This piece is a long time in the making. Mallory Bernstein asked me to write her a piece for a concert in the Denver Cathedral, and she wanted something sacred. Knowing her ability to play and her particular predilection for the Russian Romantic repertoire, I decided to give my reminiscences and keyboard improvisations pen. I composed this 12-minute work with well-known hymns connected by fragments of songs that my dad wrote, but with her virtuosity in mind.
It opens with gestures from a song that he played frequently when he was alone. The song had no words; there was an older friend of mine named John who would always ask my dad to play it. When John later died in a plane crash, the song became known as JOHN’S SONG.
It segues into IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL, connected again to a song my dad wrote entitled MAKE ME A SON. I remember my dad often weeping at the piano. I never had to ask why, I always knew this was the place my dad came for solace, for deep companionship. And whenever he played FAIREST LORD JESUS it was often right along side a hymn that always makes me well up with emotions: DAY BY DAY. These two hymns sit fittingly together.
It is followed by a rather rhapsodic song he wrote called FOR THE LAMB which, at its conclusion, cascades with HALLELUJAH’S that repeat and repeat over a ground bass. This was always a favorite of mine to sing because it seemed to never end.
But there needed to be a conclusion and I chose to conclude with an AMEN that I learned from him the tune of which is taken from a Danish chant. He would often play this with innumerable variations depending on his mood. There was something very sacred to me about this song. Its simplicity, and its melodic descent which has an inevitability to it, always felt right to conclude an evening, a service, a lonely end-of-the-day piano improvisation, and so it completes the list of songs in this fantasia.
Mallory plays it with so much red-blooded emotion, and with such chutzpah, I knew that I had to release it so that my dad’s many friends could hear his music still resonating. I hope you enjoy hearing these well-known and perhaps completely unknown sacred songs. More than anything, I hope you find a shelter from the storms that you find yourself in, and that this bit of music pulled from the recesses of my memory can be a comfort, even a short stopover, to comfort you on your journey forward.
Since the single is available through all streaming sites, if you feel so moved, I would appreciate a donation to UNICEF USA’s Children’s Fund directly benefiting the children of Ukraine: