Category Archives: Choir Anthem Notes

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.

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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.


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.


Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost – 1 Sep 13

Pelican

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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