Monthly Archives: January 2014

Music for Additional Listening – L’Orgue Mystique – Charles Tournemire

For those of you who are curious about L’Orgue Mystique which was the inspiration for this Sunday’s voluntary by Charles Gore, here’s a really nice rendition of one of the pieces which was the conclusion of the set of pieces for Ascension Day.  It is performed on an historic Cavaillé-Coll organ of the former Abbey of Saint-Ouen in Rouen, France.


Third Sunday after Epiphany – 26 Jan 14


Opening Voluntary: Psalm 27: “The Lord is my light” – Richard T. Gore (1908-1994)

Our opening voluntary today is a composition by American composer, Richard Taylor Gore, born 25th June, 1908 in Takoma Park, MD and died 15 December 1994 in Wooster, OH.  Gore studied in Berlin, at the Eastman School in Rochester, NY from which he received a doctorate and with famous American organist, Seth Bingham (1882-1972).  He was organist of Cornell University and then taught at Wooster College from 1945 until his retirement in 1974. Dr. Gore was also a Fellow of the American Guild of Organists.

According to Dr. Gore’s own notes, this piece formed one of an original collection of more than 20 similar pieces from which he chose 10 for publication in 1976.  His original inspiration, he wrote, was Charles Tournemire’s (1870-1939) L’Orgue Mystique, a monumental composition of 51 sets of five pieces, each covering the cycle of the liturgical year and each based on the appointed Gregorian chants for the day.  The first piece of Gore’s set to be composed was based on Psalm 70.  Gore wrote in the foreword to the collection, “While on leave in 1975/75 I set about writing organ music based on plainsong melodies for other psalms, trying, as in the case of the 70th, to catch the moods of the poem.  From the more than twenty I wrote that year, I chose the nine most successful and added the 70th to round out the ten.  Instead of adopting the complexities of Tournemire’s musical language, I stayed within the tones that make of the mode of each psalm melody.” He concludes “If these psalm preludes suggest some of the glories of those inexhaustible poems, they will have accomplished their task.”

The piece played today as our voluntary is fourth in the collection and is based on the plainchant melody for the Introit for the 4th Sunday after Pentecost.  We chant a simpler version of selected verses as our Gradual Psalm today at mass.

The Lord is my light and my salvation; 
whom then shall I fear? 
the Lord is the strength of my life;
of whom then shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1 (Prayerbook Psalter, BCP, 1979)




Second Sunday of Christmas (Epiphany Observed) 05 Jan 14


Opening Voluntary: Prelude on “We three kings of orient are” – Carlos Staszeski (b. 1935)

Today’s opening voluntary is based on the American Christmas / Epiphany carol, “We three kings of orient are” found in our Hymnal 1982 as # 128.  Both text and tune of this carol are the work of John Henry Hopkins, Jr. (1820-1891).  Hopkins was born in Pittsburg, PA in 1820 as the son of the Right Reverend John Henry Hopkins, an Episcopal bishop.  He was initially educated at the University of Vermont, where he took both a bachelor’s and master’s degree.  He worked for a time as a journalist and then entered and was graduated from General Theological Seminary, the oldest seminary in the Episcopal Church, in the year 1850.  He served as the seminary’s first teacher of music in the years 1855-1857, and it was during this period that he wrote and composed the carol, “We three kings of orient are,” for a Christmas pageant for his nieces and nephews.  It was not published until six  years later in 1863 in his work, Carols, Hymns and Songs. Hopkins subsequently served as rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Williamsport, PA.  He died in Hudson,  York and was buried next to his father at Bishop’s House, Rock Point, Burlington, Vermont.

The text of “We three kings” recounts the Epiphany story from the Gospel of Matthew of the coming of the Magi.  There is, of course, no mention in the Gospel as to the actual number of the Magi, but from the three-fold gifts that they presented to the Christ child, they have been traditionally pictured as having been three.  This numeration in Western Christianity dates at least as early as the time of the church father, Origen (185-254), although in the Syrian Church there are traditions that suggest that there were was many as twelve.  By the Middle ages, the “three” Magi had even acquired names, and their place in popular piety was enlarged by episodes in mystery plays and a whole genre of what are known as “three kings plays.” Their supposed relics were transferred in 1162 by Frederick Barbarossa from Milan to Cologne Cathedral where they are enshrined to this day in a magnificent silver and bronze gilded and jewel-covered reliquary created by Nicholas of Verdun in 1190.  The shrine was opened in 1864 and found to contain bones and clothing.

The opening voluntary, presenting several variations in harmony and registration on the carol tune, is the work of Carlos Staszeski, born 1935 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He studied in New York City at the Guilmant Organ School and the Manhattan School of Music.  He currently serves as organist and director of music at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Waretown, New Jersey.

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