Opening Voluntary: Prelude on DOWN AMPNEY – Chester Alwes (1947-)
Today’s opening voluntary is based on DOWN AMPNEY, tune to the much-loved hymn, “Come Down, O Love Divine” which we sing today as our offertory hymn (#516, The Hymnal 1982). The text of the hymn is a translation of writing by Bianco da Siena (d. 1434). Other than that he was a member of the short-lived Order of Jesuates (an order of unordained men following the Augustininan rule) and the place and year of his death, little else is known of this Italian writer. A collection of his poems, some 92 in all, were published for the first time in 1851 in Italy. Four of these were later translated by Richard Frederick Littledale (1833-1890). Littledale was an Irish-born cleric of the Church of England. with many others of the 19th century, he participated in the revival of catholic ideas and content in the English church and was, in a sense, one of the fathers of Anglo-Catholicism. Musically, he was the creator of The People’s Hymnal (London, 1867), prepared for Anglicans who felt, as he did, that they might benefit from many traditional Catholic teachings and practices without leaving their own church. Unaccountably, The Hymnal, 1982 omitted the third stanza of the hymn, but we include it here for your consideration:
Let holy charity
Mine outward vesture be,
And lowliness become mine inner clothing;
True lowliness of heart,
Which takes the humbler part,
And o’er its own shortcomings weeps with loathing.
The tune DOWN AMPNEY was composed to be used with this text by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) and was published for the first time in The English Hymnal (1906) for which he shared authorship with Percy Dearmer (1867-1936). Although The English Hymnal had this tune anonymously, it is now known as Vaughan Williams’ work and is appropriately named DOWN AMPNEY after the town of the composer’s birth. It is rightly considered a masterpiece of English hymnody. Chester Alwes, composer of the voluntary, was born in 1947 in Louisville, KY and studied at Union Theological Seminary in NY. He later studied and taught at the University of Illinois and is the author of A History of Western Choral Music published by Oxford University Press in 2011.
Opening Voluntary: Prelude on Jesu, nostra redemptio– Flor Peeters (1903-1986)
Closing Voluntary: Intrada in G major – Charles W. Ore (b. 1936)
Today’s opening voluntary is a chorale prelude on the Latin hymn, Jesu, nostra redemptio, “Jesus, our redemption.” Both the text and the melody are anonymous. Although the earliest manuscript versions of this Ascensiontide hymn are from the Eleventh century, hymnologists believe that it dates back to probably the 8th century.
Jesu, our hope, our heart’s desire,
Thy work of grace we sing;
Redeemer of the world art Thou,
Its maker and its king.
How vast the mercy and the love,
Which laid our sins on Thee,
And led Thee to a cruel death,
To set Thy people free!
But now the bonds of death are burst;
The ransom has been paid;
And Thou art on Thy Father’s throne,
In glorious robes arrayed.
O may Thy mighty love prevail
Our sinful souls to spare!
O may we stand around Thy throne,
And see Thy glory there!
Jesu, our only joy be Thou,
As Thou our prize wilt be;
In Thee be all our glory now
And through eternity.
All praise to Thee who art gone up
Triumphantly to Heav’n;
All praise to God the Father’s name
And Holy Ghost be given.
The chorale prelude is the composition of Florent Peeters (1903-1986) who 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 and internationally as a recitalist, including 10 separate tours through the United States. Peeters wrote extensively in many fields, but mostly for the organ, for which he composed over 550 works.
The setting played as our opening voluntary treats the melody in an “alternating” manner with the upper manual playing a gentle free variation of the tune interspersed with sections on the lower (great) manual which quote the tune literally but with a dense chromatic harmonization.
The closing voluntary is a short fanfare composed by American organist, Charles W. Ore. Ore was born 18th December 1936 in Winfield, Kansas. He studied at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois and at the University of Nebraska. He was professor and chair of the Department of Music at Concordia College in Seward, Nebraska from 1966 to 2001. He currently serves as organist of First Presbyterian Church in Lincoln, Nebraska. Today’s composition is one of 8 similar pieces published as a collection by Augsburg Publishing House in 1981.