Monthly Archives: March 2012

Palm Sunday ~ Sunday of the Passion – 1 April 02

At Communion: Herzlich tut mich verlangen – Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1707)

Hymn Prelude: Herzlich tut much verlangen – Johann Gottfried Walther (1684-1748)

By long custom, the organ plays a decreasing role in the successive pre-Easter liturgies of Holy Week until the Solemn Liturgy of Good Friday when the organ falls silent before the mystery of the Crucifixion. After this, it will not be heard again until the announcement of the Resurrection in the celebration of the Solemn Mass at the Great Vigil of Easter.   Although today’s liturgy begins in a celebratory manner with the processional re-enactment of the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem acclaimed by the masses as the Davidic Messiah, the mood of elation quickly sours,  as the story falls precipitously into the recitation of the Markan passion narrative.  In keeping with the increasing solemnity of today’s observance, the incidental organ music today is limited to just two settings of the classic passion hymn, “O Sacred Head” (#168, The Hymnal 1982) traditionally sung to the tune, Herzlich tut mich verlangen, by Hans Leo Hassler (1564-1612).  The text of the hymn we sing today derives originally from a stanza of a long passion poem in Latin that begins with the words “Salve caput crucentatum,” While traditionally attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux, (1091-1153), more recent scholarship has  identified it as work of mediaeval poet, Arnulf of Louvain (d. 1250) a Cistercian and Abbot of Villers in Brabant.

Salve, caput cruentatum,
Totum spinis coronatum,
Conquassatum, vulneratum,
Arundine sic verberatum 
Facie sputis illita.

Hail, head covered in blood,
all crowned with thorns,
battered, wounded,
beaten in this way with a reed,
with your face smeared with spit.

                  –Arnulf of Louvain, Abbott of Villers, d. 1250

This poem was later re-worked into a German hymn by Paul Gerhardt (1608-1676) as O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden.  This well-known hymn has been re-translated many times into English since the 18th century.  The version in use in The Hymnal 1982 is a composite of a translation by Robert Seymour Bridges (1844-1930) for stanzas 1-3 and 5 and James Waddell Alexander (1804-1859) for stanza 4.

O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden
Voll Schmerz und voller Hohn,
O Haupt, zum Spott gebunden
Mit einer Dornenkron;
O Haupt, sonst schön gezieret
Mit höchster Ehr’ und Zier,
Jetzt aber höchst schimpfieret:
Gegrüßet sei’st du mir!
O sacred head, sore wounded,
defiled and put to scorn; 
O kingly head, surrounded
with mocking crown of thorn;
what sorrow mars thy grandeur?
Can death thy bloom deflower?
O countenance whose splendor
the hosts of heaven adore!

                    – Paul Gerhardt, (tr. Robert Seymour Bridges)

The setting heard at the communion was composed by North German organist, Dietrich Buxtehude (c. 1637-1707).  As is characteristic of many of his chorale preludes, the melody, or cantus firmus, appears in the highest voice in a highly ornamented form.  It is accompanied in the manual and pedal in three further parts in a counterpoint and musical imitation.  The second version heard today is a more straightforward composition by Johann Gottfried Walther (1684-1748) in which the melody is accompanied by slow descending triplet (three-note) figures that form, somewhat counterintuitively, a plaintive, limpingly dance-like and ironic background to the chorale melody. This version will be used to introduce the congregational singing of today’s final hymn. Our liturgy today closes with a period of silent contemplation instead of the usual voluntary.

Historic Organs – The Cliquot Organ of the Church of St. Gervais, Paris

Although the beauty of François Couperin‘s compositions comes through, even when played on an organ like the St. Mary’s Whalley which is distinctly different from the French Classical Organ, there is a definite excitement and thrill to hear the original.  This brief You-tube video, while a little difficult to watch due to the videography, allows a brief listen to the restored Cliquot organ of the Church of St. Gervais in Paris where François Couperin served as organist and where he was actively playing when he wrote the Masses for the Parishes and the convents.  The segment present in the video gives a flavor of the powerful reeds of the organ in a piece played on a registration known as the “Grand Jeu” a chorus of principal and reed stops without the use of high-pitched mixtures.

For “real” organ aficionados, the current disposition of the St. Gervais Organ is as follows:

Grand Orgue

  • Montre 16″
  • Bourdon 16′
  • Montre 8′
  • Bourdon 8′
  • Prestant 4′
  • Flute 4′
  • Grosse Tierce 3 1/5′
  • Nasard 2 2/3′
  • Doublette 2′
  • Tierce 1 3/5′
  • Fourniture III
  • Cymbale III
  • Cornet V
  • Trompete 8′
  • Voix humaine 8′
  • Clairon 4′


  • Bourdon 8′
  • Prestant 4′
  • Flute 4′
  • Nasard 2 2/3′
  • Doublette 2′
  • Tierce 1 3/5′
  • Larigot 1 1/3′
  • Cymbale III
  • Cromorne 8′


  • Cornet V


  • Bourdon 8′
  • Flute 4′
  • Cymbale III
  • Cornet V


  • Flute 8′
  • Flute 4′
  • Trompette 8′

Feast of the Annunciation – 28 March 2012

Sanctus, Agnus Dei and Other Incidental Organ Music – “Mass for the Convents”  François Couperin (1668-1773)

François Couperinle Grand” was born in Paris on 10th November of 1668, the son of organist and musician Charles Couperin, who was also his first teacher.  In 1685, he became the titular organist of the Church of Saint Gervais in Paris, a position that he inherited from his father and which would be later filled by other members of the Couperin musical dynasty.    He was made organist of the Chapelle Royale with the title “Organiste du Roi” by appointment of Louis XIV in 1693, and was later to receive the further honor of appointment as official court composer in the year 1717.  Couperin was a prolific composer of keyboard works for the harpsichord, publishing during his later life 4 volumes of pieces numbering some 230 works.  Although it is undoubted that Couperin must have composed and improvised many pieces for the organ in his role as the organist of Saint Gervais and the Chapelle Royale, it is a tragic loss that only one collection of his organ music survives today, the “Pièces d’ Orgue Consistantes en Deux Masses,” which first appeared in print in 1689-90, when Couperin was only about 21 years old. Although he was of a very young age, the work was approved by one of his also-famous teachers, Michel Richard Delalande who wrote that the music was “very beautiful and worthy of being given to the public.” Of the two masses in this volume, it is the Mass for the Parishes that is most frequently performed.  Following the traditional practice of the times, this was an alternatim mass based on the Gregorian chant themes from the Missa Cunctipotens.  The Mass for the Convents which we hear tonight, while equally beautiful, is based, not on Gregorian melodies, but on themes of Couperin’s own creation and represents a somewhat more daring departure from traditional practice, although it still preserves the alternatim style of alternating couplets intended to be interspersed with the sung chants of the Mass.  It is possible that Couperin chose to write his Mass for the Convents based upon no definite chant because French monastic communities of the time maintained their own non-standard body of chant music, making it difficult to compose a chant-based setting that would have more than the most extremely local use.  In keeping with this concept of “local” usage, today’s “chants” for the mass are also ones that do not appear in the standard corpus of available  Mass settings but were freely composed in the style of Gregorian chant music by our parish Cantor.  Owing to constraints imposed by time and setting, only the Sanctus and the Agnus Dei will be performed in the alternatim style tonight, but we will also hear at the opening and closing voluntaries and other points during the Mass, selections from other movements of the composition.

5th Sunday in Lent – 25 March 2012

Opening Voluntary: Kyrie Dominicale 4. Toni – Samuel Scheidt (1587-1624)

At the Communion: “Da Jesus an den Kreuze stund” – Samuel Scheidt (1587-1624)

Closing Voluntary: Selections from “Mein junges Leben hat ein End” – Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562-1621)

Our last stop on our Lenten early organ music tour takes us this week to the protestant northern Netherlands and to north Germany with the works of two musicians: Dutch organist and composer, Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562-1621) and his student, German organist and composer, Samuel Scheidt (1587-1624).  During the difficult early Reformation period, the Netherlands and Germany took different solutions to the use of organ music in the church.  Under the influence of Calvinism, organ music was banned from use during the church service in the Netherlands, but was permitted before and after the service as well as at at other times in musical recitals.  This stands in stark contrast to England which, under similar Calvinist attitudes, ultimately destroyed all of her organs and the situation in Germany where organ music continued uninterrupted as a vital part of liturgical practice.  Although a noted organist and composer in his own right, Sweelinck was perhaps even more profoundly influential as a teacher, particularly of north German students, counting Scheidt, Scheidemann, Seifert and Schildt among his distinguished pupils. Such was his influence in Germany that he was known there as the “maker of organists.” Owing to the peculiarities of practice in the protestant Netherlands, Sweelinck was employed not by the church but by the city magistrates of Amsterdam. This secular employment was perhaps one of the reasons that Sweelinck composed significant amounts of both sacred and secular organ music. It is from his secular compositions for organ that we hear two sections of his “Mein junges Leben hat ein End” (My young life is ending) as our closing voluntary.

My young life is ending, as are also my joy and suffering;

Let my poor soul leave my body quickly.

My life can no longer stand

It is weak and must pass away

and along with it all my suffering. 

The situation was, however, quite different in Lutheran north Germany, where music and the organ continued to be a vital part of liturgical practice.  In this region, one finds a more seamless evolution from music based on Latin chants, such as our Opening-Voluntary Kyrie, to gradually larger numbers of pieces based on vernacular chorale (hymn) tunes, such as the selection at the communion based on the Lutheran chorale, Da Jesus an dem Kreuze stund.

When on the cross the Savior hung.

And that sore load that on Him weighed

With bitter pangs his nature wrung,

Seven words amid his pain He said;

Oh let them well to heart be laid!  – Johann Böschenstein (1472-1540) translation by Catherine Winkworth (1827-1878)

Suggestions for Musical Listening

As you listen today to the selections at the Opening and Closing voluntaries and the music At the Communion, make a mental note of how similar, in many ways, the sounds of these pieces composed for very different purposes, are.  The Kyrie by Scheidt clearly draws inspiration from chant music, but in its imitative form is clearly of a similar style as the early chorale-based piece At the Communion.  Perhaps even more surprising is how “churchy” the secular piece by Sweelinck sounds to our ears.  Just how much “distance” there should exist between music for secular and sacred purposes remains an unanswered, but still oft-debated, question for us today.

Historic Organs – The Early English Organ Project

It is one of the tragedies of the English reformation, that the violence and intolerance of the time led to the ultimate destruction of all organs from the Tudor period.  Although the choral music of this time continues to be performed today, the organ sounds of that time have been largely unknown.  Following two remarkable discoveries of fragments of  Tudor period organs (one in a farmhouse door in Wetheringsett in Suffolk and another at Wingfield Church in Suffolk amongst assorted pieces of lumber in the coffin house of the church yard), the Royal College of Organists in England began The Early English Organ Project.  Working with contemporary organ builders, Martin Goetze and Dominic Gwynn, they have created reconstructions of these organs using the recovered fragments and other documentary materials as models.  A third Tudor-style organ was later created under the direction and sponsorship of Bangor University.  For the first time since the destruction of the organs in the chaos of the English reformation, we can again hear what these organs probably sounded like.

For Additional Listening – La Doune Cella, Harpsichord Version

Bezemer HarpsichordMuch of early English keyboard music was and remains suitable for both organ as well as harpsichord.  On the Fourth Sunday in Lent at St. Mary’s, we heard as the closing voluntary the Anonymous keyboard work, La Doune Cella, from the Mulliner Book of c. 1570 performed on the 1907 Whalley Organ.  Listen here to a harpsichord version of the same piece.  For the purposes of this recording, the repeats from the original are omitted.   This version was performed using  Hauptwerk software, a digital sampling program, on a Martin Bezemer, 1981 harpsichord.

Click this link to listen or right/control click to download : La Doune Cella for Harpsichord

4th Sunday in Lent ~ Lætare – 18 March 2012

Opening Voluntary:  Glorificamus – John Redford (1491-1547)

At the Communion: “Remember not, O Lord” – Thomas Tallis (1505-1585), Transcription from the Mulliner Book (c. 1570)

Concluding Voluntary: La Doune Cella – Anon. from the Mulliner Book (c. 1570)

Our early organ music series this Lent takes us this week to Tudor England.  Spanning the period of the early English reformation and the lives of the British monarchs Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I, this time witnessed great changes in church music, and it must be admitted that the English organ suffered greatly during this chaotic epoch.  Prior to the reformation, there had existed many organs in churches in England.  Most had at least one, and some had two or more organs.  If the church was fortunate enough to have more than one, the main organ was usually located in or near the nave, and the other often was placed in the Lady chapel for use in special services dedicated to the Virgin.  English organs of this period were relatively simpler than their European counterparts.  Most had a single manual, a limited keyboard compass and few stops. None had pedals. Increasingly through the times of the early reformation, the use of organs in worship came to be regarded as superstitious and “popish.” The progressive disuse  of the organ in England culminated in a later wholesale destruction after parliamentary edicts. As a result, no organ from this period survives today, although recent efforts are underway to reconstruct instruments of this time based on texts and surviving fragments.

‘Lord what work was here! What clattering of glasses! What beating down of walls! What tearing up of monuments! What pulling down of seats! What wresting out of irons and brass from the windows! What defacing of arms! What demolishing of curious stonework! What tooting and piping upon organ pipes! And what a hideous triumph in the market-place before all the country, when all the mangled organ pipes, vestments, both copes and surplices, together with the leaden cross which had newly been sawn down from the Green-yard pulpit and the service-books and singing books that could be carried to the fire in the public market-place were heaped together.’ – Bishop Joseph Hall of Norwich, 1643

The opening volunatary today, the Glorificamus by John Redford, continues the pre-reformation, English and continental practice of alternatim organ music in which the voices of the choir alternated with the organ in “singing” phrases of the Mass ordinary and other liturgical music.  This Glorificamus likely was based on the sixth phrase of the Gloria in the Mass, specifically the “We glorify you” (in Latin, Glorificamus te). The second piece in today’s liturgy, played at the communion, is clearly later than the Glorificamus and is an organ transcription of an early reformation, English anthem composed by Thomas Tallis.  This anthem,”Remember not, O Lord,” based on verses 8-10 and 14 of Psalm 79, survives as a vocal piece as well as in this original organ version from the Mulliner Book of c. 1570. It is illustrative of the attempt to create new music for the vernacular English prayerbook liturgy.

Remember not, O Lord God, our old iniquities, but let thy mercy speedily prevent us, for we be very miserable. Help us God our Saviour, and, for the glory of thy name, delver us. Be merciful and forgive our sins, for thy name’s sake. Let not the wicked people say, “Where is their God?” We be thy people, and the sheep of thy pasture. We shall give thanks unto thee for ever. From age to age we shall set forth thy laud and praise. To thee be honor and glory, world without end. Amen. (From Psalm 79, An Anthem by Thomas Tallis)

The concluding voluntary, by an anonymous composer, is an example of secular writing for the keyboard in Tudor England.  The coexistence of secular keyboard music along with the popularity in this period in England of a form of the harpsichord known as the “Virginal” later led to the labeling of this entire “school” of keyboard music as the “English Virginalists.”  This term, however, is no earlier than the 19th century and suggests a misunderstanding of early English music that assumes the harpsichord as the secular counterpart of the organ, which was reserved only for religious use. In actual fact, the organ was used in both secular and religious settings, and the single-keyboard form of this music is well suited to both harpsichord and organ.

For Additional Listening – More Italian Organ Music

Four, 16th Century Italian Organ Selections Played by Kimberly Marshall of ASU

3d Sunday in Lent ~ Oculi mei – 11 Mar 02

Opening Voluntary: Toccata Cromatica per l’Elevazione – Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583-1643)

At the Communion: “O Domine Jesu Christe” – Lodovico Grossi da Viadana (1560-1627)

Closing Voluntary: Suonata Prima – Adriano Banchieri (1568-1634)

In our ongoing Lenten series of exploration of early organ music, our next stop is Italy of the 16th century.  It was in the late 16th century that organ building reached a high level of maturity in the Italian peninsula, and its shape was crystalized into a form that was to remain largely unchanged for the next two centuries. Although the details are too great to review in detail here, one of the features of Italian building was to create organs that were capable of creating very different types of sounds.  The earliest organs throughout Europe were often formed on a principle of Blockwerk (to use the German terminology), in which each note sounded a group of pipes of different type and pitch that could not be changed or altered.  The later introduction of “stops” allowed the organist to “stop” the sound of one or more groups of pipes to vary the tone.  It was in Italy where this practice reached its highest level and it was of the character of Italian organ building that each “stop,” now more properly a “start,” would, when drawn, activate a single set of pipes (known in organ terminology as a “rank’) assigning only one pipe to speak for each note of the keyboard. (Other countries would retain, to a greater or lesser degree the ongoing construction of compound or “mixture” stops activating multiple ranks of pipes of varying pitches in partial imitation of the old Blockwerk.) These stops could be used both individually and in varying combinations at the discretion of the organist. One of the off-shoots of this principle in organ construction in Italy was known as the piffaro stop.  This was a “special effect” set of pipes tuned slightly sharp (or off-key) to others and meant to be used only in combination with another pipe of the same fundamental pitch.  The “off-key” character produced an “undulating” effect that was the precursor of our modern “celeste” stop.  This effect is heard in the opening voluntary today by Frescobaldi.  According to Antegnati (1549-1624), this special effect was intended to be played “adagio (i.e. ‘at ease’) with slow movements and as legato as possible.”

About “O Domine Jesu Christe” by da Viadana

The vocal piece sung at the communion today is by early Baroque, Italian composer Lodovico da Viadana and is from his collection of 1602 published under the title of Cento concerti con il basso continuo. “Basso continuo” known in English as “figured bass” was an early Baroque technique for notation of music that specified the bass line with additional markings to denote the harmonic development or “realization” of the musical piece.  Although da Viadana did not invent the technique, he was the first to publish a large collection of works using this device.  Today, as this skill is no longer a common musical ability, the “realization” is often written out beforehand.  The version we hear performed was “realized” by modern Milanese organist, Gianfranco Spinelli.

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