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Sunday Music Musings July 24, 2021

July 24, 2021

THAXTED is the name of a beloved tune by Gustav Holst (1874 –1934) originally the theme of Jupiter from The Planets. It is one tune I really wish were in the HYMNAL 1982. It is beloved of the Brits who sing it to the words “I Vow to Thee My Country.”  Here is a version of Jupiter, Bringer of Jollity with an awesome woman conducting (Finnish conductor Susanna Mälkki, Conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Proms 2015.) The theme Thaxted comes in at 2:54:

The version we sing during communion is arranged by Pittsburgh Catholic priest/musician James Chepponis (b.1956), with his own communion words “As the Bread of Life Was Broken.”

The prelude is a setting by Michigan composer, organist (and piano technician) John Ignatowski. The postlude is a setting for organ and trumpet or flugel horn by David Howard Pettit, which allows me to keep Grace in in her trumpet chops! Pettit is Principal Organist/Composer in Residence at First Presbyterian Church of Bartlesville, OK, and holds graduate degrees from my graduate school, The College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati.

Our other “of the day” is composer Richard Wayne Dirksen (1921 – July 26, 2003).  Very few American musicians have had such an impact on the Episcopal Church. Dirksen served at Washington National Cathedral from 1942-1991, beginning as assistant and working his way through to beloved Organist/Choir Director, Canon Precentor, director of several glee clubs and the Cathedral Choral Society. He is known as a teacher, composer, performer, producer, recording artist and more. There is a centennial website with everything you ever wanted to know if you would like to learn more, and explore anecdotes and reminiscences.

His 2-part Jubilate Deo (1960) which the cantors sing as our offertory is something I remember singing in junior choir myself, and really loving. In the past 31 years I have done it maybe twice with my trebles, because it IS tricky! It was already in the choral library I inherited from Helen E.J. Thomas who was herself on the cutting edge of repertoire.

Dirksen has 7 hymns in the HYMNAL 1982. One of the most beautiful hymns is #34, INNISFREE FARM, an evening hymn in irregular meter and named for the studio of Rowan le Compte, stained glass master of the rose window at the cathedral. In preparation for the creation of the HYMNAL 1982, the committee asked Dirksen for a more square metrical version of the tune, and that is today’s hymn, We the Lord’s People, #51. The tune name DECATUR PLACE honors the home of Dirksen’s friend and predecessor at the cathedral, Paul Calloway. The words are by John E. Bowers (b. 1923).

This week I attended the wedding of a friend and awesome singer who I’ve known since she was two, music teacher and oft-times member of the Grace Choir, Donna Ward. It was a wonderful ceremony, great people, great music, a bit scarily post-covid…and my daughter was the matron of honor. One cool story I’d love to share is at the reception we were talking to one of the women who worked at the venue and told her the bride and many of us were music teachers, and she said, “oh I love music teachers, I remember my music teacher” who of course turned out to be someone I know! Another former Grace singer, Greg (former Gargoyles director) walked her down the aisle.

Congratulations Donna and Guy and all the best from us at Grace!

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