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Sunday Music Musings April 15, 2023

April 15, 2023

It is still Easter (a Great 50 Days!) and we will be ringing bells in many pieces to keep things festive! I’m so proud of everyone great services last week–here we are celebrating the Feast of Victory!

The traditional hymn for the first Sunday after Easter is O Sons and Daughters, based on a French Noel (O FILII ET FILIAE) and telling the story of doubting Thomas. The text is attributed to French Franciscan monk Jean Tisserand (d. 1494) in translation by the prolific Anglican priest and scholar, John M. Neale (1818 -1866). I had fun discussing “doubting Thomas” with the choristers on Friday–Miss Kathryn had them prepped!

The prelude is a setting of this tune (O Filii) by renowned Lebanese-French organist, composer, and improviser Naji Hakim (b.1955). He studied under Jean Langlais, and succeeded Messiaen as organist at the Église de la Sainte-Trinité, Paris. This short variation cycle in was composed in 2012. The four short variations are Andante – Energico – Allegro – Allegro.

We will do the Mathias “Gloria” with all of its bell parts like we did on Easter! William Mathias CBE (1934 –1992) was a Welsh composer, well known for his choral works, but also prolific in the orchestral and chamber music genres. We use his festive service music in Eastertide.

Also in Eastertide we will go back to Anglican chant psalms for the choir—we need to get in practice for our England trip in 2024! For Psalm 16 I have used a new chant by Sarah MacDonald (b. 1968), Canadian-born organist, conductor, and composer, living in the UK. She currently holds the positions of Fellow and Director of Music at Selwyn College, Cambridge, and Director of the girl choristers at Ely Cathedral. She has been at Selwyn since 1999, and is the first woman to hold such a post in an Oxbridge Chapel.

My go-to anthem for the Sunday after Easter (should I admit we had not practiced beyond Holy Week?) is a cheerful motet by Adam Gumpelzhaimer, (1559 –1625), a Bavarian composer and music theorist. Cantor at the Augsburg Cathedral from 1581-1625, he had ample occasion to compose sacred music in the early baroque style. He was a great admirer of Hans Leo Hassler and collected his works which undoubtedly an influence. There are certain words which have lots and lots of notes on one syllable, making the word of the day MELISMA.

The communion hymn is ST.BOTOLPH We Walk By Faith, tune by Gordon Slater (1896-1979). It is named for a 7th century Benedictine-educated Saxon who was one of the earliest East Anglian saints, and became known as the patron saint of wayfarers. The tune name came from Slater’s position as organist of St Botolph’s Church, Boston (Lincolnshire, UK) (1919–1927). Later he served at Leicester Cathedral (1927–1931) and Lincoln Cathedral (1931–1966). The composer of the text, Henry Alford (1810 –1871) was an English churchman, theologian, scholar, poet, hymnodist, and writer who came from 5 generations of clergymen. He also wrote the text of “Come Ye Thankful People Come.”

The last hymn is That Easter Day with Joy was Bright, the tune Puer nobis nascitur (“a boy is born”) which is a clue that this is a Christmas tune being sung to an Easter text. The ancient (5th century) words are set to a 15th century tune adapted by the great Michael Praetorius (1571-1621). Before communion I will play a short setting by the French composer and harpsichordist Jean-François Dandrieu (1681-1738), member of a musical family, who was organist from 1705 at the church of St Merry in Paris, and appointed an organist of the royal chapel in 1721. 

I will play some of Dandrieu’s variations on O filii et filiae (O sons and Daughters) for the postlude. Happy Eastertide!


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