Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Benjamin's Song - Part 2

See the sheet music here!

The continuing story of how I REALLY started arranging music.  

Let's pick up at the part where Linda Brown asked if I (who had never, to date, ever considered the idea of arranging/composing) would help arrange an original song written by both a beloved daughter and great-grandfather.

NOT ON YOUR LIFE, LINDA!  I think I laughed at her.  This conversation happened over two years ago so the details are a little fuzzy, but I'm certain there was laughing.  Followed, of course, by my explaining my incompetence to her and assuring her she had the wrong gal for the job. ..something about barking up the wrong tree..

I told her I'd give it ONE shot (that was generous)...for two reasons.  #1: Linda is one of my dearest friends.  #2: I'm a sucker for cool family history stories, so something about this account piqued my interest.

I took her daughter's handwritten music home with me and didn't look at it until the following Sunday morning when I had a few free moments to sit at the piano.  I played through Rebecca's creation and decided that, while the melody was good, and clearly inspired, it needed a little something for an accompaniment. 

LINDA, this is your ONE shot...don't tell me I didn't try.  Not knowing what to do, I simply put my fingers on the keyboard and started...playing...

What happened next was totally indescribable. 

I started to play, and even before I played each note, I could hear in my head what was supposed to happen next...maybe a full measure ahead of time.  And it was GORGEOUS!  Of course, I've heard way better stuff come out of the famous greats like Mack Wilberg, but coming from me...I knew there was no way that actually came from my brain. 

Also, I heard more to the song that Rebecca hadn't included.  When Rebecca copied down Benjamin's lyrics, she figured it was a 10-verse hymn that is very short; like a 2-liner like "Upon the Cross of Calvary"...but the way I heard it was really a 5-verse hymn in the traditional format with 4 lines.  But I didn't have the heart to mention it to Linda when I went to call her...it would seem ungracious and presumptuous of me, so I left that info out...besides, what do I know?!  I'm not a professional composer/arranger!  Nonetheless, I finished the song totally overcome and immediately ran to the phone to call Linda.

"WHO IS THIS BENJAMIN BROWN CHARACTER?!"  I had to know.  I had an urgent need to get to know this man.  Linda related a few things they had learned about him from his journal.  Later that day, Rex (Benjamin's great-great grandson) brought with him to church, my own personal copy of Benjamin's journal.  Over the next couple days, I marvelled at what an amazing man Benjamin was.  I felt incredibly honored to have been asked to participate in this journey with the Browns.

The biggest task was to get what I heard in my head written down on paper so I could rehearse it with my singer and perform it, less than 2 weeks away!  It's one thing to hear music in your head and spit it out onto the piano, but ENTIRELY another to remember what it is that you did a day or two later and write it down. 

It was enormously taxing trying to figure out how to actually write stuff down...all that music theory I never really paid attention to taking piano lessons all those years ago, and cutting all those Music Theory classes at Ricks College...nope, not helping too much.  Which way do the stems go?  Incomplete measures, eighth note bars, tied notes, just to mention a few.  Key changes?  How in the world am I going to come up with a keychange that sounds anything close to Mack Wilberg's amazing keychanges?? 

In just a couple days, I came up with my finished product and was ready to rehearse it with our singer, Bob Green, a member of our ward...who only recently discovered that he is related to Linda Brown by marriage through one of his cousins.  Kind of a family project...except for me.  But I did think it pretty amazing that I was able to finish this arrangement in only a couple days and still take care of the kids, teach piano lessons all afternoon, etc.  It really was nothing short of a miracle. 

Bob and I rehearsed and then performed Benjamin's Song, "Turn White Pilgrim" at our Stake Relief Society function on Saturday, January 23, 2010.  Listening to Bob sing, I could see in my mind's eye, Benjamin Brown singing...pleading with his family to go with him to Zion.  


Turn White Pilgrim - by Benjamin Brown

Will you go to the land where Patriarch died,
Where the souls of the blessed are free?
Will you go with saints to the house of the Lord,
To Zion's bright mansions with me?
Where prophets, apostles, and high priests rejoice,
Where the pillar of glory shall stand;
Where the sons and daughters of God shall rejoice
In a perfectly glorious band.

Where the cloud rests by day and the pillar by night,
And its glory shall be a defense;
Where the righteous shall gather and greatly rejoice
For in Zion salvation is strength;
Her walls are salvation her gates are all praise,
For judgement her prophets all stand;
Her priests are exactors of sweet righteousness,
At the courts of fair Zion they stand.

Where the cause of the widow and orphan is heard,
And they execute truth in their gates;
For deception is fallen and truth takes her stand,
And the poor in their rights they instate;
Then come, O my people, thus saith the Lord;
Come forth from confusion and strife;
Embrace the pure Gospel of Jesus your Lord,
Escape ye and flee for your life.

O why will you tarry, o why will you stay,
What comfort in Babylons found?
She sinks like a millstone cast into the sea,
The decree is she must be cast down;
Then why my relations, o why not believe?
Repent ye and then be baptized,
For remission of sins as old Peter has said
And the spirit you then shall receive.

These signs then shall follow saith Jesus my Lord,
And to this the apostles respond;
And the former day Saints with the latter accord,
And in witness and spirit abound
The banner in Zion is waving for you,
And the Elders proclaiming abroad;
These are the last days as the signs plainly show,
Come obey your Redeemer and Lord.

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