Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Morning Prayer

Click on the image to be able to save a full size copy of the music.

The month of July proved to be a really important month for me. I woke up one morning and felt like my life was suddenly on a different, better track. Part of it has to do with getting healthier this summer. But mostly I was filled with a desire to really accomplish my goals and compose the music I need to this summer. I felt like I was able to see clearly the path before me for the rest of the summer. That morning as I drove to campus, a simple melody came to mind with lyrics. Over the course of several July Sundays, this melody and text became my new hymn Morning Prayer.

Rise, rise at the break of day! 
Entreat the Lord without delay.
Find on your knees the grace you'll need
To carry you on your way.

Saying a prayer first thing in the morning is an important part of my life. My dad, Robert Wahlquist, (currently a BYU-Idaho religion professor) has taught me as long as I can remember to make morning prayers a daily habit. (You can read his devotional address including the topic here.) There is something special about starting the day in consultation with God. I have seen in my own life, especially this last month, how I feel more enabled to be successful as a composer, student, husband, and father because I start my day imploring divine aid.

Look, look to your God on High!
His myriad mercies multiply;
Trust ev'ry care to morning prayer
As tender joys clear your eyes.

The text of my hymn was inspired by several important scriptures. One that I would mention that didn't directly influence the text but guided the overall mood of the hymn is one I have heard my dad teach many times. Mark 1:35: 
"And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he [Jesus] went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed." As my dad would say, "Jesus was a morning pray-er." 

Another verse provided near verbatim material for verse 3. Alma 37:36-37:
"Yea, and cry unto God for all thy support; yea, let all thy doings be unto the Lord, and whithersoever thou goest let it be in the Lord; yea, let all thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord; yea, let all the affections of thy heart be placed upon the Lord forever."
"Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good; yea, when thou liest down at night lie down unto the Lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God; and if you do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day."

Cry, cry for your God's support!
Let all you do be in the Lord;
Counsel with him as dawn begins
To shine his light in your heart!

Several Psalms gave me lots of inspiration for the 2nd and 3rd verses, providing the imagery of 'myriad mercies' 'looking up' 'tender joys' 'psalms of praise' 'sing and extol' :
Psalm 5:3,7:
"My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up...I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercy: and in thy fear will I worship toward they holy temple."
Psalm 30:1, 4-5:
"I will extol thee, O Lord; for thou hast lifted me up, and hast not made my foes to rejoice over me."
"Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness. [Here I use the Joseph Smith Translation:] For his anger kindleth against the wicked; they repent, and in a moment it is turned away, and they are in his favor, and he giveth them life; therefore, weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."

Hark, hark all the birds awake! 
Come raise your voice in psalms of praise;
Sing and extol Christ's constant role,
And offer your soul in thanks!

The final verse refers again to Alma's concept of needing Christ's support constantly. It also references a phrase found in Omni 1:26:

"And now, my beloved brethren, I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption. Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering uno him, and continue in fasting and praying, and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth ye will be saved."

My wife asked what it means to me to 'offer your whole soul' and I explained that to me it means being willing to do the things that the Lord would have you do each day. It is a willingness to turn the direction of your life over to him. For me, morning prayer is an essential part of that act and I knew early on that I wanted to include a reference in the hymn to that scripture.

The final verse also reflects an important part of prayer - including thanks for blessings received. In my experience, this usually turns out to be key to being given even more blessings.

Each verse also contains some reference to morning - 'break of day' 'clear your eyes' 'dawn shines light' 'all the birds awake'. I'm not really a natural morning person, but starting the day with prayer makes it easier to clear my mind and eyes and not be upset that somebody across the street is raising dozens of roosters.

A word on the music of the hymn. I knew right away when the first verse and melody came to me that I was going to write an entire hymn. As I finished the text of the other verses, I used the original melody I made up in the car to help create a uniform text pattern, but I intended to create an alternate, more sophisticated melody later on. I realized as soon as I set about composing the music that this melody fit the bright mood I wanted for the hymn. The simple nature of the melody also allowed me some flexibility in creating the harmonies and counterpoint.

I'm particularly happy with the way that the lower voices (alto, tenor, bass) echo the melody in a way that evokes a sort of round - see the tenor line in the third and fourth measures, or again in the second measure of the second line. Similarly, the three note ascending gesture found repeatedly in the alto (and once in the bass) is a sort of pre-echo of the second to last measure, where soprano, alto and tenor all come together to ascend in parallel.

Please use this in your home and worship services. Let me know if you do; I'll be glad to see how this gets out there. Please respect my rights and don't attempt to profit from publication or recording without giving due credit and compensation. You can see another hymn I have written here. I'm in a hymn composing mood, stay tuned for more!