Dec 232016
 

From the DeFord household to you and yours, happy Christmas!

Each year I try to do a “Christmas Card Carol” to give away in lieu of fudge or cookies. (That’s because you don’t want my cookery. Trust me.) I never seem to get them done in time to be useful for the current year, and this year’s is no exception. So…

Here on Christmas Eve Eve (is that a thing?) is this year’s carol, “On a Christmas Long Ago.” The recording features vocals by my dear friend James Loynes.

Here’s a video of the same track. (It’s just the lyrics on a background… my imagination ran out about when the week did.)

The only score is solo voice–for now. I’ll probably do a choir arrangement for next year, and add the obbligato score then.

May your Christmas be joyful,
and may your new year
be filled with love and hope and peace.
Dec 012016
 

New this time: a congregational accompaniment for “The First Noel.”

It’s been awhile since I did one of these because… to tell the truth, they’re kinda boring to write. You have to stick exactly to the harmonies in the original hymn so your accompaniment doesn’t clash with the voices. They’re designed to bulk up the sound of the organ accompaniment, so they’re a bit… well… bulky, and there’s very little finesse involved. (You’ll notice there are no dynamics included–congregations don’t really follow those.) Aaaaand while I’m slogging away at stock harmonies, new ideas come along like squirrels to lead me away from my task into (temporarily) forbidden paths. Ah well, it’s done, and my reward shall be to follow one of those tempting squirrels to it’s eventual destination.

There’s no recording for this one–just the scores. The arrangement is for organ and 4-hand piano. The individual parts are very simple and should be easy to play.

Gallileo and CDs.The DeFord Music staff would like to wish you and yours a happy Christmas season. My newest assistant checked the books and found that we have covered all our site expenses for the year, so for the month of December, all available CDs are $2.50. He advises me that though they are interesting, they are not edible and therefore highly disappointing. My bad. 😉

Oct 042016
 

A thing I do to drive myself a little crazier: “finish” something, make it public, and then regret it because it was just. plain. wrong.

I did that last December with my latest Christmas song, “Hush the Baby.” The melody and feel I had chosen were simply wrong. Not that I was smart enough to recognize that on my own. It wasn’t until I began trying to arrange it for solo voice and kept hitting brick walls that I realized maybe Heavenly Father was trying to tell me something.

As I struggled with the arrangement, here’s what my Facebook entry looked like:

A question for my creative friends out there: How do you deal with mental blocks? How do you kick-start your artistic engines? How do you motivate yourself when you’re feeling… blah? I’m there. And to tell you the truth, it’s a fairly unfamiliar place. No energy, no ideas, no nothing. And I’m usually full of it. 😉

And when I finally wised up…

Well, a follow-up here to my mental block of a few days ago. All of you gave me great suggestions, most of which made me sure I needed to go to Disneyland… which thing, unfortunately, didn’t happen.

I *did* try several of your ideas, and most of all lots of praying. The roadblock didn’t budge until I backtracked quite a bit and re-wrote the melody I was working on with an entirely new feel. When I decided to go another route instead of stubbornly pursuing the path I was on, things started to move again.

All the while I was trying to pray away the blahs and wondering why I wasn’t getting an answer, I should have realized that the mental block WAS the answer. The Lord wanted me to go in another direction, and there was no way in heaven He was going to remove that barrier until I got the message.

So hopefully I’ve learned my lesson from this stupor of creativity. I’m really glad He knows what He’s doing when I don’t. Which is most of the time.

Fortunately, the only place I had made the old version public was Facebook*. And nobody reads Facebook, right? 😉

Hush the Baby” is another song inspired by imagining what Joseph’s part in the nativity might have been. I’ve never taken “but little Lord Jesus no crying he makes…” too seriously. He was a baby, after all, and I’m sure he did everything that newborn infants do. Bearing a child under the conditions we ascribe to that first Christmas would have been tiring in the extreme, and Mary would have been in need of all the rest she could get. So this little lullaby is an invitation to Joseph to hold and comfort the newborn, while Mary get’s some much-needed sleep.

Hush the Baby” is, for now, solo voice only. Maybe I’ll hear it in parts one of these days… maybe not. 🙂

Here’s a recording, with vocals by Katie Bastian:

*BTW, if you’d like to join me on Facebook, you’ll find me at www.facebook.com/sallydefordmusic

Sep 232016
 

Calvary

“There is a green hill far away…”

If ever there was a phrase designed to evoke images in the mind of a child, it’s that one. I think the author, Cecil Frances Alexander, intended it to be so since it was first published in her work, “Hymns for Little Children”.

It certainly evoked images for me, though the “green hill” of my imagination was nothing like the reality. Still, it served the purpose and helped my wandering mind to remember Jesus during the Sacrament.

As an adult, it’s still my favorite of the hymns we use for our Sacrament services. (I’m apparently not alone, since it has now been published in many hundreds of hymnals worldwide.) It’s the hymn I turn to most often to keep my mind focused on the sacrifice of our Savior and his love for me.

The version in our hymn book contains four verses. The author penned five. The omitted verse is beautiful, but the meter makes it awkward (though not impossible) to include in a hymn setting:

He died that we might be forgiven,
he died to make us good,
that we might go at last to heaven,
saved by his precious blood.

For this version of “There Is a Green Hill Far Away,” I have set the four commonly-used verses to a new tune that’s been pestering me for… oh… ten years or so. It gets a bit embarrassing to sift through my old to-do lists and see the same entry transferred over that many times. On the other hand, somehow it feels like a bigger accomplishment when I finally get to cross it off! 🙂

Here’s a recording of the solo version, featuring Tj Pini on vocals and Jana Hanni on violin:

There is also an SATB version available.

You’ll notice that I altered verse three just a smidge. Which is a thing I forbid people to do with my own lyrics. Which seems a bit cheeky. Oh well, when my lyrics enter the public domain, you may alter them with impugnity. I promise not to haunt you.

Next up: another new Christmas song.

Sep 042016
 

Awhile back the Mormon Tabernacle Choir produced a new recording of the Hallelujah! chorus from The Messiah. They included over 2000 … count ’em… 2000 voices from all over the world. And it’s perfect.

I’m thinking the MoTab had some automated way to combine all those voices. If they had done it the way I did the recording for this song, an army of sound engineers would still be messing with individual tracks in 3096.

The demo track for this selection includes 10… count ’em… 10 voices, mostly from my little town. And it’s NOT perfect, but it will give you an example of how the song sounds. We kept the rhythm pretty straight for this, since each voice had to sing alone. In performance I’d recommend a little more give in strategic places.

Like I said, it’s not perfect, but in our defense, we weren’t starting with the MoTab as a base. 😉

Baby JesusBy the way, I’m not doing another one of these. Nope. Nu-uh. No way. (She says. And at this moment she means it.)

In a Manger Bed” is voiced for SATB choir with optional, extremely simple bells.

It will be pretty easy to learn (it was for the “choir”…hey, a couple of them were sight-reading… ahem… ), though there are a couple of tricky entrances that you’ll want to practice-repeat-practice-repeat until it clicks. There is a second soprano part that lasts all of two notes, and may be omitted.

Only 112 days until Christmas! 🙂

Aug 262016
 

Katie in the recording room
One of the highlights of my summer was having the beautiful and talented Katie Bastian come to Colorado to play to work on music. One of the songs we recorded was, “In That Holy Place,” which I wrote by assignment way back in 2002. Katie and I spent a nice, long weekend recording this and some other things–there’s a new Christmas song coming up, and here’s a sample of Katie’s own beautiful arranging: Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me.

Katie and Hiko
Lest we be accused of actually working efficiently, I’ll admit that we spent at least half our time gabbing, eating too much, gabbing, playing with the dog, gabbing, and enjoying ourselves immensely. I wasn’t sure I was actually going to send her home. Ya think maybe Hiko felt the same? She spoiled him rotten.

Katie and the Muppets
If Katie looks familiar, maybe you watched her sing “Keep Christmas With You” along with a couple of Muppets during the Tabernacle Choir’s Christmas program awhile back. So fun! (Hmmm… Hiko looks a bit like a Muppet…)


This version of “In That Holy Place” has a new accompaniment and includes an obbligato for flute. Both are available on the song page. The video includes Katie’s vocals, and flute by Anne Lauritzen.

Fort Collins Colorado LDS Temple
If you’ve ever wanted to peek inside a temple, watch for open houses when new temples are built. Currently (until 9/10/16) the Fort Collins Colorado temple is open for (free) public tours. If you’re in the vicinity, drop in. Reserved tickets are available, but not necessary. 🙂

Jul 302016
 

Here are two old-but-new renditions in video form, with contributions from several wonderful people.

First, here’s Tj Pini singing “Created in His Image.” The accompaniment has been reworked for this one. You can find it on the song page.

The video footage was done by Natasha Nashadka, an erstwhile Colorado girl who moved away and left us. The picture you see as it progresses from sketch to finished painting was done specifically to illustrate this song. Visit Natasha’s page here: http://www.nashadka.com/ to see more of her beautiful work.

Next, here’s Braden Eads singing “I Have Not Seen, Yet I Believe.” The accompaniment for this version is also new, and also found on the song page. The video is from Braden’s YouTube channel.

Braden has come a long way since the olden days: from a grade-schooler in my carpool to a member of the Tabernacle Choir. Maybe being in my carpool was what did it. 😉

Jan 182016
 
Last October, a primary choir sang a medley of “Search, Ponder, and Pray” and “I Think When I Read That Sweet Story.” I was asked to arrange this specifically for the conference, and the sheet music was not then available. Now, thanks to the lovely folks in the Music and Cultural Arts office… ***drum roll*** the score can be downloaded from music.lds.org directly here: Children’s Medley Sheet Music

There is also an MP3 of the conference children’s choir singing it here: Children’s Medley MP3 The children’s choir did not include the optional harmonies in the score.

Because “If I Listen With My Heart” is being used in the Primary Program this year, I’ve had a lot of requests for the story behind the song. I’ll try to word it simply so you can use it in your Primaries if you wish.

One Sunday when my daughter, Amy, was a little girl, we were both sick. We had to miss church, and we were both asleep in bed. After church, Amy’s dad woke both of us to say that our home teacher had come to help give us a blessing. I wasn’t happy to have to wake up, and I was less happy to have to climb out of bed, but I grumped out into the living room. We had our blessings, and I grumped back to bed.

Later that week, Amy said to me, “Mom, you know when dad gave us a blessing when we were sick?

I did remember.

“Well,” she continued, “When dad put his hands on my head I felt soooooo good inside!”

Amy had listened with her heart, and I had not. So she heard the Savior’s voice comforting her, and I missed it. That’s why I wrote this song for her–because she had taught me a wonderful lesson about listening to the Holy Ghost.

Many of you have asked for an even simpler accompaniment for this song than the one included in the booklet, so here’s an easier version still: If I Listen With My Heart – (Children’s Voices Very Easy)