Monthly Archives: March 2013

Maundy Thursday – 28 Mar 13

Flor Peeters

Flor Peeters

Opening Voluntary: Praeludium und Hymne in the Phrygian Mode – Flor Peeters (1903-1986)

Offertory: Chorale Prelude on Pange, lingua, gloriosi – Flor Peeters (1903-1986)

Both tonight’s opening voluntary and the offertory are works of composer Florent Peeters (1903-1986). Peeters 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 as a recitalist, including 10 separate tours through the United States.  Peeters wrote many different types of music, but most was for the organ, for which he composed over 550 works.

The Opening Voluntary, Praeludium und Hymne is from Peeters Opus 90 work of 16 pieces on the “Kirchentonarten” or as we might say, the Gregorian modes. Unlike modern Western music, in which we use relatively few scales (most commonly the major and minor scales), Gregorian music employs 8 different scales, numbered 1-8 and in that order known by the names: Dorian, Hypodorian, Phrygian, Hypophrygian, Lydian, Hypolydian, Mixolydian and Hypomixolydian.  The voluntary this evening is based on the third or Phyrgian mode.  On a modern piano, this scale can be reproduced by playing the ‘white’ notes beginning on “E” and ending at the same note as the octave above.  It is most similar to our modern “natural minor” key and differs from that scale by only one half-step in the second degree. Peeters composed two pieces in this collection for each of the modes, one freely conceived Praeludium and one more rigidly homophonic Hymne.

The organ composition at the offertory is based on the Latin hymn, Pange, lingua, gloriosi found in our Hymnal 1982 as #329 in the English translation, “Now, my tongue, the mystery telling.” The text is attributed to Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) and was first notably translated into English by Edward Caswall (1814-1878) and later emended by others. Although originally a married Anglican Cleric, Caswall came under the influence of John Henry Newman (1801-1890) and later converted to Roman Catholicism. The hymn, Pange, lingua, has been used traditionally during the procession to the altar of repose on Maundy Thursday as well as on the Feast of Corpus Christi. The final two stanzas, beginning with “Therefore we before him bending” or in Latin, Tantum ergo sacramentum, are known for their use in the Rite of Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

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Wednesday in Holy Week – 27 Mar 13

St. Mary's Crucifix

At the Benediction: Chorale Prelude on O Lamm Gottes unschuldig – Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706)

Closing Voluntary: Chorale – O Lamm Gottes unschuldig – Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706)

The incidental music for tonight’s liturgy of Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament is based on the German Chorale O Lamm Gottes unschuldig.  Both text and tune are the work of Nikolaus Decius (1485-1541).  Decius was born in Upper Franconia Bavaria and  studied at the University of Leipzig and obtained a master’s degree at Wittenberg University. He became a monk and, by 1519, Probst of the cloister at Steterburg near Wolfenbüttel. Influenced by the ideas of Martin Luther (1483-1546), he left the cloister in 1522 and went to Brunswick where he was appointed a master in the St. Katherine and Egidien school. In 1523 he was invited to Stettin by the burgesses there to become an evangelical preacher.  He was recognized as the pastor of St. Nicholas church in 1535 and died there suddenly in 1541 of suspected poisoning. Shortly before his death, he wrote the hymn O Lamm Gottes unschuldig, a hymn expanding and paraphrasing the Angus Dei of the Latin mass and adapting an earlier tune from the 13th century. It was first published in the Christliche Kirchen-Ordnung in 1542.

O Lamb of God most holy!

Who on the cross did suffer,

And patient, still and lowly,

Yourself to scorn did offer;

Our sins by You were taken,

Or hope had us forsaken.

Your peace be with us, Jesus. 

The organ setting played this evening is the work of south German organist, Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706).  Pachelbel was born in Nuremburg into a middle class family as the son of a wine dealer. He began his music studies at an early age and by 1673 was living in Vienna where he was deputy organist there at the famous Saint Stephen’s Cathedral. After spending one year in Eisenach in 1677, he moved to Erfurt where he remained for 12 years.  It was during this time that he began composing many of the Chorale Preludes for organ that were to be his most notable contributions to south German music and which comprised fully half of his works for organ.  After brief employ in Stuttgart and Gotha, Pachelbel returned to his native Nuremburg where his fame was such that he was hired without audition and without the position being offered out to other possible candidates.  He died there in 1706 at the age of only 52 years.


5th Sunday in Lent – 17 Mar 13

Johann Crüger

Johann Crüger

Opening Voluntary: Chorale Prelude on Jesu meine Freude – J. G. Walther (1684-1748)

Offertory: “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” – C. S. Lang (1891-1971)

Closing Voluntary: Chorale Prelude on  Jesu meine Freude – J. S. Bach (1685-1750)

Today’s opening and closing voluntaries are both based on the tune for the hymn, “Jesus, all my gladness” (Jesu meine freude) sung as our final hymn today (The Hymnal, 1982 #701).  The text and tune appeared together from the first in Johan Crüger’s Praxis Pietatis Melica, published in Berlin in 1653The tune is Crüger’s own and was paired with the text written by  his personal friend, Johann Franck.  This text, in German original, was six stanzas long and apparently modeled on a love song, popular at the time, by the title “Flora, meine freude,” which appeared more than 10 years earlier in 1641. Franck was born in Guben, Brandenburg in the year 1618.  His father, of the same name, died when he was only 2 years of age, and he was adopted by his uncle, who was the town judge.  In 1638, he became a student of the law at the University of Königsberg, the only German university that was left undisturbed by the 30 years’ war. He returned home only 2 years later at the request of his mother in Guben who wished him near her during the turmoils of war during which Guben was occupied by both Swedish and Saxon troops.  He began his practice of law in 1645 and was successively burgess and councillor, burgomaster and, finally, deputy from Guben to the diet of Lower Lusatia.  Although he published a number of secular poems, he also wrote some 110 hymns, most of whom were published by his friends, who included Johann Crüger, publisher of  his Jesu meine Freude. 

Johann Crüger was born in 1598 at Gross-Bresse, Brandenburg, not far from the town of Guben where his friend Franck was born and lived. After his schooling, he settled in Berlin where, except for a short stay in 1620 at the University of Wittenberg, he remained for the rest of his life.  In 1622 he was appointed cantor of St. Nicholas’ Church in Berlin. Crüger was considered one of the best musicians of his day and composed a number of hymn tunes, although he himself is not known to have written any hymn texts.  Of his many tunes, about 20 remain in common use today, perhaps the most famous of which is that for the hymn, Nun danket alle Gott, usually known in English translation as “Now thank we all our God” (#396, The Hymnal 1982).

Crüger’s tune for Jesu meine Freude was a particular favorite of J. S. Bach (1685-1750) who used it in 4 cantatas, a 5-part motet and as the basis for several organ works.  The version played today as our closing voluntary is from his Orgebüchlein, a collection of some 46 pieces on chorale tunes arranged for the liturgical year.  Most of them were composed during the years 1708-1717 when he was organist of the ducal court in Weimar.  Our opening voluntary today is a chorale prelude on this same tune by Bach’s contemporary, Johann Gottfried Walther (1685-1748)


4th Sunday in Lent – 10 Mar 13 – Lætare

François Couperin

François Couperin

Opening Voluntary: “Elevation” – Tierce en Taille – François Couperin (1668-1733)

Final Voluntary:Deo Gratias” Petit Plein Jeu – François Couperin (1668-1733)

Both of today’s incidental organ works are compositions of the French Classical Period master composer, François Couperin (1668-1733) known often by his title of “Couperin Le Grand” or “the great Couperin” in order to distinguish him from other composers and organists of this French musical dynasty. Couperin was born in Paris on 10th November, 1688 and was taught initially by his father Charles until his death and then later by Jacques Thomelin, who was organist to Louis XIV. At the age of only 17 years, Couperin followed his father as organist of the great Paris church of St. Gervais.  He succeeded his teacher, Thomelin, in 1695 as the titular organist of the Chapelle Royale at the palace of Versailles and was styled “organiste du Roi” (organist to the King) by appointment of Louis XIV.

Although Couperin composed many pieces for voices, harpsichord and various instruments, only one of his organ compositions survives – his two-part masterwork of the organ masses, respectively titled “for the Parishes” and “for the Convents.”  These works were composed by Couperin when he was quite young, and he was granted a license  from Louis XIV to publish them in about 1690, when only 21 years of age.   Both works are in a style, popular at the time, known as “alternatim” organ masses in which lines of plainchants of the mass were sung in “alternation” with solo organ music.  There were, as well, pieces such as “offertories” and “elevations” set as musical accompaniments to their respective liturgical actions.

Both our opening and closing voluntaries are from the “Mass for the Convents” intended for use in convents and abbeys.  Although the “Mass for the Parishes” is clearly based on the Gregorian plainchant mass, Cunctipotens genitor Deus, the mass for the Convents is based on no recognizable plainchant melody.  Speculatively, it is believed that it was written in this manner as each religious institution typically maintained its own, non-standard collection of chant music.

Following typical French practice, each organ piece is subtitled with a notation that indicates the intended registration (selection of stops) to be used (and which we must, understandably, adapt for our non-French style organ).  These “standardized” registrations were also typically associated with a particular style or texture of musical composition such that the “Tierce on Taille” for example, has the melody in a clear solo registration in the tenor line and is typically played rather slowly and is also greatly ornamented and embellished.  Such pieces made extensive use of the French practice of “notes inégales” in which the performer varies the written note lengths/rhythms according to musical taste and established convention to create an individualistic and more expressive musical performance.  The closing voluntary is designated a “Petit Plein Jeu,”  essentially a small, “full organ” registration.


Third Sunday in Lent – 3 Mar 13

Sir Edward Elgar

Sir Edward Elgar

Opening Voluntary: Andantino in F Major – Edward Elgar (1857-1934)

Offertory: Offertory on TOPLADY – Albert Beck (1894-1962)

Final Voluntary: Lenten Benediction- Earl Hazelle (1906-1993)

Although popularly remembered today for the graduation favorite, Pomp and Circumstance, Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934) also worked as an organist and was a composer of several pieces for the instrument.  At the age of 15, he accompanied mass at St. George’s Catholic Church in Worcester.  His father was himself organist there from 1848-1885, and Edward succeeded him there for a period of about three years.  It is not clear, however, that Edward found the position and the job much to his liking, writing in a private letter, “I am a fully fledged organist now… and I hate it.”  Today’s opening voluntary comes from his Opus 14 collection of Vesper Voluntaries likely composed during his period as a Catholic organist at St. George’s and published as volume 5 in a series with several other composers in 1891. Other than his Sonata in G, Opus 28, of 1895, and a few fragments of fugues, the “Vesper Voluntaries” are his only original works for organ, although many of his later works (including Pomp and Circumstance) have been transcribed. According to John Henderson, the editor of A Directory of Composers for Organ,  the music of the Vesper Voluntaries is “not profound, but there is, in both melody and harmony, a hint of the Elgar to come.” Although undoubtedly a great figure in 19th century and early 20th century English music, Elgar had little formal musical education and attended no great colleges or conservatories. All of his degrees were honorary, and he was largely self-taught.

The short setting at the collection of the alms is a composition of Albert Beck (1894-1962).  He was born in Baltimore, ND in 1894 and died in Chicago, IL in 1962.  Beck studied at Concordia Teacher’s College in River Forest, Illinois, and served  subsequently as professor there from 1923 on.  This setting  of the hymn tune TOPLADY, sung today as our communion hymn (#685, “Rock of ages”), is from his only published organ works, 76 Offertories on Hymns and Chorales, containing a hymn or chorale setting for each Sunday of the liturgical year along with additional composition for several non-Sunday feasts and special occasions.

The final voluntary was composed by Earl Hazelle (1906-1993).  Earl Hazelle was a Navy veteran of World War II and lived most of his post-war life in and around Portland, Oregon.  He published several collections of organ music for seasons of the church year.  Today’s “Lenten Benediction” is the concluding number from his Sacred Selections for Lent and Easter published in 1963.  In addition to his compositions for organ and piano, Mr. Hazelle was apparently an oil painter of some note in Oregon, having studied art at Olivet College in Michigan.  Along with his wife Mary, who was also an organist, Hazelle gave several exhibitions of his works in which his wife played organ music inspired by his paintings.  He also published a method for learning to play the accordion and operated a music studio in Portland for many years.


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