“Look Up at the Stars” Easter Vigil 2022Mark Alan Filbert, Hymnology Consultant
One could look far and wide before finding a hymn as well suited for the Great Vigil of Easter as this John Thornburg (b. 1954) text, which, like the appointed vigil readings, rehearses the history of salvation from the Old Testament through the Resurrection of Our Lord in the Gospels. Here we encounter Abraham, Moses, and Ezekiel as a prelude to the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ. As for the clever accompanying tune, who but Jane Marshall (1924-2019) could tackle such a tricky meter (55 55 443) while also modulating to a new key for every line of the text before returning to the original key for the three-line refrain?
Thornburg is a fourth-generation United Methodist minister whose grandfather was a noted gospel singer, touring as a teenager with the legendary Homer Rodeheaver. After graduation from Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Thornburg served in parish ministry for twenty-two years before embarking on a new ministry of song leadership and worship consultation. He is now a senior area consultant for the Texas Methodist Foundation. Marshall was a composer, conductor, organist, author, preacher, and teacher extraordinaire. She also held degrees from SMU, where she later served as an adjunct faculty member and taught summer courses in church music. Her published choral works, numbering around 200 anthems, cover a sixty-year span, and many of her hymn tunes, some with her own texts, appear in numerous denominational hymnals.