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Sunday Music Musings May 15, 2021

May 15, 2021

I’ve enjoyed having time to practice bigger Bach works this year, and I have saved J.S. Bach’s Prelude in D BWV 532 for Eastertide. It seems like a really appropriate prelude for the Sunday after the Ascension, as the opening is based on an ascending D major scale. This work was written during Bach’s Weimar period (1709 – 1717). There is a quite cheerful fugue as well, which I may tackle next.             

In place of the Gloria, we will sing Canticle 13, Benedictus es Domine, a setting by beloved English composer John Rutter CBE (b. 1945). I always have the kids count how many times we say “Glory to You” (12 if you count the descant) and work on their round vowels…we still did this in zoom choir. My daughter Grace is away celebrating her boyfriend’s graduation from Rowan U, but our head chorister and senior Anne Bolt will join our cantor Elizabeth and sing the descant to this canticle.

John Rutter is famous for this choir quote which has kept many of us going as we await a return to singing.

Well, this week I made plans to meet with each of my church groups in person, either outside or right near an open door, still masked – but actually HEARING each other, and I cannot wait!

As usual, I need to credit the hymnary.org as well as hymndescants.org with this write up of our tune of the day: IN BABILONE is from Oude en Nieuwe Hollantse Boerenlieties en Contredansen (Old and New Dutch Peasant Songs and Country Dances), a collection of over a thousand tunes, dances, and marches of Dutch, French, and English origin. The tune name derives from the incipit of a Dutch ballad drawn from the apocryphal Bel and the Dragon, which opens “In Babylon, with lack of wisdom, men worshiped Bel (Baal) the silent idol.” Ralph Vaughan Williams discovered an arrangement of this tune by Julius Röntgen (1855-1932) and included it in The English Hymnal (1906), from which it gained widespread use. An important Dutch pianist, composer, conductor, scholar, and editor, Rontgen studied music in Leipzig  and later he moved to Amsterdam, where he taught at the Amsterdam Conservatory and in 1886 he became conductor of the Society for the Advancement of Musical Art. He returned to the Conservatory as director in 1918, and then retired in 1924 to devote himself to composition. He was a friend of leading composers of his day, including Liszt, Brahms, and Grieg, and wrote a biography of Grieg. The descant by David Maurand was commissioned by The Rev. Dr. Titus Presler.

The hymn is used for Hail thou once despised Jesus, and also for the Ascension words today: See the Conqueror mounts in triumph, written by Greek scholar Christopher Wordsworth (1807-1885). Wordsworth was the nephew of the great lake-poet, William Wordsworth. He was educated at Winchester, and at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated with high honors, in 1830; M.A. in 1833; D.D. in 1839. He was elected Fellow of his College in 1830, and public orator of the University in 1836; received Priest’s Orders in 1835; head master of Harrow School in 1836; Canon of Westminster Abbey in 1844; Hulsean Lecturer at Cambridge in 1847-48; Vicar of Stanford-in-the-Vale, Berks, in 1850; Archdeacon of Westminster, in 1865; Bishop of Lincoln, in 1868. He wrote lots of prode and also a publiction of 127 hymns in 1862.

The offertory is a setting of “Now the Green Blade Riseth”- an Easter hymn I discussed last week. Both the offertory and the postlude are setting by the very prolific Lutheran organist/composer Michael Burkhardt (b.1957). I play many of his settings based on the hymn tunes we use liturgically. You can find his full bio here.

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