Monthly Archives: December 2012

4th Sunday in Advent – 23 Dec 12

Nu kom der Heyden heyland in the Erfurt Enchiridion (1524)

Nu kom der Heyden heyland in the Erfurt Enchiridion (1524)

Opening Voluntary: Variations on  on Nun komm der Heiden Heiland – F. W. Zachow (1663-1712)

 At Communion: Veni Emmanuel – Jan Bender (1909-1994)

 Closing Voluntary: Nun komm der Heiden Heiland – Martha Sobaje (1948-)

The opening and closing voluntaries today are both based on the Advent hymn, Nun komm der Heiden Heiland, which we sing in translation as our final hymn today, “Savior of the nations, come!” (#54, The Hymnal 1982). The commentary on the 1982 hymnal writes of this hymn, “This Advent text and tune are probably among the most important and valuable additions to the Hymnal. For years organ choral preludes based on it have been played by musicians in parishes across the country, but the text and tune were not available to congregations of the Episcopal Church until 1982.” (The Hymnal 1982 Companion, p. 54) This is one of Martin Luther’s earliest hymns written just before Advent of the year 1523. In German, the text is a close translation of St. Ambose’s 4th century advent hymn, Veni redemptor gentium.  In addition to translating the Latin text, Luther creatively restructures the plain chant melody into a distinctive German chorale. Together, the text and tune are one of the masterworks of the German chorale tradition.

The opening voluntary is a series of four variations on this tune composed by Baroque German organist, Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow (1663-1712).Zachow was cantor and organist of the Market Church in Halle and was particularly known for his cantata compositions. He was criticized, however, by the community’s pietists for his “excessively long and elaborate” musc that could be appreciated only by “other organists and cantors.” He is chiefly remembered today s the first teacher of music to Georg Frideric Händel (1685-1759).  The closing voluntary selection was composed by Dr. Martha Helen Sobaje, who was born in 1948 in Alameda, California.  She studied at the University of the Pacific and the Eastman School in New York. She currently serves as organist at Phillips Memorial Baptist Church in Cranston, RI and is a teacher at the Community College of Rhode Island.

The short piece at the communion is based on the Advent hymn tune, Veni, veni Emmanuel, which we sing as our communion hymn today (#56, O come, O come Emmanuel). The text of the stanzas is based loosely on the “Great O” antiphons sung with the Magnificat at Vespers from 17-24 December. The melody was for many years of unknown source, but in the 1960s, it was discovered in a 15th century French Processional formerly belonging to Franciscan nuns where it was a troped verse of a funeral responsory.  The setting played as the organ incidental piece was composed by Jan Bender (1909-1994).  Bender was a student of Hugo Distler (1908-1942) and came to the United States in 1960.  He spent most of this time at Wittenberg University until his retirement in 1975 when he returned to Germany where he remained until his death in 1994.

3d Sunday in Advent – 16 Dec 12 – “Gaudete”


Opening Voluntary: Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming – G. Winston Cassler (1906-1990)

At Communion: Pièce en mi mineur– César Franck (1822-1890)

Closing Voluntary: Hark, the Glad Sound! – C. S. Lang (1891-1971)

Gaudete” is the traditional title of the liturgy for the 3d Sunday in Advent (also known as “Rose” Sunday).  Placed at the middle of the formerly penitential liturgical season, the name derives from the introit for this day that begins with “Rejoice (Gaudete) in the Lord always,” This Sunday, along with the mid-Sunday of lent (Laetare), was traditionally a day in which the seasonal fast might be somewhat relaxed.   The music and themes of this day emphasize, therefore,  the joyous anticipation of the Lord’s coming.

The opening voluntary is a Prelude in three sections based on the German carol, Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen, (#81, The Hymnal 1982).  The words of the carol date from as early as the fifteenth century and may derive from an even earlier Greek hymn by Cosmas the Melodist (d.773 or 794), a bishop and hymnographer of the eighth century.  The chorale prelude was composed by G. Winston Cassler (1906-1990).  Cassler studied at Oberlin College and in England under Sir Ernest Bullock.  He was for many years a professor of music at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota.

The brief selection at communion was composed by French organist, César Franck (1822-1890) and published in a group of “Sept Pièces en mi majeur et mi mineur” (Six pieces in E major and minor) in a larger volume “L’Organiste” in 1890. It was scored and registered for the French harmonium.  The harmonium was an instrument invented  and popularized in France in the 19th century. As keyboard instrument, it is most similar to the reed or parlor organs made in this country in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  Producing sound by metal reeds, it was more stable and required less maintenance than the piano or the harpsichord.  Its construction also rendered it more compact and light, making it suitable for shipping by rail.  Franck, although a traditional organist of distinction, wrote a number of pieces for the harmonium

The closing voluntary is based on the tune of our offertory hymn, “Hark the glad sound!” (#72, The Hymnal 1982) to the tune RICHMOND.  The text, composed by Philip Doddridge dates to the year 1735 and was subtitled “Christ’s message from Luke iv. 18.19” which is itself a quotation from Isaiah 61.  The tune RICHMOND was composed by Thomas Haweis (1734-1820) and later adapted and revised by Samuel Webbe (1740-1816).  The organ composition at the close of today’s service was composed by C. S. Lang (1891-1971).  Lang studied with C. V. Stanford (1852-1924) and was director of music at Christ’s Hospital in Sussex from 1929-1945 after which he resigned to devote more time to composition and examination.

Music for Additional Listening – Bereden väg för Herran

Here’s a nice version of Bereden väg för Herran from a 2009 concert at St. Mary’s Church in Helsingborg, Sweden.  It’s in Swedish, of course!


2d Sunday in Advent – 9 Dec 12


Opening Voluntary: Prelude on Freu dich sehr – Alfred Fedak (1953-)

At Communion: Bereden väg för Herran – G. Winston Cassler (1906-1990)

Closing Voluntary: Freu dich sehr – Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706)

The opening and closing voluntaries today are based on the tune of our offertory hymn, “Comfort, comfort ye my people” (#67, The Hymnal 1982). The text was written by Johannes Olearius (1611-1684) and is a meditation on Isaiah 40:1-8.  Olearius was a German Protestant theologian and hymn writer. He began his university studies in theology at Wittenberg University in 1629 and became part of the theology faculty in 1638. Olearius wrote a commentary on the entire bible and was the editor of the Geistliche Singe-Kunst (Leipzig, 1671) one of the largest and most important German hymn books of the 17th century. Comprised of over a thousand hymns, more than three hundred were Olearius’ own works. The tune with which the hymn is paired, known as PSALM 42 or Freu dich sehr, was likely composed by Louis Bourgeois (1510-1560) and first appeared in the Calvinist hymnal, Pseaumes Octantetrois de David first published in Geneva in 1551. In German Lutheran tradition, the melody came to be associated with the text “Freu dich sehr, O meine Seele,” and is, thus, often known by that name. The settings played for the Opening Voluntary are selections from a Partita (a collection of variations on a tune) by American composer and organist, Alfred Victor Fedak (b. 1953). Fedak is a graduate of Hope College and holds a master’s degree in organ performance from Montclair State University in New Jersey.  He is presently the organist at Westminster Presbyterian Church, Capitol Hill, in Albany, NY.  The concluding voluntary on the same tune is a setting by south German, Baroque organist and composer, Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706).

 The short composition at the communion is based on our final hymn for today, “Prepare the way, O Zion” (#65, The Hymnal 1982).  One of the great Advent hymns of the Church of Sweden, this hymn has been in continuous use for more than 200 years in that country. Written by Frans Mikael Franzén (1772-1847), it was first published in a trial collection of hymns in 1812 before its inclusion in the Church of Sweden’s Den Svenska Psalmboken of 1819. Like “Comfort, comfort ye my people,” the hymn is based on the biblical text of Isaiah 40 as well as Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem in Matthew 21. The hymn came to the United States in the Lutheran Service Book and Hymnal of 1958 and made its first appearance in The Episcopal Church in The Hymnal 1982. The tune, Beredem väg för Herran, is by an unknown composer and first appeared in print in the 1697 version of Den Svenska Psalmboken.  The setting at the communion was composed by American organist G. Winston Cassler (1906-1990).  Cassler studied at Oberlin College and was a pupil in England of Sir Ernest Bullock. Cassler was professor of music at St. Olaf’s College in Northfield, Minnesota until his retirement.

Music for Additional Listening – Bach Cantata 140 – “Wachet auf”

If you would like to hear the Bach cantata 140 in its entirety, this is a nice online version on YouTube.  The movement that was transcribed as the Schübler chorale is the Fourth Section: Chorale – Zion hört die Wächter singen (Zion hears the watchmen singing) at 14:39 in this recording

1st Sunday in Advent – 2 Dec 12


Philipp Nicolai

Opening Voluntary: Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme – J. S. Bach (1685-1750)

 At Communion: Wake, Awake – Albert H.  Beck (1894-1962)

 Closing Voluntary: Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme – A. W. Leupold (1868-1940)

Today’s incidental organ music is all based on the great German hymn, Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, which we sing in English translation as our entrance hymn today (“Sleepers wake! A voice astounds us,” # 62, The Hymnal 1982). This classic hymn, sometimes known as “King of Chorales,” was both written and composed by 16th century Lutheran pastor, Philipp Nicolai (1556-1608). The hymn was written during the time of a deadly epidemic that raged in his town of Unna, Westphalia from July of 1597 to January of 1598.  Claiming some 1300 victims in total, the pestilence resulted in as many as 30 burials per day, most of which Nicolai could observe from his home that overlooked the churchyard. In such dark times, it was not surprising that Nicolai’s thoughts turned to death and the contemplation of the “last things.”  Nicolai reported that he was, at this time, most concerned with “the contemplation of the noble, sublime, doctrine of Eternal Life, obtained through the Blood of Christ. This I allowed to dwell in my heart day and night, and searched the Scriptures for what they revealed on this matter.” It is hardly surprising that the full German original is, thus, filled with scriptural illusions (from Isaiah, Ezekiel, The Revelation to John, 1st Corinthians and the Gospel of Matthew). It is most obviously related to the parable of the wise virgins from the Gospel of Matthew as evidenced by Nicolai’s subtitle “Of the Voice at Midnight, and the Wise Virgins who meet their Heavenly Bridegroom.” The text and tune were first published in an appendix to his meditations in the year 1599.  It first appeared in English in the Lyra Davidica of 1708, a hymnal published in London of translations from German and Latin.  It was made popular to English listeners as part of Felix Mendelssohn’s (1809-1847) “St. Paul” oratorio which premiered in English translation in Liverpool in the year 1836.  Although most often sung to the translation by the famous Catherine Winkworth (1827-1878), the editors of The Hymnal 1982, commissioned a new translation by Carl Daw that they felt conveyed more of the vigor of the German original.

The Opening Voluntary is the famous “Schübler” chorale version (BWV 645), Bach’s own transcription of his setting from his Cantata 140, composed originally for the 27th Sunday after Trinity. The name “Schübler” is that of the engraver and publisher of the original 1748 collection. The short version at the communion was published in 1945 and is the original work of 20th century Lutheran musician, Albert H. Beck (1894-1962), a professor at Concordia College in River Forest, IL from 1923 until his retirement.  The closing voluntary is by German organist and composer Anton Wilhelm Leupold, organist at St. Peter’s, Berlin for 40 years until his death in 1940.


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