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Sunday Music Musings Nov. 20, 2021

November 20, 2021

It is Christ the King Sunday and the readings talk about end times and foreshadow Advent, while the altar is decorated with harvest bounty (thanks to the altar guild’s Judy Honohan and many gourds actually spontaneously grown in my husband Jabez’s garden). I’ve tried to capture all of this with our music.

The prelude is a gorgeous minor key piece, Folktune, by British composer Percy Whitlock (1903 – 1946), that always captures the stark beauty of late autumn for me. Maybe it is that Whitlock studied with another of my very favorite composers, Ralph Vaughan Williams (as well as C.V. Stanford) at the Royal College of music. From 1921-1930, Whitlock was assistant organist at Rochester Cathedral in Kent. After that he worked as an organist in Bournemouth both at St Stephen’s Church, and as the town’s borough organist, playing at the local Pavilion Theatre. He was also a great railway enthusiast, writing under the pseudonym “Kenneth Lark.” Whitlock was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1928. Near the end of his life, he lost his sight altogether, and he died in Bournemouth a few weeks before his 43rd birthday. He has a substantial number of works for organ, chorus and orchestra, although he was somewhat neglected for a while (except for the organists).

The Offertory is an arrangement of the hymn The Morning Trumpet from the Sacred Harp, arranged  by Denise Foster Kimble (b. 1957). A native of Louisville, Mississippi, Denise began singing in choirs at the age of five.  Since then, she has sung in church choirs, a college choir, opera choruses, and the “hollow square.”  For the past 25 years, she has been a chorister in the alto section of the Cathedral Choir at St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Jackson, Mississippi.  When choral singing came to a halt in 2020, she turned to composing out of desperation as well as out of the hope that choirs would soon be singing again.  Her day job is working as an attorney with the federal district court. (Yay altos!) (From St. James Music Press)

O when shall I see Jesus and reign with him above?
And shall hear the trumpet sound in that morning;
And from the flowing fountain, drink everlasting love?
And shall hear the trumpet sound in that morning.
O shout glory!
I shall mount above the skies when I hear that trumpet sound in that morning.

When shall I be delivered from this vain world of sin,
And shall hear the trumpet sound in that morning?
And with my blessed Jesus, drink endless pleasures in,
And shall hear the trumpet sound in that morning?
O shout glory!
I shall mount above the skies when I hear that trumpet sound in that morning.

His promises are faithful and a righteous crown he’ll give
When I hear the trumpet sound in that morning.
And all his valiant soldiers eternally shall live,
And hear the trumpet sound in that morning.
O shout glory!
I shall mount above the skies when I hear that trumpet sound in that morning.

During communion, the Gargoyles will sing a motet by the great Renaissance composer G.P. Palestrina (c. 1525-1594), Jesu Rex Admirablilis. Palestrina is revered for his many sacred works as the greatest Italian master of the Catholic Counter-Reformation. The text is:

“Jesus wonderful king and noble conqueror, inexpressible sweetness, totally desired.”

The hymn of the day is the great tune HELMSLEY. It cannot be discussed without mentioning at least four composers. Our hymnal credits Thomas Arne (1710-1778) with Ralph Vaughan Williams for the harmonies. I will let the great Paul Westermeyer explain it:

“John Wesley attributed the tune HELMSLEY to Thomas Olivers in Wesley’s 1765 Sacred Melodies with his brother’s text of “Lo! He Comes with Clouds Descending.” However, Olivers is said to have heard the tune on the street somewhere. Since the first line resembles a tune by violinist and composer Thomas Augustine Arne composed for Thomas and Sally, or The Sailor’s Return in 1761, it is speculated the tune was composed by Arne. Most likely, the tune comes from a 1763 edition Martin Madan‘s Collection of Psalms and Hymn Tunes Sung at the Chapel of Lock Hospital. Madan (1726-1790) was the chaplain at Lock Hospital. (From Let the people sing: hymn tunes in perspective by Paul Westermeyer, 2005, GIA Publications, Inc.)

Henry, our organ scholar will play  a short setting of Lo He Comes by Charles Callahan (b. 1951), that incredibly prolific organ composer, a native of Cambridge, Massachusetts, graduate of The Curtis Institute of Music, and The Catholic University of America.

The text is by the great by Charles Wesley (1707-1788). Wesley is considered the greatest hymn-writer of all time, and I am afraid to write one word without writing a dissertation, so I send you to for a fuller bio. I love the four verses we have in HYMNAL 57, but thought you might want to see the two we don’t have:

3 Ev’ry island, sea, and mountain,
heav’n and earth, shall flee away;
all who hate him must, confounded,
hear the trump proclaim the day:
Come to judgment! Come to judgment!
Come to judgment, come away!

4 Now Redemption, long expected,
see in solemn pomp appear!
All his saints, by man rejected,
now shall meet him in the air.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
See the day of God appear!

Finally, with a nod to Thanksgiving, I am playing from a collection from the same composer I used last week, David Lasky, a trumpet tune on the Welsh hymn Let All Things now Living, a Song of Thanksgiving.

On Monday, celebrate St. Cecilia (saint of music and organists) with this memory from Winchester Cathedral with music by Howells and photography by Andrea Gilhuley.

I wrote about the “big three” Thanksgiving hymns here last year. This year we will sing them in person (masked) if you come to our 10 a.m. Thanksgiving Day service.

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