Veni, Veni Emmanuel

Veni, Veni Emmanuel (O Come, O come Emmanuel) is an anthem for Advent, utilizing SATB choir, piano, and handbells, anticipating the coming of Christ. It includes both Latin and English lyrics of praise, worship, and anticipation.

I have always loved handbells. I spent a lot of my life at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Dayton, Ohio where the music program is massive. Both of my sons played in various handbell choirs, and I even had the opportunity to ring a bell or two for ornamentation during a choir anthem. My current choir also has a very enthusiastic and talented bell choir. They were quite supportive and helpful as I wrote this piece.

If you have read other posts, you already know that I love choral music. It seemed to be a natural transition to combining them in one composition. Then, when you add in that I love Christmas music it was a no-brainer. I also love singing in Latin, making the whole experience a lot of fun. Why Latin you might ask. Its the vowels. Nice round vowel sounds.

Alternating the melody between the handbells and singers created a joyous celebration where no one feels left out. For the singers, the range is generally moderate. The tenor and base are in unison, with rare divisi while the soprano and alto are generally divided, with occasional unison. Veni, Veni Emmanuel uses 22 handbells, and can be doubled for larger groups. Performance time is approximately 3:15.

The composition was first performed on December 17, 2023 at Rio Rancho Presbyterian Church with the Chancel Choir and the JuBELLation Ringers and was well-received. I’m starting to think about what other handbell/choir piece I might compose. Its too late for this year, but perhaps a jubilant Easter anthem for 2025?


Responsibility for me

The New Oxford American Dictionary defines responsibility in several ways. The two most relevant to this post include:

1. the state or fact of having a duty to deal with something or of having control over someone

2. a moral obligation to behave correctly toward or in respect of: individuals have a responsibility to control personal behavior.

In Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life by Steven C. Hayes, Ph.D., the term is broken down into “response” and “ability.” The concept is that it involves an ability to respond and has nothing to do with blame. One may not always be able to respond to a situation, but they can still respond to the pain it might have caused.

Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. also uses the idea of response-ability, describing the capacity to choose and remembering to be in charge and make careful and thoughtful choices. This is the ability to respond to life without placing blame upon one’s self.

I Can and I Will affirmation

Why is this distinction important? Many people confuse taking responsibility with assigning blame. Blame is disempowering or victimizing. Taking responsibility, in part or in whole, for what is actually mine is empowering. Am I responsible for an approaching hurricane? Of course not. Am I responsible for making decisions about how I’m going to deal with it? Absolutely.

Another reason why this distinction is important is that people feel responsible for the feelings, actions, and situations of others. I’m not suggesting that there isn’t some aspect that may be mine to manage or respond to, but I only have limited response-ability. Other people maintain the right to be wrong, make mistakes, interpret comments, and respond with their own feelings. I’m not response-able for those. Can I learn to be careful with my speech? Yes, to some extent. But, the choice still belongs to the other person about how to interpret what I’ve said and it often involves patterns from the past that I cannot predict or control.

question mark symbolizing why

I find it important to check if my sense of “responsibility” is really located in the present moment rather than a worry about the future or a carry-over from the past. Then, if it is in the present moment, I actually ask myself if the current concern is really within the area of my own “hula hoop.” Is it that close to me? Can I do anything with it? Is it really someone else’s response-ability rather than mine? Then, I can choose my response. If any of those questions suggest that this issue isn’t really mine, I can interrupt the tendency to blame and shame.

Boundary setting is an important part of this process. If my boundary is punctuated by gates that I control it will be helpful when considering my response-ability. If my boundary is open, without gates that I control, it is very tempting to take ownership of someone else’s responsibility even if there is no response-ability on my part.

The basic question for me is always, “Does this belong to me and is there a way that I can reasonably respond.”