Yesterday, the day after Thanksgiving, when lots of people were out shopping, I spent the day at the church, giving organ lessons and practicing. Miguel Felipe was typing the Advent Procession bulletin and asked me about my setting of “Veni Emmanuel,” which will close our Advent Procession service tomorrow night. It begins with a men’s chorus singing the ancient chant in Latin, punctuated by handbells. It is followed by the first verse with organ and the remaining verses sung only with handbells. The last verse alternates two bell chords which continue to peal as the choir processes into the courtyard to end the service.
There is a very interesting article about this Advent hymn (“O come, o come Emmanuel”) which you can find by clicking here, written by Mark Burnett. Based on the “O Antiphons,” he calls it the most well-known and beloved Advent hymn of Latin origins — in either Catholic or Protestant churches.
In 1985, Carl Crosier and I sent off seven of our hymn settings to Chicago-based G.I.A. Publications, Inc. and we were pleasantly surprised when all seven anthems were accepted into their catalog. (P.S. I just now recalled a conversation I had with a friend in graduate school when I told her I was going to publish music under the pseudonym of Tracy McGrew! — but in the end, we used our real names.)
We were absolutely shocked when we got our first royalty check (based on 10% of retail sales) and learned that thousands of copies had been sold that year. “Veni Emmanuel” has continued to sell — in fact every year I get a royalty check. Just now I looked in the online G.I.A. catalog to find out that “Veni Emmanuel” is still available and in print which is amazing to me — the piece is something I dashed off in a few minutes. Even GIA lists the difficulty level as “Easy.”
In the meantime, Carl wrote a setting of “Veni Emmanuel” which ties into the O Antiphon service (which we are not doing this year). We put it into our own publishing company catalog, Ionian Arts, where it is available as an electronic downloadable file.
To be perfectly honest, I think I like Carl’s setting better!