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Sunday Music Musings November 5, 2022

November 5, 2022

On Tuesday the adult choir sang a beautiful Evensong for All Saints which you can see here. I love having a full week of the most beautiful autumnal trees and services of remembrance, which culminates this Sunday when we celebrate All Saints Sunday with baptisms and lots of music.

The prelude is a set of variation on For All the Saints by the great American church musician Richard Proulx (1937-2010), who was a consultant to our Hymnal 1982. The first movement sets the tune out clearly, the second movement adds a canon, the third movement is a lively Gigue, and the fourth is an homage to our birthday boy Vaughan Williams’ famous prelude Rhosymedre.

We can bookend our service with some Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) tunes. He visited the port town of King’s Lynn, West Norfolk UK in January 1905 and collected several folk songs there including this processional tune. There are verses in our hymnal which you could insert for any saint’s day, by Horatio Bolton Nelson (1823-1913), nephew of the famous Admiral, and hymn editor.

The younger children will sing I Sing a Song of the Saints near the beginning of the service. The the tune is GRAND ISLE, by John Henry Hopkins (1861-1945). The words are by Lesbia Scott (1998-1986), first published in England in 1929. In the first verse, “one was a doctor” (St. Luke) and one was a queen (St. Margaret of Scotland), and “one was a shepherdess on the green” (Joan of Arc). In the second verse listen for the organ’s “fierce wild beast.” Learn about the other verses from this wonderful book:

At the offertory we will sing big combined anthem, Around the Throne of God by Professor Emeritus of Music at the University of Delaware David Herman. Herman studied with and wrote about the composer Jan Bender, and I can hear a bit of those 4ths and 5ths and crunchy spots. The main theme starts which A, E and B, or in European notation, A, E, H which were his daughter’s initials.  This was his first anthem published by Parclete Press, with a text by John Mason Neale. I learned this from this wonderful video chat with the composer. John Mason Neale(1818-1866) was a prolific writer of prose, poetry and hymns, translator and Anglican priest, high church, in poor health, and enamored of the Oxford movement. You can read much more about him here

At the fraction the older trebles will sing a lively duet by a late 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. In Heaven the Souls of the Saints Rejoice is written in the style of a baroque duet.

While the choir takes communion I will play a piece based on the Requiem chant Domine Jesu Christe by Jeanne Demessieux (1921 – 1968). Those of you familiar with the Duruflé Requiem may recognize the chant. I wrote a lot more about this trail-blazing French woman here.

Jerusalem My Happy Home, the communion hymn has a wonderful melody, (which we once used in Bible School to sing about Moses!). Listen for the children who really sing out beautifully.

LAND OF REST is an American folk tune with roots in the ballads of northern England and Scotland. It was known throughout the Appalachians; a shape-note version of the tune was published in The Sacred Harp (1844) and titled NEW PROSPECT as the setting for “O land of rest! for thee I sigh.” The tune was published again with that same text in J. R. Graves’s Little Seraph (Memphis, 1873). The tune was known to Annabel M. Buchanan (1888 – 1983) whose grandmother sang it to her as a child. She harmonized the tune and published it in her Folk Hymns of America (1938), noting similarities between this tune and the tune for “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” Known especially as a musicologist of American folk music, Buchanan was educated at the Landon Conservatory, Dallas, Texas, and the Guilmant Organ School, New York City. She taught at several colleges, including Stonewall Jackson College, Abingdoll, Virginia. Buchanan published numerous articles on folk traditions of the Appalachian area of the United States. She also lectured widely on this topic and gave recitals of folk music. Her own compositions also show the influence of folk music.” –Psalter Hymnal Handbook

The words are attributed to British cleric Joseph Bromehead (1747-1826), then altered and expanded by Scottish Presbyterian minister David Dickson (1583-1663).

Vaughan Williams composed the great hymn 287, For All the Saints, SINE NOMINE. The verses by the Anglican Bishop of Wakefield, William Walsham How (1823-1897) were originally sung to a tune by Joseph Barnby, one of the Victorian composers Vaughan Williams particularly detested, which made him agree to help create the 1906 English Hymnal and purge it of such horrors. We must sing all 8 verses, although there were originally 11!

Although Ralph Vaughan Williams was a youthful atheist, he was described by his second wife Ursula, a poet, as a “cheerful agnostic.” Apparently when the young Vaughan Williams asked his mother about Darwin’s controversial book On the Origin of Species, she answered, “The Bible says that God made the world in six days. Great Uncle Charles thinks it took longer: but we need not worry about it, for it is equally wonderful either way.” He died on 26 August 1958; his ashes are interred in Westminster Abbey, near Purcell.

After the singing of SINE NOMINE the postlude is Proulx’s last variation (see prelude) a Fugato which puts a tune-inspired subject in the minor and also inverts it at the first pedal entrance.


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