Category Archives: Feast Day Music Notes

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.

Sunday in the Octave of All Saints’ Day – 03 Nov 13

Heavenly Jerusalem

Organ Voluntary: Chorale Prelude on Cælestis Urbs Jerusalem – Flor Peeters (1913-1986)

Cælestis urbs Jerusalem,
Beata pacis visio,
Quæ celsa de viventibus
Saxis ad astra toleris,
Sponsæque ritu cingeris
Mille angelorum milibus
Thou heavenly, new Jerusalem,
Vision of peace in prophet’s dream!
With living stones built up on high,
And rising to yon starry sky;
In bridal pomp thy form is crowned,
Yea, with thousand, thousand angels round! 
 Urbs beata Jerusalem
dicta pacis visio
Quæ construir in cælis
vivis ex lapidibus
Et angelis coronata
ut sponsata comite.
Blessed city of Jerusalem,
called “vision of peace,”
Built in heaven
out of living stone
And crowned by the angels
like a bride for her consort. 

Today’s organ voluntary is a chorale prelude based on the melody of the Gregorian hymn, “Cælestis Urbs Jerusalem.”  The original text is anonymous and may date from as early as the 6th century of the Christian era. Originally, the text (see above) was “Urbs beata Jerusalem,” but was altered under Pope Urban VIII (1568-1644) by a group of correctors.  In its original form (see above), it was later translated and adapted by hymn writer and Anglican priest, John Mason Neale (1818-1866) and appears in The Hymnal 1982 as #519, “Blessed city, heavenly Salem.” The composer of the voluntary was Flor Peeters (1913-1986), a renowned Belgian composer and teacher of organ music.

2d Sunday after Pentecost – Feast of Corpus Christi (Observed) – 2 Jun 13

Opening Voluntary: 4 Movements from a Partita on “Adoro Te Devote” – Flor Peeters (1903-1986)

 At the Offertory: Adagio on “Adoro Te Devote” – Flor Peeters

 Closing Voluntary: Andante Maestoso on “Adoro Te Devote” – Flor Peeters

A chorale partita composed by Belgian organist, Flor Peeters (1903-1986), on the Gregorian hymn, Adoro Te Devote, is the basis for all of the incidental organ music for this Sunday.  This composition, the first in his Opus 76, comes from one of three separate collections of Chorale Preludes on Gregorian Tunes, each consisting of 10 such works.  The Partita on Adoro Te Devote is from 1955 and was dedicated to his friend, Albert De Klerk, organist in Haarlem, Netherlands. Each of its six sections is an independent variation on the hymn tune.  For the Opening Voluntary we will hear four of the sections, nos. 1-3 and 5.  At the Offertory we will hear the brief, no. 4, and for the Closing Voluntary, no. 6. All prominently feature the hymntune melody which we sing as our first hymn during Benediction today as #314 from The Hymnal, 1982.

Florent Peeters (1903-1986) 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 as a recitalist, including 10 separate tours through the United States. Peeters wrote widely in many fields, but mostly for the organ, for which he composed over 550 works.

The Gregorian hymn, Adoro Te Devote, is a Eucharistic hymn attributed to St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1275).  Honored as one of the 33 Doctors of the Church, St. Thomas is known best for his Summa Theologica, an unfinished but still monumental work written as a compendium of the theology of the Western Church.  Although commonly attributed to St. Thomas, the hymn Adoro Te Devote is not conclusively known to be his work, although he is believed to have composed other Eucharistic hymns for the daily office on a commission from Pope Urban IV following the latter’s institution of the Feast of Corpus Christi in the year 1264.

The Latin Hymn, Adoro Te Devote, is in seven stanzas, although only four are included in the translation published in The Hymnal, 1982.  The sixth stanza is of particular interest, as it contains the metaphorical characterization of Jesus as the “Pie Pelicane” or merciful pelican based on the pious ancient belief that the mother pelican would feed her chicks with blood that she obtained by wounding her own breast, a legendary with obvious eucharistic overtones.

Prostrate I adore Thee, Deity unseen,
Who Thy glory hidest ‘neath these shadows mean;
Lo, to Thee surrendered, my whole heart is bowed,
Tranced as it beholds Thee, shrined within the cloud.
Taste, and touch, and vision, to discern Thee fail;
Faith, that comes by hearing, pierces through the veil.
I believe whate’er the Son of God hath told;
What the Truth hath spoken, that for truth I hold.
On the Cross lay hidden but thy Deity,
Here is hidden also Thy Humanity:
But in both believing and confessing, Lord,
Ask I what the dying thief of Thee implored.
Thy dread wounds, like Thomas, though I cannot see,
His be my confession, Lord and God, of Thee,
Make my faith unfeigned ever-more increase,
Give me hope unfading, love that cannot cease.
O memorial wondrous of the Lord’s own death;
Living Bread, that giveth all Thy creatures breath,
Grant my spirit ever by Thy life may live,
To my taste Thy sweetness never-failing give.
Pelican of mercy, Jesu, Lord and God,
Cleanse me, wretched sinner, in Thy Precious Blood:
Blood where one drop for human-kind outpoured
Might from all transgression have the world restored.
Jesu, whom now veiled, I by faith descry,
What my soul doth thirst for, do not, Lord, deny,
That thy face unveiled, I at last may see,
With the blissful vision blest, my God, of Thee. Amen

Trinity Sunday – 26 May 13

Opening Voluntary: Fantasy on the Hymn Tune NICAEA – Piet Post (1919-1979)

At the Communion: Prelude on Kyrie, Gott Vater in Ewigkeit, BWV 672 – J. S. Bach (1685-1750)

Concluding Voluntary: Memorial Day Tribute – Traditional

Our Opening Voluntary today is a modern composition based on the Hymn tune NICAEA, (sung today as our Offertory Hymn,  “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God, Almighty!” #362, The Hymnal, 1982) by contemporary Dutch composer, Piet Post (1919-1979).  Piet Post studied with A. van der Horst in Amsterdam and with Hendrik Andriessen and Jan Zwart.  He was the organist from 1949 to 1979 of the Jacobijnerkerk in Leeuwarden.  The piece is an extended one and consists of a declamatory “Introduction and Hymn” followed by four variations and then concludes with a “Finale and Hymn.”

The piece At the Offertory is a brief chorale prelude on the German hymn, Kyrie, Gott Vater in Ewigkeit, BWV 672by J. S. Bach. The German hymn is derived from a 12th century Latin original based upon the Gregorian Kyrie fons bonitatis, and is by an unknown author and composer. In format, it mimics a “troped” Kyrie from the Mass with each stanza beginning with the word “Kyrie” followed by a short vernacular verse in German and then concluding with the word “Eleison.” The three stanzas together form a Trinitarian invocation addressed to “God, Father in heaven above,” “O Christ our King,” and “O God the Holy Ghost.”

Memorial Day is a United States holiday observed every year on the final Monday of May. Formerly known as Decoration Day, it originally was intended to commemorate the the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War. By the 20th century, Memorial Day had been extended to honor all Americans who have died while in military service.  More recently still, the custom of the decoration of graves of the war dead on this day led naturally to the practice of decoration of graves of non-war dead as well.  As such, it has evolved into a day, similar to the traditional All Souls Day of the old world, in which the memories of all the departed are honored.

Whitsunday, The Feast of Pentecost – 19 May 2013

Opening Voluntary:  Prelude on Komm, heiliger Geist, Herre Gott – Dietrich Buxtehude (1637/9 – 1707)

At the Offertory: Prelude on Komm, Gott Schöpfer, heiliger Geist – Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706)

Closing Voluntary: Prelude on Komm, Gott Schöpfer, heiliger Geist – J. S. Bach (1685-1750)

The Opening Voluntary  for today is based on the German Chorale Tune, Komm, heiliger Geist, Herre Gott.  Both the tune for this chorale as well as the text for the first Stanza are by unknown persons.  This hymn, known in English translation as “Come Holy Ghost, God and Lord,” first appeared in 1524 in the Erfurt Gesangbuch, one of the first hymnals of the German reformation and which consisted, in major part, of hymns previously printed as “single sheet” publications known usually in English as “broadsheets.”  The first verse of the chorale is a versification of the antiphon Veni Sancte Spiritus, while the 2d and 3d are compositions of Martin Luther. Of the 26 hymn texts in the publication, 18 were the creation of Martin Luther, either in whole or in part.  This particular chorale was a popular subject for arrangement by German composers.  Today’s version is a chorale prelude in which the melody appears in the highest/treble line in an ornamented form, accompanied by lower imitative voices in manuals and pedals.  It is typical of many other compositions of this type by German composer Dietrich Buxtehude (1637/9 – 1707).   In translation, the first stanza of the hymn reads:

Come, Holy Ghost, God and Lord, with all your graces now outpoured on each believer’s mind and heart; Your fervent love to them impart. Lord, by the brightness of your light, in holy faith your Church unite; from every land and every tongue, this to your praise, O Lord, our God, be sung: Alleluia! Alleluia!

The pieces At the Offertory and The Closing Voluntary are both based on another German chorale, Komm, Gott Schöpfer, heliger Geist, sung today as our Offertory Hymn (#501, The Hymnal 1982). Both the tune and the text of this metrical version derive from the 9th Century Latin plainsong hymn, Veni Creator Spiritus, found in The Hymnal, 1982 as #504, attributed to the 9th century Benedictine monk and later Archbishop of Mainz, Rabanus Maurus (c. 780-856).  In the Latin rite, this hymn has traditionally been appointed for the offices of Terce and Vespers on the feast of Pentecost.  In the post-reformation Anglican liturgy, it appears in the Ordering of Priests and the Consecration of Bishops in the Prayerbook of 1662.  Luther’s metrical version, which we sing today, dates again to 1524 and also was first published in the Erfurt Gesangbuch.  The organ  settings performed today were written as chorale preludes by Johann Pachelbel  (1653-1706) and Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750).  Although based on the very same hymn, they are vastly different treatments of this chorale melody.  The version by Pachelbel sets a mood of quite contemplation, while the version by Bach is one of jubilant celebration.

Maundy Thursday – 28 Mar 13

Flor Peeters

Flor Peeters

Opening Voluntary: Praeludium und Hymne in the Phrygian Mode – Flor Peeters (1903-1986)

Offertory: Chorale Prelude on Pange, lingua, gloriosi – Flor Peeters (1903-1986)

Both tonight’s opening voluntary and the offertory are works of composer Florent Peeters (1903-1986). Peeters 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 as a recitalist, including 10 separate tours through the United States.  Peeters wrote many different types of music, but most was for the organ, for which he composed over 550 works.

The Opening Voluntary, Praeludium und Hymne is from Peeters Opus 90 work of 16 pieces on the “Kirchentonarten” or as we might say, the Gregorian modes. Unlike modern Western music, in which we use relatively few scales (most commonly the major and minor scales), Gregorian music employs 8 different scales, numbered 1-8 and in that order known by the names: Dorian, Hypodorian, Phrygian, Hypophrygian, Lydian, Hypolydian, Mixolydian and Hypomixolydian.  The voluntary this evening is based on the third or Phyrgian mode.  On a modern piano, this scale can be reproduced by playing the ‘white’ notes beginning on “E” and ending at the same note as the octave above.  It is most similar to our modern “natural minor” key and differs from that scale by only one half-step in the second degree. Peeters composed two pieces in this collection for each of the modes, one freely conceived Praeludium and one more rigidly homophonic Hymne.

The organ composition at the offertory is based on the Latin hymn, Pange, lingua, gloriosi found in our Hymnal 1982 as #329 in the English translation, “Now, my tongue, the mystery telling.” The text is attributed to Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) and was first notably translated into English by Edward Caswall (1814-1878) and later emended by others. Although originally a married Anglican Cleric, Caswall came under the influence of John Henry Newman (1801-1890) and later converted to Roman Catholicism. The hymn, Pange, lingua, has been used traditionally during the procession to the altar of repose on Maundy Thursday as well as on the Feast of Corpus Christi. The final two stanzas, beginning with “Therefore we before him bending” or in Latin, Tantum ergo sacramentum, are known for their use in the Rite of Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

Wednesday in Holy Week – 27 Mar 13

St. Mary's Crucifix

At the Benediction: Chorale Prelude on O Lamm Gottes unschuldig – Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706)

Closing Voluntary: Chorale – O Lamm Gottes unschuldig – Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706)

The incidental music for tonight’s liturgy of Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament is based on the German Chorale O Lamm Gottes unschuldig.  Both text and tune are the work of Nikolaus Decius (1485-1541).  Decius was born in Upper Franconia Bavaria and  studied at the University of Leipzig and obtained a master’s degree at Wittenberg University. He became a monk and, by 1519, Probst of the cloister at Steterburg near Wolfenbüttel. Influenced by the ideas of Martin Luther (1483-1546), he left the cloister in 1522 and went to Brunswick where he was appointed a master in the St. Katherine and Egidien school. In 1523 he was invited to Stettin by the burgesses there to become an evangelical preacher.  He was recognized as the pastor of St. Nicholas church in 1535 and died there suddenly in 1541 of suspected poisoning. Shortly before his death, he wrote the hymn O Lamm Gottes unschuldig, a hymn expanding and paraphrasing the Angus Dei of the Latin mass and adapting an earlier tune from the 13th century. It was first published in the Christliche Kirchen-Ordnung in 1542.

O Lamb of God most holy!

Who on the cross did suffer,

And patient, still and lowly,

Yourself to scorn did offer;

Our sins by You were taken,

Or hope had us forsaken.

Your peace be with us, Jesus. 

The organ setting played this evening is the work of south German organist, Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706).  Pachelbel was born in Nuremburg into a middle class family as the son of a wine dealer. He began his music studies at an early age and by 1673 was living in Vienna where he was deputy organist there at the famous Saint Stephen’s Cathedral. After spending one year in Eisenach in 1677, he moved to Erfurt where he remained for 12 years.  It was during this time that he began composing many of the Chorale Preludes for organ that were to be his most notable contributions to south German music and which comprised fully half of his works for organ.  After brief employ in Stuttgart and Gotha, Pachelbel returned to his native Nuremburg where his fame was such that he was hired without audition and without the position being offered out to other possible candidates.  He died there in 1706 at the age of only 52 years.

Feast of the Presentation – (Observed) 3 Feb 13


Opening Voluntary: Mit Fried’ und Freud’ ich fahr’ dahin – J. S. Bach (1685-1750)

 At Communion: Mit Fried’ und Freud’ – Johann Christoph Bach (1671-1721)

 Closing Voluntary: Mit Fried’ und Freud’ (Prelude and Chorale)- Marcel Dupré (1886-1971) / J. S. Bach (1685-1750)

Today’s incidental organ music is based on the German chorale, Mit Fried’ und Freud’, ich fahr’ dahin. The text is a metrical version of the Nunc dimittis and was written by Martin Luther (1483-1546) and published in J. Klug’s Geistliches Gesangbüchlein in the year 1524 in Wittenberg, Germany.  For obvious reasons, it was a hymn that was typically associated with the Feast of the Presentation which we observe today as we dedicate the new image of Our Lady of Walsingham. In origin, the Nunc dimittis or Song of Simeon comes down to us from the introductory birth and infancy narratives from the writer of the Gospel according to Luke.  This opening section of the gospel, although drawing heavily for its model on the stories of the births of Samson and Samuel from the Hebrew Bible, is yet quite unlike anything else in New Testament writing and has been likened in modern terms to a “musical.”  In it, dramatic scenes and dialogues are punctuated and interpreted by “musical numbers” that have survived and live on, not only in text but also musically, in  Christian liturgy to this day. The Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) concludes Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth.  The Benedictus (Luke 1:68-79) follows as John the Baptizer’s father, Zechariah, is released from his divinely-imposed mutism.  The Gloria in excelsis (Luke 2:14) functions as a great “chorus number” and the centerpiece of the angelic proclamation to the sheepherders in the Bethlehem countryside. Last, but not least, the Nunc dimittis (Luke 2:29-32), enshrines the words of Simeon as he beholds the infant Jesus on his way to presentation in the temple,  miraculously revealed to him by the Holy Spirit as “Israel’s consolation.”

The Nunc dimitis was imported into the daily office of the Church in the West as the principle song for the monastic hour of Compline  where it continued through the middle ages.  In the English reformation, it was transferred into the composite office of Evensong/Evening Prayer where it would become, along with the Magnificat, the subject of numerous choral compositions. In Lutheran-dominated countries, where the office was less commonly observed, the text continued in Luther’s hymn paraphrase which was used not only for the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus (The Purification of Mary), but also became popular as a song for funerals.

In peace and joy I now depart

At God’s disposing.

For full of comfort is my heart;

Soft reposing.

So the Lord as promised me,

And death is but a slumber.

Martin Luther (1483-1546)

Baptism of the Lord – 13 Jan 13


Opening Voluntary: Voluntary in G – Henry Smart (1813-1879)

 At Communion: Chorale Prelude on Erhalt uns, Herr– J. G. Walther (1684-1748)

 Closing Voluntary: Intrada in E Major Charles W. Ore (b. 1936)

Today’s opening voluntary is a work by Victorian-era, organist and composer, Henry Thomas Smart. Smart served as organist at several prominent London parishes including St. Philip’s, Regent street, St. Luke’s, Old Street, and lastly at St. Pancras for 14 years until his death.  Plagued by problems with his vision that began in early life, Smart was totally blind by the age of fifty-two. His improvisatory skills allowed him to continue performing, however, in spite of his disability. He was particularly noted for his use of the pedals, which was said to be more inventive than other British organists of the period. Although Smart’s music was extremely popular in his own time, and his organ compositions figured prominently in recitals through the end of the 19th century, changing musical tastes would later denigrate much of his work, such that a 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica article described his organ compositions as “effective and melodious, if not strikingly original.”  Sadly, Smart’s works are now little remembered apart from his hymn tunes which include REGENT SQUARE, frequently paired with the Christmas carol text, “Angels from the realms of glory” (#93, The Hymnal 1982) and LANCASHIRE, usually sung with the text “Lead on, O King eternal” (#555, Ibid.).

The prelude at the communion is based on the German chorale tune, Erhalt uns, Herr (sung as our closing hymn, #132, The Hymnal, 1982)  and is a work of renowned German organist,  Johann Gottfried Walther (1684-1748). Although less well known today than his famous cousin and contemporary, J. S. Bach (1685-1750), he was highly regarded in his own time and served as court organist at Weimar.  Although not all survive today, he recorded in his autobiography that he had composed over 200 works based on chorale melodies.

The closing voluntary is a work of the contemporary organist, Charles William Ore (b. 1936).  Ore studied at Northwestern University in Illinois and the University of Nebraska.  He was professor of music and chair of the department of music at Concordia University in River Forest, Illinois from 1966 to 2001.  This free composition was published in 1981 as part of a larger collection of “Fanfares and Intradas.”  Today’s work in the key of E major is designated as a composition “for an occasion of some magnitude.”

Feast of Christ the King – 25 Nov 12

Opening Voluntary:
Prelude on DIADEMATA – Wilbur Held (1914-)

At Communion: Composition in D Major – Georg Rathgeber (1869- ?)

Closing Voluntary: Fanfare in Bb – Charles Ore (1936- )

Today’s opening voluntary is based on the hymntune, DIADEMATA, which we sing today as our entrance hymn, “Crown him with many crowns,” (The Hymnal 1982, #494). Composed specifically for the text by Sir Georg J. Elvey (1816-1893), this tune has been irrevocably married to this particular text from its first publication in Hymns Ancient and Modern in the year of 1868. The tune name is derived from the Greek word for “crowns.” The opening voluntary based on the hymn tune was composed  by Episcopal organist, Wilbur Held (1914-) and was published in 1979 in a collection of Hymn Preludes for the Pentecost Season. It is a composition in an ABA format with the “A” sections presenting an elaborated version of hymn tune in the melody accompanied by passing notes in the manuals and scale passages in the pedal.  The “B” section is a minor key variation which is followed by a brief transition passage before the return to the “A” theme ending with a concluding fanfare that echoes the structure of the “B” section. The solemn and festive character of the composition as well as the tune upon which it is based are highly appropriate for today’s feast day celebration of Christ the King.

The brief piece at the communion is by German 19th century composer, Georg Rathgeber , born 7th June, 1869 in Laudenbach, Germany.  He was a choir director and teacher in Hechingen, near Stuttgart.

The closing voluntary is a free composition by contemporary organist and composer, Charles William Ore, born in 1936 in Winfield, Kansas.  Ore studied at Northwestern University in Evanston and at the University of Nebraska. He later taught at Concordia College in Seward, Nebraska and was organist of Pacific Hills Lutheran Church in Omaha and currently serves at First Presbyterian Church in Lincoln, Nebraska. This piece is the eighth and last in a collection published in 1981 as Eight Fanfares and Intradas by Augsburg Publishing House. Like the opening voluntary, this is also a composition in an ABA format and is subtitled as a “Fanfare for the Baroque Spirit.”  The A sections at the beginning and the ending suggest a horn call in fourth and third and fifth intervals in the melody and are contrasted with the central “B” section in a g minor key.

%d bloggers like this: