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Rogation Sunday Music Musings May 21, 2022

May 21, 2022

What is Rogation?

The word “rogation” comes from the Latin rogare, which means “to ask,” and the Rogation Days are set apart to bless the fields, and ask for God’s mercy on all of creation. On these days, the congregation used to march the boundaries of the parish, blessing every tree and stone, while chanting or reciting a litany. At Grace Church we have a tradition of doing this at the the end of the service as we march out to the garden singing “All Things Bright and Beautiful” with our butterfly banner! All of our hymns and anthems will celebrate the gifts of the earth.

The prelude is based on Fairest Lord Jesus to the tune ST. ELIZABETH which we will sing during communion. According to the hymnary ST. ELIZABETH appears to be an eighteenth-century tune from the Glaz area of Silesia. It has always been associated with this text. No factual data exists for the legend that this text and tune date back to the twelfth-century crusades, although those apocryphal stories explain one of the names by which this tune is known, namely, CRUSADER’S HYMN. After Franz Liszt used the tune for a crusaders’ march in his oratorio The Legend of St. Elizabeth (1862), the tune also became known as ST. ELIZABETH. This tune is also associated with the text “Beautiful Savior” which St. Olaf Choir (and others) always sing at the end of their concerts.

Garth Edmundson (1892 -1971) studied music in Pittsburgh, New York, London, Paris, and at the Leipzig Conservatory. His instructors were Harvey Gaul, Lynnwood Farnam, Joseph Bonnet, and Isidor Philipp. He was an organist, music teacher, and director of music in several churches and schools in western Pennsylvania and composed hundreds of pieces for organ. This setting of Fairest Lord Jesus is very pastoral with flute and clarinet stops duetting and leading into an iteration of the tune on the strings.

The processional hymn is one of my favorite tunes, KINGSFOLD, and I just wrote a new descant for it this morning! According to hymnary.org, “Thought by some scholars to date back to the Middle Ages, KINGSFOLD is a folk tune set to a variety of texts in England and Ireland. The tune was published in English Country Songs (1893), an anthology compiled by Lucy E. Broadwood and J. A. Fuller Maitland. After having heard the tune in Kingsfold, Sussex, England (thus its name), Ralph Vaughan Williams (1897- 1958) introduced it as a hymn tune in The English Hymnal (1906) as a setting I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say.” We certainly will enjoy a lot of Ralph (‘Rafe’) Vaughan Williams this month, and I wrote more extensively about him last week.

The text by Edward White Benson (1829-1896) celebrates the gifts of the earth as the gifts of Jesus. Benson was a head of school at several distinguished places including Rugby School, Wellington College, Lincoln, and then Bishop of Truro. Benson went on to become The Archbishop of Canterbury in 1883 until his death in 1886. This hymn was written during Dr. Benson’s Headmastership of Wellington College, and first printed in the Hymn-Book for the Use of Wellington College, 1860.

The Gargoyles will sing a beautiful piece, Nature’s Hymn by Jennifer and Omar Samaniego as the Song of Praise. The Gargoyles and Daughters of Zion also did me proud last Friday when they joined alto Patricia Ruggles in a concert which raised funds for Ukraine.

Our older trebles will be up front on camera for a change, singing a setting of Psalm 67 by Robert Powell (b.1932) Organist and Choir Director at Christ Church in Greenville, SC from 1968 to 2003. He has approximately 300 works in print for choral, solo, organ, handbells, and instrumental ensembles in major American and English church music publishers.

We are so excited about our Rogation Day offertory, Tree Song by Ken Medema. This has been a favorite of the choirs for many years and it’s been way too long since we sang it! Elizabeth Chiminec taught the ASL back in the day, and 12 years ago it was our first “viral” video on YouTube with 71 thousand likes!

The composer actually called me up to complement us on this recording! You can find one of our gargoyles in the chapel choir, our Christian Ed Director Miss Kathryn and several head choristers-to be.

I finally got to meet this amazing singer-song-writer two weeks ago at Drew University when he performed with Mark Miller. Kenneth Peter Medema (born December 7, 1943) was born almost blind; his eyes only let him tell light from shadow and see outlines of major objects. He began playing the piano when he was five years old, and three years later began taking lessons in classical music through braille music, playing by ear and improvising in different styles. In 1969, he majored in music therapy at Michigan State University in Lansing, studying both piano and voice. Afterwards he worked as a music therapist in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and later at Essex County Hospital in New Jersey. In 1973, he began performing and recording his own songs while at Essex County Hospital. “I had a bunch of teenagers who were really hurting,” he says, “and I started writing songs about their lives. Then I thought, ‘Why don’t you start writing songs about your Christian life?’ So I started doing that, and people really responded.”

His lyrics generally provide social commentary on themes such as justice, hunger, poverty, homelessness, and Christian charity as it pertains to them. At the Drew performance he improvised songs on the spot based on poignant stories shared by random audience volunteers. He is one of the most charismatic performers I have ever met, singing and using the piano with a synthesizer on top–a real one-man-band! Afterwards I got to meet him and his wife Jane. He remembers the Grace Church Tree Song!

Dr. Anne meets Ken Medema!

All the singers will join included some Chapel Choir and Charlie Love (in chapel choir himself in the above video) will play glockenspiel.

All Things Bright and Beautiful (read about it here) will take us outside with kids ringing bells, and a “Rogation Band” of adults and kids playing “For the Beauty of the Earth” from the porch as postlude. Happy Rogation Sunday!

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