Monthly Archives: September 2013

Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost – 22 Sep 13

Domenico Zipoli

Domenico Zipoli

Opening Voluntary: Three Verses – Domenico Zipoli (1688-1726)

Choral Introit: Salus populi – Translated and transcribed from the  Gregorian Graduale Simplex

Today’s opening voluntary presents three sections of a larger Sonata for organ and harpsichord composed by Italian-born and later South American, Baroque composer, Domenico Zipoli (1688-1726). Zipoli was born in Prato, Italy and studied under several notable Italian composers of his day, including Alessandro Scarlatti in Naples and Bernardo Pasquini in Rome. In the year 1715, he was appointed the organist of the great Church of the Gesù in Rome, the mother church for The Society of Jesus, known most commonly as the Jesuits. In the following year, he travelled to Sevilla, Spain where he formally entered the Jesuit order as a novice on 1 July 1716.  A year later, in July 1717, he left with a group of 53 missionaries for service in  the Reductions of Paraguay in Spanish Colonial America.  The Reductions were settlements for indigenous peoples created by the Jesuits in Latin America in the 17th and 18th centuries for the purposes of evangelization, government and taxation of the indigenous peoples. These settlements were located primarily in a region that roughly corresponds to modern Paraguay and were mostly populated by the Tupi-Guarani peoples, although some later settlements were established in areas now in Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia.  A fragment of the controversial history of these communities was dramatized in the popular 1986 film, The Mission, which narrates some of the events of the events following the Treaty of Madrid of 1750 in which Spain ceded portions of Paraguay, including a number of the mission Reductions, to Portugal and which culminated in the Guarani war of 1754-1756. In 1767, the Jesuits were expelled from the Spanish Realm including holdings South America and the mission towns of California, Sonora and Arizona, where they were largely replaced by missionaries of the Franciscan order.

 Zipoli studied at the Jesuit seminary in the Americas in Córdoba, in what is now Argentina, from 1717-1724 in preparation for the priesthood, but sadly, due to the lack of an available bishop, he was never ordained.  All through those years, he served as musical director for the local Jesuit church until his death from an unknown infectious disease in 1726. The work performed this morning as our opening voluntary dates to the year 1716 and was composed most likely in Italy just prior to his departure for the Spain and the Americas.  Today, it is his European music for which he is most remembered and which forms the larger portion of his surviving works, it having been assumed that his later works in Colonial America had been irretrievably lost.  Recently, however, some of his church music was rediscovered in Chiquitos, Bolivia including two full masses, two psalm settings, several office hymns, a Te Deum and several other pieces.

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost – 15 Sep 13

Lorenzo Perosi

Lorenzo Perosi

Opening Voluntary: Chorale Prelude on Herr Gott, dic loben alle wir (OLD HUNDREDTH) – Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706

Motet at the Gospel: Laudate Dominum – Lorenzo Perosi (1872-1956)

Today’s opening voluntary is based on the tune of our final hymn (#377 “All people that on earth do dwell ”), OLD HUNDREDTH. Although one of the most famous traditional hymn tunes, the author, often given as Louis Bourgeois (1510-1560), is actually unknown.  The tune first appears in Théodore Beza’s Pseumes octante trois de David, published in Geneva in 1551. In that hymnal, it was paired with a metrical version of psalm 134, but it was later, in English psalters, combined with Psalm 100 which gave it its hymn tune name. It is difficult now, given the extreme familiarity of the tune, to understand aesthetically how it came to be so popular for English, Scottish and later American churchgoers, but this tune somehow combined qualities that embedded it deeply in the hearts of our ancestors in the faith.  The popularity of the tune saw it translated also into the German chorale tradition in the form of an entirely different hymn, Herr Gott, dic loben alle wir  (Lord God, we all praise you), which by the content of the first line might seem similar to the English text but is, in actuality, a hymn of praise for the holy angels that has often been used for the feast of Michaelmas.  The version at the opening voluntary today is the composition of south German Baroque organ master, Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706). Compositionally, it is a work in three voices.  In the upper voices, the opening phrase of the tune is taken as a fugal subject, beginning in the lower of the two lines.  It is followed by the same subject taken at a superior interval of a fifth and continues alternating themes in an ornamental fashion on the further subjects of the tune.  The plain cantus firmus (or melody) in ½ tempo is assigned to the pedal base line.

Following the reading of today’s Gospel lesson, the Schola Cantorum choir sings Lorenzo Perosi’s (1872-1956) motet, Laudate Dominum omnes gentes. An accompanied work in two equal voices, this work presents the Latin text of Psalm 117 with a concluding Gloria Patri.  As a Latin psalm, it derives from the Vulgate tradition of using as a base text the Septuagint (Greek) translation of the Old Testament and thus differs somewhat from our prayerbook and biblical psalters which are translations of the Hebrew originals. Perosi was an Italian composer of sacred music and personal friend of Cardinal Guiseppe Sarto who secured his appointment as director of the Sistine Choir.  Five years later, Sarto was elected Pope Pius X and continued his patronage of Perosi. Shortly after his coronation, Pius X published a Motu Proprio Tra le sollecitudini of which Perosi was a co-writer. This 1903 document directed the immediate re-instatement of Gregorian chant in Roman Catholic churches worldwide.  Although his actual directorship was interrupted at times for health reasons, Perosi continued his position as Perpetual Director of the Sistine choir until his death, over 50 years later.

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost – 8 Sep 13

Walter Chalmers Smith

Walter Chalmers Smith

Opening Voluntary: Meditation – Gerhardt Krapf (1924-2008)

Choral Introit: Iustus es Domine – H. Alexander Matthews (1879-1973)

Hymn Spotlight – “Immortal, invisible, God only wise”


In the fortuitous pairing of the text by Walter Chalmers Smith (1824-1908) with the tune, ST. DENIO, a Welsh song of uncertain origin, we find one of those lasting and inspired matchings that sprang from the musical genius of the great English composer and hymnologist, Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) and his collaborator the Reverend Percy Dearmer (1867-1936).  Indeed,  it is not at all an overstatement to assert that their collaborative work in the preparation of The English Hymnal (1906), has left the Anglican and Episcopal churches of the later 20th and 21st centuries in their perpetual debt.

Although time constraints allow us to sing only a selection of the stanzas of this great hymn (as our entrance hymn, #423, today), the entire text and tune are worthy of more extended study. Musically, the tune is of uncertain origin, although it first appeared in  Welsh hymnal Caniadau y Cysseger in the year 1839. It is felt, most likely, to have had its origins in the folk ballad and carol traditions of Welsh music.

The text is adapted from an original hymn written by Walter Chalmers Smith, a hymnist, poet and minister of the Free Church of Scotland. Although originally published in 1867, it is the edited version prepared by the Reverend Percy Dearmer for The English Hymnal for which Smith is chiefly remembered.  Dearmer selected the first three stanzas of Smith’s text and paired them with the first two lines of the original fifth and six stanzas to create the standard hymn known today.  Taking as his inspiration a doxology from the pseudo-Pauline letter of 1 Timothy, “To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever,” Smith creates a hymn of strong praise to God who creates and sustains the lives of all his creatures. The text focuses on the creator of the universe whose visible works in nature testify to his majesty and glory and juxtaposes this with the nearly-apophatic notion of God’s invisible and unknowable essence hidden by the divine light which blinds the senses of mortal beings.  To Smith, however, this “hiddenness” of God was not the final word on the subject, as is evidenced by the now-omitted, concluding lines from his original 5th and 6th stanzas:

“But of all thy good graces this grace, Lord, impart –

Take the veil from our faces, the veil from our heart…

And now let thy glory to our gaze unroll;

Through Christ in the story, and Christ in the soul.”

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost – 1 Sep 13


Opening Voluntary: Largo – Padre Damiano (1851-1901)

Choral anthem at the communion: Adoro te devote – St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)

At communion today, the Schola Cantorum Choir will sing selected verses from the Gregorian eucharistic hymn, Adoro te devote. An English translation of four stanzas of the hymn appears in our Hymnal 1982 as #314, “Humbly I adore thee, Verity unseen.” Although traditionally attributed to the great Doctor of the Church, St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), it is uncertain as to whether he is the hymn’s actual author.  It is known that St. Thomas did compose Eucharistic office hymns on a special commission from Pope Urban IV following Urban’s institution of the Feast of Corpus Christi in the year 1264. Three of the earliest sources of the poem, dating to the fourteenth century, do contain the attribution to St. Thomas, and no other alternate attribution from earlier sources is known, so the choice is between St. Thomas and an unknown author. The text of the hymn is a personal meditation on the Eucharistic elements.  Of particular interest is the text of the penultimate stanza:

Pie pellicane, Jesu domine

me immundum munda tuo sanguine

cuius una stilla salvum facere

totum mundum posset omni scelere. 


Lord Jesus, Good pelican

Wash me clean with your blood-

One drop of which can free

The entire world of all its sins.


The description of Jesus as a “Good pelican” relates to medieval legendaries of which several versions exist.  According to one form, the pelican is able to revive her dead children with her blood.  In another version, the pelican feeds her own blood to her children when food becomes scarce. The comparison with Christ is found in multiple medieval sources, and the image has been employed in iconography as well.

The earliest source for the melody of the hymn dates to a Parisian Processional of 1697 where it is set to a different hymn text, Adoro te supplex As a plainsong hymn melody, its use of the flatted seventh and melodic construction suggest that it is a relatively later composition than most other Gregorian hymn melodies.

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