Monthly Archives: January 2013

3d Sunday after Epiphany – 27 Jan 13

King's Chapel, Boston

King’s Chapel, Boston

Opening Voluntary: “Introductory Voluntary” – Francis Linley (1771-1800)

At Communion: “Voluntary” – Thomas Loud (1792-1886)

Closing Voluntary: “A Fuge or Voluntary” – William Selby (1738-1797)

All of today’s incidental music is counted as being of “Early American” origin, although all of the composers were of English birth. Musically, they all shared a common heritage and produced highly conventional and similar compositions for organ. It would not be until significantly later, in the mid and mostly late 19th centuries, that organ building and composition would take on a unique character in the United States.  In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, however, much of American organ music in the English speaking parts of the colonies and the United States was indistinguishable from that of its English parent.

The Opening Voluntary is a composition by Francis Linley (1771-1800).  Linley, blind from birth, married a wealthy and also blind woman and was able to set up a music publishing business.  After his wife deserted him and his business failed, he came to Philadelphia in 1796.  He stayed in the United States for only 3 years before returning to England in 1799 where he died only one year later.

The short piece at The Communion was composed by Thomas Loud.  Son of an English piano maker, Loud came to Philadelphia in 1812 where he worked as an organist, pianist and piano-maker. In 1824, he and two of his brothers founded the Loud piano company. The piece played today is from a book published by “Loud’s Piano Forte and Music Store “in Philadelphia in 1841.  This book had the rather grand title of The organ study, being an introduction to the practice of the organ: together with a collection of voluntaries, preludes and interludes, original and selected, a model of a church service, explanation of the stops and their combinations, studies for the instrument and examples of modulation intended to aid the extempore student: accompanied by an engraving and description of the mechanical construction of the organ.

The Closing Voluntary is by William Selby (1738-1797). Selby was a native of England and emigrated to Newport, R.I. in 1774.  In 1776 or 1777 he came to Boston as organist of King’s Chapel, but, during the revolution, when King’s Chapel was closed and unused, Selby was forced to become a storekeeper. In 1783, he returned to his duties at King’s Chapel and became active as an impresario and teacher as well. He produced one of the first sacred concerts ever to be given in Boston, with a program of vocal , choral and instrumental works by Bach, Händel and, of course, himself.

2d Sunday after Epiphany – 20 Jan 13

The Hymnal 1982

Opening Voluntary: Liebster Jesu, wir sind Hier – J. G. Walther (1684-1748)

 At Communion: Liebster Jesu, wir sind Hier – J. G. Walther (1684-1748)

Closing Voluntary: Erhalt uns, Her, bei deinem Wort – A. W. Leupold (1868-1940)

The Hymnal as Poetry Anthology

It is probably safe to say that there are nearly no Episcopalians or Anglicans who do not have in their homes a copy of the Scriptures, and most also possess a copy of the Book of Common Prayer.  It is likely. however, that a large number do not personally own a copy of the Hymnal 1982. Perceived as a book intended for corporate worship in the church, it is assumed that it has no meaningful place in our personal and devotional lives at home.  This belief, however, is one that probably merits a reexamination.  What is often missed by those who do not read music or play an instrument, is the fact that the large majority of so-called hymns did not start their existence as primarily songs  but as religious poetry.  In hymnals in the U.S. , it is our custom that the words of hymns are usually “interlined,” meaning that they are placed between the upper and lower staves of music . While this may render a text easier to sing, it results, to a degree, in a loss of the understanding that hymn texts are poetry in their own right.  Anyone who has had a chance to visit the U.K. or to use English/British hymnals, will see that they are usually produced in a manner such that the hymn tune occupies a place of its own at the top of the page, and the hymn text is presented separately below, intentionally emphasizing the integrity of the text as an independent literary work.

Hymnal 1982 contributor and well-known church musician, Alec Wyton, once wryly commented that, “Episcopalians would sing any heresy to a good tune.” Assembling a collection of good tunes was not, however, the only motivation of the compilers of the Hymnal 1982. Among the stated objectives of the Standing Commission on Church Music was “to prepare a body of texts which presents the Christian faith with clarity and integrity.”  The preface to the Hymnal 1982 reads that “the Commission looked for theological orthodoxy, poetic beauty, and integrity of meaning.” Critics of our authorized hymnal sometimes disparage it as a collection of outdated 17th century words and music, but a survey of the index of “Authors, Translators and Sources” (see p. 936), quickly dispels that myth.  In fact, some of the greatest Christian poets from antiquity to the 20th century are represented in one or sometimes several works, and this excludes works drawn from scriptural sources that date to antiquity.

There is no doubt that prayer and the regular reading of Scripture are foundational for our devotional lives. In a time when “resolutions” for the new year are high in our thoughts, I invite you to consider obtaining and using a Hymnal 1982 in your regular devotional practice. There are a number of indices and groupings within the cover of the hymnal to help you in selection, or simply consider “leafing” through and letting a text catch your eye. Try to disregard for the moment the music, and read the text slowly and thoughtfully as poetry or prayer.  You may be surprised at how meaningful this practice can become.

Music for Additional Listening – Grand Solemn March by Henry Smart

The Grand Solemn March in Eb was one of the most popular of Henry Smart‘s organ compositions in his day and was frequently performed at recitals through the end of the 19th century.  This masterfully-performed version is actually played on a fully digital organ using the software Hauptwerk.  The sample sounds employed are from the 1892 Willis organ of Hereford Cathedral in Great Britain.

Baptism of the Lord – 13 Jan 13


Opening Voluntary: Voluntary in G – Henry Smart (1813-1879)

 At Communion: Chorale Prelude on Erhalt uns, Herr– J. G. Walther (1684-1748)

 Closing Voluntary: Intrada in E Major Charles W. Ore (b. 1936)

Today’s opening voluntary is a work by Victorian-era, organist and composer, Henry Thomas Smart. Smart served as organist at several prominent London parishes including St. Philip’s, Regent street, St. Luke’s, Old Street, and lastly at St. Pancras for 14 years until his death.  Plagued by problems with his vision that began in early life, Smart was totally blind by the age of fifty-two. His improvisatory skills allowed him to continue performing, however, in spite of his disability. He was particularly noted for his use of the pedals, which was said to be more inventive than other British organists of the period. Although Smart’s music was extremely popular in his own time, and his organ compositions figured prominently in recitals through the end of the 19th century, changing musical tastes would later denigrate much of his work, such that a 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica article described his organ compositions as “effective and melodious, if not strikingly original.”  Sadly, Smart’s works are now little remembered apart from his hymn tunes which include REGENT SQUARE, frequently paired with the Christmas carol text, “Angels from the realms of glory” (#93, The Hymnal 1982) and LANCASHIRE, usually sung with the text “Lead on, O King eternal” (#555, Ibid.).

The prelude at the communion is based on the German chorale tune, Erhalt uns, Herr (sung as our closing hymn, #132, The Hymnal, 1982)  and is a work of renowned German organist,  Johann Gottfried Walther (1684-1748). Although less well known today than his famous cousin and contemporary, J. S. Bach (1685-1750), he was highly regarded in his own time and served as court organist at Weimar.  Although not all survive today, he recorded in his autobiography that he had composed over 200 works based on chorale melodies.

The closing voluntary is a work of the contemporary organist, Charles William Ore (b. 1936).  Ore studied at Northwestern University in Illinois and the University of Nebraska.  He was professor of music and chair of the department of music at Concordia University in River Forest, Illinois from 1966 to 2001.  This free composition was published in 1981 as part of a larger collection of “Fanfares and Intradas.”  Today’s work in the key of E major is designated as a composition “for an occasion of some magnitude.”

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