Loving Spirit

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Scripture References

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 26, Question and Answer 70 explains that we are sanctified (set apart) to be members of Christ, paralleling stanzas 1 and 5 of “Loving Spirit,” which speak of the Holy Spirit who has “chosen me to be.”


Loving Spirit

Additional Prayers

A Prayer of Acclamation     
Triune God, great beating heart of the universe, you have drawn me to your wonder.
You have set your sign on me.
In your burning purity, you have drawn me to your wonder.
You have set your sign on me.
In your self-spending love for sinners, you have drawn me to your wonder.
You have set your sign on me.
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, I was baptized in your holy name.
You have set your sign on me. Amen.
— Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.

Loving Spirit

Tune Information

G Major

Loving Spirit

Hymn Story/Background

My favorite tunes are inspired by the texts of Shirley Murray, who is considered one of the world’s best writers of Enlgish hymns. She has a feminine touch and motherly perspective that are not present in works by men. Her hymns are tender, neat, imaginative, unconventional, provocative, surprising, and deeply moving. While the concept of the Holy Spirit may be mysterious, Murray portrays the Spirit as within us—“chosen me to be.” She uses various metaphors to describe one’s relationship with the Spirit:
               Like a mother, you enfold me,
hold my life within your own,
fed me with your very body,
form me of your flesh and bone.
               Like a father, you protect me,
teach me the discerning eye,
hoist me up upon your shoulder,
let me see the world from high.
               Friend and lover…
I am known and held and blessed:
in your promise is my comfort,
in your presence I may rest.
Few hymn writers have drawn analogies between one’s relationship with the Holy Spirit and the intimate human relationships of the family.
I was impressed and deeply moved by this beautiful text and pondered how to express the mysterious yet intimate relations with the Holy Spirit in music. I have always been fascinated by the so-called “gypsy scale” that likely originated in India, which combines a variety of small (minor second) and large (augmented second) intervals, and I decided to explore the possibilities of these combinations. In cipher notation, the gypsy scale is: C# = 3 4 #5 6, 7 1 #2 3; the South Indian name for this scale and tone formation is mayamalava gowla raga, which is within the family of bhairav raga. It is organized in two tetrachords, each consisting of a minor second (3-4), augmented second (4-#5), and another minor second (#5-6). The two disjunct tetrachords are separated by another major second (7-7). With these various intervallic relations and progressions, the music evokes different feelings. I utilized the Indian additive rhythm of 3 + 2 + 2, called three-laghu triputa tala, which also suggests mystery (see further discussion in the Indian section). The rhythm seems to be irregular and constantly moving, yet, after a while, one can predict its regularity. The melody begins from the lowest note of the scale (C# = 3) and ascends and descends stepwise. The motif gradually expands to a wider range and finally reaches the climax at the first beat of the third system. Melodic embellishments are most important for the Indian style of singing – they are the life and soul of the music – so the ornaments should not be left out.
To make the tune more interesting, an Indian drone supports the melody. The tonic (C#, foundation) and the fifth (C#, dominant) constitute the double drones. The fifth slowly develops to a more complex innder melodic line while the bass line also builds, leading to the climax with the inner melody to express the “wonder” of the Spirit near the end of the tune and gradually returning to the orginal point. An accompaniment of drum and concussion bells according to the notation will add to the distinct style of this piece. This tune was completed in 1990, in time to be sent to Geneva for the preparation of the seventh General Seembly of WCC in Canberra, in 1991.
I was satisfied in giving this text a different life with an unusal musical style. I had thought that the tune was too exotic and difficult for most people, but surprisingly, it was the theme song at the WCC Assembly, where I was privileged to teach it in a sing-along session. And, to my amazement, the first female bishop in Australia chose this hymn to be sung at her consecration. The tune name CHHUN-BIN combines the names of my parents, Loh Sian-chhun and Ang Bin, and pays grateful homage to them for giving me life and nourishing me to follow their footsteps in serving God. (My father had already joined the heavenly chorus in 1984, but my mother was eighty-three when I wrote the music.)
In teaching this hymn, one should try singing the tetrachord a few times to become familiar with the scale: 3 4 #5 6, then reversed. Then try to connect to the higher tetrachord: 7 1 #2 3 and the reverse. Practice the rhythm and conducting by counting the triputa tala: “one two three, one two one two” (1 2 3 + 1 2 + 1 2) as in a triangular three-beat pattern. The first beat has three counts, and the second and third beats each have two counts. The drum pattern is played throughout the hymn. When concussion bells are used, the pattern should be o (open, 1 2 3) / + (closed, 1 2) / + (closed, 1 2) and should not be rushed. At the end of each stanza, it is advisable to play an interlude of the first two measures of the accompaniment before continuing to the next stanza.
I-to Loh, Hymnal Companion to “Sound the Bamboo”: Asian Hymns in Their Cultural and Liturgical Context, p. 373-74, ©2011 GIA Publications, Inc., Chicago
— I-to Loh

Author Information

Born in 1931 in Invercargill, New Zealand, Shirley Erena Murray studied music as an undergraduate but received a master’s degree (with honors) in classis and French from Otago University. Her upbringing was Methodist, but she became a Presbyterian when she married the Reverend John Stewart Murray, who was a moderator of the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand. Shirley began her career as a teacher of languages, but she became more active in Amnesty International, and for eight years she served the Labor Party Research Unit of Parliament. Her involvement in these organizations has enriched her writing of hymns, which address human rights, women’s concerns, justice, peace, the integrity of creation, and the unity of the church. Many of her hymns have been performed in CCA and WCC assemblies. In recognition for her service as a writer of hymns, the New Zealand government honored her as a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit on the Queen’s birthday on June 3, 2001. Through Hope Publishing House, Murray has published three collections of her hymns: In Every Corner Sing (eighty-four hymns, 1992), Everyday in Your Spirit (forty-one hymns, 1996), and Faith Makes the Song (fifty hymns, 2002). The New Zealand Hymnbook Trust, for which she worked for a long time, has also published many of her texts (cf. back cover, Faith Makes the Song). In 2009, Otaga University conferred on her an honorary doctorate in literature for her contribution to the art of hymn writing.
I-to Loh, Hymnal Companion to “Sound the Bamboo”: Asian Hymns in Their Cultural and Liturgical Context, p. 468, ©2011 GIA Publications, Inc., Chicago
— I-to Loh

Composer Information

I-to Loh (b. Tamsui, Taiwan, September 28, 1936) graduated from Tainan Theological College and Seminary (TTCS: MDiv, 1963), Union Theological Seminary, New York (SMM, composition, 1966), and the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA: PhD, music/ethnomusicology, 1982). He has taught at his alma mater, TTCS, and served as the head of the Department of Church Music for many years; he also served as the president of the seminary from 1995 until his retirement in 2002.
He was sent as a United Methodist missionary to teach at the Asian Institute for Liturgy and Music (AILM; 1982-94); in this capacity, he traveled and promoted contextual Asian church music and liturgy in many member churches of the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA), and he edited the 1990 and 2000 editions of Sound the Bamboo: CCA Hymnal. Loh was a consultant and animateur to three General Assemblies of WCC (1983, 1991, and 1998), and he was the director of music at five General Aseembly of LWF (Lutheran World Federation, 1997), the twenty-third Congress of WARCH (World Association of Reformed Church, 1997, co-director), the World Alliances of YMCAs (1984, animateur), and the Asian Alliance of YMCAs (1987 and 1989).
He has lectured in numerous Ecumenical Workshops on Liturgy and Music, sponsored by WCC and CCA around the globe, and he has taught at Taiwan Theological College and Seminary, Tunghai University, Soochow University, and Tainan Teacher’s College. He has published twenty-one books and collections of hymns/songs from Asia and Africa, including: New Songs of Asian Cities (1972), A Festival of Asian Christmas Carols (1984), Let the Hills Sing (1986), African Songs of Worship (1986), Sing a New Song to the Lord (1987), Christ the Light to Bali (1987), Hakka Songs of Worship (1987), The Love of God Sets Us Free (1988), Thousands and Thousands of Songs Full of Praise (audiocassette, 1990), All Peoples Praise (1995), and Jyothi Do Prabhu (recordings of bhajans and lyrics from India, 1996). In addition to writing dozens of academic papers, he published the monograph Teach Us to Praise (1992, revised 2002).
Loh has translated more than 300 hymns from English and other languages to Taiwanese or Mandarin, and he has published more than one hundred hymns, liturgical responses, and acclamations in Asia and North America. He is the editor of the official hymnal of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan, Sengsi, 2009. For his contributions to hymnology, he was named a Fellow of the Hymn Society of North American and Canada in 1995. He received the 2006 Distinguished Service Award from the Global Consultation on Music and Missions. Also in 2006, Loh’s first CD, Originality, a collection of his choral compositions, won the award fro the best production of classical composition at the seventeenth Gold Music Prizes of the Bureau of News and Information of the Taiwan Government. His wife, Hui-chin (MDiv, TTCS; MRE, Princeton Theological Seminary) is a specialist in Christian education and has helped with all of his publications; they have three children and six grandchildren.
In January 2014, GIA released a Christian Music from Asia to the World: The Life and Legacy of I-To Loh, in tribute to his many contributions to Christian Asian song.
I-to Loh, Hymnal Companion to “Sound the Bamboo”: Asian Hymns in Their Cultural and Liturgical Context, p. 453-54, ©2011 GIA Publications, Inc., Chicago
— I-to Loh
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