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Sunday Music Musings May 29, 2021

May 29, 2021

I love it when Trinity Sunday and Memorial Day intersect because we can sing the Armed Forces hymn, 579, “Almighty Father, Strong to Save.” Trinitarian in nature, it references Father, Christ, and Holy Spirit as sea, land and air. The original words were written as a poem in 1860 by William Whiting (1825-1878) of Winchester, England. Most people know “Eternal Father, Strong to Save,” also known as “the Navy Hymn,” — found as number 608 in the hymnal, which is also Trinitarian.

The beloved melody, MELITA, published in 1861, was composed by fellow Englishman, Rev. John Bacchus Dykes (1823 – 1876), an Episcopal clergyman, canon and precentor at Durham Cathedral, and later vicar of St. Oswald’s, Duham. Dykes published sermons and religious tracts, but is best known for his over 300 hymns. Because of his musical ability, William Whiting became master of Winchester College Choristers’ School. Thus the poem for this hymn was penned by a musician, while the music was written by a clergyman!

Grace Choristers processing in, Winchester 2015

There are over 100 verses or the Armed forces hymn now, that can be found here, on this fascinating link I really recommend you click on!

The verse about outer space was written by a member of Grace Church, Joe Volonte, and sung at his funeral:

Eternal Father, King of Birth,

who did create the heav’n and earth,

who bids the planets and the sun

Their own appointed orbits run:

O hear us when we seek thy grace

For those who soar through outer space.

CDR Joseph E. Volonte, USN

3 May 1962

First you will hear four organ variations as the prelude by Michael Joseph: Adagio with Strings, Ornamented Chorale, Trumpet Tune and Finale.

As we take baby steps back into safe singing, the congregation is invited to sing the last hymn, so come to live church and sing MELITA! No sign-up is required this week (masks and social distance are maintained in the sanctuary-please arrive by 9:45 so the livestream can start with everyone seated).

Our cantors Grace and Elizabeth are away for the weekend, and I have invited a former Children’s Choir Assistant and friend, Caitlyn Roper to be our cantor. I am so happy that joining her is 6th grader Presley, whose brother is also the confirmand reading tomorrow. It was great to rehearse with her this morning and fit her for a blue robe which she should have received 1 year ago—but would now be way two short anyway!

Caitlyn and Presley know our anthems which are children’s choir favorites. Last year the kids even made a virtual choir version of The Prayer of St. Patrick for Choir Recognition Sunday 2020 (9:10). Often on Trinity Sunday we sing the glorious 7 verses of “I Bind Unto Myself Today” (ST. PATRICKS’S BREASTPLATE, and its middle tune DIERDRE). The words sung under DIERDRE are the ones used in this lovely anthem, William Schoenfeld (b. 1949). This ancient text is attributed to St. Patrick, the 2nd Bishop and Patron Saint of Ireland (c.372-466). The English version of the poem is by Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895), wife of Rev. William Alexander, the Anglican bishop of Ireland. I’ve talked about her a lot – she was a poet of many hymns including a whole collection for children including “All Things Bright and Beautiful.” She ministered to the sick and poor, and founded a school for the deaf.

Cecil Frances Alexander

Anthem composer William M. Schoenfeld holds a B.A. in Music from Cal-State, Hayward, California; C.T.S. in Worship from the Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley, California; and Master of Church Music from Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas. His children’s and adult anthems are published by Choristers Guild, G.I.A., Coronet Press, the Lorenz Corporation, Shawnee Press and Sacred Music Press.

During communion we will sing another of my favorite treble anthems, for Memorial Day, a setting of the World War I poem In Flanders Fields by Canadian poet, soldier, physician and artist John McCrae(1872 –1918). Here is more about poppies and McCrae.

John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

    That mark our place; and in the sky

    The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

    Loved and were loved, and now we lie,

        In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

    The torch; be yours to hold it high.

    If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

        In Flanders fields.

Composer Alexander (Reid) Tilley (b.1944) is also Canadian, born in St. John’s, Newfoundland, and educated at McGill. In the 1970s and 80s he was active in the Halifax City District a music specialist teacher, double-bass instructor, supervisor, and founder of the department’s Experimental Music Studio. Tilley has composed or arranged over two dozen choral pieces for school or church use, of which this has arguably gained the most fame.

The postlude is based in the most famous Trinity hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy” (NICEA), Also by Dykes. I am going to send you back to last Trinity Sunday if you would like to read more about the hymn.

Organ composer Dr. Jerry Westenkuehler, a native of Keytesville, Missouri earned the Bachelor of Science in Organ Performance, Music Education and Church Music from William Jewell College (Liberty, Missouri) and the Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts in Organ Performance from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (Fort Worth, Texas). His organ teachers have included Poppy Koutz, Pauline Riddle, and Albert L. Travis. He currently serves Arborlawn United Methodist Church in Fort Worth, Texas as organist. As a composer of organ and handbell pieces, his works have been published by MorningStar Music Publishing, Warner Bros., Shawnee Press, Broadman Press, and Alfred Publishing. (courtesy ECS).

Last Sunday the Gargoyles met in person in the gazebo across the street after church, in our first in-person meet since a VERY SHORT Christmas recording in November. Here is a snippet of another Memorial Day piece; Crosby, Stills and Nash Find the Cost of Freedom, with loud birds!

This week I look forward to some more short, in-person covid-safe choir practices with my small groups, and Sunday June 6, we will troupe outside after 10 a.m. (11a.m.) and celebrate the choir year with a few short anthems, group singing and awards in the garden! If you want to come for that, it will start at 11 sharp and last about 20 minutes!

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