“God’s Love Made Visible”

Posted: December 24, 2016 in Christ, Christian History, Christmas, Dave and Iola Brubeck, Devotionals, Music, Poetry, Worship

by Dave and Iola Brubeck
To say that this is my favorite Dave Brubeck tune is an understatement. I hope that you dig it as much as I do. Merry Christmas! — Fred W. Anson

 The swingin’ instrumental version by The New Brubeck Quartet.

God’s love made visible!
Incomprehensible!
Christ is invincible!
His love shall reign!

From love so bountiful,
blessings uncountable
make death surmountable!
His love shall reign!

Joyfully pray for peace and good will!
All of our yearning he will fulfill.
Live in a loving way!
Praise him for every day!
Open your hearts and pray.
His love shall reign!

God gave the Son to us
to dwell as one of us –
a blessing unto us!
His love shall reign!

To him all honor bring,
heaven and earth will sing,
praising our Lord and King!
His love shall reign!

Open all doors this day of his birth,
all of good will inherit the earth.
His star will always be guiding humanity
throughout eternity!
His love shall reign!

 The traditional vocal version by New York Voices.

Appendix I: A tribute to Presbyterian-friendly Dave Brubeck
by John M. Buchanan, December 14, 2012
Jazz legend Dave Brubeck died Dec. 5, the day before his 92nd birthday. His impact on the world of music in general and jazz in particular was profound, marked by the front-page announcement of his death in newspapers all over the world. Along with millions of others, I was a Dave Brubeck fan, a life-long lover of his music since I first heard it in the late ‘50s, and, I am honored to say, a friend.

Brubeck changed jazz by his “cool” sound produced in collaboration with alto saxophonist, Paul Desmond playing counterpoint to Brubeck’s piano, by his innovative use of unusual rhythms, and by capturing the imagination of a whole generation of college students in the ’50s and ’60s. In the process his 33rpm record, “Time Out,” became the first jazz album to sell more than a million copies.

Following a State Department tour to India and the Middle East, Brubeck began to experiment with unusual rhythmic structures in his jazz composition and playing. His signature piece, “Take Five,” perhaps the most popular jazz single ever, broke out of the standard jazz genre and employed an innovative 5\4, a five beat measure instead of the standard 4. Later, “Blue Rondo a la Turk” was written in a surprising and engaging 9/8. Brubeck once suggested that children sing naturally in 5/4 rhythm and wrote one of his liveliest Christmas pieces, “God’s Love Made Visible,” in that time.

Dave Brubeck, in concert at the 1997 General Assembly. —Courtesy of Presbyterians Today

Dave Brubeck, in concert at the 1997 General Assembly. —Courtesy of Presbyterians Today

Brubeck’s musical and personal life gradually found religious expression. His father, a California cattle rancher, was an avowed atheist. His mother was a Christian Scientist who directed the choir in a local Presbyterian Church, so Brubeck’s earliest religious exposure was to Presbyterianism. His first professional job was playing the organ at a local Reformatory Chapel at the age of fourteen. He remembered favorite hymns sung by the inmates at Sunday services, “Just as I Am” and “The Old Rugged Cross.”

In the middle of his critically acclaimed career as a jazz musician and composer, religious themes and motifs began to appear in Brubeck’s music. While composing a complete Mass, “To Hope,” he was so struck by the beauty and power of the liturgy that he joined the Roman Catholic Church and for the rest of his life was a regular worshipper in his home parish church, Our Lady of Fatima in Wilton, Connecticut. His funeral was celebrated in that church Dec. 12 and included some of Brubeck’s sacred music compositions including, “The Desert and the Parched Land,” “Psalm 23” and the Gloria from “To Hope.”

I first met Dave Brubeck when the church I was serving, The Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago, invited him to play during the annual Festival of the Arts. Brubeck agreed and he and his quartet played a magnificent concert of favorite jazz and sacred music with the Morning Choir singing the choral numbers with the quartet.

He returned to play at the church several times and during one of those early visits Brubeck had a minor heart incident and was admitted to Northwestern Memorial Hospital for observation on the very day of the concert. It was my duty that evening to greet a sanctuary full of people who had purchased tickets to hear Dave Brubeck and announce that the Brubeck Quartet was a trio for that performance, without Brubeck himself. There was a little grumbling but the trio presented a great concert of Brubeck music.

I asked Brubeck’s manager and conductor, Russell Gloyd, who later married a Fourth Church Choir member and became a faithful church member himself, if a visit in to Brubeck in the hospital would be appropriate. Russell assured me that a pastoral call would not only be appropriate but that Brubeck, a believer and a man of faith, would be grateful.

So, with some fear and trepidation and a bit of awe at the great jazz artist himself, I visited him in Intensive Care. He was gracious, seemingly grateful for the visit as Russell predicted, and we talked about music and faith, and when I asked him if I could pray he immediately agreed. We prayed, and thereafter he began to call me his pastor.

Every time he played in Chicago, we were invited to attend the concert as his guests and to visit back stage afterward. Without fail he would greet me with a lively, “It’s my pastor!” He telephoned once to discuss appropriate scripture passages for future compositions and one of our dearest memories is of a lunch Sue and I shared with Brubeck and his wife, Iola. In addition to being the mother of their six children, Iola was a trusted business consultant and the author of many of the lyrics to his sacred music. We talked, of course, about our six children and theirs and the joys and challenges of parenting, and we talked about music, church and faith.

At the end of my term as Moderator of the 208th General Assembly (1996) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), I inquired of Russell Gloyd and Brubeck about the possibility that the Brubeck Quartet might play for the 209th General Assembly (1997) meeting in Syracuse. To my absolute delight, they accepted the invitation and played a wonderful evening program for the General Assembly commissioners and guests. With a local choral group Brubeck presented several sacred works, “All My Hope” from the Mass, To Hope; “God’s Love Made Visible” from Fiesta de la Posada; and a powerful “The Peace of Jerusalem” from The Gates of Justice. It was a memorable evening for which I, and all those privileged to be present, will be forever grateful.

In every age religion and the arts have been partners and collaborators in the great vocation of expressing human wonder and awe at the mystery of human existence, and giving voice to adoration, praise, and gratitude to God: from the ancient poets who wrote:

Sing to the Lord, bless his name…
Let the earth rejoice,
Let the sea roar…
Let the fields exult…
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy,

to J.S. Bach, whose “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” occasionally emerged in the middle of a Brubeck improvisation, to Dave Brubeck himself, who is now part of the music department, instrumental division, in the great company of heaven.

The Rev. John Buchanan is editor and publisher of “The Christian Century.” He is former pastor of Chicago’s Fourth Presbyterian Church and served as moderator of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s 208th General Assembly (1996).

(this article was originally published on the Presbyterian News Service)

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Appendix II: Iola Brubeck, a Christmas Woman
by Leslie Clay, December 16, 2014
Iola Brubeck, wife of famed jazz pianist Dave Brubeck, was featured in Sisters in Song. Since its publication, she died of cancer in March, 2014. My book didn’t give justice to the great contributions she made to Christian music using the jazz genre. Let’s give her another try.

Iola Whitlock was born in 1923 in Corning, California where her father was a forest ranger. After graduating as valedictorian of her high school, she enrolled at what is now the University of the Pacific in Stockton studying drama and radio production. It was there that she met Dave Brubeck and they married in 1942. While he was shipped out to the European Theater in WWII, she honed her management skills and knowledge of jazz by working in radio. Their 70 year marriage was fruitful both personally and musically. Though they started out dirt poor, literally living for a while in a tin shack with a dirt floor and washing in a nearby stream, she propelled Dave’s career. In 1950, she developed one of the country’s first courses in jazz appreciation at the University of California at Berkeley. Iola lectured while Dave, who was shy, played the piano. This brought them $15 a week and started Iola’s role as lyricist. She suggested that his newly formed quartet do concerts at college campuses. She wrote to every college on the West Coast. Her work as manager, booker and publicist launched Dave’s career. She also was Dave’s chief librettist and lyricist. By the mid 1950s, they were doing well. As champions of racial justice they refused to play at colleges where black musicians were treated differently. In 1958, the State Department sent them on a people to people cultural exchange tour of Eastern Europe, the first time jazz musicians were used as emissaries of the U.S. behind the Iron Curtain. Four years later, Dave and Iola co-wrote a musical, The Real Ambassadors starring Louis Armstrong, a reaction to racial segregation in the U.S. It premiered in 1962 at the Monterrey Jazz Festival to critical acclaim, but it never reached Broadway.

As time went on, she collaborated with Dave on several oratorios and cantatas, including La Fiesta de la Posada (Festival of the Inn) in 1975. Included within this Christmas Choral Pageant is “God’s Love Made Visible.” In a PBS interview, Dave said, “My wife was driving, and I said, ‘I’ve finished this (La Posada).’ And she said, ‘No, you haven’t finished it.’ And I said, ‘Well, what did I leave out?’ And she said, ‘God’s love made visible. He is invincible.’” Her lyrics resonate well with me, from the very title of the piece to the emphasized phrase, “His love shall reign.” Though it could be sung any day of the year, it is still a Christmas song for a Christmas pageant, as it declares, “Open all doors this day of his birth.”

Leslie Clay a musician and the author of the book “Sisters in Song: Women Hymn Writers”

(originally published on the “Sisters in Song” website)

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