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Good Shepherd Sunday Music Musings April 29, 2023

April 30, 2023

The choristers this week figured out for themselves that everything was about shepherds after we rehearsed our music! So yes, it is “Good Shepherd Sunday” and the prelude is a setting for The King of Love My Shepherd Is by great late Romantic Irish composer Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924), after which we will sing the hymn in procession.

That first hymn is Hymn 645, the Irish tune ST. COLUMBA with the paraphrase by Henry William Baker (1821-1877). Sir Henry was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated, and became, in 1851, Vicar of Monkland, Herefordshire. He edited the first edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern. The descant is by a friend, Thaddeus Cavuoti (1955-2021). Following graduation from Williams College in Massachusetts, Tad spent 38 years as a Music Teacher at the Landon School in Bethesda, Maryland. He served as the Organist and Music Director at Christ Episcopal Church in Rockville MD for 24 years and then Colesville Presbyterian Church since ‘18, while playing and singing throughout the DC area and around the world. I got to know him at the RSCM Kings College Course, which sadly just folded as it could not come back from the pandemic. I am very sad about this and grateful for the many years of inspiration. Here we are at choir camp in our heyday—Kimbo Love in blue on the end!

Kenneth Leighton (1926-1990) was one of the most distinguished of the British post-war composers; with over 100 published compositions. His work is frequently performed and broadcast both in Britain and in other countries. Leighton was a chorister at Wakefield Cathedral and studied at Queen’s College, Oxford, graduating with degrees in both Classics and music, having studied with Bernard Rose. In 1955 he was appointed Lecturer in Music at the University of Edinburgh where he was made Senior Lecturer, Reader, and then Reid Professor of Music in October 1970. His works include choral classics like Lully Lulla, to Evening services, and organ and piano works. His Easter Sequence is a cantata for trumpet organ and trebles which was commissioned by the Berkshire Boy Choristers of the United States for their service in St Severin, Paris, on Low Sunday 1969. The Communion movement is built around an exquisite oscillating melodic fragment, and will be sung at the beginning of the service by all trebles including adults.  

The psalm is Bobby McFerrin (b.1950)’s tribute to his mother in female pronouns which is his setting of Psalm 23. This piece show’s McFerrin’s roots growing up singing in the Episcopal Church, as it is basically Anglican chant with jazzy chords and moving use of word accents and rests. Bobby McFerrin is an amazing vocal artist. Since 1982, he’s released a dozens of major CDs, focusing on a cappella vocals (both solo and multitracked) and collaborations, with classical cellist Yo-Yo Ma and with jazz pianist Chick Corea and others. He has the distinction of begetting not only a phrase, but also a cultural mindset with his most famous recording, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” I think of my mom when I do this piece, because she actually attended a Wednesday morning Bible study class with him at St. Paul’s Church in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia about 15 years ago. She referred to him as “that nice young man with dreadlocks that everyone seems to know.” So my family ended up singing this piece at Mom’s memorial service.

Bobby McFerrin Photo by Carol Friedman.

Let Is Love in Deed and Truth by Larry Peyton King (1932-1990) is a favorite anthem of our choir, and one that reminds us of George Hayman, so we will also be singing it at the memorial service on Saturday May 6 at 11. Larry King was Organist and Director of Music at Trinity Church, Wall Street, in New York City from 1968 to 1989. The piece talks about showing the love of God in deeds and well as words.

The presentation hymn Shepherd of Souls is a text by James Montgomery (1771-1854). According to Bert Polman at, “Montgomery, the son of Moravian parents who died on a West Indies mission field while he was in boarding school, inherited a strong religious bent, a passion for missions, and an independent mind. He was editor of the Sheffield Iris (1796-1827), a newspaper that sometimes espoused radical causes.”

The tune ST. AGNES is by John Bacchus Dykes (1823-1876) After receiving a classics degree from St. Catherine College, Cambridge, England, he was ordained in the Church of England in 1847. In 1849 he became the precentor and choir director at Durham Cathedral, where he introduced reforms in the choir. He served the parish of St. Oswald in Durham from 1862 until the year of his death. To the chagrin of his bishop, Dykes favored the high church practices associated with the Oxford Movement (choir robes, incense, and the like). A number of his three hundred hymn tunes are still respected as durable examples of Victorian hymnody. (Bert Polman, The tune after a young Roman Christian woman who was martyred in A.D. 304 during the reign of Diocletian. St. Agnes was sentenced to death for refusing to marry a nobleman to whom she said, “I am already engaged to Christ, to Him alone I keep my troth.”

English composer, conductor and organist, recently retired as Director of Chapel Music at Winchester College, Malcolm Archer (b. 1952) has a lovely setting of The King of Love which I will play at communion.

The closing hymn is Savior Like Shepherd Lead Us, the words of which were first found in a Children’s Hymnal from 1830. The tune is SICILIAN MARINERS. According to SICILIAN MARINERS is traditionally used for the Roman Catholic Marian hymn O Sanctissima. According to tradition, Sicilian seamen ended each day on their ships by singing this hymn in unison. The tune probably traveled from Italy to Germany to England, where The European Magazine and London Review first published it in 1792. The tune was associated with the German Christmas carol O du Frohliche, O du Selige.

This week’s big concert in my life is presented by the select Harmonium Chamber Singers here at Grace on Saturday (May 6) at 7:30 and at Morrow Methodist Church in Maplewood on Sunday at 3. The Chamber Singers include our own Ted Roper, PJ Livesey and Camille Bourland, and they are singing an eclectic selection of music for everyone. Buy tickets online here or at the door.

Here’s how I start my Wellspring program notes: “Originally planned as a concert with a water theme, (which would lead into our environmental theme for June), as I navigated the end of the pandemic’s effects on our choral community, I found myself defining this concert in larger terms, music that helps us “fill the well.” Not only have I included some intense, fun, and amazing new works by favorite contemporary composers, this allowed me to program some of my favorite older compositions to feed our spirits– from Josquin and Schütz to Brahms and Parry. The fact that it is the first concert in which we can see the singers’ (unmasked) faces (since March 1, 2020) has the wellspring of my soul bubbling over!”

Read the full program notes here. We will be doing a NJ premiere of a piece by Drew Professor Trevor Weston, as well as a piece that uses pitched water bottles! Please come if you can!


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