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Sunday Music Musings July 17, 2021

July 17, 2021
Colorful Archangel Raphael Stained Glass Basilica Cathedral Puebla Mexico. Built in 15 to 1600s. Raphal is the healing archangle with fish as a symbol

Craig Phillips is a distinguished and popular American composer and organist and Director of Music at All Saints’ Church, Beverly Hills. His choral and organ music is heard Sunday by Sunday in churches and cathedrals across the United States, and many of his works have been performed in concert throughout North America, Europe and Asia. He was named the American Guild of Organists Distinguished Composer for 2012. Dr. Phillips holds the degrees Doctor of Musical Arts, Master of Music, and the Performers Certificate from the Eastman School of Music, Rochester, New York, where he studied with the great pedagogue Russell Saunders. 

His Archangel Suite was written in 2011, and is a four movement work: Michael-Raphael-Gabriel-Uriel. Our prelude, Raphael is subtitled “It is God who Heals” and is described by the publisher as “a lush cantilena; a shimmering meditation for celestes.”

We have a few Sundays left with both of our cantors, Elizabeth and Grace, who sing so well together, so I can’t help but give them challenging duets like Maurice Greene (1696 –1755)’s cheerful Baroque setting of the beginning of Psalm 23 The Lord is My Shepherd. The son of a clergyman, born in London, Greene had quite a distinguished career. Greene became a choirboy at St Paul’s Cathedral under Jeremiah Clarke and Charles King, and then studied with the organist Richard Brind, becoming organist at St. Paul’s upon his teacher’s death. With the death of William Croft in 1727, Greene became organist at the Chapel Royal, in 1730 he became Professor of Music at Cambridge University, and in 1735 he was appointed Master of the King’s Musick.

During communion the cantors will sing the Psalm 23 words to James McBain’s Brother James’ Air which I wrote about on Good Shepherd Sunday.

The hymn of the day is Saviour Like Shepherd Lead Us the words of which were first found in a Children’s Hymnal from 1830. The tune is SICILIAN MARINERS. According to hymnary.org SICILIAN MARINERS is traditionally used for the Roman Catholic Marian hymn O Sanctissima. According to tradition, Sicilian seamen ended each day on their ships by singing this hymn in unison. The tune probably traveled from Italy to Germany to England, where The European Magazine and London Review first published it in 1792. The tune was associated with the German Christmas carol O du Frohliche, O du Selige.

The tune also appears to have had an influence on the African American song We Shall Overcome. Below is a fantastic 8 minute video about the roots of “We Shall Overcome” that traces the tune back through Mahalia Jackson, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Charles Tindley, “No More Auction Block” to North Carolina Civil War Bands. I may have shared this before, but it is worth sharing again.

The postlude is a setting of this tune by early American composer Benjamin Carr (1768 – 1831). Born in England, where he studied organ with Charles Wesley and composition with Samuel Arnold, Carr emigrated to Philadelphia in 1793 and opened a music shop. Not only did Carr find success as a publisher, but he was also a notable tenor, organist, and composer. He published 71 songs throughout his lifetime and played an important role in the development of early American musical life. In 1794, he made his stage debut in Philadelphia as a tenor with the Old American Company and accompanied the ensemble to New York later that year. Carr spent a few years in New York, opening another music shop and continuing to perform and compose. Upon his return to Philadelphia in 1797, he became known as the “Father of Philadelphia Music and served as organist at several churches. (Source: New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians).

Speaking of healing, I want to say I really, really appreciate all of your prayers as I go through what we hope is the end of 6 rounds of chemo for lymphoma. I’m really doing OK, but I get really frustrated with myself when I don’t have energy and I don’t have patience with not having energy, and I’m sure God is telling me to chill out! So anyway, cycle 5 of 6 now — I’m in the middle of it, my counts go down, and I feel a little crappy, but they gave me the “good stuff” (blood transfusion) on Monday which helped and God Bless the integrative therapists i.e. free foot massage! Best of all I felt good enough to go to my daughter Virginia’s birthday/housewarming party on Wednesday. Wow, if you ever get to go to a jam session with a bunch of music therapists (and my family memebers) – there is nothing like it. I did get a little weepy watching my own children sing Joni Mitchell’s Circle Game. Here is a taste! Long day, but I sure felt great after all that singing!

Right now in church, we are just singing the last hymn as a congregtion, and I asked everyone to really sing out on Amazing Grace last week (52:25) so the livestream could pick up the singing, and they did great! Keep it coming!

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