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Sunday Music Musings April 23, 2022

April 24, 2022

I am still both recovering from and celebrating Holy Week. For the first time since pandemic, all the music was full, the choirs were singing in combined forces and my heart is happy! Especially the younger children who had not yet experienced big “together” anthems were having a thrill, and I can already feel a difference in the way they sing out with confidence! You can still see all the services on the Grace Church YouTube Channel.

Remember Easter is a great 50 days!—but the Sunday after can seem notoriously low (especially with a few school district spring breaks thrown in!)—but we will keep it festive with LOTS of bell-ringing in hymns tomorrow. The traditional hymn for the first Sunday after Easter is O Sons and Daughters, based on a French Noel (O filii et filiae) and telling the story of doubting Thomas. The text is attributed to French Franciscan monk Jean Tisserand (d. 1494) in translation by the prolific Anglican priest and scholar, John M. Neale (1818 -1866). I had fun discussing “doubting Thomas” with the choristers on Friday. It was also Earth Day and we starting working on Ken Medema’s Tree Song. Here is an old video – see if you can spot our head choristers as second graders!

The prelude is a setting of this tune (O Filii) by renowned Lebanese-French organist, composer, and improviser Naji Hakim (b.1955). He studied under Jean Langlais, and succeeded Messiaen as organist at the Église de la Sainte-Trinité, Paris. This short variation cycle in was composed in 2012. The four short variations are Andante – Energico – Allegro – Allegro.

For Psalm 150 the adults will sing a wonderful 2-part version by John Harper (b. 1947) leader of the RSCM (Royal School of Church Music) since 1998. He has had a life-long career in church and choral music, starting as a chorister at King’s College Chapel, Cambridge under the direction of Boris Ord and Sir David Willcocks. Harper was Organist at Magdalen College, Oxford, in the 1980s, and has held academic lectureships in musicology at the universities of Birmingham and Oxford, and the Chair in Music at the University of Wales, Bangor. This setting uses the trumpet stop on the organ as an integral part of illustrating the psalm (“praise him with the sound of the trumpet…praise him with strings and pipe”). (If the choir doesn’t articulate the final “P” loud enough, it sounds like we are praising him with pie—which would be okay too!)

My go-to anthem for the Sunday after Easter (should I admit we had not practiced beyond Holy Week?) is a cheerful motet by Adam Gumpelzhaimer, (1559 –1625), a Bavarian composer and music theorist. Cantor at the Augsburg Cathedral from 1581-1625, he had ample occasion to compose sacred music in the early baroque style. He was a great admirer of Hans Leo Hassler and collected his works which undoubtedly an influence. There are certain words which have lots and lots of notes on one syllable, making the word of the day MELISMA.

A melisma

The last hymn is That Easter Day with Joy was Bright, the tune Puer nobis nascitur (“a boy is born”) which is a clue that this is a Christmas tune being sung to an Easter text. The ancient (5th century) words are set to a 15th century tune adapted by the great Michael Praetorius (1571-1621). Henry will play a short setting by the French composer and harpsichordist Jean-François Dandrieu (1681-1738), member of a musical family, who was organist from 1705 at the church of St Merry in Paris, and appointed an organist of the royal chapel in 1721.  

I will play some of Dandrieu’s variations on O filii et filiae (O sons and Daughters) for the postlude.

Sunday afternoon at 3pm 20 members of Harmonium Choral Society will give a one hour concert for all ages at Christ Church Short Hills, with works ranging from medieval to modern, rounds, Yiddish sing-alongs for peace, and a sea shanty! Composers include Alice Parker, Sarah Quartel, Andrea Ramsey, Mari Valverde and more. Bring the kids–or not! Donation at the door. Come if you can!

Happy Eastertide!

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