Monthly Archives: October 2013

23rd Sunday after Pentecost – 27 Oct 13

Georg Friedrich Händel

Georg Friedrich Händel

Opening Voluntary: Fugue in C Major á 3 – Georg Friederic Händel (1685-1759)

Choral Introit: Lætetur cor – Simple English Propers

The Opening Voluntary, the “Fugue in c Major á 3,” comes from a set of six pieces published as a collection attributed to the famous German-English Composer George Friederic Händel, usually known as his “Six Little Fugues.”  As to whether these fugues actually were the genuine works of Händel himself or another composer working in a similar style remains a musicological question to this day. All six of these works are fugal and typically English in style, and all are in 3 voices or “á 3.”

Georg Friederic Händel was born in 1685 in Halle, Duchy of Magdeburg into a family indifferent to music.  Händel’s father, 63 at the age of his birth, was a barber-surgeon.  His father, who intended that his son should study law, when he discovered his son’s strong propensity to music, was so alarmed by this that he strictly forbade him to play any musical instrument.  Flouting his father’s orders, Händel obtained a small clavichord, a stringed keyboard instrument popular for practice in the Baroque era and known for its soft tones, and secreted it in a room at the top of the house.  His first biographer writes that “to this room he constantly stole when his family was asleep.” While still a child, Händel traveled with his father to visit a relative who was serving as a valet in a ducal court.  It is said that Händel was sat down on an organ bench and surprised everyone with his playing abilities. This event was said to have helped the duke and Händel to convince his father to allow him to study music. At that time, he became the student of Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow, organist of the Marienkirche of Halle.

In 1702, Händel commenced study of the law at the University of Halle at his father’s wishes but continued to work as a musician, being first organist for a year at the Cathedral of Halle and then becoming violinist with an opera orchestra in Hamburg.  He produced his first two operas in Hamburg in 1705. He relocated to Italy the following year of 1706 where he composed both operas and sacred music. In 1710, Händel became Kapellmeister to the German prince Georg, the Elector of Hanover who, in 1714, became King George I of Great Britain and Ireland.  Händel settled then in England where he remained for the rest of his life.  Within 15 years, Händel had established three opera companies and over his later career completed more than 40 operas.  In 1737, after a crisis of health, he turned progressively to the composition of English choral works, particularly grand oratorios, the most famous today being “The Messiah” of 1742.  At the time of his death in 1759, Händel was both wealthy and  widely respected. He was given a state funeral with full honors and buried in Westminster Abbey.

 

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22nd Sunday after Pentecost – 20 Oct 13

William Cornish

William Cornish

Choral Music Prelude:Pleasure it is to hear iwis” – Cecil Cope (1909-2003)

Pleasure it is to hear, iwis,* the birdés sing.
The deer in the dale,
The sheep in the vale,
The corn springing.
God’s purveyance** for sustenance it is for man.
Then we always Him give praise;
And thank him than***.
 
* ‘in truth’
** ‘provision’ 
*** ‘then’

 -William Cornish (1465-1523)

Today’s choral music prelude is based on a 16th century poem/song by William Cornish (1465-1523) who was Master of the Chapel Royal under Henry VII and Henry VIII.  He was also responsible for musical and dramatic entertainments at court for important diplomatic events such as the Field of the Cloth of Gold (1520) as well as visits to the court of France and the Holy Roman Empire.  The original song melody is lost, the sole surviving copy being of the text and the bass line printed in Wynkyn de Worde’s, Twenty Songs (Bassus), published in 1530.  The text has been set to music several times in the last century, notably by Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) in his Ceremony of Carols of 1942 as well as John Ireland (1879-1962) in 1938 in his Five XVIth Century Poems. The musical setting offered today by our Schola Cantorum Choir is by Cecil Cope,  a British composer, born in 1909 in Lichfield and died in Forest Row, East Sussex in 2003.


21st Sunday after Pentecost – 13 Oct 13

Percy Dearmer

Percy Dearmer

Choral Music Prelude: “Draw us in the Spirit’s tether” – Harold Friedell (1905-1958)

Draw us in the Spirit’s tether,
For when humbly in thy name,
Two or three are met together,
Thou art in the midst of them;
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Touch we now thy garment’s hem.
 
As the brethren used to gather
In the Name of Christ to sup,
Then with thanks to God the Father
Break the bread and bless the cup,
Alleluia! Alleluia!
So knit thou our friendship up.
 
All our meals and all our living
Make as sacraments of thee,
That by caring, helping, giving,
We may true disciples be.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
We will serve thee faithfully – 

Percy Dearmer, 1867-1936

In place of an organ voluntary today, our Schola Cantorum Choir sings an arrangement of Percy Dearmer’s beautiful poem, “Draw us in the Spirit’s tether.”  Dearmer was an English priest and liturgist and is known in Anglican circles for his work, The Parson’s Handbook as well as his collaboration with Ralph Vaughan Williams in the production of The English Hymnal. Harold Friedell was organist of Calvary and St. Bartholemew’s Episcopal churches in New York City and taught at Union Seminary, the Julliard Shool and the Guilmant Organ School.  The tune for this song, UNION SEMINARY, is one of his best known and beloved works.


St. Francis of Assisi (observed) – 6 Oct 13

francis2

Opening Voluntary: Prelude on Lasst uns erfreuen – George A. Lynn (1915-1989)

Choral IntroitMihi autem absit – Simple English Propers

Today’s opening voluntary is based on the tune (Lasst uns erfreuen) of our offertory hymn today, “All creatures of our God and King” (#400, The Hymnal, 1982), an English translation and adaptation of the original text attributed to St. Francis of Assisi.  St. Francis’ Cantico di fratre sole, laude della creatur, (Canticle of Brother Sun and of All Creatures), often titled “Canticle of the Sun,”  was originally written in the Umbrian dialect of Italian rather than Latin and is believed to be the first genuine religious poem in the Italian language. Whether or not this is precisely true,  it is most certainly a very early example of Italian vernacular religious song known as the Laude Spirituale, that flourished in the early thirteenth century. It is believed to have been written in about 1225-1226 during the last year of life of St. Francis, a period of intense pain and suffering for him. By tradition, the first time that it was sung in its entirety was by Francis along with his religious brothers, Angelo and Leo, two of his original companions,  while St. Francis was on his deathbed. Pious legend also asserts that the final verse to “Sister Death” was composed only moments before.  Although the hymn version by William H. Draper (1855-1933) has become a classic in its own right, it does omit some very characteristic features of the original, most notably the personifications of the natural world as “Brother/Sister” as in Brother Sun, Sister Moon, Brothers Wind and Air, etc.  Draper also makes a particular use of the ambiguity of the Italian word “per” which can mean both “for” and “from” by choosing the latter sense and turning the hymn into a pæan not “for” sun, moon, wind, air, water, death but a song of praise sung “by” these elements of nature.

 The tune, Lasst uns erfreuen, dates to the year 1623 when it was published in a hymnal by Catholic musicians in the city of Cologne.  It was, however, based in part on an even earlier Strassburg melody, first published nearly a century earlier in 1525. Several slight melodic and rhythmic variations are known to exist, and the version we sing today, arguably the most popular one, dates to the English Hymnal  of 1906 and was the work of its musical editor, Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958). The short prelude that we hear today as our opening voluntary is a work of George Alfred Lynn (1915-1989).  Lynn taught at Westminster Choir College and the University of Colorado in Boulder. He was also organist of several churches in Denver and Colorado Springs. Musically, the work is in the form of a trio in which the upper two voices present the melody, slightly varied, in the form of a canon  supported by a simpler pedal line that serves to complement the harmonic progressions created by the interweaving of the canonic melodies.


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