The Old Rugged Cross (for String Quartet)

In my opinion, these are some of the most powerful lyrics ever set to song, depicting the Christian faith.  I hope you enjoy this arrangement for String Quartet. 

On a hill far away, stood an old rugged Cross
The emblem of suffering and shame
And I love that old Cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain

So I'll cherish the old rugged Cross
Till my trophies at last I lay down
I will cling to the old rugged Cross
And exchange it some day for a crown

Oh, that old rugged Cross so despised by the world
Has a wondrous attraction for me
For the dear Lamb of God, left his Glory above
To bear it to dark Calvary

So I'll cherish the old rugged Cross
Till my trophies at last I lay down
I will cling to the old rugged Cross
And exchange it some day for a crown

In the old rugged Cross, stained with blood so divine
A wondrous beauty I see
For the dear Lamb of God, left his Glory above
To pardon and sanctify me

So I'll cherish the old rugged Cross
Till my trophies at last I lay down
I will cling to the old rugged Cross
And exchange it some day for a crown

To the old rugged Cross, I will ever be true
Its shame and reproach gladly bear
Then He'll call me some day to my home far away
Where his glory forever I'll share

So I'll cherish the old rugged Cross
Till my trophies at last I lay down
I will cling to the old rugged Cross
And exchange it some day for a crown

O Holy Night (for SATB Choir, Piano and Orchestra)

Here's a unique original composition/arrangement to this beautiful song, incorporating a different version of 'O Little Town of Bethlehem', as well.  Hope you enjoy it!

(This performance was taken from Odessa Christian Faith Center's Christmas Eve Production in 2013, directed by Stephanie Carter.)

Christmas Fantasy Overture (for full orchestra)

This work was originally conceived based on the simultaneous use of two themes: 1) Joy to the World (in C Major), and 2) God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (in D Minor).

Christmas Fantasy Overture- JTW and GRY simultaneous mel..jpg

I was waking from sleep one morning imagining the two melodies happening simultaneously in these two key areas.  At that time my main objective was to capture the thought by writing it down.  I hadn't yet discovered why the melodies worked well together, or why I had imagined them in two separate tonal centers. 

I then began the process of extracting fragments from each theme- melodic, harmonic and rhythmic. 

Following is what I obtained from ‘Joy to the World’:

Christmas Fantasy Overture- JTW theme.jpg
Christmas Fantasy Overture- JTW extractions 1-4.jpg
Christmas Fantasy Overture- JTW retrogrades.jpg
Christmas Fantasy Overture- JTW rhythmic patterns.jpg
Christmas Fantasy Overture- JTW retrograde 2.jpg


Christmas Fantasy Overture- JTW textural pattern.jpg

I then began building cluster harmonies based on the melodic fragments.

Christmas Fantasy Overture- JTW cluster harmony.jpg

I created a cyclical ‘chord progression’ based on the melodic fragments of quartal harmonies to be used in an accompaniment ‘rhythm section’ punctuation of the melody.

Christmas Fantasy Overture- JTW cyclical prog..jpg

I then began extracting patterns from ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’, as follows:

Christmas Fantasy Overture- GRY melody.jpg
Christmas Fantasy Overture- GRY derived patterns.jpg

I noticed that quartal harmony was evident in this melody as well as ‘Joy to the World’.

Christmas Fantasy Overture- GRY quartal harmony.jpg

The following rhythmic pattern became useful in building energetic syncopated passages.

Christmas Fantasy Overture- GRY rhythmic patterns.jpg

I then discovered the reason both of these melodies worked so well together in their different tonal centers, and it surprised me.  My ‘ear’ had imagined it, but until now I didn’t really know why it worked, but here is the reason: the basic construct of the ‘Joy to the World’ melody is C,A,G (in the key of C) and the basic construct of the melody ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ is D,F,G (in the key of D Minor).  Both condensed melodic fragments, amazingly, are inversions of one another.

Christmas Fantasy Overture- JTW and GRY inversion.jpg

I began using this pattern with harmonies derived from the thematic fragments of both melodies.

Christmas Fantasy Overture- JTY and GRY inv. with harm..jpg

There are scaler differences between the two melodies and their corresponding traditional harmonic treatment.  Taking these differences creates a chromatic theme.

I finally created a ‘combined’ new melody using intervallic fragments of both melodies.

Christmas Fantasy Overture- JTW and GRY new mel. construc..jpg

Throughout the work I tried to contrast the two melodies, almost in disagreement with one another, finally merging them into a ‘unified’ theme.  Also the difference between the tonal center of C versus D is resolved at the end, as the ‘Joy to the World’ theme ultimately jumps up to unite with its D rival, causing the main tonal center of the work to shift from C to D, which also is motivically derived from both melodic themes.

The UTPB Philharmonic Orchestra, under the direction of Thomas Hohstadt (my father), worked diligently to prepare the work, but the concert was cancelled due to an ice storm.  Fortunately, we were able to obtain a good recording from the practices.  I greatly appreciate everyone's hard work!

Antiphony (for Cello and Piano)

I recently had the privilege of having this piece premiered at Texas Tech by cellist Jeffrey Lastrapes.  I began writing the work back in 2001, as Lastrapes, a member of the Lindsayan String Quartet, had recently performed my "Vignettes for String Quartet", and suggested the possibility of my writing a recital piece around 7-10 minutes in length.  

I immediately began working on it, but after a computer glitch in the Finale file rendered a portion of the work inaccessible, together with Jeffrey moving to NYC and my usual busy schedule, I shelved the project. 

Several years later, when I heard that Jeffrey had moved back to Lubbock, I thought I would try one more time to open the file, now with a later version of Finale, and to my amazement, the file was retrievable, so I finished the work within a few weeks in 2005. 

After 10 years from its origin the work was premiered.  Not only was I elated to hear it played, but also was glad to put a 'check-mark' next to a completed project.

I love Jeffrey's playing, which I endeavored to highlight in the compositional process. He's a great musician and a great friend.  

 

To purchase sheet-music for Antiphony, click here

What Child

A very unique version of "What Child Is This", orchestrated from an electronica track I made earlier this year.  Hope you enjoy!

(UTPB Orchestra, directed by Thomas Hohstadt, at the Wagner-Noel Performing Arts Center during the UTPB 2012 Christmas Concert.)

What Child Is This/ Do You See What I See

Here is a unique arrangement of these two well-known Christmas songs, put together in an unusual way.  Hope you enjoy!

(This was performed by the UTPB Orchestra with a combined choir from surrounding regional high-schools during the University's Christmas Concert at the Wagner-Noel Performing Arts Center.)

A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

Here's a string quartet arrangement I wrote using the melody from the hymn "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God."

(purchase entire string hymns album)

The hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”, written by Martin Luther, has had wide-spread influence throughout Christendom, having been used by many well-respected musicians throughout history, starting with J.S. Bach in his chorale cantata “Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott” (BWV 80). 

Other well-known composers include Dieterich Buxtehude, Johann Pachelbel, Felix Mendelssohn, Claude Debussy, Ralph Vaughan Williams, and more recently jazz pianist Bob James.

The message of God’s protection is as ancient as the Scriptural texts from which it is inspired.  Having faith in His capacity to protect and defend us against all forces that would attempt to bring harm to our lives is foundational to the Christian faith.  This protection even defies death itself: “That through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.” (Heb. 2:14-15)  “But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory.  O death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting?” (I Cor. 15:54-55)

This conviction is not only relevant for eternity, but also for our daily existence, as the following two passages reveal a truth beneficial to our personal relationships.

“The Name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runs into it and is safe (set on high)” (Prov. 18:10)

“The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted” (Prov. 29:25)

The words “safe” and “exalted” in the Hebrew are the same word: sagab, which means to be inaccessibly high, having the connotation of security, a place of safety to the one fleeing or to the one at rest in a fortified height which would be inaccessible to beast and enemy alike.

How many people curry the favor of various communities and leaders, only to be let down in one way or another.  “Many seek the ruler’s favor, but justice for man comes from the Lord.” (Prov. 29:30)

Eventually, man’s ideas, communities, governments, authorities and protection all fail.  But there is an absolute foundation of strength and power to those who unite to Him by faith.  “For He Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,’ so that we may confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid.  What shall man do to me?’” (Heb. 13:5-6)

Throughout the ages, thousands will attest that He is faithful to all who put their trust in Him.  “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” (Rom. 10:11)

 

 

 

 

The Songs of Christmas in America

 

Christmas, by its very definition, is a special day about Christ.  With all the history that surrounds celebrating Christmas (some secular, some sacred) it’s interesting to see the progression in America over the past few decades in how we view the holiday. 

Nothing shows the common mindset of the nation better than the songs popular with each generation, the songs of Christmas. 

Although “Silent Night” was written in 1818 by Franz Gruber, in 1935 it became a hit single with Bing Crosby’s recording.  In 1941 Katherine K. Davis wrote “The Little Drummer Boy”, which ended up becoming a hit single in 1958.  In 1963, Bing Crosby again topped the charts with “Do You Hear What I Hear?” 

These are examples of songs with a clear Christian message (albeit, with some creative license), honoring the Christian ethic and ultimately Christ Himself.  That generation of listeners embraced these songs (and others like them) as meaningful representations of their own convictions, evidenced by their popularity. 

However, it seems that the general American audience has strayed from the earlier sentiment of a Christ-centered holiday to songs revolving around Santa Claus (“Oh, Santa” Mariah Carey, 2010), elfs (“Elf’s Lament” Michael Buble), Christmas-trees (“Christmas Tree” Lady Gaga, 2009), mistletoe (“Mistletoe” Justin Bieber, 2011), and even wizards (“Wizards of Winter”, 2004 Trans-Siberian Orchestra).  Ranging from secular to crass, songs like “The Greatest Time of Year” (2006, Aly & AJ), or “Mistress for Christmas” (1990 AC/DC) seem to suggest a greater commercialization and decadence in our culture than in past generations. 

I’m not criticizing the artistry, relevance, or general fun that these songs may elicit.  All of them obviously hit a share of the market that put them on top.  But as one man said, “You can tell a lot about a person by observing what they do for entertainment and leisure.”  What does America’s entertainment say about our society? 

While there are examples of secularism in songs from earlier generations, as well as a few sacred examples that have arisen in our contemporary culture, the overall direction of what has been hailed as ‘popular’ through the past decades of American listeners seems to indicate a departure from the centrality of Christ in Christmas.

Let’s remember the true reason for Christmas, not only in our songs, but in our attitudes and convictions, celebrating Christ instead of the myriads of other detractions (i.e. materialism, hedonism, secularism and even mysticism). 

After all Christ is central to the holiday’s name.  Let’s make Him central in our lives, as well.   

The Solid Rock

Here's a string quartet arrangement I wrote using the melody from the hymn "The Solid Rock".

(purchase entire string hymns album)

With so many voices competing for our attention, so many good ideas and seemingly stable aspects to our culture or community upon which we can lean, there is only one truth that will withstand the test of time, and that is the solid foundation of faith in Christ Jesus. 

It surprises many when they see something they hold dear, something familiar just vanish from existence.  Maybe a familiar building that is destroyed to make room for something new, maybe a cultural style that has ceased to be mainstream, or maybe a close family member or friend who has passed away, all of these things can have an unsettling effect upon our lives.  As someone said, “The only thing constant is change.”

Even though everything in this world is perpetually changing, there is something higher than this world, something above the natural realm (i.e. super-natural).  These things, however, are spiritually perceived.  Though they are invisible to the natural eye, they are more real and more substantial than the things we can physically observe.

“While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Cor. 4:18)

“Now faith is the assurance (substance) of things hoped for, the conviction (evidence) of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1)

Even though everything around us is changing (seemingly impossible to keep up with) it is the spiritual realm that contains something solid as a rock.

When Jesus asked His disciples who people said that He was, Peter answered,

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  And Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.  And I also say to you that you are Peter (lit. Petros, a stone), and upon this rock (lit. Petra, large rock, bed-rock) I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it.” (Matt. 16:17,18)

As Peter acknowledged Jesus as being the Christ, the Messiah, he was seeing the ‘unseen realm’, he was able to perceive beyond the natural.  Upon the bed-rock revelation that Jesus is the Christ, the true church is being built.  It is an unchangeable foundation.  Even though history and cultures change, Jesus remains the priest,

“according to the likeness of Melchizedek (king of peace and righteousness), who has become such not on the basis of a law of physical requirement, but according to the power of an indestructible life.”  (Heb. 7:16)

“This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” (Heb. 6:19,20)

He is the Solid Rock, an unchanging foundation in the midst of an ever-changing world.

 

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, His covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found;
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.

Refrain:
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

 

Edward Mote

'Tis So Sweet to Trust In Jesus

Here's a string quartet arrangement I wrote using the melody from the hymn "Tis So Sweet to Trust In Jesus".

(purchase entire string hymns album)

A simple hymn of trust, “Tis So Sweet” challenges the believer to simply relax and release control of our cares, worries and all of life’s difficulties, placing them all into the hands of our loving Creator. 

It seems too good to be true, this message of God’s love, forgiveness and grace.  It’s so easily mocked because of its simplicity.  Many wonder, “Could there really be a way of escape from all the uncertainties of this life?”  Yes!  It’s in the simplicity of trust and faith in Christ.

“Now faith is the assurance (substance) of things hoped for, the conviction (evidence) of things not seen.”  (Heb. 11:1) 

God placed in each person the ability to perceive His goodness and to see that which is spiritual.  Some people call it “women’s intuition” or they say, “I just knew in my heart…” 

Modern science has proven multiple dimensions in the known universe.  Is it really that hard to believe that there are things happening the realm of the unseen?  After all, how many radio, television and cell phone waves are all around us, carrying messages, yet are imperceptible to the human eye?

The spiritual realm does exist, and God’s love, care and guidance are ever-present.  It’s really not that hard…take a deep breath, lean back in your chair and say, “I trust You, Lord.”

 

’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His Word;
Just to rest upon His promise,
And to know, “Thus saith the Lord!”

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er;
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
Oh, for grace to trust Him more!

Oh, how sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to trust His cleansing blood;
And in simple faith to plunge me
’Neath the healing, cleansing flood!

Yes, ’tis sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just from sin and self to cease;
Just from Jesus simply taking
Life and rest, and joy and peace.

I’m so glad I learned to trust Thee,
Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend;
And I know that Thou art with me,
Wilt be with me to the end.

 

Louisa M. R. Stead

 

Just As I Am

Here's a string quartet arrangement I wrote using the melody from the hymn "Just As I Am".

(purchase entire string hymns album)

Many churches today have stopped doing altar calls, hoping not to offend anyone.  This is a departure, however, from the past century of American churches whose congregants became familiar with the hymn “Just As I Am” as it was either sung or played during an invitation for salvation.

In 1934 famed evangelist Billy Graham came forward to become a Christian while this song was being played, and subsequently used it in his own widely renowned crusades. 

I remember my own decision to step forward publicly, as I got up out of my seat to stand before a congregation.  It was both a bold moment and an awkward one.  I knew all too well my own insecurities, weaknesses and failures, yet when presented with the idea that I could approach the Creator of all things in a sort of ‘divine forgiveness/relationship’, it evoked desire, wonder and fear all at the same time. 

As I remember back, I’m glad I decided to get up out of my chair that day, even with all the uncertainty that that moment evoked.  As I continued to grow as a Christian, I remember coming across a passage in the Bible that said, “Everyone therefore who shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.  But whoever shall deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 10:32-33) 

Knowing that I was willing, and am still willing, to be identified with Jesus Christ produced a foundation upon which I could continue to build my faith and deepen my spiritual roots.

That one awkward moment grew into a strength that has extended wonderful benefits, not only to my own life, but to those of my family, friends, co-workers in ministry, and many people I may never know.

My hope is that the American Christian will continue to require passage through that narrow gate of awkwardness for the unashamed.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” (Rom. 1:16)

 

Just as I am - without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am - and waiting not

To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To Thee, whose blood can cleanse each spot,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am - though toss'd about

With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am - poor, wretched, blind;

Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need, in Thee to find,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am - Thou wilt receive,

Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because Thy promise I believe,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am - Thy love unknown

Has broken every barrier down;
Now to be Thine, yea, Thine alone,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am - of that free love

The breadth, length, depth, and height to prove,
Here for a season, then above,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

 

Charlotte Elliot