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Sunday Music Musings February 26, 2022

February 27, 2022

This afternoon a dozen of my youngest trebles did Evensong for the first time, with the leadership of my awesome older trebles. Considering they havn’t even been in the front choir stalls in 2 years, this was a real teaching moment. We got to stand and sit and lead the service and process in pairs! The red choir really sang out and responded to the acoustic of the choir stalls and having the older trebles behind them. I got kind of emotional! Here is a video of them doing a retiring procession for the first time!

In the time of King Henry VIII (1491 – 1547) and the beginnings of the Anglican Church, Bishop Thomas Cranmer combined the evening prayers of Vespers and Compline into one act of worship: Evensong. Evensong, “evening song,” is said or sung monthly or weekly in many American Anglican churches, and daily at many British cathedrals. It is sung about quarterly here at Grace Madison.  It is the sung version of the Evening Prayer service which is found in the Book of Common Prayer on page 61 (Rite I) or page 115 (Rite II).

It begins with the Preces (sung opening sentences), followed by a Phos Hilaron, or candle-lighting anthem. Today we use Tallis’ canon with the words “O Gracious Light.” A psalm of the day follows, traditionally Anglican Chant. The choristers sang the Jubilate (Psalm 100) to a chant by Henry Aldrich (1647 – 1710).

Then between scripture readings come the canticles; the Magnificat (Mary’s song), Nunc Dimittis (Simeon’s Song), followed by the Apostle’s creed and Responses (responsorial sung prayers) and often an anthem and hymn. The congregation, participates FULLY in Evensong by listening and praying in their hearts. That is why traditionally all stand for the canticles with the choir. 

Today’s service setting of both canticles and Preces and Responses (prayers) is by Eric Meyer (b. 1980), intended for young singers new to the service. Meyer was raised in Collingswood, NJ, where he began his organ studies at thirteen with the Rev. J. Bert Carlson. He earned a BM and an MM in organ performance from the Peabody Conservatory of Music, Baltimore, where he studied with Donald Sutherland, and he is currently Director of Music at Abingdon Presbyterian Church in PA.

Our anthem for both Evensong and Sunday is a treble arrangement of El cielo canta allegria by Pablo Sosa (b. 1933). Argentine church musician Pablo Sosa lives in Buenos Aires, where he teaches liturgy and hymnology, and is a choral conductor at the National Conservatory of Music. El Cielo Canta Alegría, written in 1958 in the carnavalito style, is a pioneer work in the use of indigenous music within the context of Christian worship in Latin America. This song is sometimes used for Easter, bu we use it the last Sunday in Epiphany to get in as many “Alleluias” as possible before Lent!

El cielo canta alegría, ¡Aleluya! / Heaven is singing for joy, Alleluia!

Porque en tu vida y la mía / Because in your life and mine

brilla la gloria de Dios. / shines the glory of God.

¡Aleluya! Alleluia!

 El cielo canta alegría, ¡Aleluya! / Heaven is singing for joy, Alleluia!

Porque a tu vida y la mía / Because your life and mine

las une el amor de Dios. / are united in the love of God.

El cielo canta alegría, ¡Aleluya! / Heaven is singing for joy, Alleluia!

Porque en tu vida y la mía / Because in your life and mine

proclamarán al Señor. / will proclaim to the Lord. ¡Aleluya! Alleluia!

The prelude is Adoration by Florence Price. When I first learned her “In a Quiet Place” I hadn’t discovered all the rest of her organ music. I am hard at work on the finale from her first organ symphony for my Women Composer’s Lenten Recital. Read all about her here.

Our hymn of the day is Salzburg, by Jacob Hinze (1622-1702) as harmoniuzed by J.S. Bach. According to Bert Polman on “Partly as a result of the Thirty Years’ War and partly to further his musical education, Hintze traveled widely as a youth, including trips to Sweden and Lithuania. In 1659 he settled in Berlin, where he served as court musician to the Elector of Brandenburg from 1666 to 1695. Hintze is known mainly for his editing of the later editions of Johann Crüger’s Praxis Pietatis Melica, to which he contributed some sixty-five of his original tunes.” This hymn a tune is used for many texts including “At the Lamb’s High Feast.”

This Epiphany hymn has 3 verses by priest and writer Christopher Wordsworth (1807-1885) nephew of the great poet, William Wordsworth. The fourth verse, about Transfiguration, is by American (Virginian) priest and writer F. Bland Tucker (1895-1984). Thus the hymn covers all of the “manifestations” of Jesus as God in Epiphany. Henry will play a setting of the tune by Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706) at communion.

The postlude is a setting of a Peruvian Gloria that the Gargoyles sometimes sing by Emily Maxson Porter, who is both a painter and organist and organ composer. She writes “Over the years I have variously been a teacher, organist, composer, software engineer, and visual artist; common to all these endeavors has been a creative spirit.” Organists, her website is a treasure trove of free to use organ music.

I was sooooo happy to do live Evensong today, but if you missed it, you may want to revisit last years’ Eclectic Epiphany Evensong! (wow those kids have grown!) You can also hear the Gargoyles at 17:30 sing the Peruvian Gloria on which the postlude is based.

As nice as this was, singing live “I want to walk as a child” today really fed my soul!

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