In the summer of 2004 I was browsing in my local library for some reading material and thought to myself: “I should read some of Orson Scott Card’s
science fiction — see what the reputation is all about.” So as I became enwrapped in Ender’s Game
, I fantasized about meeting OSC one day and him discovering what a wonderful composer I was and us working together and becoming friends and — yada yada yada. That same summer, in one of those serendipities of life, I read the first of Card’s articles in the on-line Meridian Magazine
about hymn writing. Included in the article were three hymn texts of Card’s to illustrate his ideas, and at the bottom an invitation to set them to music. “This is fate,” I thought to myself, and took a pencil and manuscript paper on the bus the next day. In a few days I had decent settings of three hymns. I emailed. I waited. Two months went by and I thought, “Oh, well. That was a nice fantasy.” In October I went to a different Card website and decided to try again, one last time. To my total surprise and delight I got a kind reply with directions on how I could send my settings to him. A few days later I sat dumbfounded in front of my computer reading: “Got to try these out with my ward choir. But I think they’ll be as excited as I am. Good stuff! Makes me proud to have my words be part of them.”
What followed in the ensuing weeks was a file containing Scott’s entire hymn output to date (more would follow), an invitation to work together on a book project, and a whirlwind of praise, every word of which I savoured, treasured up, and (obviously) believed: praise is all too rare a commodity. I was inspired. I wrote while riding the Montreal buses and trains, I wrote on the weekends, I worked out melodies walking home after a midnight stint at the office, I worked out harmonies in the empty Kirkland chapel on a wintery afternoon. The work was a respite, a devotion, a panacea for the soul. I clearly remember the circumstances of the composition of many of the hymns and those are sacred memories to me. There were times I wrote a setting, from first reading to emailing the finished score, in an hour. Sometimes I wrote two or three settings for a text and Scott liked them all, so they all went in. I felt like Lennon and McCartney must have in the early 60’s: it was effortless and everything I came up with was gold — or so it seemed, and I was experienced enough to know, even at the time, that such a creative burst won’t last forever and should be savoured. Within six months I had 30 settings. Over the next few years I added around 25 more, along with several choral arrangements. Many of the hymns have been performed in church by me and my friends, including Scott. Hopefully they’re just getting started.
In July 2014 all the hymns (up to that time), along with some settings by Janice Kapp Perry and others, were published in a beautiful 114 page, spiral bound book entitled “Hymns of Light”. Copies can be ordered through the website, hymnsoflight.com . Individual hymns can still be downloaded from this site free of charge for your own enjoyment or performance at church events. I have also completed an hour-long musical fireside using arrangements of these hymns, with soloists, choir and small orchestra (or just piano) for a performance in Tacoma, Washington in Nov. 2014.