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Rogation Sunday Music Musings May 13, 2023

May 13, 2023

The word “rogation” comes from the Latin rogare, which means “to ask,” and the Rogation Days are set apart to bless the fields, and ask for God’s mercy on all of creation. On these days, the congregation used to march the boundaries of the parish, blessing every tree and stone, while chanting or reciting a litany. At Grace Church we have a tradition of doing this at the end of the service as we march out to the garden singing “All Things Bright and Beautiful” with our butterfly banner! All of our hymns and anthems will celebrate the gifts of the earth.

The prelude for Sunday is by James Biery (b. 1956), American organist, composer and conductor who is Minister of Music at Grosse Pointe Memorial Church (Presbyterian) in Michigan. Before that he served as music director for Cathedrals in St. Paul, Minnesota and Hartford, Connecticut. It is based on the English tune KINGSFOLD which will be the processional.

According to, “Thought by some scholars to date back to the Middle Ages, KINGSFOLD is a folk tune set to a variety of texts in England and Ireland. The tune was published in English Country Songs (1893), an anthology compiled by Lucy E. Broadwood and J. A. Fuller Maitland. After having heard the tune in Kingsfold, Sussex, England (thus its name), Ralph Vaughan Williams (1897-1958) introduced it as a hymn tune in The English Hymnal (1906) as a setting I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say.” I know you’ve heard a lot of “Rafe” this year, as we celebrated his 150th birthday in October. I wrote the descant just last year for Rogation Sunday 2022.

The text by Edward White Benson (1829-1896) celebrates the gifts of the earth as the gifts of Jesus, and calls for us to protect them and feed the poor. Benson was a head of school at several distinguished places including Rugby School, Wellington College, Lincoln, and then Bishop of Truro. Benson went on to become The Archbishop of Canterbury in 1883 until his death in 1886. This hymn was written during Dr. Benson’s Headmastership of Wellington College, and first printed in the Hymn-Book for the Use of Wellington College, 1860.

This is our last week of rehearsals for the littlest singers, the Chapel Choir, and they will join us for Tom Chapin’s This Pretty Planet at the Song of Praise. A special thank you to our teachers Miss Camille, Miss Linda and Henri, and please find Camille at coffee hour for a thank-you if your child sang this year!

Tom Chapin (b. 1945) is an American musician, entertainer, singer-songwriter, storyteller and activist. I’m not sure I could have raised my children without his CDs/tapes (dating myself!) playing in the car. Here is a version of This Pretty Planet he posted during the pandemic.

The Gargoyles will sing our offertory, The Green Man by Irish Singer-songwriter Martin Donnelly, arranged by Ron Jeffers (1943-2017). The publisher (earthsongs) offers this historical perspective: “Among the many fantastic figures carved on medieval churches and cathedrals, one can find examples of foliate heads or leaf masks; a human head from which leafy foliage sprouts and elaborately ornaments a frieze, facade, or column.  This figure, known as the “Green Man” (or “Jack in the Green”, “Green George”, “Leaf Man”, “May-King”, etc.) was mainly a Northern European and Celtic symbol of the continuous regeneration of life, a symbol of May and the return of the Spring.  He is also sometimes portrayed as a nightmarish demon of the forest and can appear to be both beautiful and sinister at the same time.” Here is the Green Man in our yard!

Here is the original from Donnelly, the first cut on his first CD Stone and Light.

The fraction anthem is Renaissance English composer Thomas Tallis’ (c. 1505-1585) If Ye Love Me (which Jabez and I also had at our wedding!) which goes with the Gospel lesson.

The communion hymn is Fairest Lord Jesus. According to the ST. ELIZABETH appears to be an eighteenth-century tune from the Glaz area of Silesia. It has always been associated with this text. No factual data exists for the legend that this text and tune date back to the twelfth-century crusades, although those apocryphal stories explain one of the names by which this tune is known, namely, CRUSADER’S HYMN. After Franz Liszt used the tune for a crusaders’ march in his oratorio The Legend of St. Elizabeth (1862), the tune also became known as ST. ELIZABETH. This tune is also associated with the text “Beautiful Savior” which St. Olaf Choir (and others) always sing at the end of their concerts.

All Things Bright and Beautiful will take us outside with kids ringing bells – we will celebrate Rogation in the front yard this year, because of the construction in the back.  The text is by is by Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895), wife of Rev. William Alexander, the Anglican bishop of Ireland. She was a poet of many hymns including a whole collection for children. She ministered to the sick and poor, and founded a school for the deaf. According to the tune “ROYAL OAK is presumably named for a tree at Boscobel, Shropshire, England, in which King Charles II hid during the Battle of Worcester, 1651. A folk song that may well be older than the seventeenth century, ROYAL OAK was associated in the 1600s with the loyalist song “The Twenty-Ninth of May,” a song that celebrated the restoration of the monarchy under Charles II on May 29, 1660.”

Finally our “Rogation Band” of adults and kids will play For the Beauty of the Earth (DIX) outside as postlude. Happy Rogation Sunday!


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