Miriam's Dance

Date Completed

April 13, 1994


Organ Solo (more like this)






00:03:10 to 00:03:25

Difficulty Level


Liturgical Use

General, Easter Vigil, Exodus, Women









Date Written







Publication Data

Publisher Name

Concordia Publishing House

Date Published


Catalog Number







Commissioned by Annette Albrecht, Richardson, TX, for the July 14 Closing Festival Service of the 1994 National Convention of the American Guild of Organists held in Dallas. The unofficial premiere was by Annette Albrecht on the Bedient Organ at Saint Rita Catholic Community, Dallas, TX, June 5, 1994.

Joel's Comments

Miriam's Dance has been honored for inclusion in the AAGO examination repertoire for 2007!

Miriam's Dance was commissioned by Annette Albrecht for the Closing Festival Service of the 1994 National Convention of the American Guild of Organists held in Dallas in July 1994. The service had been planned especially to feature women, both in the choice of participants — Jane Marshall as preacher, Annette as organist — and in centering on the Song of Deborah. This canticle had been used as the required text in a choral composition competition sponsored by the convention and Choristers Guild, and the winning piece was to be premiered at this service. As the deadline for the convention booklet was in January, and I could not make time to write the piece until April, I chose the title Miriam's Dance before I had any idea of what form the actual piece would take. I knew that it was to serve as the postlude for the service, and that it would be the last "formal" piece of the convention. It had to be fun, fast and a bit "dervish-like," other than that, the actual music would have to wait until after Easter! After the work was finished, I placed the following scriptural quotation from Exodus 15:20–21 beneath the title:

Miriam, the prophetess, Aaron's sister, took up a timbrel, and all the women followed her with timbrels, dancing. And Miriam led them in the refrain: "Sing of Yahweh: he has covered himself in glory, horse and rider he has thrown into the sea."

Musically, the piece has a three-part structure (A-B-A) and a feel of sonata-allegro form. The opening motive, juxtaposing a C major arpeggio with F#, a tritone away, serves as the basis for all the musical material in the work. I composed this piece with the French-style Bedient organ I played at Saint Rita Catholic Community in mind, with its fiery reeds and "packed Swell" which would make the mighty rumbling of the horses and chariots in the middle section. Though the work definitely can be seen as programmatic — dancing, timbrels, horses, et al — it is mostly an outburst of joy in thanksgiving for the wondrous works of God.

Annette and I both knew that the modest organ (an old Reuter?) at Cliff Temple Baptist Church would have a hard time making any repertoire have an effect at the end of the closing service. It did its best with this piece, but missed the 16' reeds and rumbling of the Saint Rita Bedient. Even on the recording made on the large Fisk at the Meyerson, I had to beef up the accompaniment of the middle section by playing the left hand on the Positive with the full Swell coupled in.

In order to have the score available for purchase at the convention, Concordia had me tailor my computer engraving to their style and used it to print. Somehow the original inscription of the scripture quotation listed above was omitted, I believe at Concordia's behest. I find it effective to either print the text for audiences to read, or to recite it myself immediately before the piece is played in a recital format.

This is a challenging work (!), and it was some time after the premiere before I actually performed the whole work myself. I did play the trickiest bits (measures 27–39, etc.), quite a lot during the composition of the piece to make sure they were playable.

Work on the piece was begun March 19, 1994, and was completed April 13, just before David and I headed to Central Texas for a post-Easter weekend away. Though the printed duration on the piece is 3 minutes, 25 seconds, my recording is only 3:10. Good luck!!!


¡Alzad la Cruz!

Organist: Joel Martinson
Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, Dallas, Texas
Organ: C.B. Fisk, Opus 100, 1992
Release Date: 19??
(also includes Missa Guadalupe)

User Comments



"This is worth looking at, even if you are put off by the Sunday School art on the cover. Characterized by shifting rhythms and melodic and harmonic use of the tritone, this lively dance was commissioned for the closing service of the Dallas national AGO convention in 1994, where it was well received."

— CB · CrossAccent, the journal of the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians, January 1996

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