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Sunday Music Musings April 2, 2022

April 3, 2022

Kenneth Leighton (1926-1990) was one of the most distinguished of the British post-war composers; with over 100 published compositions. His work is frequently performed and broadcast both in Britain and in other countries. As a pianist Kenneth Leighton was a frequent recitalist and broadcaster, both as a soloist and in chamber music. Leighton was a chorister at Wakefield Cathedral and studied at Queen’s College, Oxford, graduating with degrees in both Classics and music, having studied with Bernard Rose. In 1955 he was appointed Lecturer in Music at the University of Edinburgh where he was made Senior Lecturer, Reader, and then Reid Professor of Music in October 1970. His works include choral classics like Lully Lulla, to Evening services, and organ and piano works. Leighton’s music is a unique blend of lyricism and dissonance, as demonstrated by our prelude, a setting of ROCKINGHAM (When I Survey the Wondrous Cross/My God Thy Table Now is Spread). This tune is attributed to Edward Miller (c.1735 – 1807) an English musician, composer and historian, who was for a time flutist in Handle’s orchestra.

The choristers have been working on an Anglican staple, Ex Ore Innocentium by John Ireland (1879 –1962). The words are by the Anglican Bishop of Wakefield, William Walsham How (1823-1897) (Author of For All the Saints).

It is a thing most wonderful,

almost too wonderful to be,

that God’s own Son should come from heaven,

and die to save a child like me.

And yet I know that it is true:

he chose a poor and humble lot,

and wept, and toiled, and mourned, and died,

for love of those who loved him not.

I sometimes think about the cross,

and shut my eyes, and try to see

the cruel nails and crown of thorns

and Jesus crucified for me.

But even could I see him die,

I could but see a little part

of that great love, which, like a fire,

is always burning in his heart.

And yet I want to love thee, Lord;

O light the flame within my heart,

and I will love thee more and more,

until I see thee as thou art.

The title means “Out of the mouths of children” and the children really enjoy this piece, and we’ve been talking about the words, how Jesus felt actual pain and did actual work (“toil”) and working on our high notes. Someday I will play the organ accompaniment as I should, but with several children plus my Choir Assistant away, I’ll conduct from the piano.

Ireland was an English composer and teacher of music. The majority of his output consists of piano miniatures and of songs with piano. His best-known works include the short instrumental or orchestral work “The Holy Boy”, a setting of the poem “Sea-Fever” by John Masefield, a formerly much-played Piano Concerto. Ireland studied at and later taught at the Royal College of Music. From 1897 he studied composition under Charles Villiers Stanford. In From 1904 until 1926, he was organist and choirmaster at St Luke’s Church, Chelsea. He is best known by choirs for Greater Love Hath No Man and the hymn we will also sing today, LOVE UNKNOWN, with words by Samuel Crossman (1623-1684): My song is love unknown. It is said to have been written by Ireland in a quarter of an hour on a scrap of paper.

Our anthem is a very old evening motet, O Salutaris Hostia, by Pierre de la Rue, (c.1452 -1518) a Franco-Flemish composer and singer of the Renaissance. Much of it is very static, then it breaks into some ecstatic imitation near the end of each verse.

During communion, the Gargoyles will sing an arrangement of the spiritual My Lord What a Morning.  I just love how well these guys know each other now and blend and make music. The organ communion offering, postlude (J.G Walther(1684 -1748)) and communion hymn (Let Thy Blood in mercy poured) are to the tune Jesu meine zuversicht. This tune was first published in 1653 and credited to Johann Crüger 1598 – 1662). The English translation is by Scottish minister John Brownlie (1857-1925). If the children sing the refrain out, I’ve been know to get emotional…

The closing hymn is When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, with words by the great Isaac Watts (1674-1748) and using the tune ROCKINGHAM which opened the service.

That’s all folks, its late because my adults did a wonderful Evensong today, for the Eve of St. Richard of Chester (1197 – 3 April 1253), So here is his prayer for all of us doing daily worship work:

Almighty and most merciful God, who calls your people to yourself, we pray that, following the example of your bishop Richard of Chichester, we may see your Son Jesus Christ more clearly, love him more dearly, and follow him more nearly; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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