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Sunday Music Musings Feb. 4, 2024

February 4, 2023

I always find a Sunday in Epiphany to celebrate the great chorale WIE SCHŐN LEUCHTET DER MORGENSTERN. This will be found in the prelude, postlude and as the final hymn. This tune (“How Brightly Shines the Morning Star”) is attributed to Philipp Nicolai (1556-1608). As puts it Nicolai “lived an eventful life–he fled from the Spanish army, sparred with Roman Catholic and Calvinist opponents, and ministered to plague-stricken congregations.” Both “Wake Awake” and “How Brightly Shines” were written during a time of plague, while he was Lutheran pastor in Unna, Westphalia. The prelude by German Baroque composer Johann Pachelbel (1653 –1706) sets the chorale tune very clearly in the pedals, and elaborates on each phrase in the upper parts.

We are so excited to have more kids singing in our Chapel Choir and to sing Give Light on Sunday. Magpie – the folk singing and social justice duo Greg Artzner & Terry Leonino are the authors of this wonderful song. Now based in Auburn, NY they also work with school groups, museums, and are known for environmental music.

You can read much more about Mark Miller (b. 1967) in last week’s blog. This week another text comes up from First Corinthians that puts a Mark Miller song in my head.

“No eye has seen, nor ear heard,

nor the human heart conceived,

what God has prepared for those who love the Lord”—

So the choirs will combine again to sing Mark’s No Eye Has Seen. High School chorister Meredith McKeever who was a student delegate to the Diocesan convention this weekend excitedly texted me that they were singing Mark’s “Draw the Circle Wide” in worship at convention!

At the presentation we will sing Be Thou My Vision with its tune SLANE, one of the most beloved hymns of many denominations. It is an old Irish hymn, Bí Thusa ‘mo Shúile; composer and author both unknown. These words were translated into English by linguist Mary Elizabeth Byrne (1880 – 1931) in Ériu (the journal of the School of Irish Learning) in 1905, and versified by Eleanor Henrietta Hull (1860 –1935) a writer and scholar of Old Irish. The tune name “Slane” is named for an area in Ireland where St. Patrick repeatedly challenged local Druids with the gospel.

I will also play an organ setting by British composer David Terry (b. 1975) before communion.

The Gargoyles will sing a Peruvian round, Yo soy la luz del mundo (I am the light of the world) at the fraction.

At communion we will sing I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light, the tune HOUSTON (and words) by Kathleen Thomerson (b. 1934). It was written in the summer of 1966 after a visit to the Church of the Redeemer in Houston. Because an airline strike cancelled her mother’s travel plans and a heat wave was making St. Louis unbearable, Thomerson decided to drive her mother back to Houston. This hymn came to her as she anticipated visiting her “brothers and sisters in Christ at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Houston.” Thomerson holds degrees from the University of Texas, she also studied at Syracuse University, with Flor Peeters at the Royal Conservatoire of Antwerp, and with Jean Langlais in Paris. She worked as the music director of University United Methodist Church in St. Louis, and taught organ at the Saint Louis Conservatory and at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and she has also worked as organist and music director at Mt. Olive Lutheran Church in Austin, Texas. The hymn is simple but not simplistic and I always teach it to the trebles every year if not twice a year. I had to re-teach it after pandemic, but Friday I noticed we are back to just having it in our collective memory. That makes me so happy!

Our last hymn will be the grand and fully harmonized (by J. S. Bach (1685-1750)) How Brightly Shines the Morning Star, with another German Baroque postlude by Andreas Armsdorff (1670 – 1699) on the tune. You really need a big full choir and some congregation to pull off these big chorales, so I havn’t done all 3 verses since before-times!

Another great reason to come Sunday is to buy your Girl Scout cookies! Our wonderful Grace Church girl scouts have all gotten together to form a cooperative—buy your cookies at coffee hour and the proceeds will be shared equally between our Grace Scouts! These same girls below are all singing as well!

Finally, don’t forget to come next Saturday when our treble choristers sing Evensong (Yay!) at 5 pm Saturday, joined by choristers from Grace Church, Newark.


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