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“In the Quiet of This Moment”

TITLE: "In the Quiet of This Moment"
AUTHOR: Dean McIntyre
TUNE: QUIET MOMENT
COMPOSER: Dean McIntyre
SOURCE: Worship & Song, no. 3136
SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 26:3, Isaiah 32:16-18
TOPIC: God's presence, prayer, quiet, joy, trust, hope, comfort

Background

This is one of three short songs I composed while on a long flight from Nashville to Seattle in 2001. (See also"God Is Good All the Time" and "Until Jesus Comes" in Worship & Song.) It was that part of the flight after having been served a mid-morning snack and drink when many travelers sleep. I awoke, aware of the quiet in the cabin -- even more than the drone of the jet engines. I began writing on the back of a piece of paper folded in my shirt pocket and had sketched out the complete song in about forty-five minutes.

Words

The words came from the quiet, peaceful setting on the airplane and how I felt at that moment -- joyful . . . hopeful. But there are other times when we experience doubt and fear, something that had been expressed quite differently in music in "God Is Good, All the Time." In all circumstances, God's Spirit is with us.

There is not much poetry in this lyric. The long phrases and final line don't rhyme. The only concession to poetic rhyme is the inner rhyme in the short third, fourth, and fifth lines: fear, near, cheer.

Music

I have always believed that most people who do not consider themselves singers -- and that may include most of our congregations -- secretly harbor a desire to sing like Frank Sinatra and Barbra Streisand. They may even do so in private -- in the shower, in the car, silently in their heads as they fall asleep, whether in their beds or on an airplane. I wanted to compose a slow, expressive song that would give people the opportunity to sing in such a style in worship.

The accompaniment consists of slightly but regularly shifting harmonies in which an inner line sets up a dissonance that resolves every two beats. The sustained bass line slowly descends in whole and half steps to provide the inversions of each chord change. The similarity and longer length of the first two phrases of text suggest a sequential musical setting. This is accomplished by the second phrase being an almost exact repetition of the first in melody, rhythm, harmony, even text, but pitched a second higher. Similarly, the three shorter subphrases of the third phrase also suggest sequential treatment. While the rhythm of this phrase is treated sequentially, the melody and harmony are not. The final two and one-half measure ending brings the song to a quiet close that could move directly into a second or third repetition of the entire song.

Some directors may be put off by the large opening leaps of the first and second phrases, the first a major ninth, the second a minor ninth, thinking that these are too large and the range too wide to ask congregations to sing. On the contrary, I believe congregations will look forward to singing them just as they would to hearing them sung by Frank Sinatra or Barbra Streisand. Don't warn the congregation. Don't rehearse them; just sing them. After a single hearing, they will instinctively know what to do and will look forward to doing it again. The effect of the fermatas, which should lengthen the note approximately one extra beat, is to give the people time to find, be comfortable on, and remember each pitch, in other words, to tune the pitch. This needs a song leader or director to visually cue each note. If the song is sung by a soloist or choir, attention should be paid to giving more support and volume to the lowest notes and less volume to the highest notes of those opening phrase leaps. For congregations, just let them sing. And if the people want to scoop those big leaps, allow it. It's part of the Sinatra and Streisand style.

A slow tempo, about 80, and a quiet volume throughout is best. Keep the pulse slow but steady -- except for the fermatas and a bit of a ritard at the end. The song is best sung without big crescendos, diminuendos, or rubato. Use as a call to worship, call to prayer or prayer response, or during Holy Communion.

See more Hymn Studies.

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