The Song Journal

Miscellaneous news and writing by Bob Franke, mostly about songs as a portable art form, and the process of creating them and enabling them to do their work in the world.

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Location: Peabody, Massachusetts, United States

from Bob Franke began his career as a singer-songwriter in 1965 while a student at the University of Michigan. Upon graduation in 1969 with an A.B. in English Literature, he moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, and has since made New England his home. Bob has appeared in concert at coffeehouses, colleges, festivals, bars, streets, homes and churches in 33 states, four Canadian provinces and England.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

When's the right time to leave?

I prepared this note for publication in the newsletter of my local church. Sometimes it takes time to figure out what love requires; I'm not saying that I've got it right yet, but I'm doing my best.

Dear Friends,
I'm looking forward to performing anthems on November 22 and December 6, and to taking part in the Epiphany and Good Friday cantatas next year, but I need to share with you all that after after much thought and prayer, I've submitted my resignation as Artist in Residence to the vestry.

I've spent a long time now with the great honor of serving the parish in this capacity. While I once had a direct connection to children's and youth ministries, my child is now 29 and a grad student in Michigan. I'm also afraid that I'm no longer "in residence" in the same way I once was: I read about the various church activities at St. Andrew's and wish I could plug into them on a casual basis, but the combination of distance, the time I need to stay afloat financially, and the fact that Joan and I are also members of another faith community (even if I'm happily a black sheep in a Jewish context) indicate to me that I should be looking for a parish closer to where we actually live. If and when I find such a congenial community, I can tell you from my heart that I will nonetheless dearly miss worshiping with my friends at St. Andrew's.

I want to do the right thing by this parish that has supported me so generously and faithfully in my creative life. You have many fine musicians and visual artists, and should understand that you have a free hand in allocating limited resources to them as makes the most sense to you. I don't think at this point that my claiming an artist in residence title is helpful in that process. I've hung on to it in our transition period just to take on the unaccustomed responsibility of someone providing continuity in chaos, but that transition period is over now, and Susan and the new staff are doing a fine job as far as I can tell. I hope that one of the positive effects of my resigning will be a lively and loving discussion in the parish of the role of the arts in its life and its proclamation of the Gospel.

My life as an artist is doing as well as it ever has; I have been and will be writing and performing with some regularity. Both Joan and I will be hooking up with a nationally active booking agency next month, she as its east coast associate, and myself as an artist on its roster. If this works out, it looks like I will be spending more and more time out of town, and more time working with other churches as well.

My 30 year tenure as Artist in Residence at St. Andrew's is something I will include on my resume with a great deal of pride and gratitude. It still seems remarkable to me, and it's been a source of great blessing in my life. The support that many of you have personally given to me during all this time I also will never forget, especially Janet's constant support as Music Director, the wonderfully skillful and professional support Amy and the choir have given to the Passion cantata, the extremely thoughtful support the Liturgical Arts Committee has offered me over the years, and the deeply satisfying and grounding fun that I have had singing in the choir. This just seems to me to be a good time to mark an ending that will enable new beginnings for us all.
Your loving brother in Christ,
Bob Franke

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A new song for church

I'm debuting this one tomorrow.

Strange Kingdom

by Bob Franke

©2009 Robert J. Franke

When James and John both asked for seats in heaven,

They must have thought that Heaven was like Rome,

We stumble here just like the first Eleven

and wonder as we travel to your home.

(chorus) It's a strange kingdom that you've left us in this world,

A love that's so much more than we deserve.

The journey to your glory leads us onward to your Cross,

Rejoicing as we suffer, and we serve.

We're baptized in your death and in your rising,

We've tasted of your cup, and of our tears,

The joy that fills our hearts is still surprising,

When we gather in your name we know you're here.

Though sorrow, sin and suffering still assail us,

Our daily bread is all the wealth we need,

Though princes fall, your love will never fail us,

And living in that love, we're blessed indeed.