Why is Mark Chaney Awesome? Check out his newsletter to the choir below…

Posted: November 2, 2008 by limabean03 in Acts Resources, Christianity, Music Ministry at Trinity, Trinity Tidings
Tags: , , , , , ,

In February I was faced with the predicament of hiring a Choir Master and organist, something I admittedly knew NOTHING about.  Thanks to God’s grace and a committed and talented search committee, we found Mark and hired him over the summer.  As you can see below, “traditional” worship is far more than pretty music to Mark, but something of rich theological depth and sophistication that he has quite intentionally applied in the selections for this Sunday.  I will be including his e-newsletter on the blog from now on under the special heading “Music Ministry at Trinity”.  Make sure you get to his description of hymn 608 towards the bottom.  Excellent.

Resonet in Laudibus
A weekly newsletter for the Music Ministry of
Trinity Episcopal Church

…to inspire all people through the power of the Gospel
to become living members of the Body of Christ

November 2, 2008
Twenty-fourth Sunday after Trinity
This Week’s Lessons
Acts 27:1, 13-20, 33-38
After a lengthy cruise that can only be described as something between the USS Caine and the Titanic, Paul reassures his companions and convinces them to eat. In breaking bread and sharing fellowship, the entire company receives encouragement; the entire episode is strongly reminiscent of Jesus’s appearance to his disciples on the beach after his resurrection in John 21. Almost all of the hymns and anthems today tie into this bread theme: both metaphorically as God’s sustaining nourishment to his people, and literally as the bread of Christ’s body in the Eucharist.

Psalm 43 (Anglican Chant: Vaughan Williams)
Matthew 23:1-12
Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Vaughan Williams’s death. Many choirs and orchestras have commemorated the anniversary by performing his works in church and concert settings throughout the year. It so happens that the actual anniversary date was a couple of weeks ago, October 12. The Archbishop of Canterbury issued a statement encouraging churches to celebrate Vaughan Williams’s sacred music in the context of the liturgy that day. The statement from the Archbishop is supposedly on a site at http://www.valiantvoices.com, but I could not get one the site when I tried, nor could I find it on the Archbishop of Canterbury site; perhaps someone can track it down somewhere else.
I was made aware of this on Monday while I was holding keys for the organ tuner who was here. I was catching up on some reading, and there was an article in one of the RSCM publications on Vaughan Williams’s music and the anniversary year. When I was looking over the lessons for this week, some of the hymns that came to mind had associations with Vaughan Williams, so I figured what the heck—we can have our own little commemoration a bit late and chalk it up to the time difference between here and England. The psalm chant and the voluntaries at the morning service will be works of Vaughan Williams, and we will end our Evensong by singing his immortal tune to “For all the saints.”
So, this week at Trinity, we celebrate the 50-year-and-three-week anniversary of the death of Ralph Vaughan Williams, one of the great figures of the Anglican choral tradition. Huzzah.
This Week’s Hymns
307 Lord, enthroned in heavenly splendor (Bryn Calfaria)
This sturdy and rather severe sounding Welsh tune was originally sung to an equally severe Welsh text about Jesus and the cross. The title, Bryn Calfaria, means the Hill of Calvary.
The text was written by George Hugh Bourne and published in Seven Post-Communion Hymns in 1874. Immediately in the first stanza we establish the theme for the day: “Jesus, true and living bread.”
460 Alleluia! Sing to Jesus (Hyfrydol)
Another well-known Welsh tune, and another overt bread reference in stanza 3: “Alleluia! Bread of Heaven, Here on earth our food and stay.” This text appears in the Ascension section of many hymnals and its author, William Chatterton Dix, also wrote “What child is this” (Hymn 115) and “As with gladness men of old” (Hymn 119), the tune for which bears his name.
313 Let thy blood in mercy poured (Jesus, meine Zuversicht)
Scotland meets Germany in this hymn. The poet, John Bwornlie (1857-1925) was born in Glasgow and made a considerable contribution to hymnody through his research, translations from Greek and Latin, and original hymns. He was also a powerful advocate for modern public education in his native Scotland. The tune is one of the classic Lutheran chorales: Zuversicht means “sure confidence.”
608 Eternal Father, strong to save (Melita)
Known almost universally as “The Navy Hymn,” this hymn has a great emotional attraction for a lot of reasons: the imagery is dramatically pictorial and the tune is just great. For all its sentimental appeal, there is a lot going on in this hymn theologically.
First of all, it is Trinitarian:
stanza 1, “Eternal Father, strong to save…”
stanza 2: “O Christ, whose voice the waters heard…”
stanza 3: “Most Holy Spirit, who didst brood…”
stanza 4: “O Trinity of love and power…”
Second, the nautical imagery of the text had a deeper meaning than just its Moby Dickian face value. It was still the case in the 19th century, as it was in St. Paul’s time, that sailing on the ocean was about the most dangerous thing you could do. Sailing put one completely at the mercy of the elements, and the imagery of “sea monsters and all deeps” in Psalm 148 comes out of the hazardous reality of the mariner’s experience. At other places in the Bible water is a metaphor for chaos: in Genesis, darkness covers the “face of the deep” and the creative process involves separating the “waters from the waters.” This is echoed in Revelation 21 where the new Jerusalem comes about after “the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.” So this hymn’s assertion that God conquers the danger and disorder of the sea (and of our lives) is profoundly Biblical and would have resonated deeply with its original audience, who were not conditioned to the relative safety and convenience of modern travel.
A third element of this hymn’s “background theology” came to mind when I asked myself why it appears in the section of the hymnal on “Christian Responsibility.” I think the answer has to do with the sort of refrain in the first three verses, “O hear us when we call to thee / for those in peril on the sea.” So the responsibility here is that of intercession: that we acknowledge God’s sovereignty over our lives and we commend ourselves and each other to his care, realizing that we are all “at peril on the sea” until such time as God makes “all things new” (Rev. 21:5).
So the text is generally relevant to this episode in the book of Acts. The tune, written for this text by John B. Dykes (the same fellow who wrote the tune for “holy, holy, holy”), is directly applicable to this very passage: the name Melita is the Roman name for the island of Malta where Paul is shipwrecked in Acts 28:1-2.
A final footnote: The Hymnal 1982 contains a sort of update to this text at Hymn 579 in which stanza 1 talks about sea travel, stanza 2 talks about land travel, stanza 3 talks about air travel, and the last stanza concludes “thus evermore shall rise to thee / glad praise from space, air, land, and sea.” I had never encountered this text before, and I am still deciding how I feel about it. For our present purpose, Paul did not fly or take the train to Rome.
This Week’s Anthems
Lovelace: Be known to us in breaking bread
This text is by James Montgomery (1771-1854), one of the heavyweights of English hymnody. Other texts of his include “Angels from the realms of glory” (Hymn 93), “Go to dark Gethsemane” (Hymn 171), and “Hail to the Lord’s anointed” (Hymn 616). The text for this anthem are the third and fourth stanzas of the Eucharistic hymn “Shepherd of souls,” number 343.
Austin Lovelace, the arranger, is a leader in Methodist and interdenominational music, having served churches in Chicago, New York City, Dallas, and Denver. He was the music editor of the 1964 Methodist hymnal, the one previous to the 1989 hymnal that the Methodists are using now. This piece is written in a very traditional style, using imitative entrances and counterpoint in the style of an old polyphonic motet.
Bird: ‘The Invited’
This is a lovely setting of a lovely text. The poet is anonymous, and I don’t know anything about the composer, Hubert Bird, aside from that fact that he is an American composer born in 1939. In addition to being just gorgeous, the text ties into the “bread” theme of the day in which the God of all creation is with us in the Eucharistic meal as “Guest and Giver.”
This Week’s Voluntaries
Vaughan Williams: Preludes Founded on Welsh Hymn Tunes
Vaughan Williams did not write a lot of organ music, and these three preludes are from 1920. It was a happy coincidence that we are singing two of the three tunes included this week: Bryn Calfaria and Hyfrydol, which I will play for the prelude and postlude respectively. These are the first and third of the set, and both of them are very strong and energetic settings. Vaughan Williams’s setting of Bryn Calfaria starts with a loud fanfare, then there is a soft middle section that build up to a strong conclusion. His prelude on Hyfrydol is exuberant from start to finish: the tune soars out above the texture while the lower voices move fluidly throughout. The middle prelude of the set, Rhosymedre (Hymn 587), is soft and lyrical; I consider it to be on of the most beautiful pieces in the repertory and I often play it both at weddings and at funerals.
Music for Evensong
All Saints Day is one of my favorite feast days of the year. Like so many things in the Church, it holds two contradictory aspects of faith together in a wonderful paradox: The day is at once solemn, in that we are mindful of the faithful departed and it is at the same time festive, in that we celebrate the unity of all the baptized across all time and space through Christ’s death and resurrection.
The introit is a Renaissance-era motet by the Spaniard Tomas Luis da Victoria, his exquisite setting of the antiphon O quam gloriosum. The choir will sing plainsong settings of the canticles as well, the women chanting the Magnificat and the men chanting the Nunc dimittis. The use of Renaissance polyphony and plainsong will hopefully lend a mystical and contemplative flavor to the service. As for the rest of the hymns and music, the bias is decidedly British. We will sing Charles Stanford’s well-known chat setting of Psalm 150, and the evening hymn is John Ellerton’s “The day thou gavest, Lord, is ended.” The anthem is Earnest Bullock’s soaring and dramatic setting of Isaac Watts’s “Give us the wings of faith.” And we conclude the service with “For all the saints who from their labors rest,” all eight glorious stanzas.
The service is Sunday at 7:00, and it is the first of Trinity’s year-long Choral Evensong series. I am hopeful that you will be able to come and that you might invite others to come as well.
Editor’s Note
Sincere apologies for missing last week—the flu swept through our entire household and writing a newsletter was one of many things that fell by the wayside. In any event, we are all feeling much better.
This Week’s Word from St. Augustine
Men go abroad to admire the heights of mountains,
the mighty billows of the sea, the broad tides of rivers,
the compass of the ocean, and the circuits of the stars,
and pass themselves by.

  1. Bob Lauer says:

    And he continues to be awesome at Trinity.

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