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Sunday Music Musings September 11, 2021

September 12, 2021

I am so excited to be back at the organ bench Sunday after what was supposed to be a vacation turned into vaccinated Covid. Ah well! I am so grateful to Kimberly Love and Emma Liu who filled in in my absence.

Those of us who make music are trying our best to do some kind of re-start while still respecting this very contagious Delta strain, and following the science. Tomorrow we will have a masked and distanced adult choir up front and some talented SSA Daughters of Zion in the gallery. As I get more and more prep, meetings, in-person events, it may be hard to keep as much detail in my blog every week as I had during pandemic, but I still want to try to share with you what excites me from week to week!

Besides being excited about my singers tomorrow, our organ scholar, Henry Marinovic, will play a piece during communion, Praeludium in A minor by Belgian composer Jaak Nikolaas Lemmens (1823 –1881).

Henry Marinovic is a 2021 graduate of Madison High School and has lived in Madison his whole life. He is taking a gap year before attending the University of Rochester beginning in fall 2022 where he plans to study some combination of STEM and music. Henry began piano study at age four, briefly studied organ with Dr. Anne at the age of six, and has now returned to organ study with Dr. Anne during his gap year. He has played piano and keyboards in numerous school ensembles including the Madison Marching Dodgers and Madison High School’s jazz band, and has performed solo and as an accompanist for numerous events. Henry sang bass in Madison High School’s Chorus and select chorus, Mad Jazz, as well as in The Gargoyles at Grace Church. He looks forward to continuing to sing bass with The Gargoyles, the Grace Church choir, and Harmonium Choral Society this year. Henry is also a composer and has composed many pieces for piano, strings, and chorus, including several piano works that received accolades in the Eric Steiner Composition Contest conducted by NJMEA. In 2016 he performed his piano composition, Misty Day Prelude, at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall. His choral composition, Young Night Thought, tied for first place in the 2019 Harmonium High School Composition Contest, and his choral compositions, Life is Fine and Alchemy, received Honorable Mentions in the Harmonium High School Composition Contest in 2018 and 2021 respectively. When not immersed in music, Henry enjoys hanging out with his family, playing video games and chess, rooting for the New York Mets, and going down Wikipedia rabbit holes.

Henry Marinovic, organ scholar

The Prelude is an organ transcription of Edward Elgar’s (1857 –1934) Nimrod from the Enigma Variations for orchestra. This variation has an elegiac quality and is often used for funerals or remembrance, in this case, 9/11 remembrance.

Several years ago, when the Revised common lectionary came out, we were give as an alternative to Psalm 19, this reading from Wisdom 7:26–8:1

For wisdom is a reflection of eternal light,
a spotless mirror of the working of God,
and an image of his goodness.

Although she is but one, she can do all things,
and while remaining in herself, she renews all things;
in every generation she passes into holy souls
and makes them friends of God, and prophets;
for God loves nothing so much as the person who lives with wisdom.

She is more beautiful than the sun,
and excels every constellation of the stars.
Compared with the light she is found to be superior,
for it is succeeded by the night,
but against wisdom evil does not prevail.

She reaches mightily from one end of the earth to the other,
and she orders all things well.

I love all the readings from Wisdom we get this time of year, as they include a female vision of God. I set this to sound like plainsong, with a refrain (for congregation in non-covid times) “For God loves nothing so much as the person who lives with Wisdom” and parts for both adults and youth choirs, and handbells.

Our anthem also uses bells, Mark Schweizer’s canonic setting of the tune HOLY MANNA. We will be alternating singing from the front and back in both this and the communion canon: WYNGATE CANON by Richard Wayne Dirksen (1921- 2003). This will sound better in the building, because the livestream has a hard time picking up the gallery…so come to church and stay for the Annual Meeting (the 2020 Annual Meeting!). I wrote a lot about Dirksen in my blog on July 24.

Our last hymn I also chose because of 9/11. The beautiful Robert Bridges (1844-1930) translation of an old text by Joachim Neander (1650-1680) includes the verse:

Human pride and earthly glory,

sword and crown betray his trust;

what with care and toil he buildeth,

tower and temple, fall to dust.

But God’s power,

hour by hour,

is my temple and my tower.  (the hymnal version is a little different, 1st person plural)

The hymn goes on to sing of God’s enduring goodness and love no matter what, so also seems like a good “returning” hymn.

The gorgeous tune MICHAEL by Herbert Howells (1892 – 1983) has a sad story behind it. In September 1935 Howells’ nine-year-old son Michael contracted polio during a family holiday, dying in London three days later. At the suggestion of his daughter Ursula he sought to channel his grief into music, and over the next three years composed much of Hymnus Paradisi (a requiem), the Concerto for Strings, the slow movement of which is in joint memory of Michael and Edward Elgar, and the unfinished Cello Concerto, which Howells had been working on at the time of his son’s death and which he found himself unable to complete. A Sequence for St. Michael and the motet Take Him, Earth, for Cherishing have also been associated with Howells’s grief for Michael, as have two of Howells’s hymn tunes, the best-known of which is this hymn “All My Hope on God is Founded” and the tune Twigworth for the hymn “God is love, let heaven adore him”.

Godwin Sadoh

The Postlude is by Godwin Sadoh (b.1965), a Nigerian ethnomusicologist, composer, church musician, pianist, organist, and choral conductor, whose compositions have been performed and recorded worldwide. Ise Oluwa is a Yoruba Hymn meaning “the work of the Lord will never be destroyed.”

I wrote a lot more about this composer in my March 2021 Lenten recital blog here.

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