Keep On Singing

I currently have the great honor of preparing a choir to sing at a state-wide Music Educator’s Conference. We have titled the program “Keep On Singing”, which is the title of one of the songs the girls will be singing on the program. Each song has an underlying theme of this title, and has been inspiring us over the course of the school year in many wonderful ways. With these pieces on my mind and in my heart I’d like to share the lyrics with you!

The first song is an arrangement of the text Jubilate Deo:

Shout for joy to God, all the earth!
Sing the glory of his name; make His praise glorious.

It is arranged for voice, two violins, bongo and tambourine. It is an insanely difficult song to play and sing- but the harmonies line up to sound effortless to the audience. This reminds us of the phrase “with God all things are possible.” When we shout with joy to the Lord, whatever is going on below the surface can come across as effortless to our onlookers- even if what is really going on is a twisted confusing maze of notes and rhythms. The confidence we have when we walk with the Lord is unmistakable. Keep on Singing!

The next song is a Macedonian folk song with the chorus of:

Fighting is all we do, fighting and arguing!
Then we talk sweetly to each other.
Oh, well! That’s the kind of love we have.
Hey, fight! Hey, argue! Hey, love!

This is a secular text that speaks to how all people feel occasionally. The song is talking about a relationship between two people- but we have contemplated it as a relationship we might have with ourselves. I am always harder on myself than anyone else would be toward me. So first I might have a conflict with myself and feel dissonant and perplexed- but then I give myself a break and treat myself kindly. Back and forth like a cartoon of the devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other. But the final line, “Fight! Argue! Love!” is a reminder that through all the conflict- Keep on Singing!

Moving on to a song where the only text is Alleluia.
Alleluia is the last 67 measures of Bach’s Motet VI based on Psalm 117.

Praise the Lord, all you nations, extol Him all you peoples.
For great is His love toward us, and His faithfulness endures forever. Alleluia

This piece is polyphonic, meaning each part moves independently of the others, and the vocal lines weave together like a constantly moving tapestry. Finally the piece ends with homophony, on a big sparkling major cord! It is exquisite! The proceeding text to the Alleluia speaks of all nations and all peoples praising the Lord. The polyphonic Alleluias feel like this to me- wherever you go, whoever you’re with, whatever you’re doing you can praise and give thanks to the Lord- and He will bless you with harmony that is greater than you could ever imagine- hence the sparkling major cord at the end. Keep on Singing!
The first time I heard the next piece, No Time, was a few months after my father unexpectedly passed away. The text of this song holds a dear place in my heart, and tugs at every heart string!

No Time to tarry here, No Time to wait for you,
No Time to tarry here for I’m on my journey home.

The story of the song is told from the perspective of the person who is “on their journey home” to heaven. The storyteller is happy, and is saying farewell because they are going on to their eternal home. The grief I experienced from the loss of my father was great and I almost could not Keep On Moving- let alone Keep On Singing. This piece is a reminder that a loss on earth is not really a loss- it’s a gain to heaven. Our time here is short, and non-permanent compared with our heavenly home. The song makes me cry pretty much every time I hear it! It used to be a cry I didn’t think I could get through, but now it is a cry of the beauty of the promise the Lord gives us of eternal life. Through all hardships in life- Keep on Singing!

Without stopping the girls go from singing No Time to singing a spiritual called Sing til the Spirit Moves in my Heart.

I’m gonna Sing til the Spirit moves in my heart,
I’m gonna Pray til the Spirit moves in my heart,
I’m gonna Shout til the Spirit moves in my heart,
I’m gonna sing til my Jesus comes.

The song starts with a soloist singing the theme with no distinct tempo, like a prayer. When the rest of the choir joins they come in with a rhythmic chorus that continues to build throughout the song until we’re almost actually shouting. Occasionally in life we may feel lost and go looking for the Lord’s peace. This song encourages that if you don’t find His peace from singing- Pray. If you don’t find His peace from praying- Shout. Don’t stop- because the peace of the Lord will come to you. Keep On Singing!

The final song on the Music Educators Program is the song Keep On Singing. It is a vocal jazz song. The choir will end their program inviting the audience to Keep on Singing- Keep on going- Keep on making music. The program is over, but that doesn’t mean it’s the end. There is always something new on the horizon to look forward to and embrace!

I hope our texts inspired you! We are looking forward to spreading the message to our audiences in the coming weeks! Keep on Singing!

About Catherine Lykins

Catherine (Steen) Lykins grew up in Michigan in the Oak Arbor New Church congregation. She and her husband, Rob, currently live in Atlanta, GA where she teaches high school chorus at a public high school. She loves her job and is deeply invested in the students she gets to sing with every day. Catherine also loves to run, sings with the Atlanta Symphony Chorus, enjoys scrapbooking and often helps her husband fly his hot air balloon!

8 thoughts on “Keep On Singing

  1. Beautiful, Catherine. The part about your dad got me choked up too–how poignantly expressed. Music has such power to bring the Lord closer, thank you for sharing that with us, even though we can’t hear it.

  2. Catherine, I loved reading the words to the songs you are conducting. I enjoyed even more your explanations and descriptions of how the songs work, what they are played on, and your reflections about them.
    It brought to mind something in my own modest musical past. A friend in our village (he’s composed music for two of the Harry Potter films) told me that the poems I occasionally write remind him of song lyrics (they usually rhyme), and that we should collaborate to write a Christmas carol. So I wrote the lyrics, and he put it to music – two different melodies, in fact. It was actually sung at the village carol service the following year, conducted by my friend.
    My lyrics tried to convey what the real meaning of Christmas is, and why Christmas is special, from a New Church perspective though using ‘normal’ language. Perhaps later this year I’ll submit them to New Christian Woman, and you can judge for yourself whether the words achieve that.

  3. What an inspiring piece – I would love to be one of your choir members! Will there be a recording of your program that you can share with us? Best wishes.

  4. I enjoyed reading through this,and wish I could hear the music you describe…Thank you for sharing these beautiful words with us, and also your obvious knowledge of and love for music.
    I decided to go look up the Bach piece on youtube (haven’t gotten to looking up the others, yet)
    How beautiful!
    What a special use to share with this world…
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQq7hch25dE (for anyone else who wants to hear a version of one of the pieces described here)

  5. I really loved the way your descriptions brought so much meaning to the pieces even without being able to hear them. And I agree with Tania that the part about your dad brought tears to my eyes. Especially the way that your reaction has shifted over time. I had a really similar shift after my Mom died, having songs that I loved but were also full of grief for me, and now bring more of a hopeful and peaceful reaction up for me. So amazing how strong the reaction can be!

  6. Cool! 🙂 Yes, thanks for the insights into each of the songs! I love your passion for it all. And yeah, what Janis said — will there be a recording that we may watch/listen to?? I’d love to HEAR all this that you have described!

  7. Some of the comments were wondering if there was a recording made of the performance. There was! If anyone would like a copy- email me your address and I can mail you a copy of the CD. Lykinsteen@gmail.com

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