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Sunday Music Musings March 26, 2022

March 26, 2022

The prelude is a dramatic organ depiction of today’s gospel lesson. Each one of James Biery‘s (b. 1956) Three Gospel Scenes tell a story using a hymn tune.  The third one, The Prodigal Son, illustrates several features of the parable: straying, hardship, contrition, and reconciliation.  The opening bass theme, repeated throughout the piece as a passacaglia, represents the constant and unchanging love of the father.  As the variations progress, the son leaves his father, travels to a distant land, and seeks his fortune.  At first things seem to go well, then famine breaks out and he finds himself hungry enough to eat the corn he is feeding the pigs, and the music gets angst-filled.  In desperation he longs to return to his father’s estate where he was better off as a hired hand.  When the father welcomes him home with open arms, the theme is transformed to the major key, and the hymn The King of Love My Shepherd is is quoted.

Al Shlosha D’varim  is a favorite of our choristers, so it was time to introduce it again! It is a lyrical setting of an essential maxim from Jewish morality laws, translated to mean: “The world is sustained by three things: by truth, by justice, and by peace.” This seems always appropriate to pray thought singing. Allan Naplan (b.1970) has been executive director of Arizona Musicfest since 2013. He is an operatic baritone, composer and administrator who grew up in Massachusetts. At the Ithaca College School of Music Naplan earned degrees in both vocal performance and music education, with more than one million copies of his work sold since 1994. A lot of his treble works are a fusion of Jewish music and jazz and gospel. The opening solo will be sung by head chorister Elisabeth Wielandy.

Our sequence hymn is the very popular but anonymous tune NETTLETON with the words Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing by Robert Robinson (1735 –1790). Robinson was an English Dissenter, influential Baptist and scholar who made a lifelong study of the antiquity and history of Christian Baptism. He wrote the hymn at age 22 after converting to Methodism (on his way to becoming a Baptist!)

Our offertory is the gorgeous motet Ubi caritas. Pianist-composer Ola Gjeilo was born in Norway in 1978 and moved to New York in 2001 to study composition at The Juilliard School. His Ubi Caritas has enjoyed choral success since it was written in 2001. Like Duruflé’s famous setting it draws inspiration from Gregorian chant.

Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.                    Where charity and love are, God is there.

Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor.          Christ’s love has gathered us into one.

Exsultemus, et in ipso jucundemur.                Let us rejoice and be pleased in Him.

Timeamus, et amemus Deum vivum.              Let us fear and let us love the living God.

Et ex corde diligamus nos sincero.                 And may we love each other with a sincere heart.

Amen.                                                             Amen.

During Communion we sing another great Calvin Hampton (1938-1984) tune, ST. HELENA. I just wrote about him on March 13 when we sang DE TAR, another favorite. The words There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy are by Frederick William Faber (1814 –1863), a noted English hymn writer and theologian, who converted from Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism in 1845. He was ordained to the Catholic priesthood in 1847. His best-known hymn is Faith of Our Fathers.

The final hymn is Eternal Lord of Love, written for the HYMNAL 1982 by English professor Thomas H. Cain (1931-2003), telling of the Lenten journey to Easter. Cain was Professor of English literature at McMaster University for 31 years, and was author of Common Sense About Writing (1967). As well as being a scholar of Edmund Spenser, author and teacher, he was a regular church organist from his boyhood, and lifelong choral singer in the Anglican church.

Loys “Louis” Bourgeois (c. 1510 – 1559) was a French composer and music theorist of the Renaissance. He is most famous as one of the main compilers of Calvinist hymn tunes in the middle of the 16th century. The tune GENEVAN 124 (also known as OLD 124TH or TOULON) was first published in the 1551 edition of the Genevan Psalter.

The postlude is a short set of Variations on NETTLETON by Undine Smith Moore (1904 –1989). Known to some as the “Dean of Black Women Composers,” Undine Smith Moore‘s career in composition began while she was at Fisk. While her range of compositions includes works for piano and for other instrumental groups, Moore is more widely known for her choral works. Scenes from the Life of a Martyr, a 16-part oratorio on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., for chorus, orchestra, solo voices and narrator was premiered at Carnegie Hall and nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

Undine Smith Moore

You can watch the last two Lenten organ recitals on the Grace Church YouTube Channel, and please join us Saturday April 2 for candlelight Evensong at 5!

Helen Thomas Memorial recital with Patricia Ruggles March 25, 2022

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