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Sunday Music Musings October 10, 2020

October 11, 2020

Betty Jackson King (1928 – 1994) was a pianist, organist, vocalist, composer, conductor and educator. Her connection to church music began as a pastor’s daughter, and her mother was her first piano teacher. She received her B.M. in piano and M.M. in composition from Roosevelt University, Chicago, Illinois. She had further study at Oakland University, and this week’s NJ connection: Glassboro College (now Rowan University) as well as Westminster Choir College. She taught at the University of Chicago Laboratory School, Roosevelt University, Dillard University (New Orleans, LA), and Wildwood High School (Wildwood, NJ), where she received the Teaching Recognition Award from governor Thomas Kean.

Feb. 17, 1928 Betty Jackson King, A Seasonal Sketch - YouTube
Betty Jackson King

Other honors included a scholarship from the Chicago Umbrian Glee Club, awards from the National Association of Negro Musicians, Inc., “Outstanding Leaders in Elementary and Secondary Education”, and “The International Black Writers Conference”. King was President of the National Association of Negro Musicians from 1970-1984.  I hope to look further into some of her compositions such as Saul of Tarsus, My Servant Job, Simon of Cyrene, Easter cantata; Requiem; The Kids in School With Me, ballet with orchestration; Life Cycle for violin and piano; Vocalise for soprano, cello and piano; sacred, secular novelty, choral compositions; and spiritual arrangements. This lovely little organ work, Nuptial Song seemed a good prelude for a gospel that includes a wedding. Since my organ does not have chimes, my cantor will ring a handbell in a few places.

For further listening, here is a beautiful vocal Shakespeare setting by Ms. King sung by Yolanda Rhodes and Deanne Tucker.

Here is a gentle piano Intermezzo played by my colleague Peter Hill at Chatham Methodist Church.

Our ‘organ Gloria’ is another setting of “Allein Gott in der Höh” (All Glory Be to God on High) (Hymn #421), this week by J.S. Bach’s cousin and contemporary, Johan Gottfried Walther (1684 -1748). His first organ lessons were with Johann Bernhard Bach, and at 18 he became organist in his hometown of Erfurt’s Thomaskirche. In 1707 he became organist at Weimar’s Stadkirche where he remained for the rest of his life! There he wrote 132 organ preludes based on Lutheran chorale melodies He also served as music teacher to Prince Johann Ernst in Weimar, and directed the ducal orchestra.

“J.S. Bach came to the ducal court in 1708, and the cousins struck up a close friendship, which benefited Walther artistically as much as, though perhaps not more than, his relationship with Werckmeister had. Walther was an omnivorous collector of information on music and theory, which led to the publication in 1732 of his Musicalisches Lexicon, Germany’s first major music dictionary, incorporating entries on both biography and terminology. His career stalled out, though, and Walther never rose through the Weimar musical system, much to his bitter regret.”-James Reel Allmusic

Walther’s chorale preludes are the bread and butter of the church organists’ Baroque repertoire. In both Allein Gott and the postlude, Herr Gott dich loben, a setting of what we now know as “Old Hundredth,” the hymn tune is clear in the pedals and echoed or foreshadowed in the upper voices, surrounded by tinkling contrapuntal figures.

Our hymn meditation is a setting of Schmücke dich (Deck Thyself, My Soul—Hymnal #339) by Johannes Brahms (1833 – 1897). Brahms’ organ music is all contained in one sublime volume. The Eleven Chorale Preludes, Op. 122, influenced by Bach and the Baroque composers he loved and studied, were among his very last compositions, composed in 1896, immediately before and after the death of Clara Schumann, his unrequited love.

Our offertory solo goes with the Epistle reading, “Rejoice in the Lord Always” by Richard Gieseke (b.1952). It is a favorite of our School Choirs, and I hope they will sing along from home! Now enjoying retirement in Missouri, Gieseke served in many Lutheran parishes and also had calls to Concordia Publishing House, Lutheran Hour Ministries, LCMS Foundation, and Lutheran Blind Mission. He studied at Concordia Teachers College with Dr. Carl Schalk and Dr. Richard Hillert.

If times were “normal” the choir would be singing the Renaissance Anonymous version–so here you go choir: a version with the score for you to sing along! Stay in shape!

This coming week we will have another virtual hymn sing on zoom—Wed. Oct. 15 7-8p.m. — all are welcome from wherever! My family helps me at the piano, and you sing along with your family (on mute, so wail away!) and then we chat about why we picked our favorites. If your kids pick any, I promise to do those at the beginning of the hour. Please save any Advent/Christmas carols until our next one in December. Please stick to hymns in the Hymnal 1982 for now (there are plenty-known and unknown!) and submit them to amatlack@gracemadison.org by Monday!

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