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Sunday Music Musings First Lent, February 20, 2021

February 21, 2021

Our prelude and postlude are by Healey Willan, the great Anglican Canadian composer who I discussed just a few weeks ago. I love his treatment of the tune St. Flavian.

St. Flavian, from Day’s Psalter (1562) is a simple but eloquent tune. Originally published by John Day of London in 1562, “Sternhold and Hopkins” was the first complete English language version of the Psalms. It remained the standard version in England for almost two hundred years.

The text “Lord Who Throughout these Forty Days” is by Claudia Frances Hernaman (1838–1898), née Ibotson, born in Surrey, England. She was both the daughter of and wife of a clergyman, and wrote over 150 hymns, many for children. This is the only one that remains in frequent use, with its clear tale of how Lent works and why.

During Lent with a single (wonderful) cantor, I am going to have her sing a different Kyrie setting every week, so we can use this time to learn something new. Usually I use a Kyrie (S-88) in which the youngest kids can act as leaders. Sunday we will do S-86 from the mass setting New Plainsong by David Hurd. Here at Grace we know much of this setting very well, the Trisagiom (S-100), Gloria (S-277) and especially the Sanctus (S-124) and Lamb of God (S-161). This makes this Kyrie seem very familiar!

Composer and organist David Hurd

David Hurd (b. 1950) is a composer, concert organist, choral director and educator. He began his career was as a boy soprano at St. Gabriel’s Church in Hollis, Long Island, New York. He was educated at Oberlin College and the University of North Carolina. Hurd is an outstanding recitalist and improvisor and a composer of organ, choral, and instrumental music. In 1987 he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Music, honoris causa, by the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale.

Dr. Hurd was at General Theological Seminary, Chelsea, New York City, for 28 years first as Director of Chapel Music and later also as Professor of Church Music and Organist.   In 1985 he became director of music for All Saints Episcopal Church, New York, followed by the position of Music Director at the Church of the Holy Apostles in Chelsea, until May 2013. He is currently serving The Church of Saint Mary the Virgin as Organist and Music Director.

The anthem is The Bellman’s Song arranged by Simon Lindley of Ave Maria fame (at least fame amongst the Grace choristers who love this setting). Here is an SATB version of Ave Maria with the composer conducting at a rousing clip!

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.

The Bellman’s Song is an English folk carol, the kind of carol you can use for Lent rather than Christmas since it dwells on our mortality. The bellman was a kind of town crier—hence this is a similar carol to “Past Three o’Clock.”

A Bellman “Awake, awake, good people all…”

“This carol is much in use in the midland and western counties…The functionary known in bygone times as the Bellman was a kind of night watchman, who, in addition to his staff and lantern, carried a bell, and at a certain period of the year was wont to arouse the slumbering inhabitants of the town to listen to some such effusion as that now printed.”(William Henry Husk, Songs of the Nativity (London: John Camden Hotten, 1868)

We will be singing 4 verses in bold.

The moon shone bright and the stars gave a light,

A little before ’twas day;

Our Lord he looked down on us,

And he bade us awake and pray.

Awake, awake, good people all,

Awake and you shall hear

How our dear Lord died on the cross

For us he loved so dear.

O fair, O fair Jerusalem,

 When shall I come to thee?

When shall my sorrows have an end,

Thy joy that I may see?

The fields were green as green could be,

When from his heavenly seat

Our mighty Lord he watered us

With his heavenly dew so sweet.

And for the saving of our souls

Christ died upon the Cross;

We ne’er shall do for Jesus Christ

As He has done for us.

The life of man is but a span,

And cut down in an hour:

We’re here today, tomorrow gone,

The creatures of an hour.

Some think that this was originally a secular May carol, to which Puritans added verses. There are many more verses in various sources including some at the end that sound like a wassailing carols. Lindley’s setting stops before these three rather dire verses.

7. Instruct and teach your children well,

The while that you are here;

It may be better for your soul

When your corpse lies on the bier.

8. Today you be alive and well,

With many a thousand pound;

Tomorrow dead and cold as clay

When your corpse lies on the ground.

9. With one turf at your head, good man,

And another at your feet,

Thy good deeds and thy bad, O man,

Will altogether meet.

In other choir news, we had an Ash Wednesday service on zoom this week, and I was helped by my husband and 22 year old daughter (the Pandemic Family singers). The hymn of the day was a 16th century tune Erhalt uns Herr, Hymnal 143. For a “house prelude” I played a flute setting by Thomas Keesecker.

Thomas Keesecker (b. 1956) has enjoyed a long career as a church musician, which has allowed him the freedom to be creative in composing music in a variety of styles. He studied at the Berklee College of Music in Boston and the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.  In Advent, I discovered some new pieces he had just written for flute alone on Advent tunes. A few weeks ago I asked him if he had written any Lenten ones, and a joking exchange “no, but want to commission me?” turned into an actual commission. I got together a few flute-loving friends to go in with me (including some Grace church people), suggested some tunes, and faster than the engraver could set them, Thomas wrote “Three Lenten Preludes for Solo Flute.” The dedication reads “For flutists everywhere during the Pandemic of 2020-2021. Commissioned by Anne Matlack, Melissa Honohan, Tom and Judy Honohan, Kris Lamb, and Maureen Lewis.” The fantastic Kris Lamb has also virtually premiered them, so listen to “Erhalt uns” here:

virtual premiere by flutist Kris Lamb of a piece I commissioned (with a little help from my friends) by Thomas Keesecker

If you hear a bit of homage à Jethro Tull, rest assured it was intentional. Tom recently posted on social media:

“50 years ago in March 1971, Jethro Tull released their album Aqualung. They were on tour in the summer and I went to see them at the Alexandria, VA Roller Rink in July. I had just turned 15. Tickets were $5.50. It was my first rock concert. In the beginning of their set Ian Anderson incorporated Bach’s famous Bourree in an extended flute solo. (A few years later my best friend learned the Bourree on his guitar while pursuing a music degree.) Very recently I was commissioned to write a set of Lenten pieces for solo flute. A requested hymn tune was “Erhalt us, Herr.” In some hymnals the setting of the tune uses the Bach 4-part chorale “Erhalt uns, Herr.” The first 8 notes of the Bourree and the Chorale are the same. I played with this idea in my setting. My arrangement alternates between phrases or motifs from each piece.  Other hymn tunes in the set are BOURBON and PANGE LINGUA.”

For Lent I also started playing some music from home after 12:15 noonday prayer on Fridays. Tune in this Friday and you may hear another movement of the flute set! (Grace Zoom room gracemadison.org). The music is available for purchase from the composer.

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