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Notes from The Music Director, Mr. James Hopkins

Sunday, January 19th: Second Sunday After Epiphany

 

Prelude: Vom Himmel kam der Engel Schar – J.S. Bach (1685-1750)
Offertory Anthem: O God, who by the leading of a star – Thomas Attwood – (1765-1838)
Communion Anthem: Surge, illuminare – William Byrd (c. 1540-1623)
Postlude: Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern – Dieterich Buxtehude (c. 1637-1707)

Vom Himmel kam der Engel Schar is a typical Orgelbüchlein prelude. The Chorale Theme (found at number 131 in our hymnal) is stated plainly in the top voice, with quick scales going up and down under it. Perhaps illustrating the flight of angels? Of course, the text in our hymnal is not the original text of the Chorale, so the text painting makes a little less sense to us than it might have to Bach’s German speaking congregation.

Though England was derisively referred to as “Das Land ohne Musik” (the land without music) by 19th Century German musicologists, things did happen between the death of Purcell and the height of Elgar’s career (you’ll often hear it said that English music virtually didn’t exist between Purcell and Elgar – don’t listen to them!). Thomas Attwood may be the most prominent “Classical” era English composer. He held prominent posts at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London and at the Chapel Royal, and was one of the first professors of the Royal Academy of Music. As a young man, he caught the attention of the Prince of Wales (who would later become King George IV), who sent him to study music in Naples and Vienna. While in Vienna, he became one of Mozart’s favorite students. “O God, who by the leading of a star” sets the collect for the Feast of the Epiphany in the Book of Common Prayer, and one can certainly hear shades of Mozart.

Byrd’s setting of Surge, Illuminare has no obvious liturgical function, and seems to have been written for an odd group of singers (the upper three voices are very close in range, with a bass voice which is much lower). It sets a passage from Isaiah which is often read on Epiphany (nowadays as the first lesson, in Byrd’s day it would have been read at the First Nocturn of Matins), “Arise, shine, for thy light has come”.

 

Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern (found at 497 in our hymnal) is still a well-known chorale today, and much music based on the tune has been written. If you were around on the Sunday following Christmas Day, you may remember hearing it as the accompaniment for an art song! Buxtehude’s organ setting is an extroverted one for (mostly) manuals only, utilizing a lot of triplet rhythms and sudden changes in mood.

Notes from The Music Director, Mr. James Hopkins

Sunday, January 5th: Second Sunday After Christmas

 

Prelude: Prélude sir l'Introit de l'Épiphanie - Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986)
Offertory Anthem: In the bleak mid-winter – Harold Darke (1888-1976)
Communion Anthem: Bethlehem Down – Peter Warlock (1894-1930)
Postlude: In dir ist Freude - J.S. Bach (1685-1750)

 

This year is the first of several in which we get two Sundays of Christmas, which means more opportunity to sing Christmas carols! Those will be mixed in with some Epiphany hymns, since Epiphany begins on Monday.

 

Maurice Duruflé wrote very little music; only about a dozen pieces of his survive. He composed slowly and was highly self-critical, but what we do have by him is stunning. Unfortunately, most of his solo organ music (despite being some of my favorite pieces to play) doesn’t work on a baroque-style organ such as the one we have at All Saints’, but the Prélude sur L’Introit de L’Épiphanie is simple enough to, even if we can’t use Duruflé’s specified registration. The work is a brief, and beautiful, exploration of the traditional Introit for the Feast of the Epiphany, and despite being a late work by the composer, is only opus 13!’

 

Christina Rosetti’s poem, “In the bleak midwinter” has become well loved, and two equally popular musical settings have been written: one by Gustave Holst (most famous for his orchestral suite The Planets), and one by Harold Darke. We sang the Holst setting as a carol on Christmas Eve (it’s at 112 in our Hymnal). The Darke is equally beautiful, scored for choir, organ, and soprano and tenor solos.

 

Not all beautiful music came from beautiful circumstances. Peter Warlock (which is a nom de plume for Philip Arnold Heseltine) was a rather singular and unsavory character; he avoided too much formal conservatory training to remain free of the “Teutonic Shadow” (i.e. he didn’t want to become too influenced by German music) and to maintain his personal voice. He became well known as a composer of miniatures and as a writer and critic; he wrote some of the earliest works about Fredrick Delius (whom he befriended at Eton College), for example. He was born to a wealthy family, but his fortune waxed and waned over time. Bethlehem Down was written in 1927 along with poet Bruce Blunt; the two were poorly off financially at the time, and wrote the carol for the annual Christmas Carol Contest run by The Daily Telegraph, planning to use the winnings to fund an “immortal carouse” (i.e. a bout of heavy drinking and debauchery) on Christmas Eve that year. They won the contest, and, presumably, went out and caroused. Despite its origins, Bethlehem Down is a beautiful and much-loved carol, both for Blunt’s stunning poetry and Warlock’s beautiful music.

“In dir ist Freude” is one of the more substantial chorale preludes in the Orgelbüchlein, a collection of chorale preludes for the church year meant both as a demonstration of introducing chorales for congregational singing and as a study in using the organ pedals. Based on a chorale tune not much sung in the Episcopal Church (though it’s well known by our Lutheran brothers and sisters), the piece takes the form of an ecstatic toccata. It’s most recognizable for its repeating pedal figure.

Notes from The Music Director, Mr. James Hopkins

Sunday, December 29th: First Sunday After Christmas

 

Prelude: Das alte Jahr vergangen ist – J.S. Bach (1685-1750)
Offertory Anthem: O come let us worship – Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
Communion Anthem: The Three Kings – Peter Cornelius (1824-1874)
Postlude: In dulci jubilo BWV 729 – J.S. Bach (1685-1750)
 
I hope everyone’s first few days of Christmas have been happy! Christmas will continue on Sunday with more carols and a few solo pieces.
 
Bach’s Orgelbüchlein (Little Organ Book), as I’ve noted before, was intended as a sort of instructional manual for organists, demonstrating how to simply introduce a chorale for congregational singing, and providing exercise in using the pedals of the organ. Bach intended to set a whole bunch of chorales throughout the church year, but only got maybe a third of the way through this project (there are several pages in the manuscript for chorale preludes he clearly intended to write but never got around to, and a few incomplete snippets of chorale preludes), but what we have is still arranged for the church year. “Das alte Jahr vergangen ist” (The old year is over) is a quiet, melancholy prelude on a New Year’s chorale.
 
Felix Mendelssohn got very good at music very quickly in his short life. It certainly helped that his wealthy parents spared no expense for his education, hiring an orchestra for him to conduct when he was a teenager. Mendelssohn is most noted for reviving interest in the music of J.S. Bach, with a famous performance of the St. Matthew Passion in 1829. He was born to a Jewish family, but baptized at the age of 7, probably to avoid anti-Semitism. His compositional style was rather conservative for the time, in stark contrast to contemporaries like Hector Berlioz who wrote rather cutting edge music, but he has since been noted as a popular composer of the early Romantic period, and wrote at least one piece that just about anyone would recognize (the Wedding March from his incidental music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream). He wrote a few cantatas based on psalms. “O come let us worship” comes from his 5 movement cantata on Psalm 95, published in 1841.
 
Peter Cornelius is a lesser known German Romantic composer, vaguely part of the orbit of Wagner, Liszt, et al (though sometimes at odds with the philosophies of the “New German School” which they ascribed to). The Three Kings, from his collection of Weinachtslieder (Christmas songs), is his most famous piece, likely made famous by the arrangement for chorus and baritone solo by Ivor Atkins. The original is certainly worth performing, though; it presents a simple, beautiful melody, and the German chorale “Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern” (How bright appears the morning-star, found at 497 in our hymnal) serves as the accompaniment, bringing its Epiphany theme home.
 
Finally, we’ll hear a simple, flashy arrangement of the German chorale “In dulci jubilo” by J.S. Bach, clearly inspired by Buxtehude, Bruhns, and the other Stilus Phantasticus composers. This work is most famous, likely, for closing the famous Service of 9 Lessons and Carols at King’s College, Cambridge every year. The tune it’s based on, known in English as “Good Christian friends rejoice,” may be found at number 107 in our Hymnal, and will be sung as the Recessional Hymn on Sunday.

Christmas 2019 Notes from The Music Director, Mr. James Hopkins

 

Christmas Eve

Adam lay y’bounden – Boris Ord (1897-1961)
There is no Rose – Anonymous English (15th Century)
Ríu, Ríu, Chíu – attr. Mateo Flecha el Viejo (1481-1553)
Ding dong! Merrily on high – arr. Charles Wood (1866-1926)
Toccata in E Major BWV 566 (Part 1) – J.S. Bach (1685-1750)
Gloria From Missa “O magnum mysterium” – Tomás Luis de Victoria (c. 1548-1611)
Offertory Anthem:  Sans Day carol – arr. John Rutter (b. 1945)
Communion Anthem: O magnum mysterium – T.L. de Victoria (c. 1548-1611)
Postlude: Toccata in E Major BWV 566 (part 2) – J.S. Bach (1685-1750)

Though Christmas is generally thought of as a day of unbridled joy, composers throughout the ages also saw a great deal of mystery in the day. It’s also worth noting that our modern notion that minor keys are sad and major keys are happy wasn’t necessarily the case hundreds of years ago. We will hear a mix of music on Christmas Eve, from the exuberantly joyful to the beautiful and mysterious – and, of course, sing some beloved Christmas carols on the way!

We’ll begin our prelude music with a piece well-known for its use in English carol services. The poem “Adam lay y’bounden” dates from the 15th Century, and is clearly a song text, but no music from the time is extant. It has, however, been set by many modern composers, and this straightforward setting by Boris Ord is the best known of those settings. Ord was the Choirmaster of the famed King’s College Chapel in Cambridge (which is most famous for popularizing the standard Service of 9 Lessons and Carols for Christmas) from 1929 until 1957, during the rise of the popularity of their famous Carol service. He directed the first overseas radio broadcasts of the service in the 1930’s, and the first televised broadcast in 1954; certainly a formative figure in a service which millions of people tune in to every year (this year it was broadcast internationally at 10:00 am our time on Christmas Eve, with its new director, Daniel Hyde, formerly of St. Thomas’ 5th Avenue). Ord was much more of a conductor than a composer; in fact, this is the only published work that he wrote. The text begins the story of our redemption outlined in Lessons and Carols by describing the fall of man in Genesis 3.

Another 15th Century English poem is next, though this one set to music from the 15th Century. There is no rose is strophic, with a refrain repeated at the beginning and the end (much like the popular Coventry Carol for Holy Innocents’ Day; you know, “Lully lulla thou little tiny child”). The text is mostly an ode to Mary, who was especially important in the medieval English imagination (England was often referred to as “Our Lady’s Dowry” in the medieval period), though through the lens of the incarnation. This text is presented in a beautiful, and haunting, melody.

The famous late medieval/early renaissance Spanish Villancico Ríu, ríu, chíu has had a resurgence in popularity in recent years, mostly at English carol services. This is somewhat odd, given that the text is clearly about the Immaculate Conception (which is the belief that Mary was conceived without the stain of original sin rather than the common misconception that it’s about the virgin birth), a belief which only a small subset of Anglicans hold, but its rustic appeal and bouncy melody seem to supersede that. Since December 8 is the day the Immaculate Conception is celebrated by the Catholic Church (and other churches which keep that feast), I took it as a good excuse to present this piece. A Villancico is a simple poetic and musical form which was popular in Spain and Latin America from medieval times until the 17th Century or so, consisting of short verses and a frequently repeated refrain. It’s always in the vernacular (in this case, old Spanish). The phrase “ríu, ríu, chíu” is a bit of wordplay that I won’t get into here, but the text likens original sin to a wolf (“el lobo”). This piece’s authorship is unknown, but it’s most often attributed to Mateo Flecha el Viejo (so named to distinguish him from his nephew, Mateo Flecha el Joven), who was Duke of Calabria at the time it was published.

Finally, we’ll hear a simple setting of a popular carol from 19th Century England. The music for Ding Dong, merrily on high comes from a 16th Century French dance tune written by Jehan Taburot, but it was adapted as a carol to words written by 19th Century poet George Woodward. It has become a beloved Christmas carol, especially in this form harmonized by Charles Wood.

Before the Eucharist starts, the organ will play the first part of Bach’s Toccata in E Major. This is probably an early work by the baroque Master, likely written during Bach’s famous stay in Lübeck, where he traveled over 200 miles on foot to hear Dieterich Buxtehude. It resembles an expanded version of the Praeludia written by Buxtehude, Bruhns, and the like, with two large fugues interspersed with improvisatory, and virtuosic, interludes. Bach also wrote a version transposed to C Major, as many organs of his time would have been tuned in such a way that E Major would sound very discordant. We’ll hear the second half of this work after the Eucharist.

The great Spanish master, Tomás Luis de Victoria, became one of the three most noted composers of the counter-reformation (along with Palestrina and Lassus). Victoria studied and worked in Rome for part of his life, during which time he was ordained a Priest, before returning to Spain to serve as the Empress’s chaplain. He wrote a large body of sacred music, all of which is excellent (in my estimation, he is overshadowed by Palestrina only because the latter was a native son of Italy). O Magnum Mysterium is one of his most famous motets, setting part of the Responsory for the fourth (of 9) lessons at the office of Matins for Christmas Day. It begins mysteriously before erupting into a joyful chorus of Alleluias in triple meter. We will hear the Motet at Communion, and the Gloria from the parody Mass based on the Motet at the beginning of the Eucharist.

At the Offertory, we’ll hear the Sans Day Carol, as arranged by John Rutter. Rutter is one of the most famous, and probably most successful, living composers of sacred music. He is probably second only to David Willcocks in his ubiquity in Christmas concerts and carol services, and is also the founder and director of The Cambridge Singers. His spritely arrangement of the Sans Day Carol is perhaps the best known. The original carol is Cornish in origin, and was first transcribed and published in the 19th Century, though it may be older than that.

Christmas Day

Prelude: Toccata in E Major BWV 566 (Part 1) - J.S. Bach (1685-1750)
Offertory Anthem: Christbaum - Peter Cornelius (1824-1874)
Communion Anthem: Winterwiehe - Richard Strauss (1864-1939)
Postlude: Toccata in E Major BWV 566 (Part 2) - J.S. Bach (1685-1750)

Before the Eucharist starts, the organ will play the first part of Bach’s Toccata in E Major. This is probably an early work by the baroque Master, likely written during Bach’s famous stay in Lübeck, where he traveled over 200 miles on foot to hear Dieterich Buxtehude. It resembles an expanded version of the Praeludia written by Buxtehude, Bruhns, and the like, with two large fugues interspersed with improvisatory, and virtuosic, interludes. Bach also wrote a version transposed to C Major, as many organs of his time would have been tuned in such a way that E Major would sound very discordant. We’ll hear the second half of this work after the Eucharist.

Peter Cornelius was a lesser-known 19th Century German composer. He is most famous, ironically, for an arranged version of his song “The Three Kings,” which has become popular in English carol services due to an arrangement for solo baritone and choir by Ivor Atkins. He was vaguely in the musical orbit of Wagner and Liszt, but his relations with the nationalist school of musicology which placed those two composers at the forefront of music were often rocky. Christbaum (Christmas Tree) is the first song in his collection titled Weihnachtslieder (literally, “Christmas Songs” – The Three Kings is part of the same collection), which he wrote at Liszt’s recommendation. He struggled to find a publisher, but the work was praised by the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, the quarterly publication begun by Robert Schumann, in 1871 (though Schumann was dead by then).


Richard Strauss is somewhat more well-known, famous as one of the foremost composers of the “New German School”. In addition to his tone poems and operas, he wrote some beautiful songs, of which Winterwiehe (Winter Dedication) is one.

Notes from The Music Director, Mr. James Hopkins

Sunday, December 22nd: ADVENT 4

Prelude: Magnificat primi toni – Dieterich Buxtehude (c. 1637-1707)
Offertory Anthem: Dixit Maria – Hans Leo Hassler (c. 1564-1612)
Communion Anthem: Magnificat from Short Service – Thomas Weelkes (1576-1623)
Postlude: Es ist ein Ros entsprungen – Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)

Though the focus in traditional lectionaries is quite different, in modern lectionaries, the Fourth Sunday of Advent focuses on the Holy Family before Jesus’ birth. Some years, it’s almost another celebration of the Annunciation, so I took some liberties and used that as the theme for this Sunday’s music. Of course, we’ll begin with the famous hymn, “O come, o come, Emmanuel,” which is a paraphrase of the 7 “O” Antiphons which are traditionally used as the antiphons to the Magnificat at the office of Vespers on the 7 days leading up to Christmas (December 17-23).

Dieterich Buxtehude’s renown as an organist went far and wide during his lifetime. He exemplified the “Stilus Phantasticus,” the flashy, improvisatory style popular in the North German organ school, characterized by lots of virtuosic flourishes, short sections, and jarring transitions. The great J.S. Bach walked over 200 miles each way to hear and study with the baroque master. The “Magnificat primi toni” (“primi toni” means it’s based on the first church mode, roughly equivalent to what we’d call Dorian) brings this style to an organ paraphrase of the Magnificat. The short sections correspond to couplets of the canticle, illustrating them musically.

Hassler is most noted for bringing the Italianate style of Renaissance polyphony to modern-day Germany. He studied in Venice with Andrea Gabrieli, one of the better known composers of the Venitian school and the uncle of the somewhat more well-known Giovanni Gabrieli. “Dixit Maria” is one of his more famous motets, in two sections: an ecstatic setting of “Dixit Maria ad angelum” (Mary said to the angel), which uses lots of imitative counterpoint, and a more homophonic (that is, all voices move at the same time) section setting “Ecce ancilla Domini, fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum” (“Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your word”). The text refers to Mary’s response to the Annunciation, when Gabriel told her she would give birth to Jesus.

By the late 16th Century, the Church of England was well established as independent from the authority of the Pope. The Elizabethan Settlement of 1559 did most of the lifting, and Pope Pius V put the final nail in the coffin by declaring Queen Elizabeth I an illegitimate monarch and excommunicating her subjects in 1570. Weelkes, therefore, was among the earliest composers who knew only the style of church music favored by English Protestants, which placed clear declamation of the text above all else. His Short Service, which sets the canticles for Evensong, makes this plain; there is almost no melismatic movement (that is, when multiple notes happen on one syllable; think of the choruses from Handel’s Messiah for an extreme example), and the four voices, for the most part, move at the same time. Weelkes was not as restrained as his music would suggest, though; he was “noted and famed for a comon drunckard [sic] and notorious swearer and blasphemer” (from a letter reporting him to the Bishop of Chichester, at whose Cathedral he was employed). He was fired from his post at Chichester Cathedral for this behavior, and possibly even for urinating on the Cathedral Dean from the organ loft, but was reinstated weeks later. He is also known for his madrigals and for a small but famous catalog of music for a viol consort.

Not many composers commonly placed in the classical music “canon” wrote a significant amount for the organ. Though Bach certainly did, Mozart and Beethoven wrote next to nothing for the instrument despite being, by all reports, excellent organists themselves. In fact, the organ sort of fell out of favor during the late 18th Century, until about the mid-19th Century. Brahms, however, was interested in the instrument. He wrote a handful of preludes and fugues for the organ when he was young, but nothing after that until the very end of his life. The very last pieces he wrote were eleven chorale preludes for the organ, mostly short, and all absolutely beautiful. His sort of harmonic paraphrase of Praetorious’s famous tune, “Es ist ein Ros” (known in English as Lo, how a rose, which we’ll sing as the last hymn on Sunday), is the best known of the collection.

Notes from The Music Director, Mr. James Hopkins

Sunday, December 15th: ADVENT 3

 

Prelude: Es ist das Heil uns kommen her – Dieterich Buxtehude (c. 1637-1707)


Offertory Anthem: Never weather-beaten sail – Charles Wood (1866-1926)


Communion Anthem: Rejoice in the Lord alway – Anonymous (16th Century)


Postlude: Magnificat I – Marcel Dupré (1886-1971)

This Sunday is commonly called “Gaudete” or “Rose” Sunday. It’s when the pink candle on the Advent Wreath is lit, when the traditional penitence of Advent is lightened a bit, and when, in some churches, you’ll see pink vestments worn instead of the usual blue or purple for Advent. Gaudete means “rejoice,” and is the first word of the traditional Introit for the Third Sunday of Advent: Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say rejoice. The Introit is a sentence from scripture (usually) recited or chanted at the beginning of Mass in some traditions; my perusal of the music library suggests to me that it was our tradition to for the choir to chant the Introit at our Eucharists until the mid-90’s or so.

Dieterich Buxtehude’s chorale preludes aren’t as well-known as Bach’s, but they were clearly influential to Bach. Why else would Bach have taken that 200+ mile journey to and from Lübeck to hear the North German master? Though Buxtehude is often associated with extroverted, flashy “free” organ works, some of his chorale preludes are a bit more subdued. “Es ist das Heil” is a beautiful prelude on a Lutheran chorale tune that’s not sung much these days. The title translates, roughly, to “Salvation has now come for all.”

 

“Never weather-beaten sail” is a famous poem written, and set to music, by Thomas Campion, an English polymath who lived in the 16th and 17th centuries. Campion was a composer, poet, and physician, and was an influential musician, with an influential treatise and tons of lute songs to his name. However, we’re only using his text on Sunday; we’ll be singing a much newer musical setting by Charles Wood. Wood wrote some excellent (and very useful!) sacred music, but he is perhaps most remembered as a teacher. Ralph Vaughan-Williams and Herbert Howells number among his students. His setting of “Never weather-beaten sail” is a bit more wistful than Campion’s original music.

So, back to the subject of that Introit. “Rejoice in the Lord alway”, which will be heard at Communion on Sunday, is a setting of the text of the Introit, and quite a well-known one, at that! However, we don’t know who wrote it. The only source for the piece is the Mulliner Book, a mid-16th Century manuscript which contains some transcriptions of anthems for the organ. It seems the original was lost! It used to be commonly attributed to John Redford, but the text it sets is from the 1549 Book of Common Prayer, which was not published until after Redford’s death. Nonetheless, it’s a warhorse, and will be heard in many other churches this Sunday.

Among Dupre’s 15 pieces, improvised during Vespers services for Our Lady at Notre Dame de Paris and later written down for a “Monsieur C.J.” (Claude Johnson, then the head of the Rolls-Royce company), are 4 settings of couplets from the Song of Mary, or Magnificat. This first one, which sets “My soul doth magnify the Lord and my spirit rejoiceth in God my Savior! For he hath regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden”, beautifully uses the flute of the organ at the very top of the manuals, with a constant 2 against 3 accompaniment.

 

 

 

 


 

Notes from The Music Director, Mr. James Hopkins

Sunday, December 8th: ADVENT 2

 

Prelude: Two Chorale Preludes from the Orgelbüchlein - J.S. Bach (1685-1750)
               Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland
               Gottes Sohn ist kommen
Offertory Anthem: Ríu, ríu, chíu - attr. Mateo Flecha el Viejo (1481-1553)
Communion Anthem: Audivi vocem - Thomas Tallis (c. 1505-1585) 
Postlude: Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme - J.S. Bach (1685-1750)

 

Advent continues! The organ music on Sunday comes from two collection of chorale preludes by Bach. Bach intended the Orgelbüchlein (literally: little organ book) as a teaching tool for organists, both to teach pedal technique and to demonstrate ways of introducing chorales for congregational singing (which, in Bach’s day, would usually have been done with an improvisation, as most chorales would have been very familiar to congregations of the time). The first of the two preludes we’ll hear is a cascading 5 voice commentary on “Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland”, which is hymn number 54 in our hymnal (we sang it last Sunday, and heard two other chorale preludes based on it). The second presents the chorale tune in a canon (that is, one voice imitates another) with a spritely accompaniment, perhaps illustrating the barely contained joy at the anticipation both of Christmas and the second coming.

The famous late medieval/early renaissance Spanish Villancico Ríu, ríu, chíu has had a resurgence in popularity in recent years, mostly at English carol services. This is somewhat odd, given that the text is clearly about the Immaculate Conception (which is the belief that Mary was conceived without the stain of original sin rather than the common misconception that it’s about the virgin birth), a belief which only a small subset of Anglicans hold, but its rustic appeal and bouncy melody seem to supersede that. Since December 8 is the day the Immaculate Conception is celebrated by the Catholic Church (and other churches which keep that feast), I took it as a good excuse to present this piece. A Villancico is a simple poetic and musical form which was popular in Spain and Latin America from medieval times until the 17th Century or so, consisting of short verses and a frequently repeated refrain. It’s always in the vernacular (in this case, old Spanish). The phrase “ríu, ríu, chíu” is a bit of wordplay that I won’t get into here, but the text likens original sin to a wolf (“el lobo”). This piece’s authorship is unknown, but it’s most often attributed to Mateo Flecha el Viejo (so named to distinguish him from his nephew, Mateo Flecha el Joven), who was Duke of Calabria at the time it was published.

We’ll also hear from the Catholic side of Thomas Tallis on Sunday. Tallis, as many of us know, was one of the two foremost composers during the Elizabethan era; in fact, William Byrd and he were given the sole rights to publish polyphonic music for 21 years by Queen Elizabeth I. Tallis lived and worked through all kinds of religious upheaval in England, from Henry VIII’s initial conflict with the Pope, to Edward VI’s extreme Protestantism, to Mary I’s restoration of Catholicism, and finally to Elizabeth’s compromise, of sorts. His musical style changed for each regime, from the florid, complex polyphony favored in Catholic circles, to simple, more text-forward music favored by English protestants. The text for Audivi Vocem comes from a responsory (that is, a phrase said after a lesson) for Matins of All Saints Day in the Roman Rite, but I think it’s very appropriate for Advent as well: “I heard a voice coming from heaven: come, all wisest virgins, fill your vessels with oil, for the bridegroom is coming. In the middle of the night there was a cry: behold the bridegroom comes”. As was typical for settings of responsories, some parts of the text are set to plainchant.

Bach’s six ”Schübler” Chorales, named after their publisher, Georg Schübler, transcribed movements from Bach’s cantatas to the organ, and, as a collection, were clearly significant to Bach given the trouble he went through to compile them, especially given that the Cantatas from which the music comes were not published in his lifetime. All six preludes except one are transcriptions of cantata movements that we know, and it’s quite possible that the remaining one comes from a Cantata that was lost (since it’s estimated that we’ve only discovered about half of the music Bach wrote). “Wachet auf” comes from Cantata 140 (Wachet auf! Ruft uns die Stimme). The original, the fourth movement of the Cantata, is scored for tenors (singing the chorale melody), basso continuo, and unison violins and violas (playing a counter melody). In the Cantata, the tenors sing the text of the second verse of the chorale, “Zion hört die Wächter singen” (“Zion hears the watchmen singing”). The chorale is hymn 61 in our hymnal (translated into English, of course!), which we’ll sing at the Offertory on Sunday.

Notes from The Music Director, Mr. James Hopkins

Sunday, November 24

Prelude: Introduction, Grave and Fugue from Concerto in D Minor (After Vivaldi) – J.S. Bach (1685-1750)
Offertory Anthem: O God, the King of glory – Henry Purcell (1659-1695)
Communion Anthem: Benedic anima mea – Claudin de Sermisy (c. 1495-1562)
Postlude: Praeludium in G Major – Nicolaus Bruhns (1665-1697)

Though Christ the King is a major festival of the church year, ending the year with a bang, as it were (after all, a new church year begins next Sunday with the First Sunday of Advent), there isn’t much music written specifically for it. It’s a relatively new feast; first instituted in the Catholic Church in 1925 and spread to other Western Churches in the 1970’s (though, of course, some very high-up-the-candle Anglo-Catholics celebrated it before then). However, since it shares themes with the Feast of the Ascension, we’ll hear choral music from the wealth of repertoire written for the Ascension.

Though one of the greats in western art music, Bach was, as all artists were, influenced by the music around him. He particularly admired the music of Antonio Vivaldi, a Venetian composer most well-known for the many concertos he wrote, and most remembered today for his collection of four concertos known as The Four Seasons. Bach loved studying scores, and frequently got in trouble as a child for breaking into his older brother’s prized cabinet of music to study (he lived with his brother from the age of 10, after his parents passed away). Though transcription for the keyboard (that is, the practice of reworking a piece of music for different musical forces) is most associated with the Romantic Period and the 20th Century, it most certainly was common in the baroque period, and Bach frequently transcribed his own music, and that of others. A small collection of string music transcribed for the organ by Bach exists, including three concertos by Vivaldi. The Concerto in D Minor features two violins and a cello as its solo instruments, with a string orchestra backing the soloists, and begins with a dramatic, virtuosic introduction giving way to a driving fugue. If you have the time, listen to a recording of a string ensemble playing the concerto after hearing the organ version; it’s interesting to see how Bach adapted it for the organ!

Claudin de Sermisy lived different portions of his life in France and Italy, and held several prominent positions in France, including at the Chapel Royal and as a canon of Saint-Chapelle in Paris. He is most well-known for his Chansons (sort of the French equivalent of the Italian Madrigal), but wrote lots of sacred music. His style is notable for being quite a bit simpler than much of the dense, complex polyphony written by his contemporaries. On Sunday we will hear a setting of part of Psalm 103 (Bless the Lord, O my soul), written for Vespers on the Feast of the Ascension.

Though not many English composers have made it into the “canon” of western art music, Purcell’s name should be familiar to many, and may be one of the few composers before Elgar the average music listener will recognize. Though known best for his operas (particularly Dido and Aeneas), a significant body of sacred music bearing his name exists, since he directed the music at Westminster Abbey in London for much of his career. The anthem “O God, the King of Glory” sets the collect for the Sunday after the Feast of the Ascension. If you listen closely, you’ll notice that a lot of the text is illustrated musically! Most obviously, the almost fanfare-like setting of “with great triumph into heaven”.

Though not as well-known as his contemporary, Dieterich Buxtehude, Nicolaus Bruhns is certainly among the great North German composers of the middle baroque period. Not much of his music survives, but a small collection of virtuosic organ music has made it into the standard repertoire, not least because it was a great early influence for Bach (bringing these notes full circle). Bruhns was probably even more of a showoff than Buxtehude was – legend has it that he would frequently play the violin while accompanying himself on the organ pedals! This certainly comes through in his organ music, with sudden, dramatic pauses, virtuosic flourishes, and a fugue in this piece in which two voices are played in the pedal at the same time. A good performance of the Praeludium in G Major will keep you on the edge of your… er… pew!

Notes from The Music Director, Mr. James Hopkins

Sunday, December 1st

 

Prelude: Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland BWV 659 – J.S. Bach (1685-1750)
Offertory Anthem: E’en so Lord Jesus quickly come – Paul Manz (1919-2009)
Communion Anthem: Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes – Thomas Attwood (1765-1838)
Postlude: Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland BWV 661 – J.S. Bach (1685-1750)

It’s Advent, and the beginning of a new church year! Advent is my favorite liturgical season – there’s so much good music, and especially so many good hymns, written for the season, that I almost don’t want Christmas to come! We’ll sing one of my favorites on Sunday – “Lo he comes with clouds descending” to Helmsley.

The organ music this Sunday consists of two of Bach’s preludes on Luther’s chorale, “Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland” from the “Great 18” or “Leipzig” collection. There are three preludes in this collection, which was published while Bach was in Leipzig (though probably collected from earlier works), hence one of its nicknames. The chorale tune, which we will sing as the sequence hymn on Sunday, is an adaptation of an Ambrosian plainchant hymn, “Veni redemptor gentium.” Many of Luther’s chorales were adaptations of plainchant (and others were original; claims that he adapted drinking songs are spurious). Bach treats the chorale tune in two very different ways; the first has the chorale tune ornamented in a solo voice, over a mysterious accompaniment. The second is a fiery toccata, with the chorale tune played plainly in the pedal.

Borrowing more from the Lutheran tradition, albeit much more recent, we will hear one of the gems of 20th Century choral repertoire. Paul Manz was an extremely prominent organist and composer, and spent most of his life and career in Minnesota, teaching at Concordia College in Saint Paul and serving as Cantor (Music Director, rather than the Catholic definition of Cantor) at Mount Olive Lutheran Church in Minneapolis. He drafted “E’en So Lord Jesus Quickly Come” while his three-year-old son was critically ill, almost as a plea (his son did eventually recover). The text was adapted from Revelation by his wife, Ruth. This dramatic work was popularized by none other than the choir of St. John’s College, Cambridge (and later by King’s), and has become standard repertoire throughout the English-speaking world. This will also be heard just over a month after the 10th anniversary of the composer’s death, and during the 100th anniversary year of his birth.

Returning to the Anglican world, we will hear a motet by Thomas Attwood. Attwood was a skilled harpsichordist and organist from a young age, to the point that King George IV (who was, at that time, merely the Prince of Wales) paid for him to study abroad, first in Naples, and later in Vienna (where he became one of Mozart’s favorite students!). Upon his return to England, he took up posts at St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Chapel Royal, and was later one of the first professors at the Royal Academy of Music. His “Teach me, O Lord”, published in 1797, is fairly simple, showcasing the restrained style in favor in England at the time, but does show some influence from Mozart.

Notes from The Music Director, Mr. James Hopkins

Sunday, November 10

Prelude: Nun bitten wir den heiligen Geist – Dieterich Buxtehude (c. 1637-1707)
Offertory Anthem: Gressus meos dirige – Orlande de Lassus (c. 1532-1594)
Communion Anthem: Cantate Domino – Giovanni Croce (1557-1609)
Postlude: Est-ce mars – Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562-1621)

This Sunday we’ll hear organ music by two giants of the North German organ school, and two composers whom the great J.S. Bach admired greatly. Dieterich Buxtehude spent much of his career at the Marienkirche in Lübeck, and Bach famously traveled over 200 miles on foot to hear and presumably study with Buxtehude, leaving his family and job behind in Arnstadt for months (he extended his stay far past what he initially told his employer, much to their chagrin!). Bach almost took over the post in Lübeck, but it was customary at the time for the organist at the Marienkirche to marry his predecessor’s daughter. Bach was already married, and Buxtehude’s daughter, by all accounts, was not a very appealing bride, so that arrangement didn’t work out. Buxtehude greatly influenced Bach’s early organ music, and shades of the Bach to come can be heard even in Buxtehude’s restrained Chorale Preludes (as compared to his flashy free organ works), which were written to introduce chorales, which churchgoers would have known well, for congregational singing. Nun Bitten Wir beautifully introduces a hymn petitioning the holy spirit.

Sweelinck is the grandfather of the North German Organ School, despite being Dutch, himself. He was organist at the Oude Kerk in Amsterdam, but since strict Calvinism had taken hold there, music was not allowed in church. Sweelinck was employed by the government, and played for an hour twice per day outside of services. So, not much of his music is sacred in nature; Est-ce mars, like Ballo del granduca which we heard a few weeks ago, is a virtuosic set of variations on a popular tune of the era.

The choral music heard on Sunday will be entirely from the late 16th Century. The composer known by a different name depending on where he was (Orlande de Lassus, Orlando di Lasso, Roland de Lassus, Orlande de Lattre, etc) exemplified the Franco-Flemish school and became known as one of the three most prominent Counter-Reformation composers (along with Palestrina and Victoria). Giovanni Croce spent much of his musical career at the famous Basilica of St. Mark’s in Venice, eventually taking over the post of director at the very end of his life (the quality of singing there reportedly suffered during his tenure, though that was likely due to his declining health and lack of energy for the job). That post would, a few years after Croce’s death, be taken over by the great Claudio Monteverdi, but that’s another story. Croce was mostly known for his secular madrigals, but does have some great sacred music to his name.

 

 

Notes from The Music Director, Mr. James Hopkins

Sunday, November 17

Prelude: Langsam from Six Fugues on BACH – Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
Offertory Anthem: Alleluia: De profundis clamavi – Heinrich Isaac (c. 1450-1517)


Communion Anthem: Out from the deep – Thomas Tallis (1505-1585)


Postlude: Fugue in C Minor BWV 546 – J.S. Bach (1685-1750)

Robert Schumann made a name for himself as both a prominent music critic and a composer after his career as a pianist had to be cut short due to injury. He and his wife, Clara (who was a student of his as a child and later a famed virtuoso) formed a musical power couple which gained great prominence and renown. However, late in life, Schumann struggled with mental illness (for which he was eventually committed), and, in the 1840’s, purchased a pedal piano and began intensely studying counterpoint around the same time as a coping mechanism. The pedal piano turned out to be an interesting toy; they were common at the time as a practice instrument for organists, and Schumann began exploring the possibilities of the instrument with a set of six Canons and four Sketches. Soon after those sets were published, he wrote a set of six fugues based on Bach’s name, possibly even with the organ in mind rather than the pedal piano! Since German speakers call B-natural H, and refer to B-flat as B, you can spell Bach’s name musically with B-flat, A, C, and B-natural, and Schumann wrote six fugues exploring aspects of that rather interesting musical motive. The first of these six fugues shows that theme plainly, and builds a somewhat sinister fugue subject from it which gradually builds to a thrilling climax.

The two choral anthems on Sunday are both settings of the same text, one in Latin and one in English, which features heavily in the Minor Propers appointed for the day. Tallis is a familiar name to many Anglicans, as one of the most prominent Tudor ere composers. Isaac is probably a less familiar name; he was a Flemish composer who spent most of his career in Germany, Austria, and Italy, having lived variously in Augsburg, Vienna, Florence, and Pisa, among other places. He was a very prolific composer, having published a large set of polyphonic Mass propers, from which this piece comes. He was prominent in the Habsburg court, and so was very influential to the development of music in modern-day Germany, which may be why we know him by a German name (we don’t know what his name was at birth). Isaac meant this particular piece to be used in place of the standard chanted Gradual, which would have been sung between the Epistle and Gospel readings.
 

Since the prelude is an homage to Bach, it seems that Bach should be heard somewhere. The Fugue in C Minor follows a dramatic prelude with flowing triplet sections interrupted by a cataclysmic chord figuration. The fugue, in contrast, has a simple, sparse subject.

Notes from The Music Director, Mr. James Hopkins

Sunday, November 3

The Feast of All Saints

 

Prelude: Nun bitten wir den heiligen Geist – Dieterich Buxtehude (c. 1637-1707)


Offertory Anthem: Gressus meos dirige – Orlande de Lassus (c. 1532-1594)


Communion Anthem: Cantate Domino – Giovanni Croce (1557-1609)


Postlude: Est-ce mars – Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562-1621)


This Sunday we’ll hear organ music by two giants of the North German organ school, and two composers whom the great J.S. Bach admired greatly. Dieterich Buxtehude spent much of his career at the Marienkirche in Lübeck, and Bach famously traveled over 200 miles on foot to hear and presumably study with Buxtehude, leaving his family and job behind in Arnstadt for months (he extended his stay far past what he initially told his employer, much to their chagrin!). Bach almost took over the post in Lübeck, but it was customary at the time for the organist at the Marienkirche to marry his predecessor’s daughter. Bach was already married, and Buxtehude’s daughter, by all accounts, was not a very appealing bride, so that arrangement didn’t work out. Buxtehude greatly influenced Bach’s early organ music, and shades of the Bach to come can be heard even in Buxtehude’s restrained Chorale Preludes (as compared to his flashy free organ works), which were written to introduce chorales, which churchgoers would have known well, for congregational singing. Nun Bitten Wir beautifully introduces a hymn petitioning the holy spirit.
 

Sweelinck is the grandfather of the North German Organ School, despite being Dutch, himself. He was organist at the Oude Kerk in Amsterdam, but since strict Calvinism had taken hold there, music was not allowed in church. Sweelinck was employed by the government, and played for an hour twice per day outside of services. So, not much of his music is sacred in nature; Est-ce mars, like Ballo del granduca which we heard a few weeks ago, is a virtuosic set of variations on a popular tune of the era.
 

The choral music heard on Sunday will be entirely from the late 16th Century. The composer known by a different name depending on where he was (Orlande de Lassus, Orlando di Lasso, Roland de Lassus, Orlande de Lattre, etc) exemplified the Franco-Flemish school and became known as one of the three most prominent Counter-Reformation composers (along with Palestrina and Victoria). Giovanni Croce spent much of his musical career at the famous Basilica of St. Mark’s in Venice, eventually taking over the post of director at the very end of his life (the quality of singing there reportedly suffered during his tenure, though that was likely due to his declining health and lack of energy for the job). That post would, a few years after Croce’s death, be taken over by the great Claudio Monteverdi, but that’s another story. Croce was mostly known for his secular madrigals, but does have some great sacred music to his name.

Notes from The Music Director, Mr. James Hopkins

Sunday, November 3

The Feast of All Saints

 

Prelude: Selections from Partita no. 2 BWV 1004 – J.S. Bach
Gloria: from Missa “O quam gloriosum” – Tomás Luis de Victoria (c. 1548-1611)
Offertory Anthem: O quam gloriosum – Tomás Luis de Victoria (c. 1548-1611)
Communion Anthem: And I saw a new heaven – Edgar Bainton (1880-1956)
Postlude: Selections from Partita no. 2 BWV 1004 – J.S. Bach

This Sunday, we celebrate All Saints’ Day (transferred from November 1), an important feast in the Christian calendar, and our own Feast of Title. We will have some special music, so I do hope you can join us!

Melody Lin, from the Greenwich Village Chamber Orchestra, which is in-residence here at All Saints’, has generously volunteered her time to help provide music for the service. She will play selections from Bach’s Second Partita in D Minor for solo violin. Written (or, perhaps, collected) in 1720, the six partitas and sonatas for solo violin are among Bach’s most famous works, and have become staples of the violin repertoire. The second closes with the famous “Ciacona”, perhaps one of the most well-known pieces ever written for violin. The partitas are structured as dance suites, with movements styled after dances which would have been well-known in Bach’s time. The second opens with an “Allemande,” a slow, serious dance in the German style. This is followed by a Courante (a quick, triple meter dance), a Sarabande (a slow Spanish dance in triple meter), a Gigue (a very quick triple meter dance), and a Chaconne (a set of variations on a ground bass).

Though often overshadowed by his Italian contemporary, Palestrina, Tomás Luis de Victoria (sometimes Italianized as Tomasso Ludovico da Vittoria) wrote some of the most compelling music of the late Renaissance, and was an important composer of the Counter-Reformation. His “O quam gloriosum” is one of his most famous motets, setting the text of one of the Magnificat Antiphons for Vespers on All Saints’ Day. We will also hear the Gloria from the parody Mass based on the motet.

Born in London, Edgar Bainton eventually found himself in New South Wales, Australia, teaching at the conservatory there. “And I saw a new heaven” was published two years before he moved to Australia, and is his most famous work; a sweeping setting of a text from Revelation. Bainton’s life had a few interesting moments; he found himself a prisoner of war under odd circumstances during World War I. He traveled to Germany in 1914 to attend the Bayreuth Festival (a festival for the operas of Richard Wagner). War was declared while he was there, and he was arrested and sent to a detention camp as an enemy alien of military age. In school, he was a student of Walford Davies and Charles Villiers Stanford, and spent much of his professional life in England as a piano professor at the Newcastle Upon Tyne Conservatory of Music.

Notes from The Music Director, Mr. James Hopkins

Sunday, October 27

Prelude: Duo from Suite du Premiére Ton – Louis-Nicholas Clérambault (1676-1749)


Offertory Anthem: O Lord increase my faith – attr. Orlando Gibbons (1583-1625)
                                

                                   (probably actually written by Henry Loosemore, c.1600-1670)


Communion Anthem: Ave verum corpus – W.A. Mozart (1756-1791)


Postlude: How fair and pleasant art thou from 15 Pieces – Marcel Dupré (1886-1971)


Clérambault makes another appearance this week! Clérambault was mostly known for his contributions to the French Cantata genre, but was an accomplished organist and held a prominent post at Saint-Sulpice in Paris. He wrote two Suites for the organ, on the first and second church modes. This Duo is a playful piece from the Suite on the first mode, which is roughly what we would think of as dorian mode.


Early English composers often set collects to music. Almighty and Everlasting God is a setting of the Collect of the Day for this Sunday (though in a more archaic translation)! It is often attributed to Orlando Gibbons, one of the most celebrated early-17th Century composers in England, renowned for his music for viol consort, keyboard, and vocal ensembles (both sacred and secular), and who even wrote several hymn tunes which would be familiar to anyone who frequents an Episcopal Church. However, he probably didn’t actually write this piece. More likely, it was written by Henry Loosemore (c. 1600-1670), of whom little is known, other than that he was organist at King’s College, Cambridge at some point, and was organist at Exeter Cathedral at the end of his life. This beautiful piece, fairly typical of English polyphony of the time, is nonetheless standard repertoire in many church choirs.


You’ve probably heard Mozart’s “Ave Verum Corpus” before. Mozart wrote it near the end of his life, while he was working on his towering Requiem. This is of a much smaller scale than the Requiem, and much simpler. Mozart wrote this short and beautiful Eucharistic Motet for his friend Anton Stoll, who directed the music at St. Stephan, Baden, and probably meant it to be used on the Feast of Corpus Christi.


Marcel Dupré towers over the 20th Century organ world as perhaps the greatest organ virtuoso, and among the greatest composers for the organ, of that period. He spent much of his life as “organiste-titulaire” at Saint-Sulpice in Paris (just a few generations removed from Clérambault…), which houses one of the most famous organs in France, and taught an enormous number of prominent organists and composers as organ professor at the Paris Conservatoire (students include Olivier Messiaen, Jehan Alain, Jean Guillou, Pierre Cochereau, Jeanne Demessieux, and Carl Weinrich). However, in 1919, he was still near the beginning of his illustrious career, and frequently filled in at the great organ at Notre Dame Cathedral when its organist, Louis Vierne, was frequently out due to health problems. Known through his life as an excellent improviser, he impressed many visitors, including a “monsieur C.J.”, who frequently visited the organ loft at Notre Dame. That C.J. was Claude Johnson, then the head of the Rolls-Royce automotive company. Apparently, he attended a Vespers service which Dupré improvised for, and asked Dupré if he could have the music. Dupré wrote down what he could remember of his improvisations and had them published. We’ll hear the joyous setting of the fifth and final Psalm antiphon on Sunday.

Notes from The Music Director, Mr. James Hopkins

Sunday, October 20

 

Prelude: Récit de Nazard from Suite du Deuxiéme Ton – Louis-Nicholas Clérambault (1676-1749)
Offertory Anthem: Holy is the true light – W.H. Harris (1883-1973)
Communion Anthem: Cibavit Eos – William Byrd (c. 1540-1623)
Postlude: Vivace from Sonata in G Major BWV 530 – J.S. Bach (1685-1750)

When people think of the baroque period, they don’t often think of France. However, there were two distinct major schools of composition in the 16th and 17th centuries: the French school, and the Italian school. Though we largely think of modern-day Germany when we think about baroque music, German music was heavily influenced by the Italian music of the era. Even today, much of the mainstream narrative of music history continues the narrative set forth by a group of nationalist musicologists in a newly unified, late-19th-century, Germany. In fact, a major impetus for the invention of the field of musicology was to create a narrative of music history that showed Germany as the center of music. Since Italian and French music was very different during the “baroque” era (in fact, the word “baroque” was initially coined by Frenchmen referring negatively to the Italian style, which they viewed as inelegant), we tend to focus on the Italians and the Germans

 

However, there was a great deal of fine music being written in France at the time, especially around the court of King Louis XIV and the great opera composer Jean-Baptiste Lully (who was born in Italy, but that’s a different story). A great tradition of organ playing arose, very different from that in Italy and Germany, since it focused a great deal on timbre. Louis-Nicholas Clérambault, who was organist at Saint Sulpice in Paris for much of his life, wrote two suites for the organ, one on the first church mode (roughly what we’d call “Dorian Mode” today), and one on the second (“Hypodorian mode”), as these pieces would have been played throughout various liturgies. The titles of the movements describe the sounds to be used, so “Récit de Nazard” means a recitative line with a Nazard stop (a flute at 2 2/3’ pitch).

Our choral music on Sunday is, once again, all English; one piece from the 20th Century, and one from the Tudor era. William Henry Harris was the organist and choirmaster at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle for much of his career, and conducted for two coronations (including the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953!). “Holy is the true light” is a short, but beautiful piece about the promise of heaven. At communion we’ll hear a setting of the Introit for the Feast of Corpus Christi by the great Tudor composer William Byrd, who remained staunchly Catholic throughout his life despite the religious changes happening throughout England at the time.

Once again, we’ll hear a movement from a Bach trio sonata on Sunday, but not one of the slow movements! The Vivace (literally: lively) opens the 6th and final Trio Sonata with a spritely unison theme, which gives way to the three voices moving independently. I think it’s the most fun of all the Trio Sonata movements!

Notes from The Music Director, Mr. James Hopkins

Sunday, October 13

Prelude: Adagio from Sonata in E-Flat Major BWV 525 – J.S. Bach (1685-1750)
Offertory Anthem: Jubilate Deo in F – John Ireland (1879-1962)
Communion Anthem: O Lord, give thy Holy Spirit – Thomas Tallis (1505-1585)
Postlude: Choral Song – Samuel Sebastian Wesley (1810-1876)

Lots of English music on Sunday! The offertory anthem is one of the great settings of Daily Office canticles which was written in the early 20th Century for use in English churches. Jubilate Deo is not properly a Canticle, but a short psalm (Psalm 100). However, it has been treated as a canticle in the office of Morning Prayer, so there is a wealth of English settings of the text. This setting was published in 1914, and may have been written for use at St. Luke’s Church in the Chelsea section of London, where Ireland was organist and choirmaster for many years. Ireland isn’t quite as famous as some of his contemporaries such as Ralph Vaughan Williams or Herbert Howells, but was very influential, especially as a teacher. Benjamin Britten, the great 20th Century English composer, was among his students.

At Communion, we’ll hear an anthem by the great Thomas Tallis, who is by far the most well-known Tudor era composer. He often had to adapt his style to the tastes of the Church and royalty, which swung between Catholicism, demanding a more florid style of music, and Protestantism, demanding simpler music in which the text is clearer. This anthem is in keeping with his more Protestant style, which mostly avoids melismas (i.e. multiple notes on one syllable of text).

The Postlude is by another great English composer, Samuel Sebastian Wesley. Despite being snidely referred to by German musicologists as “Das Land ohne Musik” (the land without music), England was home to a few composers of note in the 19th Century, and composers from elsewhere travelled to England frequently (perhaps most notably George Frederick Handel, born Georg Friederich Händel, a German who spent most of his career in London). Wesley came from a musical family, though he was an illegitimate child from an affair his father, the composer Samuel Wesley, had with his maid, and held several prominent Cathedral posts and teaching positions. His Choral Song is half of the Choral Song and Fugue for organ, with a distinctive march-like quality, showing that nobody does pomp quite like the English.

The outlier this Sunday is another movement from a Bach “trio” sonata for organ, written as exercises for Bach’s eldest son, Wilhelm Friedemann. At the risk of repeating last week’s joke, young Wilhelm became known as both a great organ virtuoso and an alcoholic, and one can only imagine these Sonatas contributed to both! With three completely independent lines, they are at once very difficult and great exercise. This movement acts as a calm, if somewhat dreary, respite between two spritely movements.