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Sunday Music Musings October 16, 2021

October 17, 2021

Our Prelude is a Ciaconia (Chaconne), also known as a passacaglia, in which there is a repeated bass line over which variations unfold and often build. This is by the great Dieterich Buxtehude (c. 1637 –1707)  whose style greatly influenced other composers, such as his student Johann Sebastian Bach. Orignally from Denmark, in 1668 he got a major position at the Marienkirche, Lübeck. In 1705, J.S. Bach, then a young man of twenty, walked from Arnstadt to Lübeck, a distance of more than 250 miles, and stayed nearly three months to hear the Abendmusik concerts and meet the famous organist and learn from him. In addition to his musical duties, Buxtehude, like his predecessor Tunder, served as church treasurer!

As a canticle the Gargoyles will sing a short Gloria/Alleluia by Laura Farnell, choral composer, clinician, accompanist, and adjudicator who resides in Arlington, Texas where she recently received an Excellence in Education Award as the Arlington Independent School District’s outstanding junior high teacher of the year.

Our anthem is a gorgeous setting of the hymn Nearer My God, to Thee (tune: BETHANY) which shows off the piano skills of our organ scholar. The text is by Sarah Flower Adams (1805-1848). In 1841 she published Vivia Perpetua, a dramatic poem dealing with the conflict of heathenism and Christianity and in 1845, The Flock at the Fountain; a catechism and hymns for children. As a member of the congregation of the Rev. W. J. Fox, an Unitarian minister in London, she contributed 13 hymns to the Hymns and Anthems, published by C. Fox, London, in 1841, for use in his chapel.

The arranger is Georgiann Hinchcliffe Toole (b. 1958), a West Virginia native who currently resides in Sharpsburg, Maryland. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music Education from Shepherd College (Shepherdstown, WV), a Master of Music in Conducting from the Shenandoah Conservatory (Winchester, VA), and a Ph.D. in Music Education from The University of North Carolina-Greensboro. Currently, Dr. Toole is on the education faculty at Shepherd University, and is the founder and artistic director of the Antietam Women’s Ensemble.

Georgiann Toole

During communion the Gargoyles will sing Panis Angelicus, a motet by Claudio Casciolini (1697-1760), an Italian composer, who although he lived into the Baroque era, wrote only in stile antico, the old stlye of church music a la Palestrina. The story of how I discovered this piece is personal—at my daughter Lucy’s wedding to a wonderful German baritone, Johannes Held, we had the reception at an old monastery on a hill near Tűbingen. When Johannes was a boy, he sang in a boychoir, and they all came (baritones now!) and sang at the reception (beautiful acoustics!)—and this is one of the pieces they sang. One of the singers was kind enough to give me his copy!

arriving at the wedding reception

“Panis Angelicus” is the second-to-last section of the hymn “Sacris solemniis,” which was written by Saint Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century, originally written for the Feast of Corpus Christi, a celebration of the body and blood of Jesus Christ. The Cesar Franck setting is the  most well-known today.

Panis angelicus
fit panis hominum;
Dat panis cœlicus
figuris terminum:
O res mirabilis!
Manducat Dominum
pauper, servus et humilis.

Thus Angels’ Bread is made
the Bread of man today:
the Living Bread from heaven
with figures dost away:
O wondrous gift indeed!
the poor and lowly may
upon their Lord and Master feed.

Our hymn tune is ST. MAGNUS, a melody from The Divine Companion,1707, Credited to Jeremiah Clarke1(669?-1707), and harmonized by William Henry Monk (1823-1869), with words by Irish author Thomas Kelly (1769-1855), an evangelical preacher who wrote over 750 hymns.

The postlude, Hornpipe by contemporary composer Robin Dinda (b. 1959) will be played by our organ scholar Henry. Robin Dinda is Professor of Humanities (Music) at Fitchburg State University in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, where he has taught courses in music theory, history, and interdisciplinary fine arts since 1989.  He is also Director of Music at The First Parish (Unitarian – Universalist) in Fitchburg, where he has presided over the church’s 1928 E. M. Skinner organ since 2000.

This week I managed to play the wedding of a former head chorister at 3:30 while simultaneous having our 3:30 Friday rehearsals run by Camille with Henrybat the piano. I was so happy to come into the end of rehearsal and hear their beautiful singing!

This week live choral concerts return with my Harmonium Chamber Singers performing Choral Cosmos. Singers and audience will be fully vaccinated and masked. Please consider getting your tickets now!

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