.

He is young. He is only a boy.

You can take. You can give.

Let him be. Let him live.

 

If I die, let me die.

Let him live.

Bring him home. Bring him home.

Bring him home.

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Hey there.

As we’ve been making some shifts with our business and life over the past few months one of the things we have really loved implementing is our weekly Song Notes email .

Accompanying the release of our recorded song of the week  we have been sending an email with some thoughts and insights about the song, as well as some updates about our personal and professional lives, and of course details about any upcoming performances that Nathan is involved in.  Starting this week, we will be reviving the blog by reissuing the “Song Notes From the Birds” portion as a blog post.  The emails are still the best place to get fun reviews of what we have been up to, both professionally and personally, and the performance information will be kept current on the website, but the emails are the most effective way to be in the know.

Also, If you’re on Facebook, we would love to see you at Nathan Bird Music. Head on over and give us a “like” to see our posts on your feed.

Now, here is this week’s Song Notes From the Birds…

—————–

“Great Is Thy Faithfulness”

Photo by m wrona on Unsplash
Text is at the bottom of this email.


Has your week been as much of an emotional roller coaster as ours has been? It seems that even our community at large has had some particularly intense experiences.

A national crisis continues to play out through the government shut down and heated emotional debates about the border wall idea. And…Jayme Closs escaped and is now safe!

Two separate friends of ours here in Minnesota each had friends of theirs die in a car crash or a hit-and-run. And…Nathan’s sister had a baby!

For a few days this week our four year old was quarantined under suspicion of measles. And…We are hours away from finishing our bathroom renovation that has had our shower unusable for four months! Also, he doesn’t have measles! (Remember that water park we mentioned last week?  We’re pretty sure the water was the culprit for whatever the virus was that plagued our little guy.  Maybe it’s good the pool was only open for one day after all!)

What do you do with the wild extremes of feeling?

If you’ve followed the Jayme Closs story at all, you’ve probably seen some people’s vehement ridiculing of the idea that God has had anything to do with her rescue because if He cared at all He wouldn’t have let the horrible crime happen in the first place. There is some real, deep pain behind those words, for sure.

Instability, hypocrisy, and hurt from those closest to us make for a cocktail of confusion. Who doesn’t long for safety, authenticity, and comfort?

Our song this week is the hymn “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” a song that has been significant throughout both of our upbringings and continues to be a favorite.  I think the reason it lands, for me, is because of the pervading message of the ever present existence of things like the seasons, the stars, the sunrise. Something about the elements of nature bring into focus the Beyond that is holding all of this together.

And, perhaps more significantly, nature isn’t really selective. Unlike Olaf’s personal little flurry, typically our experiences with nature are more massive in influence.  A snowstorm can be loved by one and despised by one’s neighbor, but the impact doesn’t differentiate. The sunshine, rain, temperature changes, and flux of the seasons happen to all of us, not just those who deserve it, want it, need it, or hate it.  We are part of a much bigger story than that.

For me, when I have felt pretty (except it’s really not at all pretty) hopeless and empty in the faith department, it has fairly consistently been something about nature and the presence of beauty that has coaxed me back to considering hope for tomorrow.  I’ll be honest, my peace doesn’t always ‘endureth’ all that long, and I am not one to enjoy musing about the ‘dear presence’ of the Lord that ‘cheers and guides’ me with his ‘never failing compassions.’  Maybe some day I can say those words without feeling really weird, but for the time being I will settle in with the comfort of the thought that all of this mess of life is actually being seen and felt and heard by Someone, because every . single . day . the sun rises.

“Great Is Thy Faithfulness”

Words by Thomas O Chrisholm, based on Lamentations 3:22-23
Music by William M. Runyan (1870-1957)

Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father!
There is no shadow of turning with thee;
Thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not;
As thou hast been thou forever wilt be.

Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.

[chorus] Great is thy faithfulness, great is thy faithfulness,
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed thy hand hath provided —
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

[chorus] Great is thy faithfulness, great is thy faithfulness,
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed thy hand hath provided —
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Ami Andersen CD Release Concert!

Ami Andersen is a name that I’ve mentioned quite a few times on this blog.  Not only do I love hearing her music, a fresh and respectful approach to resetting old hymns, but I love PERFORMING it too.  This weekend, I get to perform some of her music for you.

She has completed her long-awaited debut album after a successful fundraising campaign with a kickstarter.com account, and now YOU get to hear her music.  It’s entitled Shelter: Hymns Resung and you can read more about it here.

This very weekend, I invite you to make your way to All Nations Baptist Church at 1300 Lowry Ave. NE Minneapolis, MN. Saturday, July 28th at 7:00 PM and/or Sunday, July 29th at 6:00 PM.

The two concerts are slightly different as the Sunday night performance will be part of an All-Nations 5th Sunday Hymn Sing.  I hope to see you there.