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Sunday Music Musings October 29, 2022

October 29, 2022

October 31, 1517 priest and scholar Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, beginning the Protestant Reformation. His great hymn Ein fest Burg (A Mighty Fortress) is the theme song of the reformation, and our prelude is J.S. Bach (1685-1750)’s early work, Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott, BWV 720.

The processional hymn is a lively tune by George Frederick Handel (1685-1750), SIROË, also sometimes used for the Christmas carol While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night. The text is by Philip Dodderidge (1702-1751) who belonged to the Non-conformist Church and pastored a poor parish in Northampton, where he opened an academy for training Non-conformist ministers and taught most of the subjects himself. He wrote four hundred hymn texts, generally to accompany his sermons, published after his death in Lisbon from tuberculosis. Other Dodderidge texts in the HYMNAL 1982 include Hark the Glad Sound, and My God Thy Table Now is Spread.

The offertory is a gorgeous a cappella setting of the Robert Bridges(1844-1930) poem My Eyes for Beauty Pine, new to the choir. It is by Elizabeth Coxhead and Thomas Coxhead, a sister-brother team. According to their publisher, Elizabeth lives in St Albans, U.K. where she is an Assistant Producer for BBC Radio 3 and is part of the editorial team for International Women’s Day. Elizabeth started her music education as a chorister at Chester Cathedral, going on to sing in choirs at University of Durham whilst studying French and Italian. She sang for Jeremy Summerly at St Luke’s Chelsea, London, for ten years and it was the latter’s championing her pieces that we have to thank for its current circulation. Her brother Thomas Coxhead (b. 1993) is currently the Assistant Organist at Ripon Cathedral as well as a teacher at Harrogate Ladies’ College. Tom’s musical education began as a chorister at Chester Cathedral and he later studied at Durham University before holding posts at Brecon and Ripon cathedrals and Ampleforth College.

Our communion hymn is a favorite, the canon Seek Ye First, words and music by Karen Lafferty (b.1948).

The last hymn tune I hope will now sound very familiar (DEO GRATIAS) as we have been using it as our Gospel acclamation this fall (we will switch next week.) It is one of the oldest tunes in the hymnal, from a Medieval carol (the Agincourt Carol) about Henry V and the Battle of Agincourt (1415) (“Our KING went FORTH, from Nor-MAN-dy”). The church knows a good tune, so back in the 15th century the Latin hymn became the whole story of Christ’s life on earth. This text (“O Love How Deep”) is sometimes attribute to the great Thomas a Kempis (1380-1471). The English translation is by London priest Benjamin Webb (1819-1885).

Our communion and postlude music by the prolific Michael Burkhardt manage to both refer to the last hymn (DEO GRATIAS) and sound spooky for Halloween.

Thanks to everyone who is singing or helping with our Halloween Concert! (7 pm Saturday

Here is a piece from Halloween Concert 2017 when I went as Luther in honor of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation!

See you for All Saints’ Evensong on Tuesday!


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