A musical retelling of a speech and prophecy delivered by Nephi, son of Helaman, from the Book of Mormon, Helaman chapters 7 and 8.
Notes / Back story
This one has been 8 years in the making; That might be a new record for me! I wrote the "chorus" in September of 2008 and gave it a title. Various times over the years I've popped back in to work on it a little more, but finally this week I got back to it again and figured out how to bring it all together.
This one follows very closely the prophecy of Nephi, son of Helaman as given in the Book of Mormon. The references are:
Obviously I had to leave a lot out, but the parts that I did use, I tried to stay as close to the original language as possible. My hope is that comparing the song lyrics and music with the original text will give you additional insights into the event; it did for me.
One intentional change I made was to leave out a few specifics so that we could see how this applies to our day. Yes, the event really happened to them, but like the scriptures in general, it's really a message for us. Examples of this are at the beginning I used the phrase "our founding fathers" rather than saying "my father Nephi" as it does in Helaman verse 7. Also, at the very end where I say "it is even at your doors" people who don't know the story will understand that it's talking about the coming destruction. In the scriptural account (Helaman chapter 8, verse 27) when Nephi says, "behold it is now even at your doors" he is still saying that, but he is also prophesying that their chief judge was just murdered by a member of one of their secret societies.
Anyway, the deal on all that is that I think (and hope) that people who don't know the scriptural story can listen to this and think of it as applying strictly to our time. Then when they become familiar with the story, they can be, like, mind = blown, as they realize this has all happened before, thereby driving home a key point of the whole deal. (For example verse 4, "You think you discovered an original sin / But it's just the same thing all over again." Another of my favorite lines.)
Another large omission I made from Nephi's original speech was the part where he retells the history of many of the great miracles of the past, and talks about how they should know the truth because of all these experiences. I started to go through all those and make verses of them, but it would have taken a whole 'nother song. So instead, I just put in the part in verse 4 about 'go read the book and learn your history.' I hope that gets the point across.
One of the things I learned from trying to put myself in Nephi's place is that "calling to repentance" is not a bunch of yelling. People need to be taught and loved, and while there is an element of warning in the message, people are not receptive to the message when you get all up in their faces. So the music is mostly light and the delivery is mostly filled with positive messages.
One of the fun little things I'm proud of about this song is how I was able to find a way to set to music the phrase "how could you have given way to the enticing of him who is seeking to hurl away your souls down to everlasting misery and endless wo?" without changing hardly any words. I even got a rhyme out of it (sorta).
One interesting thing about this song is that it has no chorus... well, that is to say, the chorus only happens once at the very end. I wanted to use it more; it just didn't fit until Nephi gets to that point in his speech. But, what I did do was use the melody and rhythm of the chorus as the background for at least for the first half of every verse. The symbolism to me is that the message is always there, waiting for you, you just don't recognize it. Because all things witness of Him, even when we don't realize it, see? After you've heard the song once all the way through, then when you listen again you should pick it up.
Also, I named each verse instead of just numbering them in the lyrics. This was to help me organize my thoughts as I was figuring out how to mash Old English into modern song lyrics, but it also helped me to think about the style of music to use in each verse. Hopefully you can feel it progressing from one thought to the next.
Musically speaking, I think I've done something here very different from anything I've done in the past. I've got a variety of instruments that take turns, and I've got several sections where the strings will pop in and out instead of playing long passages of connected notes as I have usually used them. Also, I'm pretty proud of some stuff I did with the horns... especially those awesome falls on two places where I sing "how could you!"
For those who are interested, here are some details:
11 instrumental tracks, one vocal track
I used the following instruments:
The clarinet and english horn usually play together, as do the french horn and trumpet, and the violin and viola.
Vocally, I tried a different technique of singing more softly, and with more 'presence', that is, making my voice more warm and light by singing with more breathiness. I think of it as bringing the sound 'forward.'
(The numbers in parentheses indicate the chapter and verse in the Book of Mormon that the lyrics are based on.)
V1 - Lament (ch7:v7-9)
Oh, that I could have had my days,
When our founding fathers first came this way
And had joy with them in this promised land,
They were so easily entreated to keep God's commands. (ch7:v7)
They were slow to be led into iniquity,
They were quick to hearken to the words of the Lord, you see, (ch7:v7)
If my days
Could have been in those days
Then I would have had joy in the righteousness of my brethren. (ch7:v8)
But these days,
These are my days.
And I'm full of sorrow for the wickedness of my brethren. (ch7:v9)
V2 - Call to repentance (ch7:v13-19)
Oh people, Why have you gathered here, and why do you look at me?
Is it so I can speak to you regarding your iniquitiy? (ch7:v13)
You're amazed at my sorrow for your sin,
But you ought to be amazed at the sad state, of late, that you are in! (ch7:v15)
How could you
Have been enticed by him who seeks to hurl away your souls
Down to everlasting misery and endless wo? (ch7:v16)
Repent ye, repent ye! Why will ye die?
Turn ye, turn ye, to the Lord on high. (ch7:v17)
If ye harden your hearts against the voice of the good shepherd (ch7:v18)
Then instead of being gathered in, you will be scattered. (ch7:v19)
V3 - Details of sin and prophecy of destruction (ch7:v20-28)
How could you
Have forgotten your God
In the very day that
He has delivered you? (ch7:v20)
How could you?
Love the praise of men, silver and gold
Set your hearts on the vain things of the world
Murder and plunder, steal and lie
And do ev'ry other manner of iniquity. (ch7:v21)
Ay! If you keep it up, you will receive
No strength to stand against your enemies
This city will fall;
All your great cities will fall. (ch7:v22)
Better for your enemies than for you.
Because they are more righteous than you,
They have not sinned against as much light as you,
Some of them will stay alive; not a single one of you. (ch7:v23-24)
Wo unto you
For your secret societies (ch7:v25)
Wo unto you
For your pride and love of riches (ch7:v26)
Wo unto you
For your abominations (ch7:v27)
And unlesss you repent...
It will all be taken away. (ch7:v28)
V4 - All Things As A Witness (ch7:v29, ch8:v11-27)
I don't know these things shall be all on my own;
The Lord showed them to me. (ch7:v29)
He'll show you too if you read His book
Just open up your eyes and take a look.
And when you learn your history
Your heart will open, you will see. (A summary of ch8:v11-23)
You think you discovered an original sin
But it's just the same thing all over again (ch8:v25-26, more or less)
If you look, you know and you can't deny
And even if you do, you'll be tellin a lie. (ch8:v24, first phrase)
All things testify
Of Him who made them. (ch8:v24, last part, and many other places)
You have all things as a witness
All things as a witness
All things as a witness
All things as a witness (ch8:v24, last part. See also Alma ch30:v44)
You have all things.
As a witness.
Behold, it's even at your door, (ch8:v27, first phrase)
Yes, it is just outside the door.
GVS from United States ~ 2016-08-16 20:26:00 ~ This song is so much, so powerful, and done so masterfully. It is kind of like an oratorio all by itself.
Liked the music, words, and style. Also, loved that I could hear and understand every word.
Needs to be listened to over and over again, like reading the scriptures. Probably because it is mostly scripture put to music. But it actually expands the scripture by the way it is changed and framed.
Love it. You have great talent and insight.
NVS from United States ~ 2016-08-15 15:17:23 ~ What a grand undertaking! Beautiful use of phrasing and music to convey the scriptural message. The slight phrasing changes and pacing I believe enhance the song. Good use of music and melody as symbolism of the message always being there at an underlying level. I also found it helpful that in the lyric sheet the verses are names rather than numbered. Very nice use of each of the instruments and especially the horns on important phrases. I like the different more breathy technique you used with your vocals as well. Massive undertaking and well done!
JG from United States ~ 2016-08-15 13:04:00 ~ Wow! I really like this one, Kelly.
Lots of thoughts on it. I especially was slammed by that "modern" verse with the line "you think you've discovered an original sin," etc. It's so true! There's a banality to evil. Same old story told the same way, even.
I also really liked the internal rhyme you used and the rhymes attached onto the beginning of the following line. Well played. It gave it another layer of complexity and interest.
And because I just taught the Helaman chapters 7-9 story of Nephi on the garden tower in primary yesterday, these verses were so fresh in my mind. It was a great review, and I keep thinking, dang. I wish I could have shared it yesterday with those 10 year-olds. Although...maybe they're not the main target audience for it.
I love the message, the melody (which fits the mood of the song) and the choices of language. So great.
Thanks for sharing!
AK from United States ~ 2016-08-10 14:08:00 ~ It was very cool way that you put to music such a glorious message in the BOM--and made it peppy! I read your lyrics through before I even listened. The introduction drew me right in. I love it. I was surprised to hear a call to repentance to something so upbeat.
"state, of late" I'm a huge fan of adding mid-sentance rhyming.
The interlude between v2 and v3 is awesome.
Another literally element- the repetition of the word "iniquity" throughout. Nice job.
The last stanza of v3 is cool.
"You thing you discovered an original sin, But it's just the same thing all over again."--I like these lyrics.
The ending didn't resolve and was totally abrupt, which totally works! It caught be off guard--which is a good thing! The best part of knowing rules is knowing when to break them. Loved it.