Mark Chaney’s thoughts on this week’s worship

Posted: November 21, 2008 by limabean03 in Christianity, Music Ministry at Trinity, Trinity Tidings
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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 23, 2008
Christ the King
This Week’s Lessons
Ezekiel 34:11-17
Psalm 95:1-7 (Anglican Chant: Hurd)
Luke 23:32-43
Most of the feast days on our calendar commutate some event: Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, Epiphany, the Transfiguration, and so forth.  A few feasts, like The Holy Trinity or All Saints, remind us of some doctrine or teaching of the church.  Christ the King, the last Sunday of the Church year, is unique among all of these observances in that it commemorates something that has not yet happened; that is, Christ’s coming in final victory to gather his people unto himself and to reign over them as King.  The context for this celebration is that the passion and death of Christ on the cross seals this victory for him and for us, and that we have a King who reigns from the Cross.This Week’s Hymns
451 All hail the power of Jesus’ Name (Miles Lane)
I suspect that this tune, ‘Miles Lane’ or ‘Shurbsole,’ is less familiar than the tune ‘Coronation’ found at Hymn 450.  But it is the more British of the two tunes, and it is original to the text, both of which appeared in a publication with the charming title of Gospel Magazine in 1779.  This tune originally had three voices with the melody in the tenor.  In the refrain, each “crown him” is sung alone, first by the bass, then by the treble, then by the tenor, and the final “crown him” by all with the melody in the tenor.
A third tune for this text, ‘Diadem,’ has gained some traction in a few Protestant hymnals.  This tune is much glitzier than the other two, a real swinging 19th century revival type of affair that climaxes in a long, melismatic “crown him” first in the melody and then in the bass.  Maybe we’ll try it someday.
435 At the Name of Jesus (King’s Weston)
It doesn’t seem like we can get through a single week around here without singing something that doesn’t have Vaughan Williams’s fingerprints all over it.  This week, it is Caroline Noel’s meditation on Philippians chapter 2.  Vaughan Williams wrote this sturdy tune specifically for this text in 1925. 
166 Sing, my tongue, the glorious battle (Pange lingua gloriosi proelium)
This Pange lingua, written by Fortunas in the 6th century, is a passion hymn not to be confused with the Eucharistic Pange lingua written by St. Thomas Aquinas seven centuries later.  Like many characters in the drama of the early church, Fortunas has a great legend attached to him: apparently he was nearly blinded by a severe eye disease and his sight was restored after his eyes were anointed with oil from the lamp burning at the altar of St. Martin of Tours in his home town of Ravenna, Italy.  In gratitude, he embarked on a pilgrimage to the shrine of St. Martin of Tours in what was then Gaul; while he was there, he took holy orders and eventually became the bishop of Poitiers. 
In any event, Fortunas was an able scholar, and this hymn attests to his remarkable skill as a poet.  Sadly, a collection of Hymns for all the Festivals of the Church Year that he wrote is lost.  The text of this hymn holds together the wonderful paradox of how Christ’s ultimate victory over sin and death is won through his suffering and sacrifice on the cross.   The chant melody of the tune goes all the way back to the Sarum Rite. 
481 Rejoice, the Lord is King! (Gospal)
This hymn boasts a real powerhouse combination of author and composer: the text is by Charles Wesley and the tune is based on a melody by Handel.  Handel’s tune, Gospal (and not, that is not a typing error) is not the best known tune for this text on this side of the Atlantic.  Methodists sing this text to the appropriately militant but overly sentimental ‘Darwall’s 148th’ (see Hymn 625) and Lutherans know the somewhat less inane ‘Laus Regis,’ but this tune is the gold standard as far as I am concerned. 
This Week’s Anthems
Hoiby: Let this mind be in you
The text of this piece is not a hymn or liturgical text, but rather a prose passage from the Bible (Philippians 2:5-11) set in a dramatic and evocative way.  The writing is modern sounding to the ear, using angular melodic shapes and pointed dissonance.  The texture alternates between static block chords—almost choral recitative—and canonic and imitative writing.  The organ accompaniment is more an adornment to the music rather than actually supporting the voices—it is based on a spare sounding motive of leaping fifths and fourths that is heard at the beginning and recurs throughout the piece.  Here’s a little scorecard of how the piece unfolds:
TextMusical Characteristics
Let the mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who… humbled himself and became obedient unto death…Soft, tonally ambiguous, homophonic or mildly imitative
Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him …Loud, fast fugue with angular melody
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow…Strong homophonic fanfare
and that every tongue should confess…More animated, imitative
that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.Loud declamatory fanfare

All this is to say that the music tries to illustrate what is going on in the text—listen especially to “and that every tongue should confess.”  This piece isn’t really technically challenging, but it has been a bit of a stretch for the choir because it is unusual.  The harmonies are a little harsh in places, some of the loud block chords require a great deal of breath support, and the accompaniment doesn’t give the choir a lot of help.  Still, I think the dramatic effect of the finished product with justify the toil and suffering of the rehearsal process. 
I had never heard of this piece or its composer, Lee Hoiby, but if you are interested in learning more about him and his music he has quite an elaborate website at http://www.leehoiby.com/index.php.
This Week’s Voluntaries
Bach: “My Spirit be joyful” from Cantata 146
Cantata 146, “Wir mussen durch viel Trubsal in das Reicht Gottes eingehen,” was written in 1726 for the Third Sunday after Easter.  The title (and text of the opening movement) is Acts 14:22: “It is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God.”  The title may sound severe, but the music is joyful. 
This piece is a transcription of the 7th movement, a duetto for tenor and bass accompanied by strings and oboes.  The transcription is for two trumpets and organ.  The buoyant and exuberant character of the music captures the text of the movement, which translates as follows:
How will I be joyful, how will I take comfort,
When all of this transient sadness is past!
I’ll gleam like the heavens, and shine like the sunlight,
When vex shall my heavenly bliss
No grieving, weeping, and lament.
Hovahaness: Prayer of St. Gregory
The American composer Alan Hovhaness (1911-2000) is well-known for mystical and impressionistic compositional style, and the ethereal Prayer of St. Gregory for trumpet and organ is one of his “greatest hits.”  I have heard the piece many times, but until this week I did not know the content of the prayer on which the music is based.  St. Gregory “the Great” was the 6th century Bishop of Rome who sent St. Augustine of Canterbury to take the Gospel to Great Britain, and this prayer is a vivid meditation on Christ’s love for humanity in the face of complete and utter betrayal and humiliation: “O Lord, You received affronts without number from Your blasphemers, yet each day You free captive souls from the grip of the ancient enemy.  You did not avert Your face from the spittle of perfidy, yet You wash souls in saving waters…” and so forth (I included the entire text of the prayer in the bulletin).  We will have this played during the distribution of Communion as a meditation on Christ’s sacrifice in the meal of the Eucharist, and it will serve as a fine introduction for our singing of Pange lingua (Hymn 166) at the end of Communion. 
So besides being a stunningly gorgeous and dramatic piece, it is singularly appropriate to the day, when the appointed Gospel recounts Christ’s mercy toward his persecutors even as he suffers on the cross.
Handel: “Rejouissance” from Water Music
“Rejouissance” is the French word for “rejoicing,” and this is an instantly recognizable movement from Handel’s famous Water Music, arranged for two trumpets and organ. 
This Week’s Word from St. Augustine
Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending.
You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility.

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