Skip to content

Sunday Music Musings March 25, 2023

March 25, 2023

The prelude is a setting of Aus tiefer Not (Out of the Depths) by contemporary composer Daniel Gawthrop (b. 1949). This old German melody attributed to Marin Luther (1483-1546) has always been associated with Psalm 130, and its opening descending 5th embodies a descent “to the depths.”  Gawthrop’s setting exploits the opening motif, and then turns it into a plaintive new tune. Gawthrop was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and was inspired to compose by his high school choir director, Mary Miller, and his first organ teacher, Vincent Slater. He attended Michigan State University, 1967-1968, where he majored in organ, continuing those studies in northern Germany while serving in the Navy. He later attended Brigham Young University, 1971-1973, where he changed his major to composition. Gawthrop is an active composer and has received over one hundred commissions from individuals and institutions. His best-known choral work is the lovely Sing Me to Heaven, with words by his wife, poet Jane Griner. The prelude is from Symphony #3 for Organ: The Reformation, a work that was commissioned in commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation in 2017.

The Adult choir will than sing a setting of this tune for Psalm 130 by early Baroque composer Johann (1496-1570). The tune is in the tenor part with its descending leap of a 5th evocative of the descent of the spirit into the depths of despair. Fun fact: the asteroid 120481 Johannwalter is named in his honor! Here is recording of the Harmonium Chamber Singers in their last concert before pandemic.

The choristers are singing Hal Hopson’s arrangement of Dry Bones (also called “Dem Bones” and “Dem Dry Bones”). According to Wikipedia the melody was composed by author and songwriter James Weldon Johnson (1871–1938) and his brother, J. Rosamond Johnson. It was first recorded by The Famous Myers Jubilee Singers in 1928. The lyrics are inspired by Ezekiel 37:1–14 (Sunday’s Old testament reading), where the prophet Ezekiel visits the Valley of Dry Bones and prophesies that they will one day be resurrected at God’s command, picturing the realization of the New Jerusalem.

The offertory is a setting of the spiritual Walk with Me Lord by Dr. Rosephanye Powell (b.1962) who has been hailed as the most performed and published African-American woman composer of choral music internationally. She holds degrees from Florida State University, Westminster Choir College, and Alabama State University. Dr. Powell’s research has focused on the art of the African-American spiritual, the art songs of William Grant Still (the arranger of last week’s offertory), and voice care concerns for voice professionals. She travels the country and internationally presenting lectures and song demonstrations, and serving as a workshop clinician, conductor, and adjudicator for solo vocal competitions/auditions, honor choirs, and choral workshops and festivals.

Our fraction anthem which goes with the gospel of the resurrection of Lazarus is American colonial composer William Billings’(1746-1800) round, When Jesus Wept. “Jesus wept” used to be “the shortest Bible verse” although our most recent translation is “Jesus began to weep.” I will also play an organ setting of this during communion by the prolific Charles Callahan (b.1951).

The gargoyles will sing a verse 3 of Psalm 130 in Latin, Si iniquitates by Samuel Wesley (1766 – 1837), son of hymnodist Charles Wesley and father of S.S. Wesley.

The I am the Bread of Life hymn we will do this week during communion is an alternate tune, from Wonder, Love, and Praise. It is named KUSIK (more on that later) and is by my friend Jack Burnam, who some of our singers know from years of having the privilege of working under him (senior girls and adults) at the RSCM Wilkesbarre Choir Camp course. (He will be leading that course this summer as well, more info here.) Jack served as parish musician for 34 years Immanuel Church, Highlands in Wilmington, and since 2010, at Immanuel Church on the Green in Old New Castle. He is active in AAM (the Association of Anglican Musicians), and as a composer and conductor, including 27 years he conducting the community chamber choir CoroAllegro (1987-2014). Jack had told us that Kusik was named for a former rector, friend, and mentor, and last year he was kind enough to elaborate on this via email:

“The Rev’d Victor Kusik was born in Vladivostok, USSR to Estonian parents–his father was a sales representative for an eastern European locomotive manufacturer–and he came to the US in 1949 ahead of the Red Army’s advance through China. Ordained in the Diocese of Delaware, he became rector of Immanuel Church, Highlands in Wilmington, Delaware in 1972 and served there until his sudden death (of a heart attack) in 1983 at the age of 57. A skilled musician himself, he was bold and forward-thinking with regard to parish liturgy and music amid the controversies of Prayer Book revision in the ‘70s. Victor hired me as his parish musician in 1975, prepared me for confirmation in the Episcopal Church, and inspired me to view my work as a musician as a vocation, intimately connected to the proclamation of the Gospel and the formation of the People of God in discipleship and ministry.”

The final hymn is Eternal Lord of Love, written for the HYMNAL 1982 by English professor Thomas H. Cain (1931-2003), telling of the Lenten journey to Easter. Cain was Professor of English literature at McMaster University for 31 years, and was author of Common Sense About Writing (1967). As well as being a scholar of Edmund Spenser, author and teacher, he was a regular church organist from his boyhood, and lifelong choral singer in the Anglican church.

Loys “Louis” Bourgeois (c. 1510 – 1559) was a French composer and music theorist of the Renaissance. He is most famous as one of the main compilers of Calvinist hymn tunes in the middle of the 16th century. The tune GENEVAN 124 (also known as OLD 124TH or TOULON) was first published in the 1551 edition of the Genevan Psalter.

The postlude, No. 3 (E minor) of the 8 Little Preludes and Fugues BWV 55, attributed to J.S. Bach (1685-1750) is possibly by Johann Ludwig Krebs (1713 1780). It is still a wonderful work, solemn and grand in miniature.


From → Uncategorized

Leave a Comment

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: