Skip to content

Sunday Music Musings January 28, 2023

January 29, 2023

Epiphany continues its celebration of light. For the prelude I will play Christe qui lux es et dies (“Christ thou Art the Light and Day”) by German Baroque organist (and possible teacher of young J.S.Bach in Lüneberg) Georg Böhm (1661 –1733).

Our opening hymn ST JOAN (“Christ is the World’s True Light”) gave us a chance to play with our solfege on Friday (Do, mi, sol, do, la sol!).

Little is known about the composer Percy Collier (1895-?), but according to an online source at All Saints Church Roanoke Rapids, NC, “Joan” the name given to the music, was the name of the composer’s wife and composer Percy Collier was born in England and was organist and choir director in churches both in England and Canada. He is credited with several hymns. He was a contemporary of the text author George Wallace Briggs (1875-1950).

For our Song of Praise the children are singing the Nunc Dimittis from George Dyson’s Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis in C. Although the Nunc Dimittis is an Evening Canticle, we sing it today as the Sunday closest to Candlemas. On Wednesday (the eve of Candlemas) we will celebrate at our “Compline for Kids” service. The kids can tell you that this service of light celebrates the Song of Simeon, that is, the epiphany that the old priest Simeon had when he saw the infant Jesus, whom God had promised to show him before he died. The kids are preparing this “Mag and Nunc” for their Evensong Sunday February 11 at 5.

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace : according to thy word.

For mine eyes have seen: thy salvation,

Which thou hast prepared: before the face of all people;

To be a light to lighten the Gentiles: and to be the glory of thy people Israel.

Traditionally on Candlemas candles are blessed and lit in celebration of Jesus being the light of the world. In AD 638, Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem, proclaimed the importance of the celebration in his sermon to the church, stating: “Our bright shining candles are a sign of divine splendor of the one who comes to expel the dark shadows of evil and to make the whole universe radiant with the brilliance of his eternal light. Our candles also show how bright our souls should be when we go to meet Christ.” 

The timing for Candlemas is also in accordance with the Mosaic Law, which required that a woman should purify herself for forty days after giving birth, and, at the end of her purification, should present herself to the priest at the temple and offer a sacrifice (Leviticus 12:6-7). In the Roman Catholic Church this is known as the Purification of Saint Mary the Virgin, while in English Anglican Churches women gather with feasting and socializing known as The Wives’ Feast. Also traditionally, many (including Dr. Anne and  Father Asa) leave Christmas lights up until Candlemas!

The setting we are singing this year is by George Dyson (1883 –1964). Sir George Dyson was an English musician and composer who studied at the Royal College of Music and became its director in 1938. Dyson’s father was a blacksmith, but also organist and choirmaster at a local Yorkshire church, and his mother was a weaver and amateur choir singer. Dyson studied at the RCM in London, with Stanford and Parry, from whom he learned a traditional style which served him well.  He served in the army in the First World War, suffered from shell-shock but later returned to the war as a major in the newly formed Royal Air Force, organizing RAF bands. After the war he was a schoolmaster and college lecturer at Wellington College and then Winchester. In 1938 he became director of the RCM, and saw it through the Second World War. He retired in 1962 to enjoy a fruitful compositional period, and died in Winchester in 1964.

For our anthem, the Old Testament from Micah suggested to me Mark Andrew Miller’s (b. 1967) What does the Lord Require?

“With what shall I come before the Lord,
and bow myself before God on high?

He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you

but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?

Mark serves as Assistant Professor of Church Music at Drew Theological School and is a Lecturer in the Practice of Sacred Music at Yale University. He also is the Minister of Music of Christ Church in Summit and composer-in residence for Harmonium Choral Society. He is a Yale and Julliard educated passionate advocate for the power of music to change the world. 

This also suggested to me to invite former singer and music teacher Donna Ward McEachern to come back and help us with her gospel-style improvisations! Donna grew up singing in the Grace choirs, and now teaches in the Madison schools, currently on maternity leave so she can hang with her beautiful baby Sarah! I am so excited to do this big combined anthem with all the choirs and to have Donna sing!

Both the presentation hymn FRANCONIA and the communion hymn (Russian Orthodox chant, arr. Richard Proulx (1937- 2010) refer to the Beatitudes which are the gospel.

Before communion I will play a beautiful organ piece, Prière, by Mel Bonis (1858 – 1937), a prolific French late-Romantic composer. She wrote more than 300 pieces, including for piano, chorus organ and orchestra. Her life reads like a movie plot that you would have trouble believing. I promise more stories as I play more of her music this year, but for now you can read about her life in Wikipedia as if you were reading a gothic novel!

Our last hymn is the tune ENGLEBERG by the great late Romantic Irish composer Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924). The words of All Praise to Thee are by American (Virginian) priest and writer F. Bland Tucker (1895-1984). 

The postlude is a setting of the spiritual This Little Light of Mine by Calvin Taylor (b. 1948) who was born in Los Angeles, California. The composer, pianist, and organist made history at Oberlin Conservatory of Music in 1970 when he became the first organist in the school’s over 155-year history to improvise a graduate concert encore. Dr. Taylor is known for his orchestral works as well has his organ music such as Five Spirituals for Organ, 1998, commissioned and premiered by and dedicated to Dr. Marilyn Mason, with whom he studied at the University of Michigan.  Never far from his roots in religious music, Taylor has traveled for many years throughout the U.S.A. presenting thousands of concerts in America’s churches, and has toured the world.


From → Uncategorized

One Comment

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Sunday Music Musings Feb. 4, 2024 | maestrasmusings

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: