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Sunday Music Musings Feb. 13, 2021

February 14, 2021

I am starting this blog really late tonight, because I have been working on a History of Music at Grace Church for the Historical Society who are putting together a book about Madison Arts groups I think. Anyway, I’m not sure they wanted 5000 words, and that was the short version. I am glad I was forced to turn into prose a power point presentation I made about 10 years ago, and update it and look back on the trends of what I have really done over 30 years. Ultimately you will get to see the long version!

I have also been working on “An Eclectic Epiphany Evensong” which was just released moments ago, thanks to the hard work of my choirs, and Paula my video editor.  It is eclectic because it includes a prelude (Bach Trio Sonata movement) recorded in September (but not yet used), a Ukranian Phos Hilaron from the St. Gregory of Nyssa songbook that worked well with my teen sopranos and altos, a Magnificat not too hard to rehearse on zoom for my adults, a Nunc dimittis chanted by my kids,  a Peruvain Gloria as an anthem that has a good range for my teen tenors and basses, and Abbie Bettinis’ Love is Love round from the Justice Choir Songbook for everyone on Valentine’s Day. My daughter and my cantor did a duet version of Psalm 67 (Robert Powell) in one safe take. Round it out with some priestly chanting in front of the windows that were the prettiest the day we finally recorded, and a postlude by a woman composer based on the Peruvian Gloria, and it is actually quite nice to have—even though my hair does seem to grow 4 inches from beginning to end!

Sunday is the last Sunday in Epiphany, the gospel is the Transfiguration, and it is the day the kids would have been counting “alleluias.” It strikes me as odd that the great Transfiguration hymn “O Wondrous Type” does not have a single alleluia in it, although it tells the story well! The text is from the 15th century Latin, after J. M. Neale. John Mason Neale (1818-1866) was a prolific writer of prose, poetry and hymns, translator and Anglican priest, high church, in poor health, and enamored of the Oxford movement. You can read much more about him here.  Some of his most famous translations (there are 45 in our hymnal) include: All Glory, Laud and Honor; O come, O come, Emmanuel; Of the Father’s Heart Begotten; Sing, My Tongue, the Glorious Battle; Ye Sons and Daughters; Good Christian Men, Rejoice; and Good King Wenceslas. Oddly enough, he died on 6 August 1866, the Feast of the Transfiguration, so he is commemorated by the Anglican churches on the following day, 7 August, sharing this feast with Catherine Winkworth, who also translated hymns into English.

The tune is Wareham, named for the birthplace (in Dorsetshire, England) of composer William Knapp (1698 – 1768). A glover by trade, known in his time as the “country psalm-singer,” Knapp served as the parish clerk at St. James’s Church in Poole (1729-1768) and was organist in both Wareham and Poole. (Hymnary.org)

The composer of the Prelude on Wareham Herbert Murill (1909 – 1952) was an organist who from 1933 until his death was Professor of Composition in the Royal Academy of Music. He wrote operas, ballets and film scores, but is best known for his choral and organ works.

Speaking of Medieval Latin, the 11th century Urbs beata Jerusalem “Alleluia Song of Gladness” (which actually sounds very melancholy, but is a good way to get out 7 alleluias before Lent) is also a J.M. Neale translation.

The postlude is based on Lasst uns erfreuen, a 17th century German tune that we use for both “All Creatures of our God and King” and “Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones.” It is the latter I was thinking of when I programmed it, so you can “think” all your alleluias out as you listen, and be all ready to give them up for Lent. 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.

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