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Sunday Music Musings December 12, 2020

December 13, 2020

For the third Sunday in Advent (pink candle!) we celebrate the “Magnificat,” the song of Mary, the canticle we often say in daily prayer, and always sing at Evensong. The prelude uses the “ninth tone” (“noni toni”– of 9 different ways to chant plainsong) also known as the “tonus peregrinus” or wandering tone, because you actually chant on 2 different chanting tones instead of one. See above, how there are repeated As, but then in the second phrase repeated Gs. (Yes, peregrine, like the falcon flying about). If you want to know much, much more about chant and this tone, here is a blog just about that!

Samuel Scheidt (1587-1654) was an influential early Baroque German organist and composer who studied with Sweelinck in Amsterdam.  Scheidt’s works included sacred vocal music, notably Cantiones sacrae (1620) for eight voices, and four books of Geistliche Concerten (1631–40) for two to six voices and continuo. Harald Vogel, editor of Tabulatura Nova (three parts, 1624) calls the publication of this collection of organ music “the most important collection of keyboard works to be published in Germany before the 18th century…combining the advanced techniques of his teacher Sweelinck with the compositional discipline appropriate to the liturgical repertoire of the Lutheran worship service.” The collection contains fantasias, toccatas, “echo pieces,” organ responses for liturgical use, and, most important, variations on chorale melodies. This Magnificat setting is meant to be in alternatim with cantor, or choir. You can hear the chant quite clearly in all the organ verses, around which are all sorts of figurations illustrating the character of the verse.

Magníficat ánima mea Dóminum.

Et exultávit spíritus meus: in Deo salutári meo.

Quia respéxit humilitátem ancíllae suae:
Ecce enim ex hoc beátam me dicent omnes generatiónes.

Quia fécit mihi mágna qui pótens est: et sánctum nómen eius.

Et misericórdia eius in progénies et progénies timéntibus eum.

Fécit poténtiam in bráchio suo: dispérsit supérbos mente cordis sui.

Depósuit poténtes de sede: et exaltávit húmiles.

  Esuriéntes implévit bonis: et dívites dimísit inánes.

Suscépit Ísrael púerum suum: recordátus misericórdiae suae.

Sicut locútus est ad patres nostros: Ábraham, et sémini eius in saecula.

Glória Patri, et Fílio, et Spirítui Sancto,

Sicut erat in princípio, et nunc, et semper, et in sæcula sæculórum. Amen.
My soul doth magnify the Lord. (cantor)

And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. (organ)

Because He hath regarded the humility of His slave:
For behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. (cantor)

Because He that is mighty hath done great things to me; and holy is His name. (organ)

And His mercy is from generation unto generations, to them that fear Him. (cantor)

He hath shewed might in His arm: He hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. (organ)

He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble. (cantor)

He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich He hath sent empty away. (organ)

He hath received Israel His servant, being mindful of His mercy: (cantor)

As He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed for ever. (organ)

Glory be the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, (cantor)

As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, forever and ever, Amen. (both)

In place of the psalm, you can also do a Magnificat setting, and we will do the unison C minor setting by knighted British composer Sir George Dyson KCVO (1883 – 1964) born in Halifax, Yorkshire. Dyson’s father was a blacksmith, but also organist and choirmaster at a local church, and his mother was a weaver and amateur choir singer. Needless to say they encouraged their son’s musical talent. Dyson studied at the Royal College of Music (RCM) in London, with Stanford and Parry, from whom he learned a traditional style which served him well.  He served in the army in the First World War, joined the Royal Fusiliers in 1914, writing a handbook about grenades. In 1916, suffering from shell-shock, he was invalided back to England, but later returned to the war as a major in the newly formed Royal Air Force, organizing RAF bands. After the war he was a schoolmaster and college lecturer at Wellington College and then Winchester. In 1938 he became director of the RCM, and saw it through the Second World War. He retired in 1962 to enjoy a fruitful compositional period, and died in Winchester in 1964.

Sir George Dyson KCVO

Our Advent Hymn of the day is Hark! A thrilling voice is sounding (Merton). tell us of the text: “Although earliest manuscript copy dates from the tenth century, this text is possibly as old as the fifth century. It is based on the Latin hymn ‘Vox clara ecce intonat’ and its 1632 revision ‘En clara vox redarguit’.” The translator is Edward Caswall (1814-1878), son of a clergyman who became a priest, but then converted to Catholicism and joined the Oratory, Edgbaston. Caswall’s translations of Latin hymns from the Roman Breviary and other sources are widely represented in modern hymnals.

The tune is by William H. Monk (1823-1889), who is best known for his music editing of Hymns Ancient and Modern (1861, 1868; 1875, and 1889 editions). He became choirmaster at King’s College in London in 1847 and was organist and choirmaster at St. Matthias, Stoke Newington, from 1852 to 1889, where he was influenced by the Oxford Movement. His other most famous tune is Eventide (“Abide with Me”). This hymn has a famous pitfall for the choir, with a descant that comes in when you least expect it on verse 2!

W.H. Monk

Our offertory hymn is the gorgeous and plaintive “What is that Crying at Jordan?”- an Irish tune called St. Mark’s Berkeley, originally found in Danata De, a national Irish Catholic hymnal in Irish Gaelic. There is very little information about the poet, Carol Christopher Drake (b. 1933), although there are other poems online in poetry journals from the 50s and 60s, such as Immigrant. In any case, the combination of text and tune is completely haunting and very 2020 (“dark is the season, dark our hearts and shut to mystery”). Have a look at it #69 in the Hymnal 1982.

For the postlude we return to a stately setting of “Hark! A thrilling voice” by British composer Malcolm Archer, similar to last week’s “On Jordan’s Bank” but in a lilting 12/8 meter.

We’ve been working hard at finishing up our virtual carols, and because the diocese is shutting down all in person activities, we had our last bell rehearsals on the Grace Hall porch, with both 6 adult women, then 7 kids. We enjoyed the process, and managed to record a little after convincing the landscapers to take a coffee break from leaf blowing. The rain held off. The kids really felt proud of themselves that we made the piece sound good in 2 half-hour rehearsals. Their live energy was a blessing.

Bye for a while, pandemic bells!

Another cool thing that happened this week is Elizabeth Monkemeier, our cantor, recorded her clarinet juries for the Mason Gross School of Music at Rutgers in the gorgeous acoustic of Grace Church. They are so impressive. Have a listen, and enjoy our beautiful chancel.

I would normally be conducting a Harmonium concert right now, but tomorrow (Sunday Dec. 13) I will host a festive (free) virtual event with videos both old and virtual, live guests, games and more. Just email for the zoom link for the 7 pm event.

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