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Sunday Music Musings October 16, 2021

Our Prelude is a Ciaconia (Chaconne), also known as a passacaglia, in which there is a repeated bass line over which variations unfold and often build. This is by the great Dieterich Buxtehude (c. 1637 –1707)  whose style greatly influenced other composers, such as his student Johann Sebastian Bach. Orignally from Denmark, in 1668 he got a major position at the Marienkirche, Lübeck. In 1705, J.S. Bach, then a young man of twenty, walked from Arnstadt to Lübeck, a distance of more than 250 miles, and stayed nearly three months to hear the Abendmusik concerts and meet the famous organist and learn from him. In addition to his musical duties, Buxtehude, like his predecessor Tunder, served as church treasurer!

As a canticle the Gargoyles will sing a short Gloria/Alleluia by Laura Farnell, choral composer, clinician, accompanist, and adjudicator who resides in Arlington, Texas where she recently received an Excellence in Education Award as the Arlington Independent School District’s outstanding junior high teacher of the year.

Our anthem is a gorgeous setting of the hymn Nearer My God, to Thee (tune: BETHANY) which shows off the piano skills of our organ scholar. The text is by Sarah Flower Adams (1805-1848). In 1841 she published Vivia Perpetua, a dramatic poem dealing with the conflict of heathenism and Christianity and in 1845, The Flock at the Fountain; a catechism and hymns for children. As a member of the congregation of the Rev. W. J. Fox, an Unitarian minister in London, she contributed 13 hymns to the Hymns and Anthems, published by C. Fox, London, in 1841, for use in his chapel.

The arranger is Georgiann Hinchcliffe Toole (b. 1958), a West Virginia native who currently resides in Sharpsburg, Maryland. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music Education from Shepherd College (Shepherdstown, WV), a Master of Music in Conducting from the Shenandoah Conservatory (Winchester, VA), and a Ph.D. in Music Education from The University of North Carolina-Greensboro. Currently, Dr. Toole is on the education faculty at Shepherd University, and is the founder and artistic director of the Antietam Women’s Ensemble.

Georgiann Toole

During communion the Gargoyles will sing Panis Angelicus, a motet by Claudio Casciolini (1697-1760), an Italian composer, who although he lived into the Baroque era, wrote only in stile antico, the old stlye of church music a la Palestrina. The story of how I discovered this piece is personal—at my daughter Lucy’s wedding to a wonderful German baritone, Johannes Held, we had the reception at an old monastery on a hill near Tűbingen. When Johannes was a boy, he sang in a boychoir, and they all came (baritones now!) and sang at the reception (beautiful acoustics!)—and this is one of the pieces they sang. One of the singers was kind enough to give me his copy!

arriving at the wedding reception

“Panis Angelicus” is the second-to-last section of the hymn “Sacris solemniis,” which was written by Saint Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century, originally written for the Feast of Corpus Christi, a celebration of the body and blood of Jesus Christ. The Cesar Franck setting is the  most well-known today.

Panis angelicus
fit panis hominum;
Dat panis cœlicus
figuris terminum:
O res mirabilis!
Manducat Dominum
pauper, servus et humilis.

Thus Angels’ Bread is made
the Bread of man today:
the Living Bread from heaven
with figures dost away:
O wondrous gift indeed!
the poor and lowly may
upon their Lord and Master feed.

Our hymn tune is ST. MAGNUS, a melody from The Divine Companion,1707, Credited to Jeremiah Clarke1(669?-1707), and harmonized by William Henry Monk (1823-1869), with words by Irish author Thomas Kelly (1769-1855), an evangelical preacher who wrote over 750 hymns.

The postlude, Hornpipe by contemporary composer Robin Dinda (b. 1959) will be played by our organ scholar Henry. Robin Dinda is Professor of Humanities (Music) at Fitchburg State University in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, where he has taught courses in music theory, history, and interdisciplinary fine arts since 1989.  He is also Director of Music at The First Parish (Unitarian – Universalist) in Fitchburg, where he has presided over the church’s 1928 E. M. Skinner organ since 2000.

This week I managed to play the wedding of a former head chorister at 3:30 while simultaneous having our 3:30 Friday rehearsals run by Camille with Henrybat the piano. I was so happy to come into the end of rehearsal and hear their beautiful singing!

This week live choral concerts return with my Harmonium Chamber Singers performing Choral Cosmos. Singers and audience will be fully vaccinated and masked. Please consider getting your tickets now!


Sunday Music Musings October 9, 2021

Today’s hymn of the day is the staple O God Our Help in Ages Past, tune: ST. ANNE. The prelude is a set of variations (also known as a “Partita”) by the Dutch/German Lutheran composer Jan Bender (1909-1994). Bender studied with one of my favorite composers, Hugo Distler, and was a proponent of the Orgelbewegung, or Organ Reform Movement, which turned away from the excesses of Romantic composition, back to the ethos of the Baroque, both in style and organ building. Here is a more extensive biography of Bender.

This hymn was the first one I learned to play on the organ, and likewise our organ scholar Henry, is working it up. The words, a paraphrase of Psalm 90, are by the great and prolific Isaac Watts (1674-1748). The melody is attributed to the English Baroque composer William Croft (1678-1727). Croft was a chorister at the Chapel Royal under John Blow. At the age of twenty-two Croft became Organist of St. Anne’s, Soho, (hence the name of this tune?) and in the same year became a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal. A year later he became joint Organist of the Chapel Royal with Jeremiah Clarke (of wedding processional fame), retaining the position in 1707 upon Clarke’s death. In 1708 he succeeded his master, John Blow, as Organist of Westminster Abbey and Master of the Children and Composer to the Chapel Royal, retaining these positions until his death in 1727. He was buried in Westminster Abbey in the north aisle, where his monument can still be seen. The harmonization in the hymnal is by another Anglican great, William Henry Monk (1823-1889). (Both Monk and Croft Anglican chants are often used.)

The adult choir anthem is Prayer of Henry VI, by the Anglican composer Henry Ley (1887-1962). Ley trained as a chorister at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor, as a music scholar at Uppingham, the Royal College of Music, and as an organ scholar at Keble College, Oxford. He was Precentor of Radley College; organist at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford (1909-26); Choragus of the University, Oxford; professor of the organ at the Royal College of Music (1919); and organist at Eton College.

Domine, Jesu Christe,

qui me creasti, redemisti,

et preordinasti ad hoc quod sum;

tu scis quæ de me facere vis;

fac de me secundum voluntatem tuam cum misericordia.

Amen.

O Lord Jesus Christ,

who hast created and redeemed me

and hast foreordained me unto that which now I am;

thou knowest what thou wouldst do with me;

do with me according to thy will, in thy mercy.

Amen.

Also known as the “Founder’s Prayer,” this short piece is sung regularly at King’s College, Cambridge (whose founder was King Henry VI).

The “blue choir,” School Choir II, aka my trebles between 6th and 12 grade are debuting post-Covid from the gallery, but of course a combination of sports, marching band and colds mean they will be rather small (but mighty) and mostly the high schoolers, the Daughters of Zion. I have picked one of my favorite anthems, the English version of a duet by Italian Baroque composer Benedetto Marcello (1686 – 1739), Give Ear Unto Me, based on verses from Psalm 17. Marcello, a Venetian, managed to combine a career as a lawyer and composer.

Marcello

Give ear unto me, Lord, I beseech thee,

For I have walked in thy commandments,

Let me be judged with righteous judgment,

O let my sentence come from thy presence.

O shew thy loving-kindness, O thou that art the Saviour of them that trust in thee.

The soloists in the B section will be Camille Bourland and Claudia Sydenstricker.

On a side note, here is a video from rehearsal two Friday’s ago when Claudia, my other head chorister Elisabeth, and Camille can be seen helping our first get-together between the “red choir” (grades 2-5) and the Chapel Choir (Pre-K-Ist).

The postlude is an organ transcription of the first movement of Vivaldi’s Autumn, for obvious reasons! Antonio Vivaldi and Marcello were also contemporaries. Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) known as the “red priest” because of his flaming red hair, worked at the Ospedale della Pieta in Venice, an orphanage for foundling children.  It was for these orphan girls that he wrote his concertos and church music, which would be performed by his virtuoso girl pupils and older staff from behind a screen to preserve their modesty. In the summer of 2020, I did a “virtual summer sing” and discovered these cool re-creations of what the all-female performance must have been like. Enjoy!

Sunday Music Musings October 2, 2021

Dear Friends, it is happily a busy weekend with family, a wedding to play, Madison’s Bottle Hill Day and a retirement home performance at Winchester Gardens –I may have to keep this short!

Harmonium members sing for residents at Winchester Gardens in Maplewood
Selfie with Amy Lau after singing at Winchester Gardens

Our prelude is based on the same tune as our Gospel Acclamation, Deo Gratias, originally a medieval carol celebrating the battle of Agincourt “our King went forth to Normandy…” Michael Burkhardt (b. 1957) is an incredibly prolific composer of mostly hymn-based works.

Christopher Dalitz is a composer of mostly SAB music available on cpdl under the Creative Commons License, including the lovely Kyrie our adults will sing.

Christopher Tye (c. 1505 – c. 1572) was an English composer and organist who studied at Cambridge University and in 1545 became a Doctor of Music both there and at Oxford. He was choirmaster of Ely Cathedral from about 1543 and also organist there from 1559. The title page to Tye’s Actes of the Apostles (London 1553) describes him as “one of the Gentlemen of his grace’s most honourable chapel,” and he may have been music teacher to King Edward VI, who reportedly quoted his father, Henry VIII, as saying “England hath one God, one truth, one doctor hath for music’s art, and that is Doctor Tye, admired for skill in music’s harmony.” Tye’s music includes psalm settings and masses, as well as pieces for consorts of viols, and works in English for the Church of England, including services and anthems, such as the short and lively O come Ye Servants of the Lord.

Johann Walther (1684 – 1748) has made an appearance in the last several Sundays, and Henry will play his first variation on the German Chorale often associated with baptisms, LIEBSTER JESU, after which the the choir will sing it in Catherine Winkworth’s (1827-1878) translation.

When one can only sing a final hymn it might as be the great Welsh tune HYFRYDOL by Rowland Hugh Pritchard (1811-1887) and words by the even greater Charles Wesley (1707-1788). Canadian Anglican composer Healey Willan’s (1880–1968) setting will play us out.

Tomorrow in celebration of St. Francis Day our children’s choirs will sing a few pieces outside–of course All Things Bright and Beautiful and God Our Loving Father (a Finnish hymn). Come have your pet blessed between 3 and 4, and stay for the outdoor communion service at 4. The older trebles will sing the round Now I Walk in Beauty and members ot the Daughters of Zion will sing We are Blessed. Giid luck to all the Marching Band kids who are deeo into the season. It is so great to be making live music in every way!

Pet Blessings of yore

Sunday Music Musings September 25, 2021

German immigrant Augustus P. Blase was a member of the Watervliet, New York Shaker community, and one of its most prolific songwriters, best known for the song Now My Dear Companions (c. 1870). For the Gargoyles first return to singing in church this fall (they sang Steal Away from the gallery in June) it seemed appropriate that they start with the words “Now my dear companions is the time to start anew!”

The Gargoyles also have a new director/coach and tenor I, Lucas Shearson. Lucas, from Bakersfield California, is a Junior at Drew University where he studies music. He is the President of Drew’s oldest a cappella group, 36 Madison Avenue. In his free time he enjoys live theater and social games. Please welcome him!

Meet Lucas Shearson

Our psalm setting of Psalm 124 is a return to Anglican chant singing now that we have a bit of choir. The music is by C. Hylton Stewart (1884-1932), an English cathedral organist who served in Rochester Cathedral, Chester Cathedral and St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle.

The anthem the adults sing is by contemporary composer Karen Marrolli, Director of Music Ministries at Central United Methodist Church in Albuquerque, NM. She previously served in Trussville, AL; Santa Fe, NM, and as the Artistic Director of the Zia Singers, the Cantu Spiritus Chamber Choir, and the Santa Fe Men’s Camerata. Marrolli holds the DMA degree in Choral Conducting from Louisiana State University (2010). She earned her BM in Music Theory and Composition (1997) and her MM in Choral Conducting and Sacred Music (2000) from Westminster Choir College before relocating to Charleston, SC, where she lived for seven years prior to pursuing doctoral studies. While in Charleston, she founded Lux Aeterna, a chamber choir who presented candlelight concerts in honor of such events as World AIDS Day, the September 11th attacks, and Child Abuse Awareness Month. These concerts always consisted of readings, often written by survivors of traumatic events, interspersed with choral music. The concerts progressed from a sense of darkness to light and were meant to give hope to those who were in a process of healing.

The anthem To Dust has a similar trajectory, and words by the composer herself:

Let my crying come to dust. Let my grief be turned to ashes. Let my heart be cleansed with flame.

Kyrie eleison.

Let my mourning turn to song. Let my sorrow turn to sunrise. Let my broken spirit rest.

Kyrie eleison.

Let your waters rise. Let your deserts bloom with bounty. Let your Holy Spirit come.

Christe eleison.

Let our crying come to dust. Let our grief be turned to ashes. Let our hearts be cleansed with flame.

Kyrie eleison.

I like how the first person singular turns to the first person plural, which is how the choir feels after singing alone at home for a year, and finally together.

Our communion hymn is O Food to Pilgrims Given, with the beautiful Eucharistic text translation from the Latin (attributed to Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274) by John Athelstan Laurie Riley (1858-1945). The tune INNSBRUCK, is Flemish Renaissance composer Heinrich Isaac’s (1450-1517) gorgeous and nostalgic setting of “Innsbruck ich muss dich lassen” (Innsbruck I now must leave you). The tune may not have been Isaac’s, and is also Lutheran chorale O Welt, ich muss dich lassen, (“O World I now must leave you”) found in Bach’s St Matthew Passion and a Brahms organ chorale I often play at funerals. J.G. Walther(1684–1748 who I also played last week, has a lovely organ setting as well. Here is a lovely setting of the Isaace version (I had to look all over YouTube for a rendition that phrased-off to my liking!)

Our last hymn I know is not a familiar one, but a wonderful one – Go Forth for God with words by J.R. Peacey (1896-1971). The tune is by great hymn-writer and teacher Erik Routley (1917-1982). LITTON is in reference to the wonderful American choral conductor James Litton who directed the American Boychoir from 1985 to 2001. I’ll never forget how kind he was to me as young conductor letting come spend a say in Princeton observing his rehearsals. Be brave and learn somtehing new Sunday–we have 4 verses celebrating taking God out into the world to get it right! Here is a recording for pre-practice!

Our Prelude and Postlude are the Prelude and Fugue (respectively) from the Praeludium in G Minor by Danish-German organist, violinist, and composer Nicolaus Bruhns (1665-1697). This exciting work shows why he was one of Dietrich Buxtehude’s favorite pupils.

Sunday Music Musings Sept. 19, 2021

This week we started our church choir rehearsals, Daughters of Zion, School Choirs and Adults got to meet our new Children’s Choir Assistant, Camille Bourland. Camille graduated with a bachelor’s in music education from Syracuse University, where she is also currently finishing (remotely) her masters in music education. While in Syracuse, she was the musical director for the Syracuse Community Choir Teen & Young Adult Choir. After graduation, Camille hopes to teach elementary general music and chorus. Having sung in several choirs throughout her musical career, she has recently joined the Harmonium Choral Society where she sings in the alto 1 section. Outside of making music, Camille enjoys hiking, thrift shopping, and reading.

New Children’s Choir Assistant Camille Bourland

It was fun on Friday, and the weather cooperated for outdoor snack! The “Red Choir” rehearsed right inside the open door of Grace Hall, and we were also graced with teen helpers Claudia and Elisabeth as we welcomed new novices Chloe and Olivia! It felt like a semblance of normalcy as the parents dropped their kids off! Our older singers then rehearsed in the choir room and welcomed Katie to her first “Blue Choir” rehearsal. These older choristers will go back to singing from the gallery, while we figure out what is safe for the younger crew. For now, look for them at the 4 pm Oct. 3 outdoor St. Francis service!

This Sunday the hymn we will sing during communion has one of my favorite tunes: KINGSFOLD. According to hymnary.org, “Thought by some scholars to date back to the Middle Ages, KINGSFOLD is a folk tune set to a variety of texts in England and Ireland. The tune was published in English Country Songs (1893), an anthology compiled by Lucy E. Broadwood and J. A. Fuller Maitland. After having heard the tune in Kingsfold, Sussex, England (thus its name), Ralph Vaughan Williams (1897- 1958) introduced it as a hymn tune in The English Hymnal (1906) as a setting I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say. ‘”

The text we use today (for its second verse reference to bringing the little children to Jesus) is by James Montgomery (1771-1854) “When Jesus Left His Father’s Throne.” Again in the hymnary we learn that Montgomery, born in Scotland, died in England, was “the son of Moravian parents who died on a West Indies mission field while he was in boarding school. Montgomery inherited a strong religious bent, a passion for missions, and an independent mind. He was editor of the Sheffield Iris (1796-1827), a newspaper that sometimes espoused radical causes. Montgomery was imprisoned briefly when he printed a song that celebrated the fall of the Bastille and again when he described a riot in Sheffield that reflected unfavorably on a military commander. He also protested against slavery, the lot of boy chimney sweeps, and lotteries. Associated with Christians of various persuasions, Montgomery supported missions and the British Bible Society. He published eleven volumes of poetry, mainly his own, and at least four hundred hymns. Some critics judge his hymn texts to be equal in quality to those of Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley.” -Bert Polman

The prelude on this tune is a triumphant setting by David Blackwell (b. 1961), an award-winning composer and freelance arranger, writer and editor. Blackwell grew up in Oxford, and studied music at Edinburgh University, graduating First Class in 1983. His educational, choral and organ music is published in the UK and US and performed worldwide. He also works as a freelance publisher for several UK music publishers and writes for Choir and Organ magazine. Toccata on Kingsfold is the final movement of his “Five English Folksongs” Suite.

The setting of Psalm 1 we sing by Susan Calvin is an old favorite, now out of print.

Our Offertory is a beautiful setting by one of my favorite contemporary composers, Melissa Dunphy (b.1980). Born and raised in Australia, Dunphy immigrated to the United States in 2003 and has since become an award-winning and acclaimed composer specializing in vocal, political, and theatrical music. She first came to national attention in 2009 when her large-scale choral work The Gonzales Cantata was featured in The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, and on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, where host Rachel Maddow called it “the coolest thing you’ve ever seen on this show.” Her choral work What do you think I fought for at Omaha Beach? won the Simon Carrington Chamber Singers Composition Competition and has been performed nationally by ensembles including GRAMMY Award-winning Chanticleer, Cantus, and the St. Louis Chamber Chorus. (In June Harmonium will perform it). Dunphy has served as composer-in-residence for the Immaculata Symphony Orchestra, Volti Choral Arts Lab, Volti Choral Institute, and the Saint Louis Chamber Chorus. Dunphy has a PhD in music composition from the University of Pennsylvania, where she was a Benjamin Franklin Fellow, and a Bachelor of Music from West Chester University. She currently teaches composition at Rutgers University and is also active as a sound and lighting designer, actor, theater owner, and podcaster (The Boghouse).

Dr. Anne and Melissa Dunphy way too close together in early MArch 2020

If you to the composer’s page for this piece you will find the virtual performance we (Grace Church Choir) did last winter! How cool is that? We are so happy to be able to sing it live on Sunday, when we hear each other (and show off our new organ scholar at the piano!)

If you can only pick one congregational hymn to sing, LOBE DEN HERRN (“Praise to the Lord”) is always a favorite. The old German tune from the Erneuerten Gesangbuch (1665) is paired with a text by Joachim Neander (1650-1680), teacher, poet, preacher, lover of Nature and hymn-writer; that was translated into English for the 1940 hymnal.  J.G. Walther’s (1684 – 1748) setting has the tune clearly in the pedal as well as each phrase as the basis of the counterpoint of each section. Walther was a music theorist and organist of the Baroque era who wrote many practical chorale tune-based settings that organists still love to play.

Sunday Music Musings September 11, 2021

I am so excited to be back at the organ bench Sunday after what was supposed to be a vacation turned into vaccinated Covid. Ah well! I am so grateful to Kimberly Love and Emma Liu who filled in in my absence.

Those of us who make music are trying our best to do some kind of re-start while still respecting this very contagious Delta strain, and following the science. Tomorrow we will have a masked and distanced adult choir up front and some talented SSA Daughters of Zion in the gallery. As I get more and more prep, meetings, in-person events, it may be hard to keep as much detail in my blog every week as I had during pandemic, but I still want to try to share with you what excites me from week to week!

Besides being excited about my singers tomorrow, our organ scholar, Henry Marinovic, will play a piece during communion, Praeludium in A minor by Belgian composer Jaak Nikolaas Lemmens (1823 –1881).

Henry Marinovic is a 2021 graduate of Madison High School and has lived in Madison his whole life. He is taking a gap year before attending the University of Rochester beginning in fall 2022 where he plans to study some combination of STEM and music. Henry began piano study at age four, briefly studied organ with Dr. Anne at the age of six, and has now returned to organ study with Dr. Anne during his gap year. He has played piano and keyboards in numerous school ensembles including the Madison Marching Dodgers and Madison High School’s jazz band, and has performed solo and as an accompanist for numerous events. Henry sang bass in Madison High School’s Chorus and select chorus, Mad Jazz, as well as in The Gargoyles at Grace Church. He looks forward to continuing to sing bass with The Gargoyles, the Grace Church choir, and Harmonium Choral Society this year. Henry is also a composer and has composed many pieces for piano, strings, and chorus, including several piano works that received accolades in the Eric Steiner Composition Contest conducted by NJMEA. In 2016 he performed his piano composition, Misty Day Prelude, at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall. His choral composition, Young Night Thought, tied for first place in the 2019 Harmonium High School Composition Contest, and his choral compositions, Life is Fine and Alchemy, received Honorable Mentions in the Harmonium High School Composition Contest in 2018 and 2021 respectively. When not immersed in music, Henry enjoys hanging out with his family, playing video games and chess, rooting for the New York Mets, and going down Wikipedia rabbit holes.

Henry Marinovic, organ scholar

The Prelude is an organ transcription of Edward Elgar’s (1857 –1934) Nimrod from the Enigma Variations for orchestra. This variation has an elegiac quality and is often used for funerals or remembrance, in this case, 9/11 remembrance.

Several years ago, when the Revised common lectionary came out, we were give as an alternative to Psalm 19, this reading from Wisdom 7:26–8:1

For wisdom is a reflection of eternal light,
a spotless mirror of the working of God,
and an image of his goodness.

Although she is but one, she can do all things,
and while remaining in herself, she renews all things;
in every generation she passes into holy souls
and makes them friends of God, and prophets;
for God loves nothing so much as the person who lives with wisdom.

She is more beautiful than the sun,
and excels every constellation of the stars.
Compared with the light she is found to be superior,
for it is succeeded by the night,
but against wisdom evil does not prevail.

She reaches mightily from one end of the earth to the other,
and she orders all things well.

I love all the readings from Wisdom we get this time of year, as they include a female vision of God. I set this to sound like plainsong, with a refrain (for congregation in non-covid times) “For God loves nothing so much as the person who lives with Wisdom” and parts for both adults and youth choirs, and handbells.

Our anthem also uses bells, Mark Schweizer’s canonic setting of the tune HOLY MANNA. We will be alternating singing from the front and back in both this and the communion canon: WYNGATE CANON by Richard Wayne Dirksen (1921- 2003). This will sound better in the building, because the livestream has a hard time picking up the gallery…so come to church and stay for the Annual Meeting (the 2020 Annual Meeting!). I wrote a lot about Dirksen in my blog on July 24.

Our last hymn I also chose because of 9/11. The beautiful Robert Bridges (1844-1930) translation of an old text by Joachim Neander (1650-1680) includes the verse:

Human pride and earthly glory,

sword and crown betray his trust;

what with care and toil he buildeth,

tower and temple, fall to dust.

But God’s power,

hour by hour,

is my temple and my tower.  (the hymnal version is a little different, 1st person plural)

The hymn goes on to sing of God’s enduring goodness and love no matter what, so also seems like a good “returning” hymn.

The gorgeous tune MICHAEL by Herbert Howells (1892 – 1983) has a sad story behind it. In September 1935 Howells’ nine-year-old son Michael contracted polio during a family holiday, dying in London three days later. At the suggestion of his daughter Ursula he sought to channel his grief into music, and over the next three years composed much of Hymnus Paradisi (a requiem), the Concerto for Strings, the slow movement of which is in joint memory of Michael and Edward Elgar, and the unfinished Cello Concerto, which Howells had been working on at the time of his son’s death and which he found himself unable to complete. A Sequence for St. Michael and the motet Take Him, Earth, for Cherishing have also been associated with Howells’s grief for Michael, as have two of Howells’s hymn tunes, the best-known of which is this hymn “All My Hope on God is Founded” and the tune Twigworth for the hymn “God is love, let heaven adore him”.

Godwin Sadoh

The Postlude is by Godwin Sadoh (b.1965), a Nigerian ethnomusicologist, composer, church musician, pianist, organist, and choral conductor, whose compositions have been performed and recorded worldwide. Ise Oluwa is a Yoruba Hymn meaning “the work of the Lord will never be destroyed.”

I wrote a lot more about this composer in my March 2021 Lenten recital blog here.

Sunday Music Musings August 28, 2021

Many of you know by now that my whole family got (vaccinated) Covid last week, so I am not exactly having the vacation I planned! Because of the vaccine none of us have life-threatening disease, but it has been no fun anyway with the flu symptoms and isolation. Because of careful masking behavior it doesn’t seem we spread to anyone we were around in the few days before we were symptomatic, even though singing was involved! The Delta variant is sooooo contagious, and it came from my daughter’s vaccinated boyfriend who visited our home – who works in a bar where people (vaccinated and not) stay for hours unmasked. Grace is doing better now and sorry to miss her last few Sundays as cantor before she moves to Philadelphia to start grown-up life soon. Thank you for continuing to mask in public spaces even if you are vaccinated! This is why.

Former head chorister Kimberly Love was already going to play the Prelude and Postlude, and now covers the Offertory and Communion as well, allowing you to enjoy an all-J. S. Bach (1685-1750) Sunday! Here is more about Kimberly’s college experience and some notes on the Bach that she has graciously provided.

Kimbo Love is a college sophomore studying viola performance with Kirsten Docter at Oberlin Conservatory. She has played violin for 15 years and viola for 9. Kimbo participates in various ensembles such as Oberlin Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra, Contemporary Music Ensemble, and Oberlin Sinfonietta. She has also performed in her school’s Chamber Music Festival. Over the summer, Kimbo attended the Kinhaven Young Artists’ Seminar in Weston, VT. She held a recital at the end of July for her summer community, performing works by Bach and Hovaness. Kimbo hosts a weekly radio show through her college. She lives in Mount Tabor with her parents and her brother Charlie. 

Bach’s third cello suite (BWV 1009) is a collection of European dances. None of his original manuscripts for the six cello suites survived, allowing modern-day performers creativity with interpretation. Today, the suites are performed on various instruments, primarily cello and viola. The C-Major key of the third suite gives it a joyful and triumphant feel. The first movement is a prelude, then the dances that follow are Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, Bourrée, and Gigue.

Sunday Music Musings August 14, 2021

August 15 is a Holy Day around the world in many churches. The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is, according to the beliefs of the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Churches, Oriental Orthodoxy, Church of the East, and some Lutheran and Anglo-Catholic Churches, among others, the bodily taking up of Mary, the mother of Jesus, into Heaven at the end of her earthly life. In the Episcopal Church, the Sunday readings take precedent, but since most of you won’t be coming to church on Monday, I felt like I could sneak in some musical “Ave Maria”s!

Harry Rowe Shelley

The prelude is a part of Grace Church History. Born in New Haven in 1858, Harry Rowe Shelley studied with Gustave J. Stoeckel at Yale College, Dudley Buck, Max Vogrich, and Antonín Dvořák in New York, and completed his musical education in London and Paris. According to his New York Times obituary, Shelley “penned church music that won him wide popularity. For sixty years a host of English-speaking peoples throughout the world sang his hymns.” Shelley attended Hopkins Grammar School in New Haven, Connecticut and at fourteen played the organ at Center Church on the Green in New Haven. Although he entered Yale, he did not complete his freshman year. Shelley was organist at the Church of the Pilgrims during the ministry of Henry Ward Beecher and played at his funeral. He received an honorary Doctor of Music degree as part of Dickinson’s 1905 Commencement exercises. He arrived at Grace around 1936, which was probably a kind of “retirement” position for him from the New York City scene. This was about the same time as Melville “Bucky” Coursen, Jr. was appointed choirmaster and began revitalizing the boychoir.  Shelley died at age 89 in Short Beach, Connecticut. (When Harry Shelley died in 1947, Helen Thomas was appointed interim organist, until Durwood Reese was hired.)

1878–1881 — Organist, Church of the Pilgrims, Brooklyn

1881–1887 — Organist, Plymouth Church (same)

1887–1899 — Organist, Church of the Pilgrims

1899–1914 — Organist, Fifth Avenue Baptist Church, New York, which later became Park Avenue Baptist and eventually Riverside Church

1915–1936 — Organist, Central Congregational Church, Brooklyn

1936?-1947?—Organist, Grace Church. Madison

The Ave Maria (1909) is a tuneful, late Romantic setting in G-flat, dedicated to a Mr. F.S. Hastings. His The King of Love My Shepherd is, remains in the repertoire of church choirs (probably since 1910). . He was also famous for arrangements of other composer’s for organ, and cantatas and orchestra pieces including The Santa Claus Over

Simon Lindley’s Ave Maria has been a favorite of our School Choirs for years. Kaitlin and Grace re-live their head chorister days in this beautiful duet. Simon Lindley (b. 1948) is an English organist, choirmaster, conductor and composer. He was Leeds City Organist from 1976 to 2017. Before Leeds he was educated at Magdalen College School, Oxford, and Royal College of Music in London then served as Assistant Master of Music at St Albans Cathedral to the legendary Peter Hurford and Director of Music at St. Albans School. Here is an SATB version of Ave Maria with the composer conducting at a rousing clip! 

Be Thou My Vision, our congregational hymn of the day, with its tune SLANE, is of the most beloved hymns of many denominations. It is an old Irish hymn, Bí Thusa ‘mo Shúile; composer and author both unknown. These words were translated into English by linguist Mary Elizabeth Byrne (1880 – 1931) for in Ériu (the journal of the School of Irish Learning) in 1905, and versified by Eleanor Henrietta Hull (1860 –1935) a writer and scholar of Old Irish. The tune name “Slane” is named for an area in Ireland where St. Patrick repeatedly challenged local Druids with the gospel.

As we continue with readings about bread, I reach for the wonderful hymn, a paraphrase of Psalm 34, in a gospel, style Taste and See by American Black Catholic composer James E. Moore Jr. (b. 1951). Moore currently resides in Vienna, Austria, where he serves as a professional coach and teaches voice and conducting. A native of LaCrosse, Va., he holds undergraduate degrees in both piano and vocal music education and graduate degrees in piano and choral conducting.

Hal Hopson (b. 1933) is an incredibly prolific a full-time composer and church musician residing in Cedar Park, Texas. He has over 3000 published works, which comprise almost every musical form in church music. His setting of Slane in 3 parts, and ends softly.

Sunday Music Musings August 7, 2021

Thank you for cantoring us through pandemic! Enjoy Rutgers Marching Band as Drum major!

Today is our last day with our cantor, Elizabeth Monkemeier, because (I am so happy for her) she gets to return in person to Rutgers, and get going with Marching Band and finally be drum major! Her cheerfulness, professionalism, knowledge of everything musical how I like it (from being in choir since second grade and being Head Chorister) was amazing and made working with her a joy. Did I mention she has perfect pitch and enunciates and chants like an angel? I’m sure we’ll see her at Christmas/holidays, but until then, all the best!

In celebration she and I will play the Cesar Franck (1822 – 1890) Aria transcribed for clarinet and organ as the prelude. Franck was born in the Netherlands and moved to the Paris music scene. He is revered for his organ music, especially his time at St. Clothilde from 1858 on, and as influential organ professor at the Paris Conservatory from 1872.

In place of a chanted psalm, and in celebration of Grace and Elizabeth’s last Sunday together, they will sing a composed treble duet of Psalm 34, by California composer Craig Phillips, who I wrote about here:

I have called our Summer Choir downstairs to sing an offertory anthem because we have arrived at the point in the saga of David, where he weeps and mourns for the death of his son Absalom. The American colonial composer William Billings (1746-1800) has a short, yet emotional setting of this text “David the King Was Grieved and Moved.” It is the perfect demonstration of the adage “less is more.”

William Billings was perhaps the most gifted composer to emerge from the New England “singing-school” tradition. Although by trade a tanner, he devoted most of his energy to composing, teaching, and publishing music. During communion the cantors and choir will sing a short round by him as well, and then I will play an organ setting of the anthem by 20th century American composer Gardner Read (1913 – 2005).

Our hymn of the day, as we continue the “bread discourses” is the well-known I am the Bread of Life by Suzanne Toolan (b. 1927). Oregon Music Press provides the following biography:

“Born in Lansing, Michigan, Sister Suzanne moved to Hollywood at 17, before she became a professed Sister of Mercy. She earned a master’s degree in humanities and then began her teaching career, directing choirs for high schools, colleges, parish, and seminaries. She continued her music studies, which included composition work at Michigan State University, liturgical study at the University of Notre Dame, and choral work with Robert Shaw at San Diego State University. She received a second master’s degree from San Francisco State. She brought the music and prayer of the Taizé ecumenical community from France to the Mercy Center in 1982.

Sister Suzanne attributes the popularity of “I Am the Bread of Life,” which has been translated into 20 languages, to its “message of resurrection, which is so strong in these words of Jesus. We so need that message of hope.” On her 80th birthday, she released an autobiography, I Am the Bread of Life, which includes the story behind her beloved hymn.

Sister Suzanne is the resident liturgist and directs Taizé prayer at Mercy Center, a ministry of the Sisters of Mercy in Burlingame, California.”

Suanne Toolan, RSM

Our Postlude is another movement from Craig Phillips’ Archangel Suite (we heard Raphael two weeks ago), Uriel, Bringer of Light.

This week at church there was live singing in VBS. We have three very small groups who met every day both in a well-ventilated Grace Hall and choir room, and did much of the rest of camp outside. We learned lots of songs and sang them in a short program for the parents on Thursday. Friday we practiced processing and singing with the two older groups (since no-one has done this in a year!) followed by an organ demo, during which the kids asked fantastic questions. All this singing was done masked and no kids complained plus they sounded great! If we stay masked, we have a chance of getting through this and being able to have our program this fall.

As is often the case, I got my husband Jabez Van Cleef to make up a song about Moses and the Burning Bush. We sang it to the tune Land of Rest. You are welcome to use these words if you credit him!

Burning Bush song for VBS

Now Moses and his little flock
Across the desert came,
And there they found God’s angel in
A bush of burning flame:

God said, Take off your sandals now,
You’re in a holy place!
And Moses was afraid of God,
And so he hid his face.

So then they bowed before the bush
The bush of burning flame.
God said, I AM the great I AM,
I AM the great I AM.

Jabez Van Cleef 

CM  suggested: Land of Rest

The littles played jingle bells during this:

As always, I treated my readers (entering 2nd grade and up) to what choir rehearsal is like, not only singing the VBS songs and playing the instruments, but learning our way around the hymnal, clapping rhythms, and ringing bells with music. Everyday they actually looked forward to it, asking me “What hymn should we find today?” They felt super grown-up and challenged. Please, please, don’t underestimate the kids! We learned all about the actual hymn Amazing Grace, John Newton, and the story behind it (instead of what the VBS music curriculum suggested, setting it to a rock beat and, and bowlderizing the words).

Well after 31 years of VBS it also finally occured to me to steal the song BINGO, which was a great hit with all ages:

The love of God Amazing is, it is the gift of Grace

G-R-A-C-E, G-R-A-C-E, G-R-A-C-E (do the clapping thing–you know what to do!)

Amazing is God’s Grace!

Sunday Music Musings July 31, 2021

Our cantor Elizabeth is on birthday break, and one of our senior Daughters of Zion, Claire, will join Grace as cantor today. They have worked up a wonderful George Frederick Handel (1685-1750) duet, Wash Me Throughly, which is based on Psalm 51 vs.2. Yes, in our translation that is “wash me through and through” – but remember, German was Handel’s first language! It is actually a kinder text than the Tate and Brady version (1635) he used for some of the other Chandos anthems “Wash off my foul offence.” This is movement #3 of Chandos Anthem No. 3; originally a soprano and tenor duet with oboe, violins, cello and continuo. I actually love the way the soprano duet version crosses voices back and forth, sharing who is on the high notes and who is on harmony—but it is just that that makes it tricky for the singers. In 1717 at the age of 32, Handel was invited to become composer-in-residence to the Duke of Chandos, Henry James Brydges, a wealthy and lavish patron of the arts. Based on the psalms, each anthem begins with a Sinfonia followed by choral movements, arias and duets. You will recognize Psalm 51 as the source of another Daughters of Zion/Choir favorite of all time, Allegri’s Miserere. Below is a video of the full Chandos Anthem, with the duet at (7:30)

 The prelude is by Handel as well, an organ version of a movement from the famous Water Music, which premiered on 17 July 1717, in response to King George I’s request for a concert on the River Thames (so a similar time period to the Chandos anthems).

During August we have MANY discourses on “bread,” and the first “I am the Bread of Life” hymn we will do this week during communion is my favorite tune, from Wonder, Love, and Praise. It is named KUSIK (more on that later) and is by my friend Jack Burnam, who many of our choristers know from years of having the privilege of working under him (senior girls and adults) at the RSCM Wilkesbarre Choir Camp course. Jack served as parish musician for 34 years Immanuel Church, Highlands in Wilmington, and since 2010, at Immanuel Church on the Green in Old New Castle. He is active in AAM (the Association of Anglican Musicians), and as a composer and conductor, including 27 years he conducting the community chamber choir CoroAllegro (1987-2014). Jack had told us that Kusik was named for a former rector, friend, and mentor, and last night he was kind enough to elaborate on this via email.

“The Rev’d Victor Kusik was born in Vladivostok, USSR to Estonian parents–his father was a sales representative for an eastern European locomotive manufacturer–and he came to the US in 1949 ahead of the Red Army’s advance through China. Ordained in the Diocese of Delaware, he became rector of Immanuel Church, Highlands in Wilmington, Delaware in 1972 and served there until his sudden death (of a heart attack) in 1983 at the age of 57. A skilled musician himself, he was bold and forward-thinking with regard to parish liturgy and music amid the controversies of Prayer Book revision in the ‘70s. Victor hired me as his parish musician in 1975, prepared me for confirmation in the Episcopal Church, and inspired me to view my work as a musician as a vocation, intimately connected to the proclamation of the Gospel and the formation of the People of God in discipleship and ministry.

I am the Bread of Life” was originally conceived in a genre of worship music popular in the early ’70s known as “scripture song,” accompanied by guitar, bass, and piano; but it has proved adaptable to a variety of idioms.

What hymn could be more Welsh than the tune CWM RHONDDA by John Hughes (1873-1932), with words by William Williams (1717-1791) translated by Peter Williams (1722-1796)? So let’s emulate the Welsh and sing LOUDLY on our final (and only) congregational hymn, so loudly I can hear you over the organ on the livestream with the cantors mikes off! Can’t wait!

William Williams, called the “Watts of Wales,” was ordained Deacon in the Church of England, but was refused Priest’s Orders, and subsequently attached himself to the Calvinistic Methodists. He travelled in Wales, preaching the Gospel and composed his hymns chiefly in the Welsh language.

Peter Williams had a similar trajectory: converted to Christianity by the preaching of George Whitefield he was ordained in the Church of England in 1744 but left to join the Calvinist Methodists in 1746. He also served as an itinerant preacher and was a primary figure in the Welsh revival of the eighteenth century including publishing a Welsh hymnal, Rhai Hymnau ac Odlau Ysbrydol (1759), as well as Hymns on Various Subjects (1771).

John Hughes received little formal education; at age twelve he was already working as a doorboy at a local mining company in Llantwit Fardre. He eventually became an official in the traffic department of the Great Western Railway. Much of his energy was devoted to the Salem Baptist Church in Pontypridd, where he served as both deacon and precentor. The great tune CWM RHONDDA was composed in 1905 Baptist Cymanfa Ganu (song festival) in Capel Rhondda, Pontypridd, Wales. It must have sounded amazing!

The Lutheran great Paul Manz (1919 –2009) has a setting of CWM RHONDDA that refers so clearly to the Hallelujah Chorus of Handel that I never play it during Lent! So it kind of ties in with our “Handel day.” I wrote a lot more about Manz last Advent here.

Again, I am so happy the have Claire singing today. Ever since she was a very young chorister, she was always the first to volunteer fearlessly for solos! She studies voice and is passionate about vocal music. She also is an EMT and wants to go to a college where she can study to be a PA but keep her music up as well. She also joined the first ASL class at Chatham High School and will be helping our Bible School kids with some sign language this week!