Whitsunday, The Feast of Pentecost – 19 May 2013

Opening Voluntary:  Prelude on Komm, heiliger Geist, Herre Gott – Dietrich Buxtehude (1637/9 – 1707)

At the Offertory: Prelude on Komm, Gott Schöpfer, heiliger Geist – Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706)

Closing Voluntary: Prelude on Komm, Gott Schöpfer, heiliger Geist – J. S. Bach (1685-1750)

The Opening Voluntary  for today is based on the German Chorale Tune, Komm, heiliger Geist, Herre Gott.  Both the tune for this chorale as well as the text for the first Stanza are by unknown persons.  This hymn, known in English translation as “Come Holy Ghost, God and Lord,” first appeared in 1524 in the Erfurt Gesangbuch, one of the first hymnals of the German reformation and which consisted, in major part, of hymns previously printed as “single sheet” publications known usually in English as “broadsheets.”  The first verse of the chorale is a versification of the antiphon Veni Sancte Spiritus, while the 2d and 3d are compositions of Martin Luther. Of the 26 hymn texts in the publication, 18 were the creation of Martin Luther, either in whole or in part.  This particular chorale was a popular subject for arrangement by German composers.  Today’s version is a chorale prelude in which the melody appears in the highest/treble line in an ornamented form, accompanied by lower imitative voices in manuals and pedals.  It is typical of many other compositions of this type by German composer Dietrich Buxtehude (1637/9 – 1707).   In translation, the first stanza of the hymn reads:

Come, Holy Ghost, God and Lord, with all your graces now outpoured on each believer’s mind and heart; Your fervent love to them impart. Lord, by the brightness of your light, in holy faith your Church unite; from every land and every tongue, this to your praise, O Lord, our God, be sung: Alleluia! Alleluia!

The pieces At the Offertory and The Closing Voluntary are both based on another German chorale, Komm, Gott Schöpfer, heliger Geist, sung today as our Offertory Hymn (#501, The Hymnal 1982). Both the tune and the text of this metrical version derive from the 9th Century Latin plainsong hymn, Veni Creator Spiritus, found in The Hymnal, 1982 as #504, attributed to the 9th century Benedictine monk and later Archbishop of Mainz, Rabanus Maurus (c. 780-856).  In the Latin rite, this hymn has traditionally been appointed for the offices of Terce and Vespers on the feast of Pentecost.  In the post-reformation Anglican liturgy, it appears in the Ordering of Priests and the Consecration of Bishops in the Prayerbook of 1662.  Luther’s metrical version, which we sing today, dates again to 1524 and also was first published in the Erfurt Gesangbuch.  The organ  settings performed today were written as chorale preludes by Johann Pachelbel  (1653-1706) and Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750).  Although based on the very same hymn, they are vastly different treatments of this chorale melody.  The version by Pachelbel sets a mood of quite contemplation, while the version by Bach is one of jubilant celebration.

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About jeffreyshy

Organist at St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Phoenix Arizona. View all posts by jeffreyshy

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