Composition Notebook: April 2015

Subject: Lord, Thy Church on Earth Is Seeking, by Aaron Giles, words by Hugh Braham Sherlock

This composition started out as another Music Theory composition project, this time focused on writing a song in the 32-bar American Song Form (AABA).

I began by just outlining a melody with no text in mind. I really liked the feel and sense of momentum in a previous arrangement, which was in 3/4 time, so I decided to run with that.

Even from the start it felt like the 8 bar lines were too long to work with, so I concentrated on 4 bar subphrases while keeping the overall 32-bar form in mind.

Since I usually default to minor key, I decided to force myself into major, starting in C and then eventually transposing to F once the boundaries of the melody were established.

Once I had the A and B phrases laid out, I added some basic harmonization. I tried to add some variety to the three repeats of the A phrase by changing the harmonic progression, altering the cadences, and adding some secondary dominants.

In the version I made for class, I just created a simple accompaniment, switching up the pattern a little for the B phrases. Here is the final result:

Since that totally sounds like a hymn, I decided that it needed some text. After working through the rhythms, I realized that what I had written fit a standard 87 87 D hymn text pretty well.

A quick internet search led me to, where I found several workable texts. The one I eventually chose was “Lord Thy Church on Earth Is Seeking” by Hugh Braham Sherlock.

The tune actually seemed pretty catchy to me, so I figured it would be interesting to apply my voice leading knowledge and create a 4-part arrangement.

After putting together my first pass, I realized the basses were spending too much time in the basement, so I transposed again up to G major which balanced out the voices a bit better.

Final verdict: I actually like this hymn quite a lot! I think all the parts are interesting to sing and the text really works well. Hopefully someday I can convince our choir director to use it.

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