Michael Austin Miller

Writer, Composer, Conductor, Church Musician, Educator

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  • There is a Balm in Gilead WEB3:58

This arrangement was written in memory of a dear friend, Barbara Williamson Paul (1929-2014), the former accompanist for the Lancaster Chamber Choir, a community choir I directed for ten seasons. She was a wonderful mother to her children and a great musician with an amazingly quick wit about her. Moreover, I could not have asked for a better musical partner and friend.
     In 1997, soon after meeting Barbara Paul, I sat in her music room as she played a piano solo of There Is a Balm in Gilead. The three exterior walls of her music room had large windows overlooking a lush garden and pond. Between the beauty of the music and that of our surroundings, it was an experience I can still vividly recall. It was one of many times we shared music in that sacred space. As a church musician for most of her life, she had many impressive solos in her repertoire but this is the song that comes to mind when I think of her. I arrange this piece using some similar sonorities and compositional techniques captured in a recording of Barbara performing this song.
     In the Old Testament, Gilead was a mountainous region situated in modern-day Jordan, and was known for having skillful physicians and a Myrrh ointment made from the gum of a tree particular to that area. At the beginning of his life, Jesus was given a gift of Myrrh from the Magi. At the end of his life, Jesus was offered, but did not drink, a mixture of sour wine and Myrrh.
     This piece was arranged for reSound - a Northwest Chamber Ensemble under the Direction of Dr. Stephen Marshall-Ward, and In-Residence at Trinity Lutheran Church,Lynnwood, Washington. Stephen, too, is a dear friend, an amazing musician, and a wonderful colleague. Many thanks to the singers of reSound who have been extremely helpful and encouraging to me since their formation.

There is a Balm in Gilead

  for SATB (div.) a cappella

Click on score to view.