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Sunday Music Musings November 19, 2022

November 19, 2022

It is my husband’s birthday today! He is a dedicated singer and a poet but he really hates Christ the King Sunday because he dislikes the patriarchal monarchy metaphors—and he may have a point there! But I try to tell him it is anti-monarchy – if the humbly born Christ is the only true King, all the other mighty are cast down (and the lowly lifted up!). Still, words have power, and it is important to understand that these metaphors of scepters and thrones are glorifying the God who died on the cross, not the greatness of earthly monarchs. Rant over.

The prelude a setting of the great Welsh tune Hyfrydol by the Anglo-Canadian great Healey Willan, who I wrote about extensively here.

HYFRYDOL is our first hymn as well, and I am so happy to sing these grand 5 verses and descant which we were still kind of avoiding last year when the choir was small and only one hymn was sung by the congregation. This great tune speaks to the strength of amateur singing in Wales. Rowland H. Prichard (1811-1887) was a Welsh textile worker and an amateur musician. He had a good singing voice and was appointed precentor in Graienyn. In 1880 Prichard became a loom tender’s assistant at the Welsh Flannel Manufacturing Company in Holywell. Many of his tunes were published in Welsh periodicals. In 1844 he published Cyfaill y Cantorion (The Singer’s Friend), a song book for children. He is best known for the tune HYFRYDOL which is used for the texts “Love Divine, All Love’s Excelling” and “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” as well as its most famous pairing, today’s Alleluia Sing to Jesus with words by William Chatterton Dix (1837-1898). Just as Prichard was not a professional musician, Dix was not a clergyman, but rather trained in the business world, becoming the manager of a marine insurance company in Glasgow, Scotland. He nevertheless published several volumes of hymns.

Right now the choirs are working on a 15-minute setting of the Magnificat with strings by Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) for our Evensong December 18 at 4. As our song of praise in honor of Christ the King we will sing a short movement with the text Fecit Potentiam: “He has shown strength with his arm, and scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.”

Vivaldi, known as the “red priest” because of his flaming red hair, worked at the Ospedale della Pieta in Venice, an orphanage for foundling children.  It was for these orphan girls that he wrote his concertos and church music, which would be performed by his virtuoso girl pupils and older staff from behind a screen to preserve their modesty. You’ll be hearing lots more about Vivaldi as we prepare for Dec. 18. Here is a video showing what these performances might have been like.

The canticle for Sunday (in place of the psalm) is the Song of Zechariah. Zechariah was the father of John the Baptist and a priest in the temple, but when the Angel Gabriel appeared to tell him his wife Elizabeth would give birth, he didn’t believe at first and so was stuck dumb. These were his first words of prophecy after the getting his voice back by naming John. The choir sings a very old Anglican chant, one once known by everyone in the congregation. We are using the Rite I words and the tune by 19th century British organist Edward John Hopkins (1818-1901) which can be found in the hymnal at S-191.

Adrian Batten (c. 1591 – c. 1637) was an English organist and Anglican church music composer. He was active between the Reformation and the Civil War in the 1640s. Our anthem, When the Lord Turned Again, is a setting of some verses of Psalm 126. Like a lot of music of this period, the sides of the choir do some alternating between “Dec” and “Can” or, Decani (the side of an English cathedral where the Dean sits) and Cantoris (the cantor side).

I am happy that successful marching band seasons are over and the Gargoyles can all be there to sing a traditional spiritual Hush, Hush, Somebody’s Calling my Name at the Fraction.

I’ll play a little organ Trio on HYFYDOL by Rebecca Groom te Velde (b. 1956), an American organist who teaches and performs in Oklahoma.

Our communion hymn Let All Mortal Flesh is the gorgeous French carol PICARDY which we always sing at the late service on Christmas Eve during communion, but is also particularly appropriate today with its “King of Kings yet born of Mary…” verse. According to “this paraphrase of Gerard Moultrie (1829-1885) is based on a text that has been used by the church since the late fourth century: the Liturgy of St. James. Moultrie’s words come from a part of that liturgy known as the Cherubic Hymn, which would be chanted as the bread and wine of Holy Eucharist were brought forward. This old text evokes a sense of majesty at the incarnation of Christ, and the slow, almost chant-like melody in a minor tone wonderfully expresses that awe and mystery.”

Our final hymn, to the tune DUKE STREET is Jesus Shall Reign with words by the great words by the prolific Isaac Watts (1674-1748), English Congregational minister, hymn writer, theologian, and logician credited with some 750 hymn including “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”, “Joy to the World”, and “Our God, Our Help in Ages Past.” The tune is by John Warrington Hatton (b. Warrington, England, c. 1710; d, St. Helen’s, Lancaster, England, 1793) about whom little is known, except he quite possibly lived on a Duke Street at one time!

The postlude is a Toccata on PICARDY by Albert Zabel (b.1935). In typical toccata style, the hands are full of flourishes while the melody is in the pedal.

The MOST exciting thing about Sunday is that we will have a choir promotion of 4 novices (new choristers) and 3 junior high singers who have completed extra vocal, leadership and music theory training to receive the RSCM light blue ribbon. Congratulations to:

Novices: William Camporin, Vivienne Cole, Andrew Finlay, and Nicholas Shilkrot

Light Blue: Joy Albiston, Katie Finlay and Presley Sacher

We will be having a Thanksgiving service with all the good hymns Thursday morning at 10 a.m., please come and sing!

Saturday, November 26, as part of Madison’s Holiday Arts Festival, The Daughters of Zion and the Gargoyles, joined by some college alums, will give a concert from 3:30-4:15, followed by an organ recital from 4:30-5. I’ll be playing Thanksgiving and Advent music! I hope to see you there!


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