HOUSTON (“I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light”)
  • Felipe Gasper
    Posts: 804
    Hi everyone,

    What do folks here think of this melody?

    I myself have always found it clumsily hard to teach untrained singers to sing confidently.
  • Steve CollinsSteve Collins
    Posts: 1,020
    For a contemporary "song", I think Kathleen Thomerson managed quite nicely to have "a bunch of little men climbing up and down a ladder". (That's the way music notation was described to me as a child!) Mostly scale wise with a few short arpeggios. But there are a couple of skips, a secondary dominant accidental, and a fermata in the middle of the refrain. A few times through it, and it all works out. It is important to regulate the practical length of the fermata, though - IMO one extra beat is sufficient.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I think it's rather easy, with the exception of the fermata. I don't even fermata it, I just phrase it off to a rather slow tempo, then pick up right after.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    I taught this to the children in the past. Feel like waltzing than walking.
  • Bruce E. Ford
    Posts: 412
    The melody is inane. The text is worse than inane.

    Me, me, me, me, me.

    V. "I want to walk as a child of the light, I want to follow Jesus.."
    R. Who gives a damn what YOU want to do?
    V. "God made the stars that light up the sky. The light of my life is Jesus"
    R. You egocentric ass! You compare your life to the skies.


    When I discovered that this banal ditty was included in THE HYMNAL 1982, I was aghast. Indeed, I was embarassed for the Episcopal Church.

    If you parishioners know it and are hell-bent on singing it, you may be compelled to let them. But for GOD's sake, don't teach it to them.
    Thanked by 1Ben Yanke
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,473
    Amen, Mia and Bruce!

    I first heard this song in meetings of Campus Crusade for Christ and Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship in 1976. For those not familiar, those two are Evangelical student groups that put a lot of emphasis on teaching students to "witness" and "share their faith" in their personal relationships. In that context, the song makes some sense as an example of such witness and faith-sharing, where one is expected to talk about oneself.

    But it's not really suited to be an expression of worship. It is a cloying little waltz, and the text is all about "me". Over and over, the subject of its sentences is "I". Surely we can offer the faithful better songs.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Waltz? When Catholics stop singing "Immaculate Mary", I'll listen to what they have to say about waltzes.

    Guess I'm the only one that likes this tune. I agree the text is a bit too personal, but overall I find it non-objectionable. I've never heard the tune done in any context but myself playing it, so it's hard to have any relation to it but a dignified performance :)
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    Perhaps there is in all our hearts a kind of secret joy in Christ. We see it in children, who are like our former selves. Over time, and sometimes it doesn't take much time at all, the cares of the world, its sufferings, and the accumulated preoccupations of adult life obscure this joy. We are reluctant to share it. We are sometimes unsure if it even exists. And yet its reality, even the very idea of it, is precious to us. We do not share it easily because we know that its expression is always inadequate.

    The last thing we need, as Catholics, is someone goading us to express this joy in a way that makes it seem trivial and sentimental.
  • Pes
    Posts: 623

    Granted, this isn't the worst tune. It does sound enormously Baptist, and I've heard it sung at Baptist services.
  • Steve CollinsSteve Collins
    Posts: 1,020
    Not all musical pieces in 3/4 time signature are waltzes, or give that waltz-like feeling. I would agree that "Houston" can tend to give that feeling, but nothing like "Let There Be Peace on Earth"! Cyril Taylor's "Abbott's Leigh" and the ever popular "HGWPTN" don't give that feeling. Maybe it's moving inner harmony parts. Maybe it's more than one chord per measure. Maybe it's how we musicians interpret and perform on our instruments that cause the people to feel like dancing. Let's not throw out every hymn tune that is in 3/4 over a few less that ideal tunes!
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    It's not just 3/4 meter. You need to hear how it's sung, especially by children. If you like it, it's your choice, but I hear waltzing, not even dignified. Many seem to think that slowing down the tempo and/or somewhat heavy registration on the organ can make a song more dignified. Adult choir tried this song that way in our parish, very awkward. Also I wouldn't use complicated chords for this "innocent " song, maybe simple one chord per measure with simple chord prgression for this type of song, but I would certainly do more chords changes on Immaculate Mary. I don't hear this song as serious as Immaculate Mary; it calls for a feeling of light walk or dancing in both tune and the text. At least the light text and tune go well together to me.
  • I'm surprised that anyone would actually teach this song to anyone - all the more certainly not for liturgical use. Augustine's forumla for a Hymn (Song + Praise + God) is an always pertinent guide to liturgical music, hymnody or other. This particular Song (not Hymn) is representative of the egocentric, if not narcissistic, subjectivism typical of the worst of Protestant usage. With roots in an essentially anti-ecclesial Pietism it is totally out of place in any liturgical worship. The more people become inured to this sort of trite inanity the less are they able to relate to the normative and truly objective expressions of belief that mark genuine Catholic worship and piety.
    Thanked by 1teachermom24
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I guess something's wrong with me. I'll quit working as an organist and make tacos at Taco Bell now. Thank you for keeping me from wasting my time.
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    Let's have a closer look at these words:

    I want to walk as a child of the Light
    [the parent here is defined in a way that could be gnostic]
    I want to follow Jesus
    [which implies that Jesus is just *one way* to be a "child of the Light"?]
    God set the stars To give light to the world
    [this sounds at first like a bizarre non sequitur]
    The Star of my life is Jesus.
    [the repetition of "Jesus" sounds insistently Baptist]
    [yes, I get that I am expressing that I want Jesus to be my Light]


    In Him there is no darkness at all
    The night and the day are both alike
    [a wasted line, you just said this in the previous line]
    The lamb is the Light of the city of God
    [good, but lamb is a non sequitur]
    Shine in my heart Lord Jesus.
    [nothing is made of the lamb -- it's all about light]

    I want to see the Brightness of God
    I want to look at Jesus
    Clear Son of righteousness shine on my path
    And show me the way to the Father.
    [this is all redundant, and clumsy writing]


    [I've never heard this verse:]
    I’m looking for the coming of Christ
    [a move to 'futurity' instead of Trinitarian synthesis]
    I want to be with Jesus
    [but ... you can be with Jesus NOW, in communion]
    When we have run, with patience, the race
    [right, reference to St. Paul's metaphor]
    We shall know the joy of Jesus.
    [this suggests we have to die to know the joy of Jesus]

    The only conclusion one can draw from all this is that this is mediocre work. The only thing -- the ONLY thing -- that keeps this piece in circulation is its melody, which is "catchy." No one would ever say, "what a text! I'm inspired to set this thing in other ways!"

    There are many other better things to sing. You can easily compose something as good, if not better, yourself.


    You're amazing. You could make "la la la" sound intelligent and compelling.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    The only conclusion one can draw from all this is that this is mediocre work. The only thing -- the ONLY thing -- that keeps this piece in circulation is its melody, which is "catchy." No one would ever say, "what a text! I'm inspired to set this thing in other ways!"

    I can't disagree with that. FWIW I tend to personally shun "I want" hymns out of my slightly Augustinian convictions (I don't "want" anything but sin, it's only by God's grace that I can have Jesus). However, on theological issues of texts I always defer to the judgment of the pastor, and choose not to enforce my own opinions but rather Church teaching.

    I have no intention of promoting this as the summit of modern hymnody. But I've used it in the past and, with it available, would use it in the future. I will say I wouldn't go out of my way to use it.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,473
    Thanks, Pes, for the observations. It's a good point that the song looks exclusively to the Second Coming for union with Christ.

    There are a couple of additional Scripture allusions in the text beyond the ones Pes mentioned:

    "The Lamb is the light of the city of God" is a summary of
    Rev. 21: 23: "The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp."

    The notion of being "children of the light" appears in
    Eph. 5:8: "For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light..."
    so that's a legitimate Pauline image.

    Incidentally, the composer and author, Kathleen Thomerson, FAGO (!), is still an active organist and music director at a Lutheran church in Austin.
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    It's a nice religious song, and I have a soft spot for cheerful Lutherans.
  • G
    Posts: 1,391
    I had always assumed the composer was Catholic, and had adapted the tune from the Kyrie of the Missa de angelis.
    The words are puerile and clunky, but wholesomely scriptural.
    (I've noticed that the better musicians in the cantor corps complain about the lyric, and the others love it.)
    It is a great favorite of our parish, (they've sung it lustily since before I had ever heard it,) and I try to program it no more frequently than once a year, but am occasionally berated for not singing it more often.
    It is sung incessantly at school.

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)
    Thanked by 1Gavin
  • noel jones, aagonoel jones, aago
    Posts: 6,587
    Immaculate Mary - a waltz? Are you singing the chorus: AH-ve - AH-ve or ah-VE - ah-VE -? Because one's a waltz and the other's not.

    And if you do the french processional rhythm of Divinum Mysterium? Long Short Long Short....does that make it a waltz?

    posted for a friends who likes IM.
  • Steve CollinsSteve Collins
    Posts: 1,020
    G: When she wrote it, she was a part of the charismatic group at Redeemer Episcopal on the SE side of Houston, hence the name. She also had ties with the St. Louis, MO AGO, which is where I met her when I attended the International Congress of Organists in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. back in 1977. It's interesting that you heard the Missa VIII in the tune - I hadn't noticed. (Maybe because the chordal accompaniment does not move as I would accompany any Gregorian chant!) But then it wasn't until about 10 years ago that noticed that Peloquin had used the Missa VIII Gloria "Amen" note for note in his "Gloria of the Bells"!

    Noel: Now there's a subject close to my heart, and fodder for another whole thread! Why do Americans insist on a transition from a pick-up "short-long-short-long" verse to a down-beat "long-short-long-short" refrain in the Lourdes Hymn? I much prefer to keep the latter throughout as in Dr. Marier's "HP&SC", as it is sung in the movie. I also love Dom Gregory Murray's accompaniment in the Westminster Hymnal. I could certainly argue that we should push for this more authentic rhythm - but as one gets older one does start picking his battles!
  • Felipe Gasper
    Posts: 804

    The Peloquin Gloria that you mention is actually based on the Mass VIII Gloria; compare the opening melodic motive with the chant incipit.

    If that is not news to you, please forgive! ... but your post makes it sound like this would be useful knowledge for you, so I mention it just in case.
  • Steve CollinsSteve Collins
    Posts: 1,020
    You did get me on that one. It's been so long since I've even heard it, much less sung it! And it's been even longer since I've played it. Like Dr. Marier's music (very unfortunate), Peloquin's is only popular in certain geographical areas. I am so happy that I did get to meet both men, and sang under Peloquins direction twice while I lived the the Chicago area.
  • To me, HOUSTON, reminds me of the French carol, "What is this lovely Fragrance?".
  • Steve CollinsSteve Collins
    Posts: 1,020
    Melodically, maybe. But every accompaniment version I've ever seen, and every choral version I heard, has moving inner parts throughout, mostly per beat. I've never felt like waltzing to that, even at Christmas.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,203
    Yea, the text is a bit smultzy and sentimental, but we sing it here. Oh well. One of the FEW contemporary songs that doesn't outright offend my musical sense.
  • I grew up Lutheran, but didn't hear this song until I heard and sang it in a Methodist Church.

    I'm not worried about the words. To me, the exact words are not important, but what they mean to me. Some people may object to "Want" as being too demanding, but I see it as a personal recognition of need, "I need to walk as a Child of the Light." NOTE that definitions #1, #2 and #3 for the verb "want" all have to do with "need"

    I need to walk as a Child of the Light
    (Yes, I need to improve myself and become more like the Light)
    (We are judged according to the light that we receive)
    (a Child of the Light could be the person who is finally honoring that light, God
    (I need to walk as a Child of God)

    I need to follow Jesus
    (Yes, I sure need that)

    God sent the stars to give light to the world
    (God sent His Son to give light to the world)

    I could go on, but you get the idea, the words mean what each of us decide they mean, FOR US, and nobody can tell us otherwise.

  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,254
    Kathleen Thomerson, FAGO (!), is still an active organist and music director at a Lutheran church in Austin.
    I wonder if it follows she's Lutheran herself. In any case, HOUSTON was a favorite of my (former) Methodist boss, who considered it an prime exhibit of why all music ought to be more like that of the Catholics.
  • the words mean what each of us decide they mean, FOR US, and nobody can tell us otherwise.

    By this logic no song could possibly be judged inappropriate.
    Thanked by 2Adam Wood irishtenor
  • I think I remember reading that she is Episcopal.

    My mother was Lutheran, but for twenty years, she was the paid soloist at a very small Christian Science Church, which finally closed its doors when it got too small.

    Obviously, you cannot go by where a person works.
  • (former) Methodist boss ... considered it an prime exhibit of why all music ought to be more like that of the Catholics.

    I remember a Lutheran Bishop who visited the church I was active in back in the 80s or 90s. He joked, "The pope is becoming more and more Lutheran every day."
  • the words mean what each of us decide they mean, FOR US, and nobody can tell us otherwise.

    By this logic no song could possibly be judged inappropriate.

    At least, it cannot be judged as inappropriate for someone who has grown into his full understanding of content appropriateness. There are songs that I would not consider appropriate to a ten-year-old, but I will allow the adult listener to deem it appropriate for himself. Just like there are choices that are inappropriate to the young that are not inappropriate for those a few years older.

    And if we go that direction, we must look at later regret for a choice. The young teenager who decided that one (undescribed) choice was appropriate for herself at 13, and later decided she should never have made that choice; has proved that, for her, she was not ready to make that choice at 13.

    My sister chose to listen to music at a loud volume when she was younger. She grew to regret that choice when she was forced start wearing a hearing aid in her 40s. She also chose to start smoking in college, and later regretted it when her husband was able to quit, but she could not. And of course, her family regretted her choice because she died before she was 60, youngest of the grandchildren on both sides of the family.

    It's like religion, in a way. One person cannot tell a second person EXACTLY what that second person believes, even if they are both of the same denomination. Even a husband and wife who have worshiped together for fifty years may have certain beliefs that are different. What I really hate is the member of religion A who tells someone else exactly what Religion B believes. (I remember seeing a certain conservative denominational tract that said that "there is a darkness so deep inside the ______s that no Light can possibly reach them." Even though that was one person's opinion, I lost respect for the entire denomination because their printing house authorized distibution of that tract.

    Sorry to go on and on, sometimes I just keep going and going.
  • marajoymarajoy
    Posts: 781
    Hello, 5-year-old thread...

    Am I the only one who has noticed that the tune is INCREDIBLY similar to the Kyrie from Missa de Angelis? Especially those of you criticizing the melody ought to take note of that.. ;-)
    Thanked by 1Gavin
  • There are plenty of Gregorian Chant hipsters that like to knock on Mass VIII, too.
    Thanked by 3Ben Yanke Salieri Gavin
  • Ben YankeBen Yanke
    Posts: 3,114
    Gimme my plaid, bow tie, and liber. Without Mass VIII, of course.

    Seriously though, I agree with Bruce that the text is the worst part.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,686
    Was it Mass VIII in 19th Century Russia? Is Outrage!
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,888
    It was not "Mass" in 19th Century Russia. It was Divine Liturgy of our Father St. John Chrysostom.
    Thanked by 1Salieri
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,686
    An exchange I overheard:

    Byzantine Priest: How was Liturgy?
    Roman Priest: It was Divine!
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen Gavin