The Story of an Intergenerational Partnership
Nelson Koscheski is a 73-year-old retired Episcopal priest and part of our parish family at All Saints Church Dallas.
Shortly after coming on staff as the new music minister I received an email from Nelson with a “request” (the title of the email was actually “Request”).
You can probably imagine what ran through my mind even before hearing his request: One month in and I’m already getting requests? Is this what it’s going to be like in a church with “seasoned” parishioners? Welcome to Anglicanism.
With that I began reading Nelson’s email:
"Ryan, Jay and I spoke to you about a hymn for a Gradual or gospel hymn on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday. I thought Jay was actually co-ordinating using the thing this Sunday. He said speak to you."
Oh man, his request has an “intro” and I don’t even know what half of the words mean.
"Please understand I am aware this may be too late or out of order--no tender feelings here...The words are about the Transfiguration and we only use those readings one Sunday a year."
Uh oh, he’s still introducing his request, and I’m suddenly feeling the pressure of bold font. Should I continue reading?
"Here is the poem... Common meter any tune you think."
Brace yourself. Here it comes:
On Tabor there was shown a light
In Jesus’ holy self
In clothes and face, in glory bright
Each saw true light itself
So Peter, James and John have told
And witnessed in their word
That glory shown and Christ, like gold,
Was value self-secured
And all may see, if see they will
That glory still aglow
In Jesus’ face upon the hill
Or where we live below
Though risen and ascended higher
His window’s still below
And Tabor is the heart afire
The eye with truth aglow
Well, that came out of nowhere. I read it again. And again. This is beautiful. I happened to have some time on my hands in that moment, so I reached for my guitar and worked out a tune.
Here’s what I came up with:
I replied to Nelson’s email:
"Nelson, Thanks for the request. It's a beautiful poem. Do you know who penned it? One of my favorite things to do is to set poetry and hymns to new tunes. Here's what I did with On Tabor There Was Shown A Light."
"Thanks, Ryan. I wrote it. That is why I was hesitant to push. I just listened to the song. Figured out how to do it. Glory! I cried. Thanks."
Thus began our glorious partnership. Over the past couple years, Nelson and I have co-written nearly 20 new hymns! You can hear a few of them on my YouTubeChannel, and they will also make up Volume One of the Liturgical Folk project. We have even used a few of them in our worship services at All Saints. Nelson and his wife Judy cry every time.
We didn’t see this coming. I wouldn’t have sought out someone four decades older than me to co-write songs. But what Nelson and I stumbled into is a fertile field of creative collaboration.
Nelson tossed in some seed by sending me a “request.” I watered the ground by spending some time working on a melody. What has grown over the past several months, what would not exist otherwise, is the crop of two simpletons separated by two generations.