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Sunday Music Musings March 18, 2023

Very few hymns have a more famous story than Amazing Grace, written by repentant enslaver John Newton (1735-1807). Newton was born in 1725 in London to a Puritan mother who died before his seventh birthday, and a stern sea-captain father who took him to sea at age 11. After many voyages and a reckless youth of drinking, Newton was impressed into the British navy, and ended up in the slave trade. The story goes that during a horrendous storm at sea, he prayed for deliverance, was delivered, repented and changed his life. Appropriate for this St. Patrick’s weekend, it was the shores of Ireland where the survivors washed up and where Newton’s spiritual conversion began. Although he didn’t instantly change his ways and was still involved in the slave trade for six more years, it is believed that he began reading the Bible in Ireland and ‘started to view his captives with a more sympathetic view.’

 In 1764, he was ordained as an Anglican priest, and began writing hymns to accompany his services. He wrote the words for “Amazing Grace” in 1772. Finally in 1788, he renounced his former slaving profession by publishing a blazing pamphlet called “Thoughts Upon the Slave Trade” which described the horrific conditions on the ships. The pamphlet was so popular it was reprinted several times and sent to every member of Parliament. Under the leadership of MP William Wilberforce, the English civil government outlawed slavery in Great Britain in 1807 and Newton lived to see it, dying in December of that year. The hymn grew in popularity in the United State in the 19th century to several tunes, and In 1835, William Walker put the words to the popular tune NEW BRITAIN.

The prelude is a jazz-infused setting by George Shearing (1919-2011). Born blind to a poor London family, Shearing trained as a classical pianist but turned to jazz. He played dance-band gigs before settling in the United States in 1946. His quintet, first formed in 1949, lasted for many years and won a huge following for its many albums. He later worked extensively with Mel Tormé. He enjoyed an international reputation as a pianist, arranger and composer. Shearing was recognized for his inventive, orchestrated jazz. He wrote over 300 compositions, including the classic Lullaby of Birdland, which became a standard.

Valerie Webdell is a Lutheran Christian Education professional from Indiana, and ahe has written this lovely two-part children’s anthem Children of Light, based on our reading from Ephesians: “Once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light.”

Our setting of the psalm is Isaac Watts’ metric paraphrase of Psalm 23, My Shepherd will Supply My Need, to the Southern Harmony Tune RESIGNATION as set by Virgil Thomson (1896-1989). Isaac Watts (1674-1748), English Congregational minister, hymn writer, theologian, and logician is credited with some 750 hymns including “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”, “Joy to the World”, and “Our God, Our Help in Ages Past.”

Virgil Thomson studied at Harvard, then in Paris where he studied with Nadia Boulanger. Among his most famous works are the operas Four Saints in Three Acts and The Mother of Us All (with Gertrude Stein), and film scores to The Plow That Broke the Plains, The River, and Louisiana Story. This simple arrangement is a fine example of Thomson’s musical style rooted in American speech rhythms and hymnbook harmony, and influenced by Satie’s ideals of clarity, and simplicity.

There is a 9/11 story for this piece. A few days after those terrible events, the town of Madison held a memorial on the steps of Hartley-Dodge, and we joined with the church choirs from St. Vincent’s and the Presbyterian Church to sing this. It turns out it was pouring rain, and when it can time to sing together on the steps, we just all put down our umbrellas and went for it. Of course the music itself got soaking wet. I was all ready to throw it away but one of the altos (Dorothy Hayes) took the music home and dried it and ironed it! Now when I a copy that is slightly wrinkled I remember all of that.

Our offertory is by William Grant Still (1895 –1978) long known as the “Dean of African-American Classical Composers.”  Still was a prolific composer whose works include five symphonies, four ballets, nine operas, over thirty choral works, plus art songs, chamber music and works for solo instruments. He was the first African-American composer to have a symphony performed by a professional orchestra in the U.S., the Symphony no. 1 “Afro-American” (1930). It was premiered by Howard Hanson and the Rochester Philharmonic. He set this spiritual The Blind Man simply and passionately for tenor soloist and choir.

If today’s tenor solo seems a new yet familiar face in the choir, it is Greg Paradis, who was our Gargoyles director about 10 years ago, and has returned to sing with the adults. Greg is happy to be back and would love to meet you. He is passionate about theater and baking!

The fourth Sunday in Lent is Mid-lent, or Laetare Sunday (from the introit “Laetare Jerusalem” (Rejoice, Jerusalem). In England it was also Mothering Sunday (a day off to visit your mother if you were in service) or Refreshment Sunday as the fasting rules during Lent were relaxed, to honor the Feeding of the Five Thousand. Sometimes the color is rose as in Advent on Gaudete Sunday. Our Presentation hymn celebrates this more cheerful moment in Lent: “Now Quit your care, and anxious fear and worry…” a text by the very British Percy Dearmer (1867–1936) (the author of The Parson’s Handbook and the editor of The English hymnal who had invited Vaughan Williams to be musical editor). It is set to a French Carol QUITTEZ PASTEURS which at Christmas time calls to the shepherds to get up and go to Bethlehem.

At communion I will refer back to RESIGNATION with an organ setting by the prolific Charles Callahan (b. 1951), and then more “light” for the communion hymn: Eternal Light, words by British hymnodist Christopher Idle (b. 1938) after a text by Alcuin (735?-804). Alcuin of York was a scholar, clergyman, poet, and teacher from York, who was invited by Charlemagne to become the leading scholar and teacher at his court (for which he is much more famous than for his hymnody). The tune is an old German chorale attributed to Samuel Scheidt (1587-1654), ACH BLEIB BEI UNS. It always amazes me how many centuries can be pulled together in the music of one hymn.

As we end singing Amazing Grace, the postlude will also reflect on that hymn, in a setting by Hal Hopson (b.1933) a Texas-based prolific church musician and composer with over 3000 works.

This week I’ve been reflecting a lot on the anniversary of lockdown, and it was a very difficult time for choral musicians. Eternal Light is a hymn that would happen several times a year, but since I havn’t blogged about it, I realize we havn’t sung it in 3 years. This time last year the congregation was only singing the final hymn—we added back multiple hymns on Easter.  I am so happy to be singing again and doing so much music in a Sunday with the choirs as they just get better and better from it. We really need to be together, and also to come together to experience live worship, live music in concerts, and in-person fellowship.

Here is a photo from Saturday night’s wonderfully attended Irish Concert of Chamber Music for Charity which raised over $1600 for America’s Grow A Row!

Sunday Music Musings March 11, 2023

The prelude for Sunday is a musical telling of Sunday’s Gospel story by James Biery (born 1956) is an 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. Each one of James Biery’s Three Gospel Scenes  tell a story using a hymn tune. He explains: “In The Woman at the Well, Jesus meets a Samaritan Woman at Jacob’s well.  A modal and somewhat aimless tune represents the woman.  When Jesus first speaks to her he uses hymn I heard the voice of Jesus say –but she does not understand, and continues her aimlessly wandering tune.  Little by little, as her understanding deepens, the hymn-tune begins to merge with the modal theme, and by the end of the piece they are intertwined.” The tune quoted as I heard the voice of Jesus say is actually KINGSFOLD which is used for that text in other hymnals.

The psalm for Sunday is Psalm 95 and our choristers will sing the first 7 verses (which are known as the Venite) in a setting by Jack Noble White (1938-2019), former Organist of the First United Methodist Church, Fort Worth, Texas, and long-time Director of the Texas Boys Choir. He is known best at Grace for his setting of The First Song of Isaiah; Surely it is God Who Saves Me.

The adults will finish out the more Lenten verses 8-11 with plainchant.

The offertory is a late Renaissance/early baroque motet, Exultate Justi by Italian composer, teacher, choirmaster and Franciscan friar Lodovico Grossi da Viadana (1560-1627). Sung in Latin, it is a setting of the first 3 verses of Psalm 32.

Rejoice in the Lord, O ye just; praise befits the upright.
Give praise to the Lord on the harp; sing to him with the psaltery, the instrument of ten strings.
Sing to him a new canticle, sing well unto him with a loud noise.
Rejoice in the Lord, O ye just; praise befits the upright.

Jumping a few centuries, the presentation hymn is Rock of Ages. The tune is TOPLADY named for the text author, Augustus Toplady (1740-1778). The tune composer is the American Thomas Hastings (1784-1872), born in Lichfield Connecticut, raised in the frontier of Colorado, who then returned to New York State. Although this is an oldie-but-goodie, the way the kids always take to this hymn shows me it deserves the love!

I always try to do music by women composers, but with International Women’s Day this past week, I wanted to make sure to, and it seems like a good time for this short piece at the Fraction, Nurture or “Heal the Broken” by Jane Marshall (1924-2019). She is one of a very few women composers found in the Hymnal 1982. Here is a short bio from the “Jane Marshall was born Jane Anne Manton in Dallas in 1924. She became a pianist and organist and composed music as a teenager. She earned a music degree in 1945 from SMU. She married Elbert Marshall. She went on to write more than 200 hymns and other sacred music works. She later earned a Master’s degree in 1968 from SMU in choral conducting and composition. She taught at SMU’s Perkins School of Theology and tis Church Music Summer School from 1975-2010. She attended Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas for many years, collaborated often with other hymn writers, and encouraged many students.” Marshall’s most famous anthem is “My Eternal King,” but those of us at Grace know her best for her antiphonal children’s song “Keep Me, Keep Me” that we always sing at Compline for Kids.

This first setting in Words from Two Women sets a text by mystic Mechtild of Magdeburg (c. 1207 – c. 1282/1294), (the other is by Mother Teresa). Mechtild’s conception of the hereafter is believed by many scholars to be the basis of the Hell depicted in Dante’s Divine Comedy. The texts of this short motets is laid out homophonically in diatonic, yet surprising, chord progressions.

Heal the broken with comforting words of God.

Cheer them gently with earthly joys.

Be merry: laugh with the broken

and carry their secret needs

in the deepest silence of your heart.

The communion hymn 692 text I heard the voice of Jesus say is by Horatius Bonar (1808-1889), a Scottish minister and hymnodist. The tune in our hymnal is by Thomas Tallis (c. 1505-1585). It is truly a mark of genius that Tallis could so excel in the grand and the simple that two of his most famous works – Spem in Alium (40 separate parts, in Latin-here is Harmonium singing it in 2016) and If Ye Love Me (simple, beautiful SATB motet in English, sung by my friends at my wedding!) – are both so perfect. Tallis, also an entrepreneur, was granted an exclusive patent in 1521 with William Byrd to print and publish music. This tune, known as his THIRD TUNE is one of my favorite things ever, mostly because of Ralph Vaughan Williams gorgeous setting for string orchestra, Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis composed in 1910 for an expanded string orchestra divided into three parts. Tallis’s original tune is in the Phrygian mode and was one of the nine he contributed to the Psalter of 1567 for the Archbishop of Canterbury. Vaughan Williams included it in his edition of the English Hymnal of 1906.

The postlude is a setting of this tune by Gerald Near (b. 1942), which I learned during the pandemic. Near, one of the finest composers of church music writing today, first studied theory and composition with Leslie Bassett, organ with Robert Glasgow, later returned for graduate study in orchestral conducting with Dominick Argento and conducting with Thomas Lancaster at the University of Minnesota. In 1982 Near was one of the first recipients of a McKnight Foundation Fellowship. He has been commissioned by the AGO and Gloria Dei Cantores and was for many years organist/choirmaster, and subsequently, Canon Precentor of St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Dallas. Many of his works explore Gregorian chant themes. He is Director of Aureole Editions and presently resides in New Mexico.

The closing hymn is Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah. What hymn could be more Welsh than the tune CWM RHONDDA by John Hughes (1873-1932), with words by William Williams (1717-1791) the “Watts of Wales,” translated by Peter Williams (1722-1796)?  

William Williams, called the “Watts of Wales,” was ordained Deacon in the Church of England, but was refused Priest’s Orders, and subsequently attached himself to the Calvinistic Methodists. He travelled in Wales, preaching the Gospel and composed his hymns chiefly in the Welsh language.

Peter Williams had a similar trajectory: converted to Christianity by the preaching of George Whitefield he was ordained in the Church of England in 1744 but left to join the Calvinist Methodists in 1746. He also served as an itinerant preacher and was a primary figure in the Welsh revival of the eighteenth century including publishing a Welsh hymnal, Rhai Hymnau ac Odlau Ysbrydol (1759), as well as Hymns on Various Subjects (1771).

John Hughes received little formal education; at age twelve he was already working as a doorboy at a local mining company in Llantwit Fardre. He eventually became an official in the traffic department of the Great Western Railway. Much of his energy was devoted to the Salem Baptist Church in Pontypridd, where he served as both deacon and precentor. The great tune CWM RHONDDA was composed in 1905 Baptist Cymanfa Ganu (song festival) in Capel Rhondda, Pontypridd, Wales. It must have sounded amazing!

Plus there is this charming version reminding you to change your clocks (although now our phones do it for us!)

Sunday Music Musings March 4, 2023

Sunday’s prelude by Ohio organist Janet Rupp Linker’s Reflection on ‘Lift High the Cross’ sets the tune clearly and meditatively in the right hand. Janet Linker (b.1938) received her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Organ Performance from Capital University and The University of Michigan (with Marilyn Mason).  She held church positions in Lubbock and Waco, Texas, Sacramento, California and Columbus, Ohio. She is now organist at Trinity United Methodist Church in Upper Arlington, Ohio. Mrs. Linker’s first teaching position was at Texas Tech Univ. in Lubbock, Texas. She taught at the Capital University Conservatory of Music for over 30 years. For many years she played for various events at the Ohio Theatre, on the well-known “Mighty Morton” theatre organ.

The school choirs will lead us as cantors in McNeil Robinson’s Kyrie (Hymnal S-88). Robinson (1943-2015) chaired the organ department at the Manhattan School of Music for more than two decades, and served as organist at many of New York City’s most celebrated houses of worship including the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, the Church of the Holy Family (United Nations), Park Avenue Christian Church, Park Avenue Synagogue, and Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church. Please echo back the congregation response enthusiastically!

The choristers will then stay an extra 5 minutes so they can sing a favorite right in the context for the psalm: a duet setting of Psalm 121, I Lift up my Eyes by renowned Lutheran musician Paul Bouman (1918-2019). This appeared on the Grace Church CD we recorded in a studio over 20 years ago.

Our anthem goes with the gospel, God So Loved the World and as an alternative to the famous chestnut by John Stainer we will sing a setting by Bob Chilcott (b. 1955), with the Daughters of Zion as the soprano solo, coming from the back gallery. Robert “Bob” Chilcott is a British choral composer, conductor, and singer based in Oxford, England. He sang in the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, both as a boy and as a university student. In 1985, he joined the King’s Singers, singing tenor for 12 years.

The Presentation hymn is an old favorite, My Faith Looks up to Thee, to the tune OLIVET by American music educator Lowell Mason (1792 – 1872). The author, Ray Palmer (b. Little Compton, RI, 1808; d. Newark, NJ, 1887) is often considered to be one of America’s best nineteenth-century hymn writers. After completing grammar school he worked in a Boston dry goods store, but a religious awakening prodded him to study for the ministry. He attended Yale College and was ordained in 1835, going on to pastor Congregational churches in Bath, Maine (1835-1850), and Albany, New York (1850-1865). He wrote these words while employed as a teacher at a private girls’ school in New York. He had experienced a difficult year of illness and loneliness and was inspired to write this verse one night after meditating on a German poem that depicted a sinner kneeling before the cross of Christ. Two years later he showed them to composer Lowell Mason in Boston. Mason’s prophecy that Palmer “will be best known to posterity as the author of ‘My Faith Looks Up to Thee’ ” has certainly come true. (

At communion we will sing Now Let Us all With One Accord, with gentle handbell parts for the choristers. The tune BOURBON is a southern folk tune attributed to Freeman Lewis (1780-1859), a Pennsylvania surveyor. The words are attributed to Pope Gregory the Great (540-604) who also had all of Western plainchant attributed to him (because he organized and reformed much of the liturgy) – hence “Gregorian” chant.

The closing hymn of the day is The God of Abraham Praise to the tune of LEONI (a Hebrew tune also known as Yigdal). The text is attributed to Daniel ben Judah, a Jewish liturgical poet who lived in Rome in the middle of the fourteenth century, as paraphrased by Thomas Olivers (1725-1799), an itinerant minister, and for a while, associate of John Wesley.

The postlude is an exciting Toccata on “The God of Abraham Praise” by the prolific Michael Burkhardt (b.1957), choral clinician, organ recitalist, and hymn festival leader, who is currently Director of Worship and the Arts at Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Livonia, Michigan.

Luckily I have written about much of this music before, because it is time for me to dress for my Harmonium Choral Society concert tonight (7:30) and tomorrow at 3 in Morristown. I hope some of you can come–I so so happy with this amazing variety of music about the moon! You can read the program notes here. We have a really cool handpan player in the first piece!

Sunday Music Musings Feb. 18, 2023

Sunday is the last Sunday in Epiphany, the gospel is the Transfiguration, and it is the day the kids will be once again counting “alleluias.” It strikes me as odd that the great Transfiguration hymn O Wondrous Type does not have a single alleluia in it, although it tells the story well! The text is from the 15th century Latin, after J. M. Neale. John Mason Neale (1818-1866) was a prolific writer of prose, poetry and hymns, translator and Anglican priest, high church, in poor health, and enamored of the Oxford movement. Some of his most famous translations (there are 45 in our hymnal) include: All Glory, Laud and Honor; O come, O come, Emmanuel; Of the Father’s Heart Begotten; Sing, My Tongue, the Glorious Battle; Ye Sons and Daughters; Good Christian Men, Rejoice; and Good King Wenceslas. Oddly enough, he died on 6 August 1866, the Feast of the Transfiguration, so he is commemorated by the Anglican churches on the following day, 7 August, sharing this feast with Catherine Winkworth, who also translated hymns into English.

The tune is WAREHAM, named for the birthplace (in Dorsetshire, England) of composer William Knapp (1698 – 1768). A glover by trade, known in his time as the “country psalm-singer,” Knapp served as the parish clerk at St. James’s Church in Poole (1729-1768) and was organist in both Wareham and Poole. (

The composer of the Prelude on Wareham is Healey Willan (1880-1968), the Anglican/Canadian that I play very often! Read more here, or watch this fascinating early TV interview.

The Chorister’s Song of Praise is a partner song Alleluia by John Coates, Jr. (1938-1917). Coates was born in Trenton and attended Mannes on a full scholarship while a teen. His career started as a jazz pianist. During the 60s and 70s he was an arranger and composer for Fred Waring. Later he attended Rutgers University and graduated with a degree in romance languages in 1962, after which had settled in the Poconos where he edited and arranged for Shawnee Press. Coates also played regularly at the Deer Head Inn in Delaware Water Gap from the 1960s to 2010. Did you count all those alleluias?

Go Up to the Mountain of God is another telling of the transfiguration story in a folk-song like e minor anthem by Michael Helman (b. 1956), Director of Music/Organist at Faith Presbyterian Church in Cape Coral, Florida, who is especially known for his handbell pieces. Band director/baritone of all instruments Erik Donough will play the flute part. Erik has his own podcast, Take a Cue, which you might want to check out!

I am reminded how lucky we are to be fully singing when I realize that this time last year we only sang ONE hymn—therefore we have not sung Christ Upon the Mountain Peak since “before times.” It is another telling of the Transfiguration gospel by the great hymnodist-poet Brian Wren (b. 1936), a major British figure in the revival of contemporary hymn writing. He studied French literature at New College and theology at Mansfield College in Oxford, England and was ordained pastor in the Congregational Church. He worked for the British Council of Churches and several other organizations involved in fighting poverty and promoting peace and justice. Later he moved to the United States where he is active as a freelance lecturer, preacher, and full-time hymn writer. His hymn texts are published in all major Christian hymnals.

In an interview in Reformed Workship in 1990 Wren explained “So what started me writing hymns was a conviction that we need to speak the truth about ourselves and the world we live in and that we need to speak of God and to God in ‘our’ language. From my interest in the language of prayer, it was a natural step to look at the hymnal and ask, ‘Do we need some new hymns?’ I sent my first hymn to Erik Routley, who sent it back with a lovely letter that demolished it line by line—but he encouraged me to go further. He had the gift of being honest and critical without being damaging. ‘The great glory of God and the contemporary needs of humanity need to be made to collide in modern verse,’ he told me.” (We had a hymn by Erik Routley last week!)

Christ Upon the Mountain Peak was one of his earliest successful hymns. He has several other in the HYMNAL 1982 including I Come With Joy to Meet My Lord and Christ is Alive.

The tune MOWSLEY is by priest and musician Cyril V. Taylor (1907 – 1992). He began as a chorister at Magdalen College School, Oxford, and studied at Christ Church, Oxford, and Westcott House, Cambridge. His positions included being a producer in the religious broadcasting department of the BBC (1939­-1953), chaplain of the Royal School of Church Music (1953-1958), vicar of Cerne Abbas in Dorsetshire (1958-1969), and precentor of Salisbury Cathedral (1969-1975). Taylor was chairman of the Hymn Society of Great Britain and Ireland from 1975 to 1980.

I know the tune may seem unfamiliar at this point, but give it your best—it will now return every year for Transfiguration, and the lovely opening leap of a 6th allows us to play the “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean” game in choir! (not for people in need of knee replacement!)

The 11th century chant URBS BEATA JERUSALEM, Alleluia Song of Gladness. is also (like WAREHAM) a J.M. Neale translation. I call it the sad happy song, since it actually sounds very melancholy, but is a good way to get out some more alleluias before Lent. Also, the choristers get to play bells!

The last hymn and postlude are the tune LASST UNS ERFEUEN, a 17th century German tune that we use for both “All Creatures of our God and King” and “Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones.” Hal Hopson (b. 1933) is an incredibly prolific a full-time composer and church musician residing in Cedar Park, Texas. He has over 3000 published works, which comprise almost every musical form in church music.

I’m heading off to Cincinnati, place of my graduate study for the American Choral Director’s Association Convention, but Lent will begin in the capable hands of Camille, Paul and Chris Hatcher, organ. The Ash Wed. service will include choirs at 7, and for First Lent the will sing a Jean Ritchie song about the garden of Eden, Now is the Cool of the Day. Friday organ recitals (12:15) and Thursday Chanted Compline start the week I get back, which is also a Harmonium concert!

Please consider coming to the Harmonium concert which includes many Grace Choir singers! Here are the program notes to whet you appetite!

Saturday and Sunday Music Musings, early edition in honor of EVENSONG (yay)! Feb. 10, 2023

So, Saturday our kids will lead an Evensong, joined by some choristers from Grace Church, Newark and their director, Daniel Romero. We have really prepared for this, as we have sung the prayer responses and the Magnificat in Advent, the Nunc dimittis in January, and the anthem is a real favorite, El cielo cant’ alegria, which we will also sing Sunday. The choristers lead a responsive Phos Hilaron (“O Gracious Light,” anthem at the candle-lighting by great American church musician Richard Proulx (1937-2010), and use Jack Noble White’s (1938-2019) setting of Psalm 95 which is found at Hymnal S-35 as our psalm.

I feel like after 30 years of leading children, and 2 years of pandemic black hole, they are singing better than ever, because we have really put in the time, rather than counted on certain strong singers to lead everyone. I mean, the leaders are awesome, but the younger singers have become true leaders from constantly having to pivot and sing no matter who is out sick, and on livestream! Also, now that post-pandemic we spread out more in the choir stalls, and the choristers are in the row in front of the congregation, when they get to be up front, leading the service themselves, they really fell excited and important!

I also just heard back from Wells Cathedral that Grace Church has been accepted for a cathedral residency in the summer of 2024. I hope some of these kids will go—and you can look forward to a lot of Evensongs next year was we prepare! You will be hearing a lot more about this soon! Anyone potentially interested please reach out to me any time.

The composer of our “Mag and Nunc” is by George Dyson (1883 –1964). Sir George Dyson was an English musician and composer who studied at the Royal College of Music and became its director in 1938. Dyson’s father was a blacksmith, but also organist and choirmaster at a local Yorkshire church, and his mother was a weaver and amateur choir singer. Dyson studied at the RCM in London, with Stanford and Parry, from whom he learned a traditional style which served him well.  He served in the army in the First World War, suffered from shell-shock but later returned to the war as a major in the newly formed Royal Air Force, organizing RAF bands. After the war he was a schoolmaster and college lecturer at Wellington College and then Winchester. In 1938 he became director of the RCM, and saw it through the Second World War. He retired in 1962 to enjoy a fruitful compositional period, and died in Winchester in 1964.

The prayers are sung in Evensong, first the opening sentences, or Preces, then after the creed, the Responses. Our setting is by Richard Ayleward (1626–1669) who served as organist at Norwich Cathedral. This was one of the settings we took on our trip to Winchester, and will go to Wells for sure. Usually it is SATB, but sounds lovely as treble accompanied by organ.

Our anthem for both Evensong and Sunday is a treble arrangement of El cielo canta allegria by Pablo Sosa (b. 1933). Argentine church musician Pablo Sosa lives in Buenos Aires, where he teaches liturgy and hymnology, and is a choral conductor at the National Conservatory of Music. El Cielo Canta Alegría, written in 1958 in the carnavalito style, is a pioneer work in the use of indigenous music within the context of Christian worship in Latin America. This song is sometimes used for Easter, but we use it towards the end of Epiphany to get in as many “Alleluias” as possible before Lent!

El cielo canta alegría, ¡Aleluya! / Heaven is singing for joy, Alleluia!

Porque en tu vida y la mía / Because in your life and mine

brilla la gloria de Dios. / shines the glory of God.

¡Aleluya! Alleluia!

El cielo canta alegría, ¡Aleluya! / Heaven is singing for joy, Alleluia!

Porque a tu vida y la mía / Because your life and mine

las une el amor de Dios. / are united in the love of God.

El cielo canta alegría, ¡Aleluya! / Heaven is singing for joy, Alleluia!

Porque en tu vida y la mía / Because in your life and mine

proclamarán al Señor. / will proclaim to the Lord. ¡Aleluya! Alleluia!

Our hymn for Evensong will be 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.

It is humbling to think of the years of music and choristers who have lead services in these choir stalls!

Sunday morning will be bookended by the German Chorale by Georg Neumark (1621-1681) Wer nur den lieben Gott (If Thou but Trust in God). The prelude is by the blind 20th century organist Helmut Walcha who I wrote about extensively here. We sing this as presentation hymn in a translation by the great Catherine Winkworth (1827-1878) a British woman known for her English translations of German hymns, her piety and devotional life, and at the same time, her sympathy for the cause of women’s rights. In 1845 she lived with relatives in Dresden, Germany where she learned German and German hymnody. There are 10 hymn translations by Winkworth in the Hymnal 1982, including “Now Thank We All Our God” and this one.

The first hymn, LAUDES DOMINE, When Morning gilds the skies is a tune by Joseph Barnby (1838-1896) a popular British choral director who was knighted by Queen Victoria. The originally German words were translated and paraphrased by English poet Robert Seymour Bridges (1844-1930).

The adult choir’s offertory anthem is a real favorite (I know I always say that at least once-but really!), Thou Wilt keep Him in Perfect Peace by Samuel Sebastian Wesley (1810-1876). Samuel Sebastian Wesley was born in London, the illegitimate son of composer Samuel Wesley and his maid, Sarah Suter, and the grandson of Charles Wesley. After singing in the choir of the Chapel Royal (he was said by William Hawes, Master of the Children, to have been ‘the best boy he had ever had’), he embarked on a career as a musician, becoming organist of Hereford Cathedral in 1832. He moved to Exeter Cathedral three years later, and later held conflict-laden appointments at Leeds Parish Church, Winchester Cathedral and Gloucester Cathedral. Famous as an organist in his day, he composed almost exclusively for the Church of England. Wesley strove to improve the standards of church music in a period when they were rather lacking; his ideas were published as A Few Words on Cathedral Music and the Music System of the Church (1849). This little anthem is a true gem with a gorgeous final cadence. Below is a memorial plaque in Winchester Cathedral.

Before communion, the Daughters of Zion will sing a piece by John Dowland (1563-1626) arranged into a sacred piece by my predecessor Helen E. J. Thomas (1917-2006).me

Our communion hymn is LIEBSTER JESU, preceded by J. S. Bach’s (1685-1750) Orgelbüchlein setting.

Hymn tunes are often named for places, but in the case of LITTON it is for a person, the wonderful American choral conductor James Litton (1934-2022) who directed the American Boychoir from 1985 to 2001. I’ll never forget how kind he was to me as young conductor letting come spend a day in Princeton observing his rehearsals. Litton was a co-founder in 1966 and former president of the Association of Anglican Musicians of which I am a member. He passed quite recently on Nov. 1, 2022, you can read his obituary here. The composer of the tune is the great hymn-writer and teacher Erik Routley (1917-1982). Routley was an English Congregational churchman, theologian and musician and arguably the most significant hymnologist of the 20th century. In 1975 he came to Princeton as a lecturer and Director of Chapel at Princeton Theological Seminary. In September of that year, Routley became a Professor of Church Music and Director of Chapel at Westminster Choir College.

Jim Litton

Bach’s Orgelbüchlein setting of Wer nur den lieben Gott closes the service.

Sunday Music Musings Feb. 4, 2024

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.

Sunday Music Musings January 28, 2023

Epiphany continues its celebration of light. For the prelude I will play Christe qui lux es et dies (“Christ thou Art the Light and Day”) by German Baroque organist (and possible teacher of young J.S.Bach in Lüneberg) Georg Böhm (1661 –1733).

Our opening hymn ST JOAN (“Christ is the World’s True Light”) gave us a chance to play with our solfege on Friday (Do, mi, sol, do, la sol!).

Little is known about the composer Percy Collier (1895-?), but according to an online source at All Saints Church Roanoke Rapids, NC, “Joan” the name given to the music, was the name of the composer’s wife and composer Percy Collier was born in England and was organist and choir director in churches both in England and Canada. He is credited with several hymns. He was a contemporary of the text author George Wallace Briggs (1875-1950).

For our Song of Praise the children are singing the Nunc Dimittis from George Dyson’s Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis in C. Although the Nunc Dimittis is an Evening Canticle, we sing it today as the Sunday closest to Candlemas. On Wednesday (the eve of Candlemas) we will celebrate at our “Compline for Kids” service. The kids can tell you that this service of light celebrates the Song of Simeon, that is, the epiphany that the old priest Simeon had when he saw the infant Jesus, whom God had promised to show him before he died. The kids are preparing this “Mag and Nunc” for their Evensong Sunday February 11 at 5.

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace : according to thy word.

For mine eyes have seen: thy salvation,

Which thou hast prepared: before the face of all people;

To be a light to lighten the Gentiles: and to be the glory of thy people Israel.

Traditionally on Candlemas candles are blessed and lit in celebration of Jesus being the light of the world. In AD 638, Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem, proclaimed the importance of the celebration in his sermon to the church, stating: “Our bright shining candles are a sign of divine splendor of the one who comes to expel the dark shadows of evil and to make the whole universe radiant with the brilliance of his eternal light. Our candles also show how bright our souls should be when we go to meet Christ.” 

The timing for Candlemas is also in accordance with the Mosaic Law, which required that a woman should purify herself for forty days after giving birth, and, at the end of her purification, should present herself to the priest at the temple and offer a sacrifice (Leviticus 12:6-7). In the Roman Catholic Church this is known as the Purification of Saint Mary the Virgin, while in English Anglican Churches women gather with feasting and socializing known as The Wives’ Feast. Also traditionally, many (including Dr. Anne and  Father Asa) leave Christmas lights up until Candlemas!

The setting we are singing this year is by George Dyson (1883 –1964). Sir George Dyson was an English musician and composer who studied at the Royal College of Music and became its director in 1938. Dyson’s father was a blacksmith, but also organist and choirmaster at a local Yorkshire church, and his mother was a weaver and amateur choir singer. Dyson studied at the RCM in London, with Stanford and Parry, from whom he learned a traditional style which served him well.  He served in the army in the First World War, suffered from shell-shock but later returned to the war as a major in the newly formed Royal Air Force, organizing RAF bands. After the war he was a schoolmaster and college lecturer at Wellington College and then Winchester. In 1938 he became director of the RCM, and saw it through the Second World War. He retired in 1962 to enjoy a fruitful compositional period, and died in Winchester in 1964.

For our anthem, the Old Testament from Micah suggested to me Mark Andrew Miller’s (b. 1967) What does the Lord Require?

“With what shall I come before the Lord,
and bow myself before God on high?

He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you

but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?

Mark serves as Assistant Professor of Church Music at Drew Theological School and is a Lecturer in the Practice of Sacred Music at Yale University. He also is the Minister of Music of Christ Church in Summit and composer-in residence for Harmonium Choral Society. He is a Yale and Julliard educated passionate advocate for the power of music to change the world. 

This also suggested to me to invite former singer and music teacher Donna Ward McEachern to come back and help us with her gospel-style improvisations! Donna grew up singing in the Grace choirs, and now teaches in the Madison schools, currently on maternity leave so she can hang with her beautiful baby Sarah! I am so excited to do this big combined anthem with all the choirs and to have Donna sing!

Both the presentation hymn FRANCONIA and the communion hymn (Russian Orthodox chant, arr. Richard Proulx (1937- 2010) refer to the Beatitudes which are the gospel.

Before communion I will play a beautiful organ piece, Prière, by Mel Bonis (1858 – 1937), a prolific French late-Romantic composer. She wrote more than 300 pieces, including for piano, chorus organ and orchestra. Her life reads like a movie plot that you would have trouble believing. I promise more stories as I play more of her music this year, but for now you can read about her life in Wikipedia as if you were reading a gothic novel!

Our last hymn is the tune ENGLEBERG by the great late Romantic Irish composer Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924). The words of All Praise to Thee are by American (Virginian) priest and writer F. Bland Tucker (1895-1984). 

The postlude is a setting of the spiritual This Little Light of Mine by Calvin Taylor (b. 1948) who was born in Los Angeles, California. The composer, pianist, and organist made history at Oberlin Conservatory of Music in 1970 when he became the first organist in the school’s over 155-year history to improvise a graduate concert encore. Dr. Taylor is known for his orchestral works as well has his organ music such as Five Spirituals for Organ, 1998, commissioned and premiered by and dedicated to Dr. Marilyn Mason, with whom he studied at the University of Michigan.  Never far from his roots in religious music, Taylor has traveled for many years throughout the U.S.A. presenting thousands of concerts in America’s churches, and has toured the world.

Sunday Music Musings January 21, 2023

German early Romantic period composer Felix Mendelssohn (1809–1847) is one of my favorites—not only is his music gorgeous, but he was hard-working, a good husband and brother, and not crazy!

He was a musical prodigy, debuting in Berlin at just 9 years old. In 1819, he joined the Singakademie and began composing and conducting. In 1826, Mendelssohn produced one of his best known works, Overture to a Midsummer Night’s Dream. In 1829, he conducted a revival performance of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, a masterwork which might otherwise have been forgotten. This led to a chance to conduct in England and Scotland which inspired his third symphony known as the Scottish Symphony. In 1835 Mendelssohn became conductor of the Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig and then he founded the Leipzig Conservatory of Music.  In 1836 Mendelssohn met 16 year old Cécile Jeanrenaud, a clergyman’s daughter, whom he married in 1837; they had five children over the course of their marriage. The same year that he married, Mendelssohn composed his Piano Concerto No. 2 in D Minor. Other famous works followed: Violin Concerto in E Minor (completed 1844), and in 1846 he presented his newly written oratorio Elijah at the Birmingham Festival. Mendelssohn was only 38 when he died, following the death of his beloved sister Fanny the same year.

Sunday I will play movements from two different organs Sonatas. Mendelssohn’s Six Organ Sonatas, Opus 65, were published in 1845. Mendelssohn was a skilled organist, and during his visits to Britain gave a number of well-received organ recitals including the works of Bach and improvisations. The Adagio I will play before communion is from the first Sonata, and I will use a back-and-forth dialogue between the organ in the front and the gallery stops in the back. The Postlude is from Sonata VI, the first movement of which is a set of variations on the tune “Vater unser” (Our Father). The fugue subject is derived from this tune.

One of our most beloved choir anthem is the offertory Verleih uns Frieden (1839). In most of Mendelssohn’s cantatas he used a chorale tune as theme, so it is unusual that this does not, but instead, the “little song” (as Mendelssohn referred to it) was originally conceived as a “canon with cello and basses” which yielded a lyrical melody reminiscent of Gregorian chant, and simple but exquisite counterpoint.  Robert Schuman wrote of this piece “A singularly lovely composition; simply looking at the score will hardly give an impression of its actual effect.  The little piece is worthy of being world-famous…Madonnas by Raphael and Murillo cannot remain hidden very long.”  The words by Martin Luther are those used at the close of every worship service in Luther’s time, from the Latin Da pacem Domine.

In other music, The prelude is based on the communion hymn Dear Lord and Father of Mankind which contains one of my favorite lines of all time “reclothe us in our rightful mind.” I often feel the need to pray those words! The pairing of this text by the American Quaker poet, John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892) with the beautiful tune REPTON by England’s most beloved Victorian composer C.H.H.Parry (1848-1918) has actually made this into one of England’s most beloved hymns.

The Song of Praise is Hymn #661 sung by the School Choirs: They Cast their Nets in Galilee to the tune GEORGETOWN by David McKinley Williams (1887-1978). Such a sad and serious hymn has always been a favorite of our children’s choirs, who somehow recognize its profundity.

During the pandemic I wrote lots and lots more details about these two hymns, please have a look here.  You can see the words to the “extra verse” about some women disciples, Martha and Mary, which was written for me by Mother Vicki McGrath, and will be sung Sunday by head chorister sisters Elisabeth and Henri Wielandy.

Three more hymns round out a full morning of music. Our first hymn, The People who in darkness walked is of course a paraphrase of Isaiah 9:2-7, versified by Scottish minister John Morison (1949-1798), and set to the tune DUNDEE from a Scottish Psalter of 1615. As I always say, tunes are often named for places, this one is Scotland.

The Presentation hymn How Wondrous and Great is to the tune LYONS by Austrian composer Johann Michael Haydn (1737-1806), younger brother of more famous Franz Joseph Haydn. The choir on Thursday remarked on the unusual name of the author: Henry Ustick Onderdonk (1759-1858). Onderdonk was born in New York, educated as a medical doctor, later studied theology under Bishop Hobart; ordained in 1815. He was rector of St. Ann’s, Brooklyn, until 1827 when he was elected bishop coadjutor of Pennsylvania, becoming bishop in 1836 upon the death of Bishop White. The text is a paraphrase of Revelations 15, The Song of the Redeemed.

The choir knows everything is “my favorite!” But truly, the last hymn has always been a favorite of mine, ever since I began organ in the 8th grade. Although it is relatively hard for a brand new organist I am pretty sure it was the second hymn I learned—because I wanted to! When I ask the choristers “what country is this tune from?” they often just shout out “Wales” because there are so many good tunes! This tune is known as TON-Y-BOTEL, or Ebenezer in some of the 212 hymnals in which it appears. Another clue to its Welsh heritage is the name of the composer, Thomas John Williams (1869-1944). Williams was in the insurance business (like Charles Ives!) but studied with David Evans at Cardiff and later was organist and choirmaster at Zion Chapel (1903­-1913) and Calfaria Chapel (1913-1931), both in Llanelly, in southeast Wales. Ton-y-botel means “tune in a bottle” from a legend that it was found on a Welsh beach in a bottle.

At the time I learned this hymn from the 1940 hymnal, it was to the words “Once to Every Man and Nation,” by Massachusetts poet James Russell Lowell (1819-1891). The stirring text was a favorite of many a romantic among us, but did not make it into the 1982 hymnal on theological grounds. “Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide/In the strife of truth with falsehood for the good or evil side.” But no. Lucky for us God’s grace and forgiveness is extended more than once a lifetime. (Lucky for nations too!)

But lucky for hymn lovers we find this tune set to two texts in the 1982 hymnal, #527 “Singing Songs of Expectation” and today’s hymn #381 “hy Strong Word did Cleave the Darkness. Both of these strong texts stand up to the strong tune. Author Martin H. Franzmann (1907-1976) was an American Lutheran clergyman, theologian and author who wrote and translated numerous hymns. Originally from Minnesota, he began his career teaching at Northwestern, and ended it at Westfield House, the theological college of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England, in Cambridge, England. The extended imagery of light, and God’s word as a beacon in the darkness, makes it a great Epiphany hymn.

Then music in our services connects us to so many countries, eras, and scriptures I think it is fun to dive deep. Thanks for reading!

Sunday Music Musings Jan. 14, 2023

PHOTO: Treasured family photo: my grandfather, newsman Taylor Grant interviews Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dear friends, it is so nice to do some pieces for MLK weekend that we have done before. Also, as I said last week, the choristers are starting to remember stuff from last year (although we also have some new singers we are bringing along…it is so nice to be far enough out of pandemic that the kids remember things from last year –which they do way better than adults—and they really sing out and rehearsals move along more quickly and confidently!).

One of the weirdly nice things about pandemic was that I had lots of time to write, so please look at this blog from 2021 when I wrote a lots about Let Justice Roll by Mark Miller and Adolphus Hailsork, the composer for the prelude and postlude, plus Lift Every Voice which we sing in honor for Dr. Martin Luther King.

Our opening hymn is SALZBURG, by Jacob Hinze (1622-1702) as harmonized by J.S. Bach. According to Bert Polman on “Partly as a result of the Thirty Years’ War and partly to further his musical education, Hintze traveled widely as a youth, including trips to Sweden and Lithuania. In 1659 he settled in Berlin, where he served as court musician to the Elector of Brandenburg from 1666 to 1695. Hintze is known mainly for his editing of the later editions of Johann Crüger’s Praxis Pietatis Melica, to which he contributed some sixty-five of his original tunes.” This hymn a tune is used for many texts including “At the Lamb’s High Feast.”

This Epiphany hymn has 3 verses by priest and writer Christopher Wordsworth (1807-1885) nephew of the great poet, William Wordsworth. The fourth verse, about Transfiguration, is by American (Virginian) priest and writer F. Bland Tucker (1895-1984). Thus the hymn covers all of the “manifestations” of Jesus as God in Epiphany. The choristers and I discussed the meaning of “manifest” and they will count how many times in the hymn the word appears. I will play a setting of the tune by Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706) at communion.

For the offertory, I am so lucky to have a fantastic soprano saxophone player in the choir, so Erik will join us for Paul Halley’s “Agnus Dei (A Winter’s Dream).” Paul Halley (b.1952) gained fame as Organist and Choirmaster at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City from 1977-1989, and as a member of the Paul Winter Consort. After leaving the Cathedral in 1989, Halley settled in rural Connecticut and founded the children’s choir, Chorus Angelicus, and the adult ensemble, Gaudeamus.  In 1999, Halley became Director of Music at Trinity Episcopal Church, Torrington, CT where he inaugurated a Choral and Organ Scholars program in conjunction with Yale University’s Institute of Sacred Music. Next Halley served for fourteen years as Director of Music at The University of King’s College Halifax, from July 2007 to December 2021, during which time he expanded the chapel music programme, initiated choral scholarships for students, and directed the acclaimed King’s Halifax Chapel Choir in weekly Evensongs and Choral Eucharists at the college chapel as well as the ‘King’s at the Cathedral’ concert series. His many compositions are available through his publishing and recording company, Pelagos Music.

The presentation hymn is God of Mercy God of Grace by the author of Praise My Soul the King of Heaven, Henry Francis Lyte (1793-1847). Born in Scotland he spent most of his childhood in an orphanage. Lyte distinguished himself at Trinity College, Dublin, by winning the English prize poem three times. He abandoned Medicine for Theology and took Holy Orders in 1815. His first curacy was in Wexford and in 1817. In 1818 he moved to Cornwall and had a spiritual conversion over the death of a fellow clergyman. Lyte says of him:— “He died happy under the belief that though he had deeply erred, there was One whose death and sufferings would atone for his delinquencies, and be accepted for all that he had incurred;”…“I was greatly affected by the whole matter, and brought to look at life and its issue with a different eye than before; and I began to study my Bible, and preach in another manner than I had previously done.” Lyte was tall, handsome, eccentric, well-read and played the flute. He wrote many hymns-the other most famous one being Abide with Me. Both of these hymns were included Queen Elizabeth II’s royal wedding on November 20, 1947, exactly 100 years after his death.

The tune is LUCERNA LAUDONIAE by David Evans (1874-1948). With a name like that he is of course a Welsh composer. He succeeded Joseph Parry, his former teacher, in the music department at Cardiff, where he was appointed a professor in 1908. Among his students was Grace Williams. He wrote many hymns and anthems as well as orchestral and choral works.

During Communion we will sing HYMNAL 294, the tune POINT LOMA by David Charles Walker (1938-2018), with words by Michael Seward (b. 1932-2015). Seward was residentiary Canon of St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, and also served several congregations and as radio and television officer for the Church Information Office, as well as writing over 60 hymns. David Charles Walker was an American organist/choir director turned priest who served a number of parishes, as a hospital chaplain, as a teacher at seminary/college. His most well-known hymn is GENERAL SEMINARY, a setting of the George Herbert text, “King of Glory, King of Peace,” and my favorite hymn!

Sunday Music Musings January 7, 2023

Because of the way Christmas, and Holy Name (New Year’s) fell on Sundays, we have reached the Baptism of Christ Sunday. I am so excited to have two baptisms, including literally, the baptism of Jesus, aka the baby girl who played Jesus in our Christmas pageant. But we celebrated Epiphany and the three kings here at our Compline for Kids service on Wednesday, moving the kings across the aisle to join the manger scene, and had a surprise visit from three “live” wise Dads singing verses of “We Three Kings.” Sunday we will sing music about baptism and also sneak in a few more selections about the star and the kings.

A hymn for the Baptism of Christ is the 16th century German chorale Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam (words by Martin Luther – “Christ our Lord came to the Jordan”) – found in our hymnal at #139. Although unfamiliar to us, it would have been well-known to the 17th century Lutheran, who may have recognized it despite the very ornamented quality of the great Buxtehude’s setting. Dietrich Buxtehude (c. 1637 –1707) was originally from Denmark, in 1668 he got a major position at the Marienkirche, Lübeck, Germany. In 1705, J.S. Bach, then a young man of twenty, walked 250 miles from Arnstadt to Lübeck, and stayed nearly three months to hear the Abendmusik concerts and meet the famous organist and learn from him. In addition to his musical duties, Buxtehude, like his predecessor Tunder, served as church treasurer!

Our first hymn is What Star is this? to the tune PUER NOBIS, a melody from a 15th century Trier manuscript. The words by Charles Coffin (1676-1749) French teacher, and Rector of the University of Paris, celebrate the star and its guidance to seek Jesus, even today. We always sing this with a handbell peal.

The offertory as well we will combine all choirs for a wonderful arrangement by Richard Horn (1938-2004) of the Southern Harmony tune STAR IN THE EAST. We’ll have flute (Erik Donough), oboe (Teddy Love), handbells, tambourine and finger cymbals.

The presentation hymn Christ When for Us You Were Baptized (CAITHNESS) sets the gospel out straightforwardly in the words of American Bible scholar, priest and hymn writer Francis Bland Tucker (1895-1984).

Our service music (Sanctus and Agnus) is going back to our best known setting by David Hurd (b. 1950), composer, concert organist, choral director and educator who was at General Theological Seminary, New York City, for 28 years and is currently serving The Church of Saint Mary the Virgin. You can read more about him in my February 20, 2021 blog.

I will play a set of variations on PUER NOBIS by French Baroque composer, organist and harpsichordist Nicolas-Antoine Lebègue (1631-1702) while the choir takes communion.

All the choirs and soloists of every age really love to sing the spiritual Wade in the Water on this Sunday. Friday in the choristers’ rehearsal I realized that we finally are back from the pandemic enough that the kids remember things we sang last year. There was a whole year there were we lost our collective memory from the big Covid break in singing. This spiritual of course has many layers of meaning, referring to Exodus and crossing the river Jordan to the promised land—and it was used by escaping slaves as warning to get off the trail and into the water when being tracked by slaveowners’ dogs.

Our final hymn is Hail to the Lord’s Anointed, set to ES FLOG EIN KLEINS WALDVOGELEIN, a German folksong (“There Flew a Little Forest Bird”) adapted by H. Walford Davies (1869-1941) for A Students Hymnal 1923. The text is a paraphrase of the Epiphany psalm 72 versified 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.”

Our postlude is In dir ist Freude (In Thee is Gladness) from J. S. Bach (1685-1750)’s Orgelbüchlein (Little Organ Book), traditionally (liturgically) played for the New Year.  It has a joyful repeated leaping pedal figure and ascending and descending scales in the hands that sound like the pealing of many bells. My friend Chris also played it as the postlude at our wedding.

May this Epiphany season be full of signs of God’s presence!