This past Sunday morning, the choir probably slipped one past you. Sneaky.
The choir’s Offertory was a brief anthem, on the text “Let the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, our strength and our Redeemer”. Not an unusual text to appear in a piece of music; but for a few of us in the SUMC music community, it was “Throwback Thursday” on a Sunday.
During the 1970s and early 1980s, Dr. Shep Johnson was our senior pastor. I always knew that the sermon was imminent when Dr. Johnson would invoke the “words of my mouth” text as a prayer beforehand. Concurrently, in the very early 1980s, our associate pastor was a gentleman named Jerry Cook.
Jerry was a more actively musical pastor than most; I got an even stronger sense of that when he participated in one of our choir pops concerts. Perhaps some more experienced SUMC members will recall that John Harper always began those concerts with a choir arrangement of the Classics IV pop hit “Traces”…? I’m not making that up; the “Traces” arrangement is still tucked away on a shelf in our choir music library!
This summer, as the Choir Guild was busy re-organizing and cataloguing the music library (as we prepared to digitize it), I was looking through the items on that particular shelf. That shelf contained anthems and short choral responses that we hadn’t sung in a very long while, and I wasn’t honestly sure what was there, it’d been so long since I’d even looked there. And what to my wondering eyes should appear … but a single-page item marked “Choral Response” – with a familiar name in the page location where the composer was always listed: Jerry O. Cook. Up above the title was a dedication: “An Epiphany gift to the Sudbury United Methodist Church Choir on 8 January 1981”. Well clearly we needed to find out what it sounded like! And on Sunday, you found out too. If you missed it (or even if you didn’t!) … we’ll do it again sometime soon.
Kevin and I appreciate our ability to utilize what we call “homegrown talent” in our musical offerings – we don’t spend much money at all on outside soloists or instrumentalists – and as it turns out, SUMC has a little history of homegrown composers, too.