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Sunday Music Musings June 5, 2022

June 4, 2022

Happy Pentecost—wear red! I am grateful for the creator spirit which we express through music.

Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott” (“Come, Holy Ghost, Lord God”) by Martin Luther is based on the ancient plainsong “Veni Sancte Spiritus, reple tuorum corda fidelium.” This is the basis of the quite ornamented Prelude by Dietrich Buxtehude (1637- 1707). (I think I put Georg Bohm in the program—sorry-I was still at home getting over Covid when I sent in the bulletin.) Buxtehude’s style greatly influenced other composers, such as his student Johann Sebastian Bach. Originally from Denmark, in 1668 he got a major position at the Marienkirche, Lübeck. In 1705, J.S. Bach, then a young man of twenty, walked from Arnstadt to Lübeck, a distance of more than 250 miles, and stayed nearly three months to hear the Abendmusik concerts and meet the famous organist and learn from him. In addition to his musical duties, Buxtehude, like his predecessor Tunder, served as church treasurer!

The first hymn is the wonderful DOWN AMPNEY. Hymn tunes are often named for places, and The Old Vicarage in Down Ampney was the birthplace of the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1934) whose father, the Reverend Arthur Vaughan Williams (1834–1875) was vicar of All Saints. In 1906 Vaughan Williams composed this in honor of his birthplace.  The text is by 14th century Italian hymnodist Bianco da Siena who followed the rule of St. Augustine.  “Discendi, Amor santo” was translated by scholar and theologian Richard Frederick Littledale (b. Dublin, 1883; d. London, 1890) into “Come Down O Love Divine.”


By ChurchCrawler, CC BY-SA 2.0,

The chorister’s Song of Praise is You are Sealed with the Spirit by Kaye Saunders (b.1963), Organist and Director of Music at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Durham, North Carolina. It is a canon with handbells.

The offertory is Thomas Tallis’ (c. 1505-1585) beloved If Ye Love Me. It is truly a mark of genius that Tallis could so excel in the grand and the simple that two of his most famous works – Spem in Alium (40 separate parts, in Latin-here is Harmonium singing it in 2016) and If Ye Love Me (simple, beautiful SATB motet in English, sung by my friends at my wedding!) – are both so perfect. Tallis, also an entrepreneur, was granted an exclusive patent in 1521 with William Byrd to print and publish music.

The communion hymn is the great plainsong Veni Creator Spiritus (“Come, Creator Spirit”) at HYMNAL # 504. Gregorian chant, also known as plainsong, is church music’s ancestor! It is named for Pope Gregory, not because he wrote it all, but because it was codified under him into uses for each season and time of day (office). The notes are called neumes. This gorgeous Pentecost chant was written in the 9th century. As well as being for Pentecost the text is used in the Anglican communion in ordination services. Musicians, especially composers, feel a particular affinity for the calling of the Holy Spirit as the “Creator Spirit” and you can find settings for the rest of music history.

Our last hymn is Hail Thee Festival Day SALVE FESTE DIES, with words by Venantius Honorius Clematianus Fortunatus (b. Cenada, near Treviso, Italy, c. 530; d. Poitiers, France, 609), and another great tune by Vaughan Williams. Legend has it that while a student at Ravenna Fortunatus was miraculously healed of blindness after anointing his eyes with oil from a lamp burning before the altar of St. Martin of Tours. There are versions for Easter and Ascension, but our tradition at Grace has been to save it for Pentecost. Yes, there are two different tunes for verses 1/3 and 2/4, but also a catchy refrain to hang onto each time, and a descant by yours truly. On May 22, 2021 it was our first congregational hymn in 15 months!

Finally, in honor of HRH Jubilee, Erik Donough will join me playing trumpet in a setting of THAXTED arranged by Oklahoma organist/composer David Howard Petit. THAXTED is a beloved tune by Gustav Holst (1874 –1934) originally the theme of Jupiter from The Planets. It is beloved of the Brits who sing it to the words “I Vow to Thee My Country,” and was played at the end of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Service. Holst and Vaughan Williams were lifelong friends.

I vow to thee, my country
All earthly things above
Entire and whole and perfect
The service of my love

The love that asks no questions
The love that stands the test
That lays upon the altar
The dearest and the best

The love that never falters
The love that pays the price
The love that makes undaunted
The final sacrifice

And there’s another country
I’ve heard of long ago
Most dear to them that love her
Most great to them that know

We may (we may not count her armies)
We may (we may not see her King)
Her fortress is a faithful heart
Her pride is suffering

And soul by soul and silently
Her shining bounds increase
And her ways are ways of gentleness
And all her paths are peace

Finally, I invite you to Harmonium’s Open Hearts Concert at 3 pm Sunday in South Orange, with Prince Manvendra Singh Gohill and a world premiere by Mark Miller.

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