Commentary on our Weekly Music by Dr. James Gerber
Connect with James at email@example.com.
May 21, 2017
“Allegro maestoso” from “Organ Sonata No. 5”
by Felix Mendelssohn-Barthody
Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1809-1847), or just Felix Mendelssohn as he is generally known in most English speaking countries, was an important German composer, pianist, organist, and conductor of the early romantic era and today is among the most popular composers of that period. Mendelssohn was born in Hamburg into a prominent Jewish family; his father a successful banker, his grandfather a Jewish rabbi and philosopher. Mendelssohn’s parents converted to Christianity and had their children baptized when the family moved to Berlin in 1816. The family changed their name to “Barthody” at the time of their conversion, however Felix resisted, refusing to ignore his Jewish heritage, but later compromised by allowing himself to be called “Mendelssohn-Barthody.” Felix Mendelssohn was a child prodigy and a prolific and masterful composer at an early age and life in Berlin provided him with many educational and social opportunities. Mendelssohn was renown during his lifetime as a performer of keyboard music and a brilliant improviser. He traveled throughout Europe performing concerts that often included extended improvisations.
Mendelssohn is credited with reviving interest in the compositions of Johann Sebastian Bach. At the age of 20, he conducting a performance of Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion” and later performed a number of Bach’s organ works, notably an organ concert of Bach’s organ works at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig where Bach served as Kantor. Mendelssohn was greatly admired in Britain where he frequently visited, and in addition to performing concerts, he conducted the Philharmonic orchestra in London. Many of his works were premiered there and he had received multiple commissions from British publishers. Mendelssohn’s oeuvre includes five symphonies, two oratorios, concerti, chamber music, sacred and secular vocal works, and works for piano and organ.
The Six Sonatas for Organ (Op. 65) were the result of a commission Mendelssohn received from the British publisher, Coventry and Hollier, in 1844. The original commission was for Mendelssohn to compose a set of church voluntaries; however, he expanded the project and organized the pieces into the Six Sonatas we are familiar with today. These works were not constructed in the classical era “sonata” form associated with the works of Mozart or Haydn, but rather Mendelssohn applied the term to these works in the manner Johann Sebastian Bach did, as a collection or suite of varying pieces. The “Allegro maestoso” is the final portion of Sonata number Five in D major.
A recording of the complete organ sonata performed by James Gerber is available online at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b7jOcMHKNoA
May 14, 2017
Festival Prelude on “This Joyful Eastertide”
by Jan Bender
This joyful Eastertide, away with sin and sorrow.
My Love, the Crucified, hath sprung to life this morrow.
Had Christ, that once was slain, ne'er burst his three-day prison,
Our faith had been in vain: but now hath Christ arisen.
My flesh in hope shall rest, and for a season slumber:
Till trump from east to west shall wake the dead in number.
Death's flood hath lost his chill, since Jesus crossed the river:
Lover of souls, from ill my passing soul deliver.
“This Joyful Eastertide” is a carol for the Easter season written by the Anglican poet George Ratcliffe Woodward (1848-1934). Woodward’s text was originally published in 1894 in the collection, “Carols for Easter and Ascensiontide” and in the 1902 publication, “The Cowley Carol Book.” The melody often associated with this hymn text, Vruechten, (which means ‘fruits’) is a seventeenth-century Dutch folk song that was published as a hymn tune in “David’s Psalmen” by Joachim Oudaen in 1685. The English
composer Charles Wood composed the harmonization of this melody as found in The Hymnal 1982 (#192). Numerous other composers have written choral anthem arrangements of this hymn while others have composed new melodies to sing this hymn to.
In addition to the various choral arrangements that have been composed, a number of organ settings of the melody “Vruechten” have been written. Today’s postlude is a setting of this melody written by the Dutch composer, Jan Bender (1909-1994). Born in Holland, Bender moved to Lübeck, Germany with his family when he was 13 where they attended the famous Marienkirche. He was immediately drawn to the organ and began studying the instrument with the church’s organist, Karl Lichtward and later his
successor, Walter Kraft. After completing his high school exams, he went to study with Karl Straube in Leipzig. With the rise of the National Socialists (Nazis), Bender’s music prospects in Germany declined, and he decided to move to Amsterdam, however being disappointed with the music education opportunities available to him there at that time, he returned to Lübeck and studied composition with Hugo Distler. Bender’s first church job was as the organist for the Church of St. Gertrude in Lübeck and later at the Lambertikirche in Aurich. Bender was conscripted into military service in 1939 for the German Army as World War II broke out; he was sent to France, Denmark, and finally Russia where he was wounded in battle and lost an eye. He was conscripted into the Germany Army a second time in 1944 and sent to France where he led his platoon to surrender to the Allied forces there.
Following the war, he returned to Aurich to resume his duties as organist for the Lambertikirche. From 1953 until 1960, he served as Kantor for St. Michael’s Church in Lüneburg. From 1960 until 1976, Bender lived in the United States working the Concordia Teacher’s College in Seward, NE and later as the Professor of Organ and Composition at Wittenberg University in Ohio. Throughout his career, he established himself as a prominent church musician, composer, and organist and wrote over 2,500 compositions, mostly for choir or organ. Bender devoted his life to promoting the art of church music, connecting the music of the past with that of the present day, demonstrating that church music continues to grow and develop and is alive and wonderful and is capable of expressing faith, gratitude, love, and joy.
May 7, 2017
by Charles Villiers Stanford
O be joyful in the Lord, all ye lands:
serve the Lord with gladness,
and come before his presence with a song.
Be ye sure that the Lord he is God;
it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
O go your way into his gates with thanksgiving,
and into his courts with praise;
be thankful unto him, and speak good of his Name.
For the Lord is gracious, his mercy is everlasting;
and his truth endureth from generation to generation.
Today is the Fourth Sunday of Easter, frequently called “Good Shepherd Sunday.” Our Gospel reading for the day describes Christ as the “Good Shepherd,” the gatekeeper who calls all people into the fold of the human family. Psalm 100, the Jubilate Deo, is among the psalms that are more frequently sung by the Church. A psalm of praise and thanksgiving, the opening verses encourage all people to worship God through joyful song. This text acknowledges that God is the Lord of all people, and that people from every nation will come to worship and praise the one true God. The psalmist uses the imagery of humanity as sheep in the pasture; that God cares for all people and gathersthem together into one, united human family.
Numerous composers from the Renaissance era through the present day have set this text to music. Our choirs will sing a setting by the well-known Anglican composer Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924). Stanford was born into a musical family in Dublin, Ireland. He received his education at the University of Cambridge and later went to Germany to study composition with Carl Reinecke in Leipzig, and Friedrich Kiel in Berlin. An accomplished composer and teacher, Stanford’s oeuvre includes symphonies, operas, concertos, chamber works, secular songs, piano and organ works, however, he is best remembered for his numerous sacred choral works, the foundation of music within the Anglican tradition. He was appointed the organist of Trinity College in Cambridge, England and was one of the founding professors of the Royal College of Music where he taught composition. Stanford is among a group of composers, Hubert Perry, Walter Parratt, and Alexander Mackenzie for example, that are regarded as bringing about a
renaissance of English music in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Through most of his adult life, he enjoyed a high profile public career. Other English composers such as Gustav Holst, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Herbert Howells, Percy Grainger, and Edward Elgar were among Stanford’s notable students whose own achievements earned them a level of fame that surpassed that of their mentor, Stanford.
April 30, 2017
“Christ lag in Todesbanden”
By Johann Sebastian Bach
Christ lag in Todesbanden,
für unsre Sünd' gegeben,
der ist wieder erstanden
und hat uns bracht das Leben.
Des wir sollen fröhlich sein,
Gott loben und dankbar sein
und singen: Halleluja!
Christ lay in Death's dark prison,
It was our sin that bound Him;
This day hath He arisen,
And sheds new life around Him.
Therefore let us joyful be
And praise our God right heartily.
So sing we Hallelujah!
Today’s setting of “Christ lag in Todesbanden” by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) is one of the forty-six organ chorale settings he completed for the Orgelbüchlein (Little Organ Book). Bach originally conceived his “Little Organ Book” to include a much larger collection of chorale settings, 164 in total, that would incorporate the chorales sung through the entire liturgical year. The majority of the settings Bach completed were written between 1708 and 1717 while he served as the organist for the ducal court of Johann Ernst in Weimar. Bach developed the chorale melodies within this collection in a variety of ways and added motivic accompaniment to each chorale; with four-part contrapuntal treatment, as trios, canonically, and with varying degrees of embellishment. In addition to being a collection of music for the Lutheran church service, the Orgelbüchlein was also viewed as a pedagogical manual and treatise on composition.
“Christ lag in Todesbanden” is, despite the first impression of its title, an Easter hymn written by Martin Luther (1483-1546) and Johann Walther (1496-1570). The text references the struggle between life and death and celebrates what Jesus accomplished through his Resurrection. The subsequent stanzas (not quoted here) touch on common Easter-tide themes: Christ’s atonement for sin, the defeat of death, the comparison of Jesus as the Pascal Lamb with the sacrifice of the Jewish Passover, and allusions to themes found in the Book of Exodus and the Hebrews’ flight from Egypt.
This hymn has been the basis for many other composers’ compositions. Bach used this hymn as the basis for his Cantata No. 4 by the same name and the organ chorale prelude heard today. This setting is in four parts with the cantus firmus (melody) in the soprano with little alteration. Bach follows his own harmonization of this chorale closely, accompanying it with a single motif that is derived from the final four descending notes of the cantus firmus and distributed between the alto, tenor and bass parts.
April 2, 2017
“Out of the Depths”
By Alan Hovhaness
Out of the depths have I cried unto Thee, O Lord.
Lord, hear my voice,
let Thine ears be attentive
to the voice of my supplication.
If Thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities
O Lord, who shall stand?
I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait.
My soul waiteth for the Lord
More than they that watch for the morning.
I say, more than they that watch for the morning.
- Psalm 130
Alan Hovhaness (1911-2000) was an Armenian-American composer, one of the most prolific composers of the twentieth century composer with over 500 surviving works that include 67 numbered symphonies and 434 opus numbers. Hovhaness was born “Alan Vaness Chakmakjiam” in Massachusetts; he later changed his name to “Hovhaness” to honor is paternal grandfather and to simplify his name because few people could correctly pronounce his birth surname. He demonstrated interest in music at an early age; he was improvising music and composing pieces with his own system of notation before he began formal piano studies. Hovhaness continued his music studies at Tufts College and the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. He later taught briefly at the Boston Conservatory from 1948-1951. From 1951 until the early 1970s, he lived in New York and worked as a full-time composer writing music for radio, theatre and dance productions, and television documentaries. Hovhaness moved to Seattle in the 1970s where he was already composer-in-residence for the Seattle Symphony Orchestra and continued to compose through the rest of his life. He was particularly drawn to the landscape of Washington, loved the mountains there.
Hovhaness’s musical training was rooted in the western-tradition. He was especially interested in and researched “non-western” music, music from his own Armenian culture as well as the ancient music traditions from India, Japan, South Korea, and Hawaii. Hovhaness frequently assimilated the various musical characteristics from different cultures into his own works, creating a seamless synthesis of eastern and western music cultures. Throughout his life, Hovhaness was hypersensitive to criticism of his works and periodically destroyed manuscripts as a reaction, later stating that it was his desire to make a fresh start in composing.
“Out of the Depths” (Op. 142, No. 3) was originally composed in 1938 and is among Hovhaness’s early sacred works written while he served as the organist for St. James Armenian Church in Watertown, MA, a suburb of Boston.
March 26, 2017
Happy Birthday Johann Sebastian Bach!
Johann Sebastian Bach was born on March 21, 1685 in Eisenach, a town in the Thuringia region of Germany into an extensive family of professional musicians. By 1695, both of his parents had died and Bach went to live with his elder brother, Johann Christoph, in Ohrdruf. Bach’s earliest musical training included keyboard instruction with his brother, and studying and copying manuscripts his brother possessed. Bach attended schools in Eisenach, Ohrdruf, and Lüneburg. In 1703, Bach was employed for a short period of time as a court musician for Duke of Weimar, Johann Ernst. He was later appointed the organist for the Bonifaciuskirche (Neue Kirche) in Arnstadt. In 1705, Bach requested a four weeks leave to visit Lübeck and hear Buxtehude, however, he was away for four months, which upset church authorities. Furthermore, they complained about Bach’s organ playing, stating that he was “introducing strange harmonies to the chorales.” Bach soon left to accept a position as organist for the Church of St. Blasius in Mühlhausen.
In 1708, Bach was offered the position of court organist for the Duke of Weimar, a position he held for 8 years. The previous year, he married his first wife, Maria Barbara. It was while Bach was the court organist in Weimar that he composed most of his organ works, including many of the preludes, toccatas, and fugues; chorale settings, and concerto transcriptions. Bach desired the position of Kappelmeister, the director of music, but did not receive the position.
In 1717, Bach accepted the Kappelmeister position for the Court of Prince Leopold in Cöthen. Since Bach had no official chapel duties, most of the music he composed was secular, including the orchestral and instrumental suites, sonatas and partitas, and the Brandenburg Concertos. Bach’s wife died in 1719 while he was traveling with the prince. Stricken with grief, Bach considered his wife’s death a sign from God that he should return to composing sacred music. Before leaving Cöthen, Bach married his second wife, Anna Magdalena, a court singer and chamber musician in 1722.
Bach applied to be the Kantor of the Thomasschule in Leipzig. The council desired to candidate who would teach Latin, but all the applicants refused, so they decided to settle on a “mediocre candidate” and appointed Bach. In 1723, he began his position at the Thomasschule with additional duties as the civic director of music, and directed music at the four Leipzig churches: Thomaskirche, Nikolaikirche, the Matthäeikirche (or Neukirche) and the Petrikirche. Bach wrote many of his major choral works while in Leipzig, including the cantatas, motets, the B-minor Mass, The St. John Passion, and St. Matthew Passion. Although Bach did not hold an organist position in Leipzig, he was active as a recitalist and inaugurated new organs. For these special occasions, Bach composed a few new organ works including additional preludes and fugues, the Trio sonatas, and chorale settings. In 1741, Bach joined the Correspondirende Societät der Musicalischen Wissenschaften (Corresponding Society of the Musical Sciences) founded by Lorenz Mizler, submitting a ‘scientific’ piece of work, his canonic variations on the chorale, Vom Himmel hoch.
Among the organ works of Bach published during his lifetime are The Clavierübung, Part III (1739), the Schübler Chorales, and the Canonic Variations (both 1748). Bach was also preparing his Art of Fugue for publication between 1742 and 1749 and revised some of his chorale settings, now known as the Leipzig Chorales, or the Great Eighteen. In his final years, Bach lost his eyesight due to poor health and diabetes. He underwent two eye surgeries which were unsuccessful. He died following a stroke on July 28, 1750.
Today prelude is Bach’s setting of the chorale, O Mensch, bewein’ dein’ Sünde gross (O Man, Bewail your Great Sins). This chorale prelude is from the Orgelbüchlein (Little Organ Book), written while Bach was in Weimar. This setting is an ornamented chorale, the chorale melody is embellished with elaborate coloratura and is among the most beautiful of Bach’s chorale preludes. The postlude is the Praeludium in F Minor (BWV 534), one of Bach’s less-known organ works.
March 19, 2017
“O Lamm Gottes, unschuldig”
By Johann Pachelbel
O Lamm gottes, unschuldig
Am Stamm des Kreuzes geschlachtet,
Allzeit funden geduldig,
Wiewohl du warest verachtet;
All Sünd hast du getragen,
Sonst müßten wir verzagen.
Erbarm dich unser, o Jesu.
O Lamb of God, most stainless!
Who on the Cross didst languish,
Patient through all Thy sorrows.
Though mocked amid Thine anguish;
Our sins Thou bearest for us,
Else had despair reigned o'er us:
Have mercy upon us, O Jesu!
tr. Catherine Winkworth
“O Lamm Gottes, unschuldig” is a German hymn appropriate for the season of Lent composed by Nikolaus Decius (1485-1541) shortly before his death. Decius was a German monk, preacher, hymn-writer, and composer.
Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706) composed the chorale prelude setting for organ of “O Lamm Gottes, unschuldig” played for today’s postlude. Pachelbel was south-German composer, organist, and teacher, who enjoyed enormous success and popularity during his lifetime. Today, “Canon in D” written for chamber orchestra is by far is best-known composition. Pachelbel was born in Nuremberg in the German state of Bavaria where he received his earliest musical training. He was later a student at the University of Altdorf and the Gymnasium Poeticum at Regensburg. Over the course of his life, Pachelbel held organist positions at Saint Stephen Cathedral in Vienna, the court of Johann Georg I in Eisenach, the Predigerkirche in Erfurt, the Württenberg court at Stuttgart, and St. Sebaldus Church in his native Nuremberg.
Pachelbel composed vocal and chamber works, but the majority of his oeuvre are keyboard works including preludes, fantasias, toccatas, chaconnes and variations, and fugues. However, Pachelbel’s chorale prelude settings constitute the bulk of his organ works; his position in Erfurt required him to regularly compose new chorale prelude settings. His compositional
style emphasizes charity of melody accompanied by uncomplicated counterpoint that is less virtuosic and harmonically adventurous than his north-German counterparts. Pachelbel’s chorale preludes are typically a three or four-part cantus firmus setting, a chorale fugue, or a combination of the two types, beginning with a brief fugal section followed a cantus firmus setting, a model he invented. “O Lamm Gottes, unschuldig” is an excellent example of this combined type.
March 12, 2017
by Herbert Howells
For our second Sunday Choral Evensong, the All Saints’ Chamber Choir will sing the evening canticles, Magnificat and Nunc dimittis, from the “Collegium Regale” service by the twentieth-century English composer, organist, and teacher, Herbert Norman Howells (1892-1983). Howells is famous for his large output of Anglican church music that include anthems and service music. In additional to his many choral works, Howells composed music for orchestra, chamber ensemble, organ, and piano. Howells was born in Lydney, Gloucerstershire. At an early age, Herbert demonstrated promise as a musician and expressed interest in composition. He began playing organ as a child and periodically substituted for his father who was an amateur organist who played for a local Baptist church. By the time Howells was 11 years old, he was singing as a choirboy for a local Anglican Church and assumed the duties of a deputy organist on an unofficial basis. He continued his organ studies with Herbert Brewer who was the organist of Gloucester Cathedral at that time. In 1912, he was accepted as a student of the Royal College of Music in London where he studied with Charles Villiers Stanford, Hubert Parry, and Charles Wood.
In 1920, Howells joined the staff of the Royal College of Music where he taught composition and remained there until 1979. In addition to his duties at the RCM, he was active as a competition adjudicator, the Director of Music at St. Paul’s Girls’ School in Hammersmith, and served as acting organist of St. John’s College, Cambridge from 1941 to 1945. King Edward VII appointed Howells a Professor of Music at London University in 1950. During his lifetime, Howells received a number of academic awards and honorary appointments including an honorary doctorate from the University of Cambridge, Companion of Honour, Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE), and Collard Life Fellowship (Worshipful Company of Musicians). He died in London at the age of 90.
“Collegium Regale” is a set of service music composed for King’s College in Cambridge. The complete service includes the Morning Canticles, completed in 1944, the Evening Canticles for Evensong, completed in 1945, and the Communion service (which our Chamber Choir will be singing for our fourth Sunday Choral Eucharist later this month), completed in 1956. Howells developed a template in sound with thematic and harmonic elements carried over through each of the movements to give continuity to the entire set of service music. This work was initiated as the result of Howells winning a bet from the Dean of King’s College. King’s College is renown for its tradition of excellence in the field of Anglican sacred music; the chapel is noted for its splendid acoustics and their chapel choir with choral scholars and choristers is world-famous, singing for services, concert, recordings and live broadcasts. The annual Nine Lessons and Carols service held in the chapel is broadcast on the BBC and around the world to millions of radio listeners and television viewers.
Please join us this Sunday evening for what is sure to be an inspiring prayer experience; one of the rich liturgical treasures of our Anglican tradition!
March 5, 2017
“Ave Verum Corpus”
by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Ave verum corpus,
natum de Maria Virgine,
vere passum, immolatum
in cruce pro homine cuius
latus perforatum fluxit
aqua et sanguine:
esto nobis praegustatum
in mortis examine.
Hail, true Body,
born of the Virgin Mary,
who having truly suffered, was sacrificed
on the cross for mankind,
whose pierced side
flowed with water and blood:
May it be for us a foretaste
in the trial of death.
Beginning this Sunday, our choirs will be singing a setting of the Eucharistic hymn, “Ave verum corpus” during communion. This short hymn is a meditation on the belief in Christ’s real presence in the sacrament of the Eucharist and commemorates his redemptive sacrifice. John 19:34 is referenced in this text: “instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.” “Ave verum corpus” has been used liturgically during Benediction, during the Offertory, and
as a private devotion during the Elevation of the Host. The history of this hymn can be traced back to the thirteenth or fourteenth century. Sources differ on the authorship of this hymn. A fourteenth-century manuscript says
“Pope Innocent composed the following salutation…” referring to the text, “Ave verum corpus” which may refer to Pope Innocent III, (reigning from 1198-1216), Pope Innocent IV (reigning from 1243 -1254), or Pope Innocent VI (reigning from 1352-1362). Musical settings of this hymn include Gregorian chant, Renaissance polyphony, and motets written by numerous composers from the eighteenth century up to the present day.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) composed what is probably the best-known setting of this hymn in 1791. Mozart is among the most important composers in the western-classical music tradition. Mozart was born in Salzburg; his father, Leopold Mozart, a minor composer and teacher, was Wolfgang’s first instructor. Mozart demonstrated exceptional musical ability at an early age, playing the clavier and violin with great skill and composing short pieces. His father arranged for the young Mozart along
with his older sister, Maria Anna “Nannerl” Mozart to perform before European royalty as child prodigies. Much of Mozart’s youth was spent traveling to the various royal courts of Europe and meeting various local musicians and composers. While many of the performances were successful, the travel conditions were harsh and the Mozarts endured poor health and illness that at times was near fatal.
February 26, 2017
“O Nata Lux”
by Morten Lauridsen
O nata lux de lumine,
Jesu redemptor saeculi,
Dignare clemens supplicum
Laudes precesque sumere.
Qui carne quondam contegi
Dignatus es pro perditis,
Nos membra confer effici
Tui beati corporis.
O born light of light,
Jesus, redeemer of the world,
Mercifully deem worthy and accept
The praises and prayers of your supplicants..
Thou who once deigned to be clothed in flesh
for the sake of the lost ones,
grant us to be made members
of your holy body.
Morten Lauridsen (b. 1943) is an American composer best-known for his choral and vocal works. Lauridsen is a professor of composition at the University of Southern California, Thornton School of Music, a position he has held since 1967. From 1990-2002, he was the chair of the composition department and also founded the school’s advanced studies program in film scoring. Lauridsen has served as guest composer and lecturer at over seventy other universities and has received numerous commissions throughout his career. He was the composer-in-residence for the Los Angeles Master Chorale (1994-2001) under the direction of Paul Salamunovich. Lauridsen has received numerous grants, prizes, and awards during his lifetime including: honorary doctorate degrees from Oklahoma State University, Westminster Choir College, King’s College, University of Aberdeen, Scotland, and Whitman College; was named “American Choral Master” by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2006; a National Medal of the Arts was presented to him by President George W. Bush in 2007; and was awarded the ASCAP Foundation Life in Music Award by the American Society of Composer, Authors, and Publishers in 2016.
“O Nata Lux” is from the collection, “Lux Aeterna” (light eternal), a cycle of sacred, Latin motets composed for the Los Angeles Master Chorale in 1997. The text of each motet references ‘light’ and expresses spiritual, artistic, and intellectual illumination. Lauridsen chose as a point of departure the compositional style of sacred music of the late-Renaissance era; utilizing consonant harmonies, counterpoint, and chant-like melodies to which he added his own rich, full textures and twentieth century harmonies to create quiet, introspective meditations on light. Lauridsen composed these motets around the time of his mother’s illness; he found great comfort in these universal, timely and wondrous words.
February 19, 2017
“Set Me as a Seal”
By René Clausen
Set me as a seal upon your heart,
As a seal upon your arm;
For love is as strong as death,
Many waters cannot quench love,
Nor can the floods drown it.
Set me as a seal upon your heart,
As a seal upon your arm;
For love is as strong as death.
René Clausen (b. 1953) is an American Composer who is currently a professor of music at Concordia College, Moorhead, MN and the conductor of the Concordia Choir. Born in California, Clausen received his undergraduate degree from St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees in choral conducting from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Clausen is a composer with a varied and eclectic style, writing choral, orchestral, wind ensemble, and film music, setting sacred and secular texts. His choral music is widely performed by high school and church choirs while college and professional choirs perform his more technically demanding works. His harmonic language is usually classified as “neo-romantic;” music that is overall tonal, but enriched and expanded with harmonies based on close dissonances and “tone clusters.” Clausen has received numerous accolades including three awards at the 2013 Grammy Awards for his recording of choral works, “Life & Breath: Choral Works by René Clausen.”
“Set Me as a Seal” is one of the final movements from Clausen’s cantata, a new Creation, written in 1989. Clausen composed a new Creation as a piece in praise of God, and expresses through music aspects of the relationship between God and humanity. Originally titled “Hymn” in the cantata, “Set Met as a Seal” is among Clausen’s shorter works and is a setting the biblical text from the Song of Solomon, 8:6-7. This movement has been widely performed independently of the cantata, which has led to its popularity and eventual title modification.
February 12, 2017
“Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis”
by Michael McCabe
This Sunday, the All Saints’ community will hold its monthly Choral Evensong service. The Evensong liturgy is one of the oldest and most beautiful of the Anglican tradition. Archbishop Thomas Cranmer created the service for the first Book of Common Prayer, published in 1549, by combining the monastic evening offices of Vespers and Compline. Evensong is an invitation into mystical union with God; to engage in the ancient discipline of actively listening to God’s Word and joining our prayers with those of other. The liturgy is filled with Holy Scripture: readings, psalms, and two canticles from Saints Luke’s Gospel, the Magnificat (Song of Mary) and Nunc Dimittis (Song of Simeon). Elaborate settings of the two evening canticles are frequently sung during Choral Evensong and many composers connected with the Anglican tradition have written beautiful settings of these texts for use during the service.
A long-time friend of All Saints’, Michael McCabe (b.1941), composed the setting of the evening canticles sung by our Chamber Choir for this month’s Evensong. The All Saints’ Choirs regularly sing McCabe’s choral music and a number of his choral works have been recorded by our choirs. His compositions are artistically written and he has composed music appropriate for choirs of all ages and abilities. McCabe studied music at Creighton University where he also held appointments as university organist and choir director. He has studied and performed with notable musicians such as Leo Sowerby, David McK. Williams, Thomas Matthews, and Dale Wood. McCabe has had a diverse professional life: has served numerous churches including Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, has performed internationally, and served our county in the military for twenty years. He was elected to the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) in 1972, with credits that include NBC Television, foreign and domestic recordings, and Music Festivals in Stockholm and Stuttgart.
McCabe presently resides in the Omaha area, working as chief, nurse anesthetist at the Omaha Surgical Center as well as continuing his musically related work as an organist, composer, and teacher; he serves as chapel organist at Boys Town, teaches keyboard harmony and improvisation at the St. Cecilia Institute in Omaha, is a board member of the Cathedral Arts Project in Omaha, and is an associate editor of Randall Egan Publications. McCabe is an oblate in the Episcopal Benedictine Order of the Companions of St. Luke. McCabe believes that "church music … should bring people to the face of God.” This is certainly what we strive for as we worship together during Evensong: that we encounter God in through his Word, our presence to one another, and heavenly music.
February 5, 2017
“Fugue in A Minor” (BWV 543)
by Johann Sebastian Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) was the great master of contrapuntal composition; his works represent the synthesis of German, French, and Italian writing styles of the era and the culmination of the baroque style. Since the time of Bach, musicians have studied his works in great depth and composers have applied and adapted many of the compositional techniques Bach perfected within their own works. Bach continues to be one of the most influential composers of all time.
Among the types of compositions Bach is best-known for is the fugue. The English and French term “fugue” (fuge in German, fuga in Italian) is derived from the Latin word, “fuga” which is related to the words “fugere,” which means “to flee,” and “fugare,” “to chase.” Fugues are typically associated with the organ or clavier, however, there have been numerous fugues written for instrumental and vocal ensembles. A fugue often demonstrates a composer’s skill in crafting a contrapuntal composition. Bach was undoubtedly the master of the fugal composition; his final work, “Der Kunst der Fuge” (The Art of Fugue), explores in depth the possibilities of fugal and contrapuntal writing.
The fugue is a type of compositional process with specific rules and characteristics that define this genre. Fugues are typically constructed with a set number of voice parts, two or more, whether they are written for human voices, an instrumental ensemble, or a keyboard instrument. A fugue usually begins with a single voice part stating a theme, the subject, which is the basis for the entire work and recurs throughout the work.
A second voice is added that introduces the answer, which is the subject stated at the fifth or in the dominant. At this point, the initial voice part typically continues with the countersubject, contrapuntal material set against the subject. The process of subject and answer statements continue until all the voice parts have entered. The composer may introduce additional countersubjects or may choose to write free counterpoint as necessary. Periodically, a statement of the subject may be delayed creating an episode; an opportunity for the composer to develop motives extracted from the subject or countersubject material, create sequences (the repetition of motives at different pitch levels), and modulate. Many fugues are structured with exposition, development, and recapitulation sections, although this is not a requirement. The exposition contains the initial statements of the subject and answer and possible brief episodes. The development section contains more episodes, frequently modulates, and may contain incomplete statements of the subject. During the recapitulation, the composition returns to the tonic, or home key. During the recapitulation section, the composer may wish to create a stretto, the overlapping of subject entries.
A fugue may be an independent composition or incorporated within a larger work. Fugues composed for keyboard instruments are typically paired with a prelude or toccata in the same key. The two genres complement yet contrast each other, the free contrapuntal style of the prelude or toccata versus the structured style of the fugue.
January 29, 2017
by Bob Chilcott
This Sunday’s Gospel reading is a portion of the well-known Sermon on the Mount as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew. The portion read today are the Beatitudes, a series of proverb-like blessings. Through his teaching of the Beatitudes, Jesus completely overturns the social order of the day by pronouncing those normally thought to be unfortunate as blessed by God. The term “beatitude” is derived from the Latin word, beatitude, which means happiness; often you will hear or read a translation of the beatitudes that begin with “happy are they…” in place of “blessed.”
The Beatitudes have been set to music by countless composers: as serious choral works, hymn paraphrases, or as folk or contemporary songs. Today, our choirs will sing a setting composed by Bob Chilcott (b. 1955). Chilcott is a British choral composer, conductor, and singer who is currently based in Oxford, England. He sang in the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge as a boy chorister and as a university student. From 1985 until 1997, he was a tenor with the King’s singers. He has also conducted the chorus at the Royal College of Music in London and is the Principal Guest Conductor of the BBC Singers. Chilcott has been composing since 1997, writing works for children’s choirs, large-scaled works for choral festivals and concerts, and sacred choral works suitable for the liturgy. The Choirs of All Saints’ periodically sing music by Chilcott over the course of the year. In “The Beatitudes,” Chilcott frequently shifts tonality to set each beatitude apart and to accentuate the meaning of the text, all the while building a gradual crescendo as each blessing is proclaimed. The piece concludes in the calm, tranquil manner that it began with the text, “blessed are ye.”
January 22, 2017
“Communion Service in C”
By John Ireland
The English composer, John Nicholson Ireland (1879-1962) was born in Dowdon, near Altrincham, Manchester into a family was of Scottish descent with some cultural distinction. Ireland has been described as “a self-critical, introspective man, haunted by memories of a sad childhood;” by the time he was fifteen years old, both of his parents had died. Ireland was a student at the Royal College of Music where he studied piano and organ under Frederic Cliffe and Walter Parratt respectively, and composition under the tutelage Charles Villiers Stanford. From Stanford, he inherited a thorough knowledge of music by German composers including Beethoven and Brahms, but was also influenced by the works of Stravinsky, Bartók, and French Impressionist composers, Debussy and Ravel. Ireland developed his own style of “English Impressionism,” drawing upon the influences of French and Russian music rather than upon English folk-songs which prevailed in the music of his English contemporaries such as Ralph Vaughan Williams. His works include chamber music, orchestral music, pieces for organ and piano, secular songs, and church music that include hymns (My Song is Love Unknown, Hymnal # 458), carols, and service music. He preferred to compose works constructed in smaller forms in the manner of other Impressionist composers.
Ireland was familiar with the High Church liturgies and the thriving choral tradition of Anglicanism. He was an assistant organist at Holy Trinity Church Sloane Street, London and later organist and choirmaster at St. Luke’s Church, Chelsea. Ireland’s “Communion Service in C” is an early work, written around 1913, and displays the influences of his teacher, Stanford. In addition to his work for the Church, Ireland taught at the Royal College of Music. Ireland was a bachelor for most of his life, briefly married to a pupil, Dorothy Phillips, from 1926-1928. They had no children. Ireland retired in 1953, settling in Sussex where he remained for the rest of his life.
January 15, 2017
By Charles Wood
Charles Wood (1866-1926), an Irish composer and teacher, wrote music in a variety of genres: orchestral and chamber music, piano and organ music, secular vocal works, and cantatas. However, Wood is best remembered for his Anglican Church music; he composed a number of sacred anthems and service music settings. Today, his sacred music is frequently performed in liturgical and concert settings, a staple of Anglican choirs around the world.
Wood was an inaugural member of the Royal College of Music in 1883 where he studied composition with Charles Villiers Stanford and Charles Hubert Hastings Parry. Stanford would become Wood’s life-long mentor. After four years of training at the Royal College, he continued his educational pursuits at Selwyn College in Cambridge. Wood later taught harmony and counterpoint at this institution. Wood held other teaching positions at Gonville and Caius College in Cambridge and in 1924, following Stanford’s death, he assumed his mentor’s vacant position at the University of Cambridge as Professor of Music. Ralph Vaughan Williams and Herbert Howells are among the well-known English composers who studied with Wood.
Wood was an inaugural member of the Royal College of Music in Many of Charles Wood’s compositions are written in a late-romantic era style; he often utilized the type of harmonic language that was common with many of his contemporaries, which was occasionally contrasted with the employment of modality, to set carefully chosen texts with warmth and richness of emotional expression that demonstrate his craftsmanship as a composer.
The text, “Expectans expectavi” (I waited patiently) alludes to Psalm 40, and is from a poem by the Scottish poet, Charles Hamilton Sorely (1895-1915). Sorely fought for the British army during World War I on the Western Front in France and was killed by a sniper during the final offensive of the Battle of Loos. Charles Hamilton Sorely’s father, William Ritchie Sorely, was a professor at the University of Cambridge and friend of Charles Wood’s. Wood also lost his son in battle during World War I. The poem, “Expectans expectavi” was recovered from Sorely’s kitbag. Charles Wood set the last two stanzas of this poem to music in 1919, a truly moving tribute in music.
January 8, 2017
“In dir ist Freude” (In you is joy)
by Johann Sebastian Bach
In Thee is gladness
Amid all sadness,
Jesus, Sunshine of my heart!
By Thee are given
The gifts of heaven,
Thou the true Redeemer art!
Our souls Thou wakest,
Our bonds Thou breakest,
Who trusts Thee surely
Hath built securely,
He stands for ever: Hallelujah!
“In dir ist Freude” is one of chorale settings Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) wrote for the Orgelbüchlein (Little Organ Book), a collection of 46 chorale preludes for organ. Bach originally conceived his “Little Organ Book” to include a much larger collection of chorale settings, 164 in total, that would incorporate the chorales sung through the entire liturgical year. The majority of the settings Bach completed were written between 1708 and 1717 while he served as the organist for the ducal court of Johann Ernst in Weimar. Bach added motivic accompaniment to each of the chorale melodies within this collection, and then developed the settings in a variety of ways; with four-part contrapuntal treatment, as trios, canonically, and with varying degrees of embellishment. In addition to being a collection of music for the Lutheran church service, the Orgelbüchlein was also viewed as a pedagogical manual and treatise on composition.
Bach’s setting of “In dir is Freude” features a prominent, carillon-like, ostinato figure in the pedal that is heard throughout this work. The cantus firmus is split up and distributed among the voices in various forms. The melody in undecorated forms is set against embellished versions and creates the basis for the counterpoint of the entire work.
The hymn tune, “In dir ist Freude,” is based on a melody that was written by the Italian priest and composer, Giovanni Gastoldi (1554-1609). The original composition was one of his secular “balleti”, a dance-like song, and was originally published in a collection of vocal work titled “Balleti a cinque voce” (balleti for five voices) in 1591. In 1594, Johannes Lindemann (c.1555-1633) included this melody in a collection of carols, replacing Gastoldi’s secular text with his own sacred text (in German) now associated with this melody.