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Sunday Music Musings September 25, 2021

September 25, 2021

German immigrant Augustus P. Blase was a member of the Watervliet, New York Shaker community, and one of its most prolific songwriters, best known for the song Now My Dear Companions (c. 1870). For the Gargoyles first return to singing in church this fall (they sang Steal Away from the gallery in June) it seemed appropriate that they start with the words “Now my dear companions is the time to start anew!”

The Gargoyles also have a new director/coach and tenor I, Lucas Shearson. Lucas, from Bakersfield California, is a Junior at Drew University where he studies music. He is the President of Drew’s oldest a cappella group, 36 Madison Avenue. In his free time he enjoys live theater and social games. Please welcome him!

Meet Lucas Shearson

Our psalm setting of Psalm 124 is a return to Anglican chant singing now that we have a bit of choir. The music is by C. Hylton Stewart (1884-1932), an English cathedral organist who served in Rochester Cathedral, Chester Cathedral and St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle.

The anthem the adults sing is by contemporary composer Karen Marrolli, Director of Music Ministries at Central United Methodist Church in Albuquerque, NM. She previously served in Trussville, AL; Santa Fe, NM, and as the Artistic Director of the Zia Singers, the Cantu Spiritus Chamber Choir, and the Santa Fe Men’s Camerata. Marrolli holds the DMA degree in Choral Conducting from Louisiana State University (2010). She earned her BM in Music Theory and Composition (1997) and her MM in Choral Conducting and Sacred Music (2000) from Westminster Choir College before relocating to Charleston, SC, where she lived for seven years prior to pursuing doctoral studies. While in Charleston, she founded Lux Aeterna, a chamber choir who presented candlelight concerts in honor of such events as World AIDS Day, the September 11th attacks, and Child Abuse Awareness Month. These concerts always consisted of readings, often written by survivors of traumatic events, interspersed with choral music. The concerts progressed from a sense of darkness to light and were meant to give hope to those who were in a process of healing.

The anthem To Dust has a similar trajectory, and words by the composer herself:

Let my crying come to dust. Let my grief be turned to ashes. Let my heart be cleansed with flame.

Kyrie eleison.

Let my mourning turn to song. Let my sorrow turn to sunrise. Let my broken spirit rest.

Kyrie eleison.

Let your waters rise. Let your deserts bloom with bounty. Let your Holy Spirit come.

Christe eleison.

Let our crying come to dust. Let our grief be turned to ashes. Let our hearts be cleansed with flame.

Kyrie eleison.

I like how the first person singular turns to the first person plural, which is how the choir feels after singing alone at home for a year, and finally together.

Our communion hymn is O Food to Pilgrims Given, with the beautiful Eucharistic text translation from the Latin (attributed to Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274) by John Athelstan Laurie Riley (1858-1945). The tune INNSBRUCK, is Flemish Renaissance composer Heinrich Isaac’s (1450-1517) gorgeous and nostalgic setting of “Innsbruck ich muss dich lassen” (Innsbruck I now must leave you). The tune may not have been Isaac’s, and is also Lutheran chorale O Welt, ich muss dich lassen, (“O World I now must leave you”) found in Bach’s St Matthew Passion and a Brahms organ chorale I often play at funerals. J.G. Walther(1684–1748 who I also played last week, has a lovely organ setting as well. Here is a lovely setting of the Isaace version (I had to look all over YouTube for a rendition that phrased-off to my liking!)

Our last hymn I know is not a familiar one, but a wonderful one – Go Forth for God with words by J.R. Peacey (1896-1971). The tune is by great hymn-writer and teacher Erik Routley (1917-1982). LITTON is in reference to the wonderful American choral conductor James Litton who directed the American Boychoir from 1985 to 2001. I’ll never forget how kind he was to me as young conductor letting come spend a say in Princeton observing his rehearsals. Be brave and learn somtehing new Sunday–we have 4 verses celebrating taking God out into the world to get it right! Here is a recording for pre-practice!

Our Prelude and Postlude are the Prelude and Fugue (respectively) from the Praeludium in G Minor by Danish-German organist, violinist, and composer Nicolaus Bruhns (1665-1697). This exciting work shows why he was one of Dietrich Buxtehude’s favorite pupils.

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