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Good Shepherd Sunday May 7, 2022

May 7, 2022

The fourth Sunday of Easter is known as Good Shepherd Sunday, and Psalm 23 is always featured. There are so many wonderful tunes and composers for this psalm, you will hear it several times today!

We have a guest French horn player today, Tim McCarthy, who always plays for us on Easter Sunday. The prelude is an arrangement of an aria from G.F. Handel’s opera “Giulio Cesare in Egitto” (Julius Caesar in Egypt HWv 17), composed in 1724 .  “Va tacito e nascosto” (“Silently and stealthily”) is a countertenor aria with a horn part, here arranged just for the horn I See a Huntsman.

The first hymn is Hymn 645, the Irish tune ST. COLUMBA with the paraphrase by Henry William Baker (1821-1877) The King of Love My Shepherd Is. Sir Henry was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated, and became, in 1851, Vicar of Monkland, Herefordshire. He edited the first edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern.The descant is by a friend, Thaddeus Cavuoti (1955-2021). Following graduation from Williams College in Massachusetts, Tad spent 38 years as a Music Teacher at the Landon School in Bethesda, Maryland. He served as the Organist and Music Director at Christ Episcopal Church in Rockville MD for 24 years and then Colesville Presbyterian Church since ‘18, while playing and singing throughout the DC area and around the world.

One thing I try to do in choir is teach the kids how to mentor each other, and our choristers’ anthem today illustrates this musically. Helen Kemp’s beautiful setting The Good Shepherd casts the older trebles (“Blue Choir”- I have them in the gallery) as the Shepherd, and the younger singers as the sheep looking for leadership from them. Of course the younger kids complained (“why do we have to be the sheep???!) and I love pointing out how in a year or two they will be the Shepherd! Speaking of mentoring, so much of what I learned about working with children’s choirs I learned from the composer of this piece, Helen Kemp (1918-2015). I had the privilege of studying with her for a week in the summer at Westminster Choir College in the 1980s, and afterwards every chance I got to see her at a workshop or convention. She was known internationally as a specialist in the area of training young voices, and meant so much to so many choral conductors. You can read more about her here.

The intersection of Mother’s Day and Good Shepherd Sunday calls for Bobby McFerrin (b.1950)’s tribute to his mother in female pronouns which is his setting of Psalm 23. This piece show’s McFerrin’s roots growing up singing in the Episcopal church, as it is basically Anglican chant with jazzy chords and moving use of word accents and rests. Bobby McFerrin is an amazing vocal artist. Since 1982, he’s released a dozens of major CDs, focusing on a cappella vocals (both solo and multitracked) and collaborations, with classical cellist Yo-Yo Ma and with jazz pianist Chick Corea and others. He has the distinction of begetting not only a phrase, but also a cultural mindset with his most famous recording, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” I think of my mom when I do this piece, because she actually attended a Wednesday morning Bible study class with him at St. Paul’s Church in Chestnut Hill, Philadephia about 15 years ago. She referred to him as “that nice young man with dreadlocks that everyone seems to know.” So my family ended up singing this piece at Mom’s memorial service in 2011.

The offertory is a setting of Psalm 23 (King James version) by Paul Basler (b.1963), 1993-94 Fulbright Senior Lecturer in music at Kenyatta University (Nairobi, Kenya), who is currently Professor of Music at the University of Florida (1995-96 Teacher of the Year). One of the most performed composers of his generation, recipient of many grants, Basler is also an accomplished horn player. Psalm 23 is from a large scale, multi-movement work, Songs of Faith, written in 1998 as a sequel to the composer’s acclaimed Missa Kenya. The piano and the horn serve as equal counterparts to the choral parts. Psalm 23 was written for and dedicated to Andre Thomas and the Florida State University Singers.

The communion hymn is #178, (Alleluia No.1) with our horn player and the children ringing bell parts. According to hymnary.org, “Donald E. Fishel (b. 1950) composed both text and tune ‘rather spontaneously’ during the summer of 1971 in a house on Church Street in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The hymn was first sung in services of the Word of God Community in Ann Arbor, a charismatic Roman Catholic congregation that Fishel had then recently joined; he later served that community as publications editor of Servant Music (1973-1981). Fishel received a bachelor’s degree in instrumental music education from the University of Michigan in 1972 and a degree in computer science from Eastern Michigan University in 1983. Since then he has worked in the computer industry.”

The closing hymn is Savior Like Shepherd Lead Us, the words of which were first found in a Children’s Hymnal from 1830. The tune is SICILIAN MARINERS. According to hymnary.org SICILIAN MARINERS is traditionally used for the Roman Catholic Marian hymn O Sanctissima. According to tradition, Sicilian seamen ended each day on their ships by singing this hymn in unison. The tune probably traveled from Italy to Germany to England, where The European Magazine and London Review first published it in 1792. The tune was associated with the German Christmas carol O du Frohliche, O du Selige.

The tune also appears to have had an influence on the African American song We Shall Overcome. Below is a fantastic 8 minute video about the roots of “We Shall Overcome” that traces the tune back through Mahalia Jackson, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Charles Tindley, “No More Auction Block” to North Carolina Civil War Bands. I may have shared this before, but it is worth sharing again.

The postlude is based on the communion hymn Alleluia, Alleluia, Give Thanks. Jeffrey Honoré is a Catholic musician serving as liturgical music director of St. Matthias Parish in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he directs the archdiocesan choir. He is an organist, trombonist and voice teacher. He received the Vatican II Award for Distinguished Service in 1999. The tune is set out in the trumpet over joyful rapid toccata-like figurations in the hands.

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