Dec 062015
 
Toni Thomas

Toni Thomas, hymn-text
writer extraordinaire.

Just a quick update this time. I’ve added an SATB hymn called “As Sudden Angels Filled the Night,” with an optional obbligato for two flutes. The words were written by my friend Toni Thomas, and the music is by yours truly. I don’t often write straight hymns, so this was fun (and challenging) for me. It was also good practice, because hymn-writing is an art all of its own.

Toni has had lots of experience writing hymn texts, as you can see if you visit her website. We knew when we started the project that the timing would make it rather late for this Christmas season, but… well… we were having fun, so… πŸ˜‰

Swirly Christmas TreeAlso new this time: Last week’s blog post (here) mentioned an arrangement of “And His Name Shall Be Called Wonderful” done by Kurt Bestor for Laura Pattillo’s new Christmas album.

It also mentioned that the sheet music wasn’t available and I’d let you know if that changed. Sooooooo…. I’m letting you know! Kurt has kindly let me post his arrangement here, so it’s now available for free download. Thanks Kurt! (BTW, if you haven’t listened to this album yet, you’re missing out!)

Only 19 days until Christmas! Turn up the carols… eat lots of big, thick, soft sugar cookies, and enjoy the season! πŸ™‚

Nov 292015
 

Here’s a wonderful new album by singer Laura Pattillo to start your Christmas season off right. The arrangements are by Kurt Bestor, and the combination is gorgeous. I wanted to know a little more about her, so I asked her how she’d describe herself…

“I’m the mother of 5 crazy children. I live in Kennewick, Washington–the desert side of the state. I married the world’s most wonderful man (sorry ladies!). I studied music for several years at BYU, but marriage put a stop to that. I eventually finished an online degree through BYU in Creative Writing and have added children’s author to my list of hobbies. I’m an opera-singing farm-girl, and I’m always busy.” Laura Pattillo

Laura included my “And His Name Shall Be Called Wonderful” on the album. The intro and interludes have the “For Unto Us a Child is Born” motif included in them, which is very cool. Here’s the track:

Isn’t that lovely? (The sheet music isn’t currently available–I’ll let you know if that changes.) I’m just sitting here enjoying this whole album tonight as I post this… and feeling very Christmassy. πŸ™‚ Links to the album are below. Enjoy!

O Holy Night album cover

Hear the whole album on Laura’s Soundcloud Stream.

Purchase the album in CD or MP3 format at Laura’s website or at Amazon, or you can get any or all of the tracks on iTunes.

Oct 282015
 
hat for a catThe sun did not shine. It was too wet to play.
So we sat in the house all that cold, cold wet day.
~Dr. Seuss

One day back in the dark ages when I was about six, I sat at our living room window watching my hope for a day outdoors melting in a steady downpour.

“WHY DOES IT ALWAYS HAVE TO RAIN?!?!?!” I said. It wasn’t really a question.

My grandmother answered anyway: “You should be thankful. You won’t have anything to eat if the farmers don’t get their rain.”

I thought about food… ice cream… Reeses Peanut Butter Cups… hamburgers and french fries… And because you need rain to make food, for the first time in my young life I considered this idea:

A trial and a blessing may be one and the same.

Today’s first song grew from that seed my grandmother planted, though it took its time doing it.

A little over a year ago, my brother learned that he had multiple sclerosis. At the time, I was ignorant about MS. So I did some research, and as I read about signs and symptoms, I saw… myself. This past summer, the diagnosis was confirmed.

MS. Well then.

When something unexpected and difficult descends on your life, a comfortable faith must become a conscious faith. You have to choose to believe that a trial and a blessing can be one and the same. You have to choose gratitude instead of self-pity or resentment or any of the other un-lovely options that present themselves.

I feel so blessed that the Lord prepared me for this little bend in my road by telling me to practice gratitude. Gratitude has taught me just how near my Heavenly Father really is, every moment of my life. It has taught me that He knows my needs much better than I do. It has shown me that everything–including the hard stuff!–works together for my good.

Gratitude strengthens faith.

What began as a song for a brother then became a song for us both. However, since the summer, I have become more aware of something I knew with my head but now understand with my heart: everyone–everyone!–is dealing with difficult things, visible or not. And so, “When It Rains” became a song for anyone who has to rely on faith when the rain falls.

I’m not sure how useful that song will be in a church setting, but no matter–it was something I wanted to say.

The last new song in the project is a setting of Karen Lynn Davidson’s hymn text “O Savior, Thou Who Wearest a Crown” to the beautiful old minor melody “Kingsfold,” for SATB choir (though it can also be used as a solo, as below.) I list this one last, in the place of honor, because the sacrifice of Jesus Christ makes possible every good thing for which we give thanks, and everything we hope for. There is nothing that we do not owe to Him, because there is nothing He did not endure for us. “What praises can we offer to thank thee, Lord most high?” begins the last verse. The question is answered in the last line: “To thee our love we bring.”

Take one more look at the picture on the album cover. (See it fullscreen here.) See the gorgeous pink in the sky on the left and right? That’s rain, reflecting the sunset. And that mountain in the middle? That’s Mount Hope, in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

Rain and Hope. The perfect combination for the final installment of this “gratitude project.”

Some random notes:

  • You’ll notice that there is no free download for the vocal track of “O Savior, Thou Who Wearest a Crown.” That’s because I have to pay royalties for that track, and paying royalties on a track that you don’t get paid for yourself is really bad for the budget. (If I had a nickel for every download–just the downloads, not even counting the copies made from them–I’d be a millionaire. Seriously. And if I had to pay a nickel for every download… )
  • The remaining tracks on the album are: “Lift Up Your Heart” and “Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee” (both new recordings of existing material); and “This is My Father’s World” and “He is My All (duet with Heather Prusse)” (both existing recordings that just seemed to fit the theme).
  • A big “Thank You!” to everyone who contributed to this project–Jana and Sarah on Violin, Jeff for his photography, Tj and Heather for their contributions to the duets. Thanks X 1000 to James Loynes, the vocalist, for being my voice, singing my heart, and Skyping to try new material at the drop of a hat. I know some really wonderful people.
If you want to be happy,
be grateful.
(It’s only right to end where I began. Happy Wednesday!)
Oct 232015
 
I know that he died that I might be forgiven my follies, my sins, and be cleansed from them. How wonderful is this love. How can I, knowing this, do anything else but love him, my Redeemer?”
Joseph Fielding Smith

On the long list of things for which I am grateful, the Savior is at the top. I owe everything I am and will ever be to Him, so how can I do anything but love Him? When I read the quote above, the last sentence just sang to me, and wouldn’t leave me alone until I had set it to music. The result was “How Can I Do Anything but Love Him?” for solo voice, with optional violins.

The next song is a favorite from The Messiah: “He Shall Feed His Flock/Come Unto Him,” for SATB choir, and for solo voice. I felt a bit cheeky arranging this. Handel was a master: I am an amateur. This song needs no arranging when performed well and accompanied by a skilled orchestra. I don’t own an orchestra, so I wanted a piano accompaniment that was less… well, boring… than the traditional reduction. I also wanted a choral setting. So I tried my hand at it and here’s the result, in the solo version since I don’t own a choir either: πŸ˜‰

Who’s that lovely violinist?
Jana Hanni, violinist

The obbligatos on these new tracks were played by the beautiful and talented Jana Hanni. Jana is not only a skilled violinist, she’s the kindergarten teacher I’d want for my grandkids, and just a wonderful person. She studied at Utah State University, and (fortunately for me!) she now lives in Colorado with her husband Jeff and their four children.

The last addition for today is an updated version of “My Grateful Spirit Sings.” For me, one of the trickiest parts of notation is knowing what rhythms to write into a vocal line, especially when I work with a soloist like James, who has the art of rubato pretty much perfected. The original score was way too stiff for my liking, so I loosened it up a little, and gave it a new accompaniment:

The scores and recordings for these are free on each song page. If you prefer, you can buy the higher bitrate files from iTunes, Amazon or CDBaby. You can also get the physical CD here, for $2.50 through the end of November.

Next (and last!) installment: Gratitude gets you through the tough times. πŸ™‚

Oct 172015
 
There is something in each day that can bring gratitude and joy if only we will see and appreciate it.”
Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Last year I determined that for all of 2015 I would write and arrange only songs that expressed gratitude. Music that asked for nothing, and gave thanks for the really wonderful things in my life. Except for a few assignments (which don’t count!) I am happy to say, I succeeded. Focusing on being thankful has been a great blessing to me during what has turned out to be a rather challenging year. The most important thing I learned by doing this?

If you want to be happy, be grateful.

Without further ado, let’s get straight to the first installment of this Deluge of Gratitude.

First up is an arrangement called “Hymn of Grateful Praise.” It sets the lyrics of “For the Beauty of the Earth” to the old tune “Scarborough Fair.” with a bit of the traditional melody thrown into the violin obbligato. There are versions for solo voice and for SSAATBB choir. Here’s a recording with vocals by James Loynes and violin by Jana Hanni. Usually I post an audio track here, but this time I’m going to use the YouTube video as the demo because it includes some gorgeous photography by my friend Jeff Carter. Take a look at more of his beautiful work here: www.jlcfoto.com.

Next, we have a new duet titled “The Song of Our Hearts.” For this track, James is joined by Tj Pini, a relative newcomer to the site. (You may have listened to her on this version of “Come, Thou Fount…“) Here’s their recording:

Tj is from right here in beautiful Colorado. She has also done a gorgeous recording of “Only Love” which isn’t technically a part of the gratitude project, but it’s sooooo lovely I just have to share it here:

The last track for today is called “All Creation Speaks His Name,” again with vocals by James Loynes and violin by Jana Hanni. It’s available for solo voice and for SAB choir.

The three new songs above (as well as 9 others–some new, some updated and re-arranged, and two existing tracks that just seemed to fit) are available on a new album called “Hymn of Grateful Praise,” with vocals by James Loynes, joined on duets by Tj Pini and by Heather Prusse, with Jana Hanni and Sarah Crowther on violin. It’s available on physical CD, by free download on the song pages, or as high quality downloads from iTunes, Amazon, or CDBaby. In honor of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday here in the US, the physical CDs are available for $2.50 each through the end of November.

Here’s the album as an MP3 playlist:

Next up: A text inspired by Joseph Fielding Smith, and this cheeky composer tackles Handel.

Oct 122015
 

This lovely rendition of “If the Savior Stood Beside Me,” performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in the Sunday morning session of General Conference, was arranged by Sam Cardon. The sheet music is, unfortunately, not available. (Neither is the conference center organ, or those amazing organists… so it’s probably for the best. πŸ˜‰ )

This adorable Children’s choir is singing a medley of “Search, Ponder and Pray” and “I Think When I Read That Sweet Story” that I was asked to arrange specifically for the conference. (They titled it simply “Hymn Medley” in the video. No wonder. The two titles together are quite a handle!) The score will be available in the LDS Music Library as soon as the poor overworked staff in the music office has time to get it uploaded. The score includes an optional harmony that the children’s choir didn’t include.

Aren’t they great? It’s so cute when they can’t keep their eyes off the cameras. I probably couldn’t either.

Sep 042015
 
Angry Cat.

If it’s any consolation, this picture is actually a self-portrait of me this past week. πŸ™‚

If you’ve dropped in to see me over the past week, you’ve noticed that my site has been either slow as molasses or nonexistent. After fighting with it for four days, I finally gave up and moved it to a new host. So far, so good. My apologies if you’ve needed things and couldn’t connect.

By the way, if you can’t connect to this site and wonder what’s going on, you’re welcome to drop in on my Facebook page for the latest news.

Jun 212015
 

…or mediocre one, as the case may be, there’s a support staff without whom the magic wouldn’t happen.

Papa as a youngster

Happy Father’s Day to the boy who won my heart back in the day…

...who helped raise the kids...

…who helped raise the kids…

Papa and Gloria

…and the dogs…

I love my support staff.

Without him, nothing happens here.
I love my support staff.

Apr 252015
 

making-customers-hate-you-makes-google-love-you
I’ve had a beef with Google since “searches in quotes” stopped working… not to mention searches that require the inclusion of +certain +terms and the exclusion of -other -terms.

However, they hit one out of the park this last week. “Mobilegeddon” has struck, courtesy of the erstwhile-best-but-now-mediocre search engine we all know and used to love.

You see, if you do not have a “mobile friendly” site, you are now website-non-grata in the Google search world. I know this because of the e-mails I’ve gotten telling me so… over and over and over and over and…

Honestly. Who doesn’t just use the desktop site and push and pinch it into view as they please? And how do I cram the nearly 300 pages of content (which are already overflowing) on this desktop site into a 3-inch screen? Is that really what my site users want?

**sigh**

Alas, Google knows better than I, and so there is now a mobile version of defordmusic.com. It’s ugly and it’s barely usable. It is, in a word, stupid and terrible and ridiculous. (Wait, that was three words. Whatever.) I have spent the better part of the day trying to conform to the arbitrary standards imposed on the denizens of the WWW, which are certain to change again tomorrow, but hey.. what’s a wasted day or two out of a lifetime?

I’ll work on formatting a few of the worst pages so they show up better on mobiles. I guess I really should do that anyway. **looks sheepish** In the meantime, if you happen to stumble into this mobile morass and want a way out, just head to the bottom of the screen, click “Desktop” and you’ll have access again to the site as it ought to be.

Jan 012015
 

Another year, another set of statistics. My site stats always surprise me. Nothing goes viral, nothing makes a big splash, and yet the end of the year numbers always leave me scratching my head. For instance:

October Calendar SmallIt would appear that there were 600,000 or so unique human beings out there who dropped in to visit 5.5 million pages.

Sundays were the biggest days as you might expect, the busiest one logging 30,000 visitors.

The Christmas season usually scores the most traffic, but this year October actually beat out December as the busiest month. (Could this possibly mean we’re actually preparing Christmas music in advance? Nah….)

Cat and mouseThe most downloaded songs for the year were: “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” “Oh Holy Night,” “If the Savior Stood Beside Me,” “Be Still, My Soul,” and “A Believer’s Prayer.”

All told, the mouse clicks added up to 2.6 terrabytes of data transfer for the year. (I still haven’t wrapped my head around exactly what a gigabyte is… don’t ask me to explain what something 1024 times as big might be… πŸ˜‰ )

What do all these useless numbers mean to me? Well, simply this: it blesses my life to know that so many of you out there love the Lord. It makes me feel like a part of a huge, wonderful, unseen community who know and love the Savior.

Thank you for that. Thank you for helping me to know that in a world of noise and confusion and violence and unhappiness, there are so many of you out there who know where peace and surety and happiness and love are found.

Wishing you a wonderful, blessed 2015!