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Sunday Music Musings October 9, 2021

October 10, 2021

Today’s hymn of the day is the staple O God Our Help in Ages Past, tune: ST. ANNE. The prelude is a set of variations (also known as a “Partita”) by the Dutch/German Lutheran composer Jan Bender (1909-1994). Bender studied with one of my favorite composers, Hugo Distler, and was a proponent of the Orgelbewegung, or Organ Reform Movement, which turned away from the excesses of Romantic composition, back to the ethos of the Baroque, both in style and organ building. Here is a more extensive biography of Bender.

This hymn was the first one I learned to play on the organ, and likewise our organ scholar Henry, is working it up. The words, a paraphrase of Psalm 90, are by the great and prolific Isaac Watts (1674-1748). The melody is attributed to the English Baroque composer William Croft (1678-1727). Croft was a chorister at the Chapel Royal under John Blow. At the age of twenty-two Croft became Organist of St. Anne’s, Soho, (hence the name of this tune?) and in the same year became a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal. A year later he became joint Organist of the Chapel Royal with Jeremiah Clarke (of wedding processional fame), retaining the position in 1707 upon Clarke’s death. In 1708 he succeeded his master, John Blow, as Organist of Westminster Abbey and Master of the Children and Composer to the Chapel Royal, retaining these positions until his death in 1727. He was buried in Westminster Abbey in the north aisle, where his monument can still be seen. The harmonization in the hymnal is by another Anglican great, William Henry Monk (1823-1889). (Both Monk and Croft Anglican chants are often used.)

The adult choir anthem is Prayer of Henry VI, by the Anglican composer Henry Ley (1887-1962). Ley trained as a chorister at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor, as a music scholar at Uppingham, the Royal College of Music, and as an organ scholar at Keble College, Oxford. He was Precentor of Radley College; organist at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford (1909-26); Choragus of the University, Oxford; professor of the organ at the Royal College of Music (1919); and organist at Eton College.

Domine, Jesu Christe,

qui me creasti, redemisti,

et preordinasti ad hoc quod sum;

tu scis quæ de me facere vis;

fac de me secundum voluntatem tuam cum misericordia.


O Lord Jesus Christ,

who hast created and redeemed me

and hast foreordained me unto that which now I am;

thou knowest what thou wouldst do with me;

do with me according to thy will, in thy mercy.


Also known as the “Founder’s Prayer,” this short piece is sung regularly at King’s College, Cambridge (whose founder was King Henry VI).

The “blue choir,” School Choir II, aka my trebles between 6th and 12 grade are debuting post-Covid from the gallery, but of course a combination of sports, marching band and colds mean they will be rather small (but mighty) and mostly the high schoolers, the Daughters of Zion. I have picked one of my favorite anthems, the English version of a duet by Italian Baroque composer Benedetto Marcello (1686 – 1739), Give Ear Unto Me, based on verses from Psalm 17. Marcello, a Venetian, managed to combine a career as a lawyer and composer.


Give ear unto me, Lord, I beseech thee,

For I have walked in thy commandments,

Let me be judged with righteous judgment,

O let my sentence come from thy presence.

O shew thy loving-kindness, O thou that art the Saviour of them that trust in thee.

The soloists in the B section will be Camille Bourland and Claudia Sydenstricker.

On a side note, here is a video from rehearsal two Friday’s ago when Claudia, my other head chorister Elisabeth, and Camille can be seen helping our first get-together between the “red choir” (grades 2-5) and the Chapel Choir (Pre-K-Ist).

The postlude is an organ transcription of the first movement of Vivaldi’s Autumn, for obvious reasons! Antonio Vivaldi and Marcello were also contemporaries. Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) known as the “red priest” because of his flaming red hair, worked at the Ospedale della Pieta in Venice, an orphanage for foundling children.  It was for these orphan girls that he wrote his concertos and church music, which would be performed by his virtuoso girl pupils and older staff from behind a screen to preserve their modesty. In the summer of 2020, I did a “virtual summer sing” and discovered these cool re-creations of what the all-female performance must have been like. Enjoy!

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