'Songs my mother taught me,
In the days long vanished;
Seldom from her eyelids
were the teardrops banished.
Now I teach my children,
each melodious measure.
Oft the tears are flowing,
oft they flow from my memory's treasure.'
The poem got me thinking about the songs my mother sang that shaped my musical and spiritual life, and inspired me to compose a piano arrangement of C. Austin Miles' beloved Gospel hymn, In the Garden. Sentimental, yes, but I remember it as a favorite lullaby and it's a tune I will always associate with my childhood. The text has also served as an ongoing reminder that I am God's beloved and invited to an intimate, tender relationship with Jesus. And though I know Miles did not write the hymn to celebrate same-gender love, I definitely find myself queering the refrain and can celebrate that Jesus is truly my friend, my lover, and my savior.
I've enjoyed re-harmonizing hymns over the past years, exploring how enriched harmony, as well as unexpected rhythmic or textural treatment, can create a fresh relationship with a well-known tune. This setting of In the Garden maintains the tenderness of the original but doesn't shy away from piquant, expressive harmony.
Enjoy the homespun recording below, played on the (slightly out-of-tune) upright piano in my apartment. A score will soon be available for purchase on the Music page. Please share your feedback and ideas for other hymns that might welcome reinterpretation, and if you're interested in hearing more of my work be sure to visit Soundcloud.