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Pearl Shangkuan on 10 Bilingual Choral Pieces

Pearl Shangkuan, director of choral activities at Calvin University and director of the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus, reflects on her top ten bilingual sacred choral pieces.

All arrangements of the songs are included in the Santo, Santo, Santo / Holy, Holy, Holy hymnal published by GIA Publications.

May these songs lift your hearts in worship! And if you are a choir director, I encourage you to consider programming these accessible arrangements for your own choir. 

1. “Santo, santo, santo, mi corazón / Holy, Holy, Holy, My Heart,” originally from Argentina, is a simple, beautiful song of praise and adoration suitable for all ages. 

2. “Cantad al Señor / O Sing to the Lord,” originally from Brazil, is a joyful Portuguese folk hymn based on Psalm 98. One can’t help but move to the music when singing or listening to this piece! 

3. “Soplo de Dios / O Living Breath.” The text by Osvaldo Catena (1920–86), an Argentine priest and composer, is set to a Swedish folk tune. Both the solo and mixed voiced versions bring out the evocative quality of this prayer to the Holy Spirit to breathe on us as we pray. 

The next three selections were especially commissioned for the Calvin University Festival of Lessons and Carols 2020, a series of shorter services recorded live and released virtually during the weeks of Advent. These new titles will be published in the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship choral series with GIA in the fall of 2021, part of a long-term project to feature and promote bilingual anthems for use in worship. 

4. "Noche anunciada / Night Long-Awaited," arranged by Carlos Colón. The original music is by Ariel Ramirez, an Argentine composer and music director best known for his “Missa Criolla” who was a chief proponent of Argentine folk music. 

5. "Restáuranos, oh Dios / Restore Us, O God," by Carlos Colón. This is a setting of Psalm 80, arranged for either a two-part treble or mixed choir by the composer himself, Carlos Colón, assistant director for Worship and Chapel of the Office of Spiritual Life at Baylor University. 

6. "Jesucristo, Esperanza del mundo / Jesus Christ, Hope of the World," arranged by Greg Scheer. Well-known Argentine musician and pastor Pablo Sosa (1933–2020) translated this song from its original Portuguese. Sosa often described worship as "the fiesta of the faithful," urging people to "put your body into worship!" This arrangement is beautifully set by Grand Rapids-based composer and arranger Greg Scheer, who plays bass in the video.  

7. "Alegre luz / O Gladsome Light," by Carlos Colón (G-9793, GIA Publications). This new musical setting uses the text of the Phos Hilaron, an evening hymn drawn from ancient Christian custom, especially Byzantine and Ambrosian rites, and referenced as far back as AD 379 by St. Basil the Great. 

8. "Dios es nuestro amparo / God Will Be Our Refuge," by Alfredo Colman. Alfredo Colman is an associate professor in musicology and ethnomusicology at Baylor University. A collaborative harpsichordist and pianist, his areas of specialty also include Latin American music, nationalism and cultural identities, and the traditional and concert music of Paraguay. 

9. "Toda la tierra / All Earth Is Hopeful," by Alberto Taulé, arranged by James E. Bobb. Written by Alberto Taulé, a Roman Catholic priest and musician from the Catalonia region of northeastern Spain, this arrangement dances in anticipation of Christ’s coming. The link features a performance by the choir of First Plymouth Church in Lincoln, Nebraska, under director Tom Trenney.    

10. "Te Ensalzaré Señor / I Will Praise You, O God," by John Bell (G-5156, GIA Publications). This elegant, joyful piece by Rev. John Bell of the Iona Community includes a third language, Latin, to paint the breadth of the Body of Christ in all places and all times praising God. 

               

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