Many years ago, as Ash Wednesday approached, I found myself singing the ditty, “ashes, ashes, we all fall down.” As I began to ponder what song to use for the imposition of ashes in our service, I was suddenly stuck in the spell of the songwriting muse when I was able to do nothing until this song was complete!
The “ashes, ashes” theme became the spark that I developed into a hymn for Ash Wednesday (which begins the Christian liturgical season of Lent), building on the traditional text from Matthew, but also including Job and Luke in the verses.
This song has been sung for the Ash Wednesday worship at several different congregations through the years since it was composed, but this year I was offered a special treat.
My Music Together colleague, Liesl McPherrin, wrote and asked if the music was available for her 3rd-4th Grade Choir at St. Matthew’s Episcopal School to sing for their chapel service on Ash Wednesday. After she received it and began rehearsing, she requested that I come to a rehearsal and let the students “meet the composer.”
So early this past Wednesday morning I met the students in their Music Room before school and they warmed up and sang through the song.
I sat there with chills, hearing these children’s voices. I had never heard a children’s choir sing the song, but their voices were the perfect match. And the accompanist was hearing the music I intended and often perform, but which wasn’t written on the page in order to keep it accessible for the majority of accompanists. It was a taste of heaven!
Together we talked about how the song came about and I gave some feedback on their delivery after we explored the meaning of the text.
They sang it again with attentive response to their director and then were eager to join me for this selfie before I left to teach Music Together Classes.