Friday, June 14, 2019

Music for June 16, 2019 + Trinity Sunday

Vocal Music

  • Father of Heaven, Whose Love Profound – Healey Willan (1880-1968)

Instrumental Music

  • All Glory Be To God on High - Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767)
  • Adoration Antiphon (Holy, Holy) - Fred Bock (1939-1998)
  • We All Believe in One True God - J. S. Bach (1685-1750)

Congregational Music (all hymns from the Hymnal 1982 with the exception of those marked “R” which are from Renew.)

  • Hymn 362 - Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty! (NICEA)
  • Hymn S-236 - Canticle 13: Benedictus es, Domine – setting by John Rutter
  • Hymn 686 – Come, thou fount of every blessing (NETTLETON)
  • Hymn 295 - Sing praise to our Creator (CHRISTUS, DER IST MEIN LEBEN)
  • Hymn R37 - Father, we love you (GLORIFY YOUR NAME)
  • Hymn R206 - Holy, holy (Jimmy Owens)
  • Hymn 368 - Holy Father, great Creator (REGENT SQUARE)
I understand that clergy-types don't particularly care for preaching on Trinity Sunday. There's nothing innately inspiring about the doctrine of the Three-in-One. But as a musician, I love Trinity Sunday, because we have such good music from which to choose to honor this day. Holy, holy, holy has to be one of my favorite hymns to play, partially because people will sing it, and partially because, as a little boy growing up Methodist in a small town, we sang it every first Sunday of the month, when we would have Communion.  (It was the closest thing we had to a Sanctus!) I could sing it from memory.

The anthem is by Healey Willan, an English musician who immigrated to Canada early in the 20th century to teach at the Toronto Conservatory of Music. He was on faculty and staff there from 1913-1936, when he and the school parted ways. He had become organist at St. Mary Magdalene in 1921, and he remained there until his death in 1968.

Musically, he wrote in many different genres, including operas, symphonies, chamber music, a concerto, and pieces for band, orchestra, organ, and piano. He is best known today for his church music. Even in that he utilized disparate styles. For his choirs at St. Mary Magdalene he wrote music for the decidedly Anglo-Catholic congregation, with its more mystical approach. Willan's deep interest in plainsong and polyphonic, unaccompanied choral music is evident. But beginning in the 1950s he also began to write organ and choral music with a broader scope, using familiar hymn texts and tunes in his church music. The anthem today is an example of that. The text and tune are perhaps more familiar to Lutherans than Anglicans. The text is a prayer to the Trinity. Listen for this recurring phrase: Before thy throne we sinners bend....

There is also some good organ music based on the Trinity. One of my favorites is this sturdy chorale-prelude by Bach on the German chorale, Wir glauben all an einen Gott (We all believe in one God) The text is a paraphrase of the creed by Martin Luther, using a 15th century tune that Luther adapted for the text.  Bach use a fragment of the melody for the subject in his fughetta which I am playing as the closing voluntary.

I call it a fughetta because, unlike an actual fugue, the subject (melody) does not appear in the pedal. Instead, we find an ostinato passage which makes me feel like Sisyphus, for the pedal melody begins climbing up the pedalboard until it reaches an octave, then tumbles back down again, only to be repeated:

A contemporary of Bach's, Georg Philipp Telemann, wrote the opening voluntary, a two-part setting of the hymn we're singing as our hymn of praise, All Glory Be to God on High. It's a metrical setting of the Gloria which we sing every Sunday. In this organ piece, the melody is heard clearly in the upper voice, played by the right hand. The first verse is imitative, very much like a fugue, but with the melody played in half-notes above all accompaniment. The second setting returns to the usual rhythm of the hymn-tune while the left hand employs a playful dance-like motif.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Music for June 9, 2019 + The Day of Pentecost

Vocal Music
  • O Be Joyful in the Lord – Philip Stopford (b. 1977)
  • O Thou Who Camest From Above – Philip Stopford
Instrumental Music
  • Fantasy on “Nun Danket all” – Aaron David Miller (b. 1972)
  • Veni Creator Spiritus – Dom Paul Benoit (1893 – 1979)
Congregational Music (all hymns from the Hymnal 1982 with the exception of those marked “R” which are from Renew.)
  • Hymn 225 - Hail thee, festival day (SALVA FESTA DIES)
  • Hymn 509 - Spirit divine, attend our prayers (NUN DANKET ALL UND BRINGET EHR)
  • Hymn R234 - Now Holy Spirit, ever one (WAREHAM)
  • Hymn R248 - O Let the Son of God enfold you (SPIRIT SONG)
  • Hymn R90 - Spirit of the living God (IVERSON)
  • Hymn R168 - If you believe and I believe (ZIMBABWE)
  • Hymn 511 - Holy Spirit, ever living (ABBOTT'S LEIGH)
  • Psalm 104:25-35, 37 – setting by William Crotch
For our Pentecost celebration we are singing two anthems by the (relatively) young English composer, Philip Stopford. Stopford has quite the musical pedigree. He began his musical career as a Chorister at Westminster Abbey under the direction of both Simon Preston and Martin Neary. After winning a major Music Scholarship to Bedford School, while still a teenager, he became Organ Scholar at Truro Cathedral. While in Truro, Stopford composed a setting of the Responses which later won the Federation of Old Choristers' Composition Prize.

Philip Stopford
After leaving Bedford School, Stopford studied music at Keble College, Oxford. Upon graduating, he was appointed Organ Scholar at Canterbury Cathedral before moving to Chester Cathedral as Assistant Organist. In 1999 to 2000 Stopford was appointed Organ Scholar at Canterbury Cathedral, and then moved to Chester Cathedral as Assistant Organist. In 2003, at the age of 25, Stopford was appointed Director of Music at St Anne's Cathedral, Belfast, becoming the youngest Anglican Cathedral Organist at the time.

In January 2016 Stopford was appointed Director of Music at Christ Church, Bronxville following a four month period as Composer in Residence, working with the Church Choir and Young At Arts children's choral and theatrical program.

Our offertory anthem, O Be Joyful, was composed for the Enthronement of the Bishop of Belfast Cathedral in 2007. While not strictly a piece for Pentecost, this setting of Psalm 100 from our Book of Common Prayer sparkles with radiance with its buoyant vocals and soaring phrases over the lively organ accompaniment.

The other anthem, a setting of O Thou That Camest From Above by Charles Wesley, is a prayer for the Holy Spirit. Its gentle, lilting melody begins in the men's voices. On stanza 2 the treble voices enter, building to a climax at the fourth stanza which resolves to a quiet, fervent amen.

The opening voluntary is a setting of this morning's hymn before the Gospel by Aaron David Miller organist at House of Hope Presbyterian Church, St. Paul, Minnesota. The tune, composed by early Baroque musician Johann Crüger, was first published in the 1647 edition of Crüger's hymnal, Praxis Pietatis Melica. The rhythmic structure of Crüger's tune has the second and fourth phrases beginning with a quarter rest and quarter note. This bit of syncopation has been emphasized in Miller's arrangement which begins with a bold fanfare and improvisation before heading into a dance-like treatment of the tune. It's perfect for the party we call Pentecost.

Miller was the featured artist at the National AGO convention held in Houston, in 2016. 

The closing voluntary is an improvisatory toccata on the traditional Pentecost chant, Veni Creator Spiritus, as played by the French monk and organist, Paul Benoit. Dom Paul lived as a member of the Benedictine community at the Abbey of St. Maurice et St. Maur, at Clervaux, in Luxembourg.  Largely self-taught, Benoit's compositions never leave the realm of tonality, albeit often modal. Dom Paul acknowledged the influence of the French impressionist works of Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel upon his organ compositions.  As a result, Dom Paul's works are somewhat unique for the organ in bearing a pervasive imprint of impressionism.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Music for June 2, 2019 + The Sunday after Ascension Day

Vocal Music

  • A Gaelic Blessing – John Rutter (b. 1945) 

Instrumental Music

  • Prelude on “Deo Gracias” – Healey Willan (1880 – 1968) 
  • Tribute – Craig Phillips (b. 1961) 
  • Toccata on Hyfrydol – Craig Phillips 

Congregational Music (all hymns from the Hymnal 1982 with the exception of those marked “R” which are from Renew.)

  • Hymn 450 - All hail the power of Jesus’ name! (CORONATION) 
  • Hymn 7 - Christ, whose glory fills the skies (RATISBON) 
  • Hymn 495 - Hail, thou once despised Jesus! (IN BABILONE) 
  • Hymn R168 - If you believe and I believe (ZIMBABWE) 
  • Hymn R136 - Alleluia (ALLELUIA) 
  • Hymn 460 - Alleluia! Sing to Jesus (HYFRYDOL) 
Do you know what a rune is? John Rutter has said that his composition, A Gaelic Blessing, is based on "an old Gaelic rune". Every time I put that in the service leaflet as source of the text, one of our proof-readers assumes that my typing is as accurate as my organ playing and changes it to "an old Gaelic tune."

Every time.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary (I just looked at mine on my shelf, from my college days!), a rune is a poem or song. Usually it has Norse or Scandinavian ties, but I guess we could call this Gaelic verse a rune.

I found this description of Rutter's piece on the Classic FM website, the website of the British Classical FM station which, unfortunately, we can no longer listen to in the States. I'm sure it has something to do with Trump. I wish I could claim this witty opening as mine, but alas, it isn't.
Musicians are a mischievous lot – as evidenced by the nickname ascribed to John Rutter’s A Gaelic Blessing. No sooner had it been composed in 1978 than it was being referred to as ‘A Garlic Dressing’.
Rutter is known for his beautiful simplistic choral miniatures – and this is the finest example of them all. Commissioned by an American Methodist church, the lush string accompaniment perfectly matches the serene text Rutter chooses to set. Although the words are filled with religious significance, it would be fair to expect the composer himself to hold deep religious beliefs. Rutter, however, describes himself as ‘An agnostic supporter of the Christian faith’.
Lasting under two minutes, A Gaelic Blessing is an enduring popular choice at weddings, christenings and funerals – not only for the deeply comforting words but for the equally tranquil and sensitive music Rutter sets them to.
I will say that I resist writing "Garlic Dressing" on the choir whiteboard everytime we sing. It is hard, but I manage to resist.
 a painting of the Ascension
from the 'Jesus Mafa’ project of Cameroon:
My opening voluntary is Healey Willan's bold setting of the hymn tune DEO GRACIAS, which we find in our hymnal at 218, the Ascension hymn "A hymn of glory let us sing." The tune is called DEO GRACIAS because these are the first two words of the original song, a ballad commemorating the victory of King Henry V of England at Agin-court, France, in 1415. This "Agincourt Hymn," as it is often called, is one of the most famous old English songs. (It is also used for another text in our hymnal, O Love, How Deep, How Broad, How High. You can look this one up yourself, using the index in the back of the hymnal.)

Thursday, May 23, 2019

May 26, 2019 + The Sixth Sunday of Easter

Rogation Sunday

Vocal Music

  • Grant Us Thy Peace – Felix Mendelssohn

Instrumental Music

  • Shalom (Peace) – Dan Locklair
  • Prelude on “Shall We Gather at the River” – Gordon Young
  • Fugue in C Major, BWV 531 – J. S. Bach

Congregational Music (all hymns from the Hymnal 1982 with the exception of those marked “R” which are from Renew.)

  • Hymn 405 - All things bright and beautiful (ROYAL OAK)
  • Hymn 490 - I want to walk as a child of the light (HOUSTON)
  • Hymn 424 - For the fruits of all creation (EAST ACKLAM)
  • Hymn 513 - Like the murmur of the dove’s song (BRIDEGROOM)
  • Hymn - Shall we gather at the river (HANSON PLACE)
  • Hymn 292 - O Jesus, crowned with all renown (KINGSFOLD)
  • Psalm 67
Two themes run throughout the service today. The prevailing theme comes from Jesus' promise to his followers, found in today's Gospel of John:
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. - John 14:27
First is a contemplative organ piece by North Carolina composer Dan Locklair. Locklair is Composer-in-Residence and Professor of Music at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He has written symphonic works, a ballet, an opera, and numerous solo, chamber, vocal, and choral compositions, in addition to some important organ works.

Today's opening voluntary is from his Æolian Sonata, written in 2002 for a recital celebrating the 70th Anniversary of Duke University Chapel’s Æolian pipe organ. The second movement,  Shalom (Peace),  is marked “Serene and unhurried.” It is a quiet and simple movement that lyrically dialogues flute and clarinet sounds as it gently reflects on the Hebrew word for peace. Locklair prefaced this movement with the dedication:
In remembrance of the darkness of September 11 from which emerged hope for Peace and joy in Thanksgiving.
The other "peaceful" reference is the anthem Grant Us Thy Peace (Verleih uns Frieden gnädiglich), written by Felix Mendelssohn in a style inspired by Bach. It is one of the Opus 23, Sacred Choruses, written during the period following the Mendelssohn's first period of  public success with such undisputed masterpieces as the String Octet and the Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Based on a text by Martin Luther, which itself was inspired by the Latin text "Da Pacem Domine," Mendelssohn wrote it after a visit to the Vatican in 1831. It is for four-part choir and string orchestra with organ. The floating introduction leads  directly into the quietly contemplative first verse set for men alone. The women then sing the melody while the men provide a counter-melody.  Only the last verse utilizes the full forces available, and does so with a generous warmth of expression that leaves one in no doubt that ultimate peace cannot be far away.

The other theme running through the service is the blessing of agriculture, commerce, and the stewardship of creation. In addition to being the Sixth Sunday of the Easter Season, today is Rogation Sunday. Rogation Sunday is the day when the Church has traditionally offered prayer for God’s blessing on the fruits of the earth and the labors of those who produce our food. The word “rogation” is from the Latin rogare, “to ask.” Historically, the Rogation Days (the three days before Ascension Day) were a period of fasting and abstinence, beseeching God’s blessing on the crops for a bountiful harvest. Few of us today directly derive our livelihood from the production of food, yet it is good to be reminded of our dependence upon those who do and our responsibility for the environment.

The closing voluntary is noteworthy in that it is one of the earliest organ works by Bach, probably written when he was around 15 years old. Other than one entrance of the fugal subject, there is little for the pedal to do other than reinforce the bass line at cadences. And in contrast to his later fugues which were written for four (or more!) voice parts, this one rarely goes beyond three parts, more often existing happily in a two-part texture. But listen to the youthful exuberance! It is an example of perpetual motion as in every bar (except one) there are running sixteenth notes:

Friday, May 17, 2019

Music for May 19, 2019 + The Fifth Sunday of Easter

Senior Sunday

Vocal Music

  • I Give You a New Commandment – Peter Aston (b. 1938-2013)

Instrumental Music

  • Air – Gerre Hancock (1934-2012)
  • Ubi Caritas – Gerald Near (b. 1942)
  • When in Our Music God Is Glorified – Robert A. Hobby (b. 1962)

Congregational Music (all hymns from the Hymnal 1982 with the exception of those marked “R” which are from Renew.)

  • Hymn 492 - Come, ye faithful, sing with gladness (FINNIAN)
  • Hymn 529 - In Christ there is no East or West (MCKEE)
  • Hymn 295 - Sing praise to our creator (CHRISTUS, DER IST MEIN LEBEN)
  • Hymn 297 - Descend, O Spirit, purging flame (ERHALT UNS, HERR)
  • Hymn 576 - God is love, and where true love is (MANDATUM)
  • Hymn 324 - Let all mortal flesh keep silence (PICARDY)
  • Hymn 296 - We know that Christ is raised and dies no more (ENGLEBERG)
  • Psalm 148 - Simplified Anglican Chant by Jerome W. Meachen

In the Gospel this Sunday, we will hear the first of a collection of passages known as the Farewell Discourse. Jesus is preparing the disciples for a life without his physical presence. More than offering comfort, Jesus is trying to reorient them toward their mission. He tells them
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." - John 13:34,35
Peter Aston
The anthem this morning is a simple setting of that very text, by the English composer Peter Aston
Aston's published compositions include chamber music, choral and orchestral works and a children’s opera, but he is best known as a composer of church music, much of which is performed regularly throughout the English-speaking world. As a conductor and lecturer, he directed many courses and workshops for composers in the UK and overseas, especially in the USA.  He was also a musicologist and baroque-music scholar.

Gerre Hancock
 The world lost an exceptional musician and gentleman with the death of Gerre Hancock in 2012 who, from 1971 to 2004, was master of the choristers at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in New York City and, more recently, professor of organ and sacred music at the University of Texas-Austin. He was renowned for his improvisatory skills at the organ, his work with the St. Thomas Boy Choir, and his compositions. The Air that is this morning's opening voluntary is one of his first published organ works, written in 1960 and dedicated to his future wife, Judith Eckerman.

Robert Hobby
The closing voluntary is an organ work based on the same tune as the closing hymn. "When in Our Music God Is Glorified," by American organist Robert Hobby,  is bright, rollicking setting of the tune we sing quite frequently. The melody will be heard in the bass clef, played by the left hand, while the right hand plays an infectious rhythm and the pedals punctuate the accompaniment with octave leaps on the weak beats.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Music for May 12, 2019 + The Fourth Sunday after Easter

Good Shepherd Sunday
Vocal Music
  • I am His Child – Moses Hogan (1957-2003)
  • And Still the Bread Is Broken – David Ashley White (b. 1944)
Instrumental Music
  • Prelude on “Brother James’s Air” – Searle Wright (1918-2004)
  • In Green Pastures – Harold Darke (1888-1976)
  • Trumpet Tune in D – David N. Johnson (1922-1987)
Congregational Music (all hymns from the Hymnal 1982 with the exception of those marked “R” which are from Renew.)
  • Hymn 182  - Christ is alive! Let Christians sing (TRURO)
  • Hymn 208 - Alleluia! The strife is o’er, the battle done (VICTORY)
  • Hymn 708 - Savior, like a shepherd lead us (SICILIAN MARINERS)
  • Hymn 297 - Descend, O Spirit, purging flame (ERHALT UNS, HERR)
  • Hymn 645 - The King of love my shepherd is (ST. COLUMBA)
  • Hymn 343 - Shepherd of souls, refresh and bless (ST. AGNES)
  • Hymn 366 - Holy God, we praise thy Name (GROSSER GOTT)
  • Psalm 23 - Simplified Anglican Chant by Jerome W. Meachen
This Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Easter, is called the Good Shepherd Sunday, because of the scripture readings (John 10:11 - “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep") and the use of the 23rd Psalm, so it is the closest thing our congregation has to a Patronal Feast Day.

The Coventry Choir, our younger elementary children's choir, will sing this Sunday for the last time this choir year. They are singing a song by New Orleans native Moses Hogan. Until his untimely death in 2003, Hogan was one of the most celebrated contemporary directors and arrangers of classic spirituals. In addition to spirituals, he also wrote some original numbers, such as today's anthem, I Am His Child.

A graduate of the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA) and Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio, Moses Hogan also studied at New York's Juilliard School of Music and Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. His many accomplishments as a concert pianist included winning first place in the prestigious 28th annual Kosciuszko Foundation Chopin Competition in New York. Hogan was Artist In Residence at Loyola University in New Orleans.

Moses Hogan

In keeping with the Good Shepherd theme, I am opening the service with Searle Wright's setting of the tune BROTHER JAMES' AIR, which is most often used for the text, "The Lord's my shepherd." It was composed by James Leith Macbeth Bain, a Scottish healer, mystic, and poet known simply as Brother James. This well-loved tune is in bar form (AAB) with an unusual final phrase that ends on a high tonic note instead of a low note.

Wright has arranged this folk-like melody in three stanzas. For the first stanza he uses manuals only, with the melody in the soprano. The string stops on the organ are used. For the next stanza, he keeps the strings for the accompaniment, but puts the melody in the pedal on the English Horn. After a developmental section that goes through several minor keys before coming back to A Major, he presents the tune very much like the beginning, adding the bass notes in the pedal for the first A section of the tune, then putting the cantus firmus (the melody)in the tenor ranger with the crommorne for last half of the stanza.

M. Searle Wright was a composer, teacher and master of both classic and theater pipe organ. He died in his hometown of Binghamton, N.Y. when he was 86.

The Organ voluntary at communion is a quiet little piece by the English composer Harold Darke. He is best known among church musicians for his 1911 setting of Christina Rosetti's poem "In the Bleak Mid-Winter", which has become one of the most widely performed and recorded Christmas carols ever written. In fact, this short work, with its haunting melody, has appeared on more than 100 recordings over the years, in performances given by some of the leading singers: Roberto Alagna, Ian Bostridge, Thomas Hampson, Jessye Norman, Kiri Te Kanawa, and many others.

Darke was perhaps better known in his lifetime as an organist than composer. He was regarded as one of the greatest organists of his time, and as such appeared regularly in concert, often performing his own works, works that were tonal, conservative but imaginative, and well-crafted. 

Friday, May 3, 2019

Music for May 5, 2019 + The Third Sunday of Easter

Vocal Music

  • Thy Perfect Love – John Rutter (b. 1945)

Instrumental Music

  • Inception – Jason W. Krug (b. 1978)
  • Joyance – Ron Mallory (b. 1973)
  • Processional – William Mathias (1934-1992)

Congregational Music (all hymns from the Hymnal 1982 with the exception of those marked “R” which are from Renew.)

  • Hymn 182 - Christ is alive! Let Christians sing (TRURO)
  • Hymn 374 - Come, let us join our cheerful songs (NUN DANKET ALL UND BRINGET EHR)
  • Hymn 307 - Lord, enthroned in heavenly splendor (BRYN CALFARIA)
  • Hymn R202 - Lift up your hearts unto the Lord (SING ALLELUIA)
  • Hymn R232 - There is a Redeemer (GREEN)
  • Hymn 535 - Ye servants of God, your Master proclaim (PADERBORN)
  • Psalm 30 - Simplified Anglican Chant by Jerome W. Meachen
This Sunday we will hear the Good Shepherd Handbell Guild play two selections in our 10:15 service, which brings their 2018-2019 season to a close. To say that I appreciate the talent and hard work these women bring to rehearsal each week would be a gross understatement, as I know personally the sacrifice and the commitment they show week in and week out. In a time where it is getting harder and harder to get people to commit to anything, these folks are always here. Not counting the time the spend on their own preparing their part, we figure more than 411 hours have been spent this year rehearsing and preparing the music that you hear at Church and the Live Nativity. Our members range from teenagers to women in their 60s. So take a minute this Sunday to say thanks to those who play our bells.

Jason Krug
The Handbells will begin the service with Jason Krug's exciting original work Inception. This up-tempo piece has a repeating rhythmic accompaniment played on the bells with mallets, supporting the spacious, soaring melody in the higher bells. Later, the upper bells take up that same motif while the lower bells carry the melody. Because of its intricate rhythms and bell changes, we are only using three of our five octaves.

Krug is a native of Indianapolis, Indiana.  He graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2000 with a degree in Music.  He is currently a freelance composer, arranger, clinician, and teacher. 

Krug's handbell career began in 2001 when he began ringing with and arranging music for the Wagner Memorial Bell Choir at Irvington United Methodist Church, and in 2005, he took over as the choir's director.  Since his first publication in 2006, he's had over 300 handbell compositions released, with more on the way.  His pieces have been featured at numerous local, state, and regional festivals and workshops, both in the United States and abroad, and he has been guest clinician at handbell events from coast to coast. 

Ron Mallory
The offertory, Joyance, is a winner of the Handbell Musicians of America Area 2 Festival Conference Composition Contest. Using all five octaves of bells and our 3 octaves of handchimes, this catchy and rhythmic original piece is a festive offertory for this Easter season. It is written by Ron Mallory, a church musician at Resurrection Lutheran Church in Bellevue, Washington.

Mallory has a master's degree in choral conducting from the University of Washington and a bachelor's degree in music composition from California State University, Long Beach. He has been playing, directing, and composing for handbells since his college days. He has published more than 100 handbell pieces and has won composition contests sponsored by Bells of the Sound and Handbell Musicians of America.