This minor tune by David Landegent, especially as it has been arranged by Albert Chung, is a great pairing with this serious and sad text by Sylvia Dunstan. Depicting the cruel event described in Matthew 2, these words carry forward through the ages, crying out with the pain and injustice of the loss of innocent life.
This text needs pastoral consideration and should come with a word of caution. Sensitivity to those in the congregation who may be suffering a loss, especially one of a child, will be important when choosing this hymn.
This arrangement purposely is somewhat difficult to play in the bass clef so that the tempo must be slow. If accompanying on the piano, sustain the first half note of the measure with the damper pedal so that the low bass sound carries through the measure.
Blest Are the Innocents
Sylvia Dunstan (b. 1955; d. July 25, 1993) attributes her love of song to her grandparents, who kept song alive in the family and entrusted Sylvia's formal musical education to one of the nuns at the local convent. Sylvia began writing songs in the early seventies and soon after met Sister Miriam Theresa Winter, who encouraged her to write songs based on Scripture. Sylvia eventually realized that her talents did not lay with the music and concentrated instead on the lyrics. She was further shepherded and encouraged by Alan Barthel.
Her bachelor degree was earned from York University, and she received graduate degrees in theology and divinity from Emmanuel College, Toronto. In 1980, she was ordained by the Hamilton Conference of the United Church of Canada. During her career she served as a minister, a prison chaplain, and editor of a Canadian worship resource journal, Gathering.
In the summer of 1990, she was invited to lead the annual conference of the Hymn Society in the U.S. and Canada in a session exploring her hymnody. That exposure led to the publication of her texts In Search of Hope and Grace. A smaller collection Where the Promise Shines was published after her death in 1994. Many of her hymn texts have been set by contemporary composers.
Sylvia Dunstan died on July 25, 1993, almost four months after being diagnosed with liver cancer. She left behind a ministry that combined a compassionate concern for the needy and distraught with a consuming love of liturgy.
David Landegent is an ordained minister in the Reformed Church of America and served on the Advisory Committee for Lift Up Your Hearts.
Laura de Jong
Albert Chung (b. August 22, 1986) is from South Pasadena, CA; he has an undergraduate degree in music education from UCLA and served as a band director at South Pasadena High School. His involvement in various church ministries around Southern California led him to study at Princeton Theological Seminary for his M.Div. degree (anticipated in 2014); his interest in music composition is aimed at providing accessible contemporary settings for congregational song.