Opening Voluntary: Prelude on DOWN AMPNEY – Chester Alwes (1947-)
Today’s opening voluntary is based on DOWN AMPNEY, tune to the much-loved hymn, “Come Down, O Love Divine” which we sing today as our offertory hymn (#516, The Hymnal 1982). The text of the hymn is a translation of writing by Bianco da Siena (d. 1434). Other than that he was a member of the short-lived Order of Jesuates (an order of unordained men following the Augustininan rule) and the place and year of his death, little else is known of this Italian writer. A collection of his poems, some 92 in all, were published for the first time in 1851 in Italy. Four of these were later translated by Richard Frederick Littledale (1833-1890). Littledale was an Irish-born cleric of the Church of England. with many others of the 19th century, he participated in the revival of catholic ideas and content in the English church and was, in a sense, one of the fathers of Anglo-Catholicism. Musically, he was the creator of The People’s Hymnal (London, 1867), prepared for Anglicans who felt, as he did, that they might benefit from many traditional Catholic teachings and practices without leaving their own church. Unaccountably, The Hymnal, 1982 omitted the third stanza of the hymn, but we include it here for your consideration:
Let holy charity
Mine outward vesture be,
And lowliness become mine inner clothing;
True lowliness of heart,
Which takes the humbler part,
And o’er its own shortcomings weeps with loathing.
The tune DOWN AMPNEY was composed to be used with this text by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) and was published for the first time in The English Hymnal (1906) for which he shared authorship with Percy Dearmer (1867-1936). Although The English Hymnal had this tune anonymously, it is now known as Vaughan Williams’ work and is appropriately named DOWN AMPNEY after the town of the composer’s birth. It is rightly considered a masterpiece of English hymnody. Chester Alwes, composer of the voluntary, was born in 1947 in Louisville, KY and studied at Union Theological Seminary in NY. He later studied and taught at the University of Illinois and is the author of A History of Western Choral Music published by Oxford University Press in 2011.
Opening Voluntary: Prelude on Jesu, nostra redemptio– Flor Peeters (1903-1986)
Closing Voluntary: Intrada in G major – Charles W. Ore (b. 1936)
Today’s opening voluntary is a chorale prelude on the Latin hymn, Jesu, nostra redemptio, “Jesus, our redemption.” Both the text and the melody are anonymous. Although the earliest manuscript versions of this Ascensiontide hymn are from the Eleventh century, hymnologists believe that it dates back to probably the 8th century.
Jesu, our hope, our heart’s desire,
Thy work of grace we sing;
Redeemer of the world art Thou,
Its maker and its king.
How vast the mercy and the love,
Which laid our sins on Thee,
And led Thee to a cruel death,
To set Thy people free!
But now the bonds of death are burst;
The ransom has been paid;
And Thou art on Thy Father’s throne,
In glorious robes arrayed.
O may Thy mighty love prevail
Our sinful souls to spare!
O may we stand around Thy throne,
And see Thy glory there!
Jesu, our only joy be Thou,
As Thou our prize wilt be;
In Thee be all our glory now
And through eternity.
All praise to Thee who art gone up
Triumphantly to Heav’n;
All praise to God the Father’s name
And Holy Ghost be given.
The chorale prelude is the composition of Florent Peeters (1903-1986) who was born in the village of Telen, east of Antwerp, Belgium in 1903 as the youngest of 11 children, most of whom played musical instruments. By the age of only 8 years, he deputized for his eldest brother at the local church. He studied formally at the Lemmens Institute in Mechelen and was appointed assistant to his teacher, Oscar Depuydt , at the St. Rombouts Cathedral in Mechelen at the age of 20. Peeters later succeeded to his teacher’s position and remained as the principal organist there for 63 years. He taught at several musical institutions and also performed widely and internationally as a recitalist, including 10 separate tours through the United States. Peeters wrote extensively in many fields, but mostly for the organ, for which he composed over 550 works.
The setting played as our opening voluntary treats the melody in an “alternating” manner with the upper manual playing a gentle free variation of the tune interspersed with sections on the lower (great) manual which quote the tune literally but with a dense chromatic harmonization.
The closing voluntary is a short fanfare composed by American organist, Charles W. Ore. Ore was born 18th December 1936 in Winfield, Kansas. He studied at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois and at the University of Nebraska. He was professor and chair of the Department of Music at Concordia College in Seward, Nebraska from 1966 to 2001. He currently serves as organist of First Presbyterian Church in Lincoln, Nebraska. Today’s composition is one of 8 similar pieces published as a collection by Augsburg Publishing House in 1981.
Voluntary before Mass: Prelude on BROTHER JAMES’ AIR – Dale Wood (1934-2003)
Today’s Voluntary before Mass is a prelude on the well-known hymn tune, BROTHER JAMES’ AIR. We sing this tune as the melody for a metrical version of Psalm 23 today in our liturgy. Metrical versions of the Psalms became popular in the early years of the European and English protestant reformations, particularly where there was a significant Calvinist emphasis. In a response to the ideal that all of worship should be in the words of scripture, it became clear that a new musical form would be required to meet that need. Although the first full English Metrical Psalter, that of Robert Crowley (1517-1588), contained music that had similarities to the chants of the Latin Sarum Psalter, it was not widely adopted, and it was the slightly later version of Sternhold and Hopkins (first published in 1549 but later repeatedly expanded and revised) that became more popular. Pairing rhyming psalm paraphrases with tunes in mostly common meter, many of which were borrowed from the French Genevan Psalter, it was published frequently bound up together with the protestant Geneva Bible. Tunes such as the well-known “Old Hundredth” (All people that on earth do dwell), belong to this tradition. Such was the extent of the influence of the Puritan reformers that metrical psalms were virtually the only music sung by the people of the post-Reformation Church of England until the advent of non-biblical hymnody in the 18th century.
BROTHER JAMES’ AIR was the composition of Scottish spiritualist minister, healer and poet, James Leith Macbeth Bain (1840-1925), who was often known as “Brother James.” Although relatively few details of his life are known, an anecdote told by a friend of his youth who had asked, after Bain’s death, of a neighbor as to whether Bain played a musical instrument was answered, no but “he was aye hummin’.” It was said that Bain and his fellow spiritual healers often sang to their patients during healing sessions. The song was published in 1915 in Bain’s book, The Great Peace: being a New Year’s greeting. In hymnography, the tune is typically paired with either a metrical version of Psalm 23, as we do today, or with “How lovely is they dwelling place” a metrical version of Psalm 84.
The composer of today’s Voluntary, Dale Wood, was born 13th February, 1934 in Glendale, California. He won a hymn writing competition at age 13 and served in Lutheran and Episcopal churches in Los Angeles and Riverside, California and finally at the Episcopal Church of St. Mary in San Francisco. Mr. Wood was an editor for Sacred Music Press for over 20 years and published many organ works. His “Prelude on BROTHER JAMES’ AIR” was published by that firm in 1986. Mr. Wood died in April 2003 in Sea Ranch, California.
Opening Voluntary: Prelude on O Welt, ich muss dich lassen – J. G. Walther (1684-1748)
Final Voluntary: We Shall Overcome – LEVAS #227 (Those who wish may sing along)
“We shall overcome. We shall overcome. Deep in my heart I do believe we shall overcome. And I believe it because somehow the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice. We shall overcome because Carlyle is right; “no lie can live forever”. We shall overcome because William Cullen Bryant is right; “truth crushed to earth will rise again”. We shall overcome because James Russell Lowell is right:.
Truth forever on the scaffold,
Wrong forever on the throne.
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And behind the then unknown
Standeth God within the shadow,
Keeping watch above his own.
With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to speed up the day. And in the words of prophecy, every valley shall be exalted. And every mountain and hill shall be made low. The rough places will be made plain and the crooked places straight. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together. This will be a great day. This will be a marvelous hour. And at that moment—figuratively speaking in biblical words—the morning stars will sing together and the sons of God will shout for joy.”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Sermon at Temple Israel, Hollywood , CA
Opening Voluntary: Duo – Louis-Nicholas Clérambault (1676-1749)
Final Voluntary: Grand plein jeu – Louis-Nicholas Clérambault (1676-1749)
Our opening and closing voluntaries are both compositions of the French composer, Louis-Nicolas Clérambault. Clerambault was born in Paris in 1676 and came from a family of musicians. As a youth, he first studied violin and harpsichord and later became the pupil of French organist André Raison (d. 1719). He also studied voice and composition with Jean-Baptiste Moreau (1656-1733), court composer to Louis XIV. Clérambault was first organist of the Grands-Augustins and later succeeded Guillame-Gabriel Nivers (1632-1714) as the organist of the prestigious church of Saint-Sulpice. He was employed at the same time by the royal house of Saint-Cyr, an institution for young girls of impoverished nobility. He later succeeded his teacher, André Raison as organist of Saint-Jacques after Raison’s death in 1719. In addition to his work with the organ, Clérambault was a prolific composer of vocal music and wrote widely, both religiously and secularly, in the increasingly-popular, 18th century genre of the cantata, of which he is acknowledged the master of the French form. He also wrote many motets and other choral works for church use.
His surviving organ work is known in his Premier Livre D’Orgue, “First (and unfortunately only) Organ Book,” published in 1710. This work consists of two “suites” based on the first and second Gregorian church “modes” or tones, the foundation of religious chant. He had originally intended to complete a suite on each of the 8 church modes, but only created works on the first and second. Both the opening and closing voluntaries are from the Suite du Premier Ton (Suite on the First Tone) in the Dorian mode. This “mode” corresponds to the scale on the piano on the white notes beginning with D, sometimes with a flatted ‘b’ (an “option exercised by Clérambault in this suite) and thus, most similar to our modern key of “D-minor.” These pieces, along with the rest of the collection are typical of French organ composition of the 17th and 18th centuries. The “Duo” is a fugue-style composition in two voices in which the supporting line frequently echoes and varies the themes introduced in the upper voice. The “Grand plein jeu” is a piece for full organ and, in the Livre D’Orgue, serves as the introduction for the suite and collection as a whole. It is in a grand, richly-ornamented style.
For those of you who are curious about L’Orgue Mystique which was the inspiration for this Sunday’s voluntary by Charles Gore, here’s a really nice rendition of one of the pieces which was the conclusion of the set of pieces for Ascension Day. It is performed on an historic Cavaillé-Coll organ of the former Abbey of Saint-Ouen in Rouen, France.
Opening Voluntary: Psalm 27: “The Lord is my light” – Richard T. Gore (1908-1994)
Our opening voluntary today is a composition by American composer, Richard Taylor Gore, born 25th June, 1908 in Takoma Park, MD and died 15 December 1994 in Wooster, OH. Gore studied in Berlin, at the Eastman School in Rochester, NY from which he received a doctorate and with famous American organist, Seth Bingham (1882-1972). He was organist of Cornell University and then taught at Wooster College from 1945 until his retirement in 1974. Dr. Gore was also a Fellow of the American Guild of Organists.
According to Dr. Gore’s own notes, this piece formed one of an original collection of more than 20 similar pieces from which he chose 10 for publication in 1976. His original inspiration, he wrote, was Charles Tournemire’s (1870-1939) L’Orgue Mystique, a monumental composition of 51 sets of five pieces, each covering the cycle of the liturgical year and each based on the appointed Gregorian chants for the day. The first piece of Gore’s set to be composed was based on Psalm 70. Gore wrote in the foreword to the collection, “While on leave in 1975/75 I set about writing organ music based on plainsong melodies for other psalms, trying, as in the case of the 70th, to catch the moods of the poem. From the more than twenty I wrote that year, I chose the nine most successful and added the 70th to round out the ten. Instead of adopting the complexities of Tournemire’s musical language, I stayed within the tones that make of the mode of each psalm melody.” He concludes “If these psalm preludes suggest some of the glories of those inexhaustible poems, they will have accomplished their task.”
The piece played today as our voluntary is fourth in the collection and is based on the plainchant melody for the Introit for the 4th Sunday after Pentecost. We chant a simpler version of selected verses as our Gradual Psalm today at mass.
The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom then shall I fear?
the Lord is the strength of my life;
of whom then shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1 (Prayerbook Psalter, BCP, 1979)