I have fallen behind in providing these weekly notes on our music, but trying to get back in the groove now. This week we have something old, something new, something borrowed…sounds like a wedding! See below for further information on this week’s musical selections.
I have also updated this story (originally presented back in August) about our group, Selah Vie, and our ‘mission’, which involves all of you, so take a gander (bird-pun), and see how you can help our flock reach new heights!
Our ecletic troupe of music-makers have been referred to by various monikers but one name that has stuck around is Selah Vie.
Sela (without ‘h’) is an old Hebrew word for ‘rock’, but a rock band we’re not.
Selah is another Hebrew word with many meanings. Two that we relate to primarily have to do with hymn singing, congregational singing, and how to most effectively use music in a sacred or contemplative context.
Besides being a name for our group of players, Selah Vie also speaks to the way we try to approach the diverse repetoire of hymns and songs we are fortunate enough to work on each week.
In Psalms the word selah appears extensively as an instruction to the reading (or singing) of the text, something like “stop and listen” or “pause and think of that”. Psalms are often sung accompanied by instruments and selah appears like a ‘stage direction’ to mark a place for the singers to pause while the instruments continue to play so that attention is given to the preceding line, similar in purpose to how the old ’Amen’ at the end of a hymn looks back at what was just sung. Another interpretaion is to ‘hang or to weigh’. It was common in those times to hang something on a scales to weigh its value, or quality. So selah here indicates that we should weigh the value of the passage, the message, “what do these words say to me?”
Have you ever noticed how traditional hymns generally tend to march right along with very little pause or ‘space’. A consistent rhythm does help keep a congregation together (and awake). A hymn is a prayer after all more than some kind of dramatic musical performance. But just as the meter of the poetry in scripture (along with the frequent instruction of selah in Psalms) encourages reflection, so a musical rendition of a psalm or any other hymn-like piece should do likewise, not simply be recited without thinking. Hymns were usually written initially as verse without music. Then the writer, or another musician would later adapt a melodic arrangement to the hymn to match the meter of the written verse. This accounts for some of the regularity in many of the hymns.
But in modern times, actually since the 19th century, it has become more and more common to introduce innuendo, a pause here and there, framing the music and words in space just as the busy, repititious, detailed architecture of the Baroque period transformed into more open and fluid lines in contemporary architecture and music. Going back to the ancient music of gregorian chant and earlier, space also played a major role.
Vie is Latin for Life. So, Selah Vie suggests we pause to consider life, or in the case of the songs we sing, pause here and there to reflect on what that line we just sang really means to us, to our lives. The Selah Vie players are here to encourage congregational involvement and support the message of the day. Whether the congregation sings along, or the song is presented as a musical meditation, whether it’s one of the tried and true standards from the hymnal, or something never heard before, maybe even from another tradition, it is always our intent that every piece involves us all together, just as in worship, it is an active process for singer or listener. We are not ‘performing’ so much as we are attempting to co-create a space for all to inhabit and explore together.
Pastor Jeremy Ashworth works with us to select songs that will hopefully resonate in various ways with the particular message he has prepared each week. Sometimes we are more successful at accomplishing that than other times, and sometimes we even discover connections occuring spontaneously we hadn’t even considered.
Currently, (as available) our players are:
Buck Woody, vocals, guitar, piano, music director and arranger;
Betty Deters, piano and vocals;
Vanessa Reaves, vocals and guitar;
Christina Woody, violin and vocals;
Caeli McKamey, viola and vocals;
Tim McKamey, guitar and vocals;
Karrah Rogers, bass, cello.
But most importantly, it’s all of you who really make it happen, and we thank you!
Here’s today’s music:
Opening: I’ll Fly Away