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Sunday Music Musings July 31, 2021

July 31, 2021

Our cantor Elizabeth is on birthday break, and one of our senior Daughters of Zion, Claire, will join Grace as cantor today. They have worked up a wonderful George Frederick Handel (1685-1750) duet, Wash Me Throughly, which is based on Psalm 51 vs.2. Yes, in our translation that is “wash me through and through” – but remember, German was Handel’s first language! It is actually a kinder text than the Tate and Brady version (1635) he used for some of the other Chandos anthems “Wash off my foul offence.” This is movement #3 of Chandos Anthem No. 3; originally a soprano and tenor duet with oboe, violins, cello and continuo. I actually love the way the soprano duet version crosses voices back and forth, sharing who is on the high notes and who is on harmony—but it is just that that makes it tricky for the singers. In 1717 at the age of 32, Handel was invited to become composer-in-residence to the Duke of Chandos, Henry James Brydges, a wealthy and lavish patron of the arts. Based on the psalms, each anthem begins with a Sinfonia followed by choral movements, arias and duets. You will recognize Psalm 51 as the source of another Daughters of Zion/Choir favorite of all time, Allegri’s Miserere. Below is a video of the full Chandos Anthem, with the duet at (7:30)

 The prelude is by Handel as well, an organ version of a movement from the famous Water Music, which premiered on 17 July 1717, in response to King George I’s request for a concert on the River Thames (so a similar time period to the Chandos anthems).

During August we have MANY discourses on “bread,” and the first “I am the Bread of Life” hymn we will do this week during communion is my favorite tune, from Wonder, Love, and Praise. It is named KUSIK (more on that later) and is by my friend Jack Burnam, who many of our choristers know from years of having the privilege of working under him (senior girls and adults) at the RSCM Wilkesbarre Choir Camp course. Jack served as parish musician for 34 years Immanuel Church, Highlands in Wilmington, and since 2010, at Immanuel Church on the Green in Old New Castle. He is active in AAM (the Association of Anglican Musicians), and as a composer and conductor, including 27 years he conducting the community chamber choir CoroAllegro (1987-2014). Jack had told us that Kusik was named for a former rector, friend, and mentor, and last night he was kind enough to elaborate on this via email.

“The Rev’d Victor Kusik was born in Vladivostok, USSR to Estonian parents–his father was a sales representative for an eastern European locomotive manufacturer–and he came to the US in 1949 ahead of the Red Army’s advance through China. Ordained in the Diocese of Delaware, he became rector of Immanuel Church, Highlands in Wilmington, Delaware in 1972 and served there until his sudden death (of a heart attack) in 1983 at the age of 57. A skilled musician himself, he was bold and forward-thinking with regard to parish liturgy and music amid the controversies of Prayer Book revision in the ‘70s. Victor hired me as his parish musician in 1975, prepared me for confirmation in the Episcopal Church, and inspired me to view my work as a musician as a vocation, intimately connected to the proclamation of the Gospel and the formation of the People of God in discipleship and ministry.

I am the Bread of Life” was originally conceived in a genre of worship music popular in the early ’70s known as “scripture song,” accompanied by guitar, bass, and piano; but it has proved adaptable to a variety of idioms.

What hymn could be more Welsh than the tune CWM RHONDDA by John Hughes (1873-1932), with words by William Williams (1717-1791) translated by Peter Williams (1722-1796)? So let’s emulate the Welsh and sing LOUDLY on our final (and only) congregational hymn, so loudly I can hear you over the organ on the livestream with the cantors mikes off! Can’t wait!

William Williams, called the “Watts of Wales,” was ordained Deacon in the Church of England, but was refused Priest’s Orders, and subsequently attached himself to the Calvinistic Methodists. He travelled in Wales, preaching the Gospel and composed his hymns chiefly in the Welsh language.

Peter Williams had a similar trajectory: converted to Christianity by the preaching of George Whitefield he was ordained in the Church of England in 1744 but left to join the Calvinist Methodists in 1746. He also served as an itinerant preacher and was a primary figure in the Welsh revival of the eighteenth century including publishing a Welsh hymnal, Rhai Hymnau ac Odlau Ysbrydol (1759), as well as Hymns on Various Subjects (1771).

John Hughes received little formal education; at age twelve he was already working as a doorboy at a local mining company in Llantwit Fardre. He eventually became an official in the traffic department of the Great Western Railway. Much of his energy was devoted to the Salem Baptist Church in Pontypridd, where he served as both deacon and precentor. The great tune CWM RHONDDA was composed in 1905 Baptist Cymanfa Ganu (song festival) in Capel Rhondda, Pontypridd, Wales. It must have sounded amazing!

The Lutheran great Paul Manz (1919 –2009) has a setting of CWM RHONDDA that refers so clearly to the Hallelujah Chorus of Handel that I never play it during Lent! So it kind of ties in with our “Handel day.” I wrote a lot more about Manz last Advent here.

Again, I am so happy the have Claire singing today. Ever since she was a very young chorister, she was always the first to volunteer fearlessly for solos! She studies voice and is passionate about vocal music. She also is an EMT and wants to go to a college where she can study to be a PA but keep her music up as well. She also joined the first ASL class at Chatham High School and will be helping our Bible School kids with some sign language this week!

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