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Palm Sunday Music Musings April 9, 2022

April 10, 2022

On Friday our organ scholar Henry Marinovic played for our noon Lenten recital. He did a fantastic job and you can hear it here.

One of the pieces he will play for the prelude on Sunday. Here are his notes:

Jeanne Demessieux (1921-1968) was a prolific twentieth-century French organist, teacher, and composer. She made history as the first female organist to sign a record contract. The clarion stop usage in registration and the frequent repetition of the open-fifths motif give this piece, Hosanna Filio David, written in 1947 as part of a set of “Twelve Choral-Preludes on Gregorian Chant Themes”, a distinctively fanfare-like quality.

The Palm Sunday Liturgy is different from the rest of the year—as we gather around the blessing of the palms and the triumphal entry Gospel before processing to All Glory Laud and Honor. It is really different this year as we are processing while singing for the first time in 3 years! I suddenly realized this in School Choirs rehearsal on Friday, and we DID do some practicing walking, singing, carrying hymnals, etc. but for my 2nd and 3rd graders this is really a first, so be kind! The first Palm Sunday was pretty chaotic, right?

During the distribution (before we process) we will sing a piece from Zimbabwe that I learned from Mark Miller. Here’s a more authentic recording from the Soweto Gopsel Choir!

Njalo means “always.” Always we pray, always we give, always we bless!

Once we get up front the Chapel Choir (Pre-K to 1st grade) joined by the older School Choir kids will sing the favorite Natalie Sleeth (1930 – 1992) anthem Little Gray Donkey.

The service shifts from triumphal entry to Passion Week, and the choristers will stay to sing the spiritual Were You There before the Passion reading. I love teaching this to kids, and we also sang it as we did a Stations of the Cross for kids last Wednesday night in a gray mist.

Right before the Passion reading we will all sing the “Passion Chorale” O Sacred Head Sore Wounded, by the great German Baroque composer Hans Leo Hassler (1564-1612) which is found so many times in Bach Passions and cantatas. Here it is in Harmonium’s performance of St. Matthew Passion in 2019 (32:54). Also at 56:15, and at 1:16:20 we sang in English with the audience.

Our anthem is Solus Ad Victimam which means “alone to sacrifice” and is actually sung in English. It is a fantastic piece to sum up the sadness of Passion Sunday with looking forward to Easter, with the composer’s unique blend of lyricism and dissonance. Scottish composer Kenneth Leighton (1926-1990) was one of the most distinguished of the British post-war composers; with over 100 published compositions, and I wrote more about him here last week.

One of the most amazing pieces of music I have ever performed in many years of Holy Week programming is the Stabat Mater by G.P.Pergolesi (1710 – 1736). During communion the Daughters of Zion (High School Girls) will sing the first movement, with yearning dissonances expressing the sadness of the Mother of Jesus standing below her son on the cross. Italian composer Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater was commissioned to be performed at the Franciscan church of San Luigi de Palazzo in Naples as an annual Good Friday meditation in honor of the Virgin Mary.  First published in London in 1749, the Stabat Mater became the most frequently printed single work in the eighteenth century.  The real appeal of Pergolesi’s style was his ability to unite old and new; the counterpoint of the stile antico, and the decorative language of Neapolitan opera into the church aria.

As we turn our thoughts towards the week ahead, a hymn I always like to do is Sunset to Sunrise Changes Now, the words of Clement of Alexandria (c.170-220) as paraphrased by Howard Chandler Robbins (1876-1952). Here we find another New Jersey connection as the Yale and EDS educated priest Robbins served as Curate at St. Pe­ters, Mor­ri­stown, and Rec­tor of St. Pauls, En­gle­wood before moving on to be the Rec­tor of Church of the In­ca­rn­ation, New York Ci­ty, Dean of the Ca­thed­ral of St. John the Di­vine, and Pro­fes­sor of Pas­tor­al The­ol­o­gy at Gen­er­al The­o­lo­gic­al Se­mi­na­ry (re­tired 1941). The text reconciles the pain and horror of Calvary with the “gleams of eternity” that is Easter to come. It is so aptly pared with the yearning minor key Sacred Harp tune KEDRON by Elkanah Dare (1782-1826).

The Postlude is Chaconne for Good Friday by June Nixon (b. 1942), one of Australia’s best known organists, choir trainers and composers. She was appointed Organist and Director of Music at St. Paul’s Cathedral Melbourne in 1973 and is on the teaching staff of Melbourne University Faculty of Music. A chaconne, or passacaglia is a set of variations over a bass line, in this case the organ pedals. It starts strong and gets softer and softer leading us into the introspection of the coming week.

I hope to see you you:

Maundy Thursday 7 pm music by Mozart, Owen, Taize and more, Adults, Gargoyles, and trebles 6th grade and up

Good Friday noon Adult and Teens, music by Willan, Widmar and more

Saturday 7 pm Taize Vigil, choirs and oboe, flute, recorder, strings, trumpet, bells and more. Repulski Exsultet.

Easter Sunday 8 a.m. with trumpet and organ

Easter Sunday 10 a.m. with combined choirs brass and organ, bells. Music by Benda Portman, David Hurd, Gwyneth Walker, Jacob Handl, Richard Hillert, Jeffrey Rickard and Widor’s Toccata of course!

Choir I will see a lot more with a Tuesdy 7 pm rehearsal

and call times

Thursday: 6:15

Friday 11:15 and choristers rehearsal at 3:30, Vigil Band 4:30

Saturday 6 pm call

Sunday 9:15 (think 9 and be ‘on time is early’ like marching band!)

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