Showcase: Why This Trial, Lord?
“Why This Trial, Lord?” is one of my own personal old-time favorites. It all started back in 2002 when Chad Curtis, our ward choir director, came to me with some powerful lyrics.
This was shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attack, which shook the nation. Also during that time Chad was dealing with a life-threatening sickness in his family. Overcome with this and other concerns, he started writing: “Why this trial, Lord? Why must I suffer so?”
How many times has this happened to each of us? Have you wondered why bad things are allowed to happen even though we may not feel it is deserved? Have you ever doubted yourself and wondered if you were being punished?
The lyrics explore these questions and finds answers in the Lord who helps us through everything.
At the time, I was going through my share of trials as well: three children in a small apartment and a low-paying job.
I agreed to set the lyrics.
At first I started with a Janice Kapp Perry feel: key of C, pretty introduction. But then as you can see in the excerpt above, the Ab in the last measure signals the beginning of a journey through several keys, going wherever the words took me. For example, that Ab puts the melody into a minor to emphasize the suffering.
The tune builds until it overcomes at the end, ultimately returning to the original key of C. The excerpt below shows the transition into the final verse, just before the final crescendo.
This original choral work can be a moderately challenging and rewarding addition to any church service, particularly in conjunction with themes of overcoming trials and turning to the Lord.
Practice and Performance Tips:
The main challenge will be the constant traveling through different keys. There is no key signature, so every accidental is spelled out, meaning not having to remember how many flats or sharps there are. But on the other hand, the music can go from sharps to flats and back to sharps, depending on what the current key is. I’ve attempted to exercise great care in choosing the accidentals that is easiest to read and play — thus you won’t have to worry about double-sharps, double-flats, and not even any E#’s, B#’s, Fb’s and Cb’s.
This challenge will mostly affect the piano player, but not so much the choir. Their melodies seem to flow naturally, and I have yet to see a choir struggle with learning the parts. For the choir, another challenge awaits — having different melodies and rhythms being sung at the same time, as you can see in the second excerpt above. As a conductor, you should be prepared to practice cuing each voice of the choir individually, which will help them move at the right times and stay in tune.
If you give the piano player advanced notice, give them a couple of weeks to practice, and then begin practices with the choir, you should be able to work this piece up after about three or four practices.
Bonus recording: in 2013 a friend of ours, Tracy Schwartz, recorded this piece as a solo for inclusion in a Relief Society Conference CD. You can hear it (and other pieces on the CD) by going to this link, and navigating to the fourth item: “Why This Trial Lord.”