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Sunday Music Musings October 24, 2020

October 25, 2020

Prelude in G” BWV 541 by J. S. Bach (1685-1750) is one of the most joyful pieces I know, and I am joyful that congregation (small!) is in the building this Sunday morning. The opening arpeggio leads into an ebullient Vivaldi-like tutti. This work was probably originally written around the middle of Bach’s formative period in Weimar, 1708-1717, but revised in Leipzig sometime after 1740.

His son, Wilhelm Friedemann used it to audition for the first post he won in 1733—the Sophienkirche in Dresden, with its new Silbermann organ. We have been tweaking the livestream audio, so I hope it is better this week! Organs are complex with a huge range of sound!

My cantor right now is Elizabeth “Chickie” Monkemeier, a former head chorister who has sung with me since 2nd grade. She is now a junior music major at Rutgers, with dual clarinet performance and music education. She is a drum major for the (currently virtual) Marching Scarlet Nights, — right now making a video of drum majors for the Big Ten. She is a public relations officer for the Rutgers Chapter for Nafme, and a music rep for the student governing association. She is currently leading virtual tours of Mason-Gross School of Music. She went on the 2019 Germany tour with the Rutgers Kirkpatrick Choir. Lucky for me, her classes are virtual, and she can stay in Madison helping me with the music, and using her years of experience in the choir and chanting psalms! She will sing as the Canticle of Praise “Come Let Us Sing Unto the Lord” by Jack Noble White again this week, and chant Psalm 90.

Elizabeth Monkemeier, pandemic cantor extraordinaire

If we had choir and congregation hymns, we would surely sing “O God Our Help in Ages Past” since it is a paraphrase of Psalm 90 by Isaac Watts (1674 –1748), an incredibly prolific hymn-writer.  With some 750 hymns he is recognized as the “Godfather of English Hymnody.”  The tune, originally by William Croft (1678 – 1727)  is called St. Anne, because he wrote it in 1708 while he was the organist of St. Anne’s Church, Soho.

St annes soho 1.jpg
St. Anne’s Soho was dedicated by Bishop Compton (1632 – 1713) who had been tutor to Princess Anne before she became Queen.

The “Hymn Meditation” setting of “O God Our Help” comes from a Partita (Variations) by Dutch Organist Jan Bender (1909-1994). Born in Haarlem, Netherlands, he moved to Lübeck Germany, to study organ and conducting and became an organist at St. Gertrude’s. In 1960 he emigrated to the United States and settled in Seward, Nebraska, where he was a teacher. He also taught at Concordia Teachers College and Wittenberg University in Springfield Ohio. In 1976 he retired to Hanerau, Germany. In 1979 he served as visiting professor at Valparaiso University, in 1979-1981 at Gustavus Adolphus College in St Peter Minnesota, and in 1982 at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina. Many of his compositions use hymn (chorale) tunes. He can be considered a Neo-Baroque composer, part of the “Orgebewegung” (organ reform movement). Bender’s Partita is dedicated to David Fienen,  organist, pianist, harpsichordist and Emeritus Professor of Music at Gustavus Adolphus College.

The postlude is from the same work. Since the congregation is being seated early for our first “live” Sunday, they may also hear some more movements before the official livestream begins.

The offertory solo: “God of Mercy, God of Grace” is by Jerry F. Davidson (b. 1942) an organist and music educator originally from Arkansas. He holds a Ph.D from Northwestern University, and the M.Sac.Mus from New York’s Union Theological Seminary. The text is by Henry Francis Lyte (1793-1847) who also wrote the words to “Praise my Soul the King of Heaven”—I wrote more about him on September 12.  In our Hymnal 1982, you can find it at #538, to a different tune.

Thank you for reading this—I feel like in pandemic I do as much talking about music as making music—and I do appreciate a listen!

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