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Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost – 4 Aug 13


Today’s usual Sunday Music Notes have been

preempted by this special announcement:

The Episcopal Church of

St. Mary

 is excited to announce the (re)formation of

The Schola Cantorum Choir

Open to all adults, age 16 and over, we will be meeting weekly at 7:00 PM.  Our first session will be 8 August 2013 here at St. Mary’s, and we will sing for our first service on the Feast of the Assumption on 15 August 2013.

Not just a choir, this will be a singing school for persons interested in chant, polyphony and the music of the liturgical church.  No experience or musical knowledge is necessary.  All that is needed is a voice, a modicum of commitment and a desire to learn.

First time attendees will receive a special gift!

Schola Cantorum of the Episcopal Church of St. Mary

Thursday, 8 August 2013 at 7:00 PM




Cantate Domino canticum novum,
cantate Domino, omnis terra.”
 Psalmus 96:1
If you would like more information, have questions or would like to express your plan to attend,  please contact us using the form below. 


Third Sunday of Easter – 14 Apr 2013

François Couperin

François Couperin

Opening Voluntary: “Elevation” from Messe Pour Les Convents – François Couperin (1668-1733)

Offertory: Cromhorne sur La Taille – François Couperin (1668-1733)

Closing Voluntary: Dialogue – François Couperin (1668-1733)

François Couperin “le Grand” was born in Paris on 10th November of 1668, the son of organist and musician Charles Couperin, who was also his first teacher.  In 1685, he became the titular organist of the Church of Saint Gervais in Paris, a position that he inherited from his father and which would be later filled by other members of the Couperin musical dynasty.    He was made organist of the Chapelle Royale with the title “Organiste du Roi” by appointment of Louis XIV in 1693, and was later to receive the further honor of appointment as official court composer in the year 1717. 

Couperin was a prolific composer of keyboard works for the harpsichord, publishing during his later life 4 volumes of pieces numbering some 230 works.  Although it is undoubted that Couperin must have composed and improvised many pieces for the organ in his role as the organist of Saint Gervais and the Chapelle Royale, it is a tragic loss that only one collection of his organ music survives today, the “Pièces d’ Orgue Consistantes en Deux Masses,” which first appeared in print in 1689-90, when Couperin was only about 21 years old. Although he was of a very young age, the work was approved by one of his also-famous teachers, Michel Richard Delalande who wrote that the music was “very beautiful and worthy of being given to the public.” Of the two masses in this volume, it is the Mass for the Parishes that is most frequently performed.  Following the traditional practice of the times, this was an alternatim mass based on the Gregorian chant themes from the Missa Cunctipotens.  The Mass for the Convents which we hear tonight, while equally beautiful, is based, not on Gregorian melodies, but on themes of Couperin’s own creation and represents a somewhat more daring departure from traditional practice, although it still preserves the alternatim style of alternating couplets intended to be interspersed with the sung chants of the Mass.  It is possible that Couperin chose to write his Mass for the Convents based upon no definite chant because French monastic communities of the time maintained their own non-standard body of chant music, making it difficult to compose a chant-based setting that would have more than the most extremely local use.  


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.

4th Sunday in Lent – 10 Mar 13 – Lætare

François Couperin

François Couperin

Opening Voluntary: “Elevation” – Tierce en Taille – François Couperin (1668-1733)

Final Voluntary:Deo Gratias” Petit Plein Jeu – François Couperin (1668-1733)

Both of today’s incidental organ works are compositions of the French Classical Period master composer, François Couperin (1668-1733) known often by his title of “Couperin Le Grand” or “the great Couperin” in order to distinguish him from other composers and organists of this French musical dynasty. Couperin was born in Paris on 10th November, 1688 and was taught initially by his father Charles until his death and then later by Jacques Thomelin, who was organist to Louis XIV. At the age of only 17 years, Couperin followed his father as organist of the great Paris church of St. Gervais.  He succeeded his teacher, Thomelin, in 1695 as the titular organist of the Chapelle Royale at the palace of Versailles and was styled “organiste du Roi” (organist to the King) by appointment of Louis XIV.

Although Couperin composed many pieces for voices, harpsichord and various instruments, only one of his organ compositions survives – his two-part masterwork of the organ masses, respectively titled “for the Parishes” and “for the Convents.”  These works were composed by Couperin when he was quite young, and he was granted a license  from Louis XIV to publish them in about 1690, when only 21 years of age.   Both works are in a style, popular at the time, known as “alternatim” organ masses in which lines of plainchants of the mass were sung in “alternation” with solo organ music.  There were, as well, pieces such as “offertories” and “elevations” set as musical accompaniments to their respective liturgical actions.

Both our opening and closing voluntaries are from the “Mass for the Convents” intended for use in convents and abbeys.  Although the “Mass for the Parishes” is clearly based on the Gregorian plainchant mass, Cunctipotens genitor Deus, the mass for the Convents is based on no recognizable plainchant melody.  Speculatively, it is believed that it was written in this manner as each religious institution typically maintained its own, non-standard collection of chant music.

Following typical French practice, each organ piece is subtitled with a notation that indicates the intended registration (selection of stops) to be used (and which we must, understandably, adapt for our non-French style organ).  These “standardized” registrations were also typically associated with a particular style or texture of musical composition such that the “Tierce on Taille” for example, has the melody in a clear solo registration in the tenor line and is typically played rather slowly and is also greatly ornamented and embellished.  Such pieces made extensive use of the French practice of “notes inégales” in which the performer varies the written note lengths/rhythms according to musical taste and established convention to create an individualistic and more expressive musical performance.  The closing voluntary is designated a “Petit Plein Jeu,”  essentially a small, “full organ” registration.

2d Sunday after Epiphany – 20 Jan 13

The Hymnal 1982

Opening Voluntary: Liebster Jesu, wir sind Hier – J. G. Walther (1684-1748)

 At Communion: Liebster Jesu, wir sind Hier – J. G. Walther (1684-1748)

Closing Voluntary: Erhalt uns, Her, bei deinem Wort – A. W. Leupold (1868-1940)

The Hymnal as Poetry Anthology

It is probably safe to say that there are nearly no Episcopalians or Anglicans who do not have in their homes a copy of the Scriptures, and most also possess a copy of the Book of Common Prayer.  It is likely. however, that a large number do not personally own a copy of the Hymnal 1982. Perceived as a book intended for corporate worship in the church, it is assumed that it has no meaningful place in our personal and devotional lives at home.  This belief, however, is one that probably merits a reexamination.  What is often missed by those who do not read music or play an instrument, is the fact that the large majority of so-called hymns did not start their existence as primarily songs  but as religious poetry.  In hymnals in the U.S. , it is our custom that the words of hymns are usually “interlined,” meaning that they are placed between the upper and lower staves of music . While this may render a text easier to sing, it results, to a degree, in a loss of the understanding that hymn texts are poetry in their own right.  Anyone who has had a chance to visit the U.K. or to use English/British hymnals, will see that they are usually produced in a manner such that the hymn tune occupies a place of its own at the top of the page, and the hymn text is presented separately below, intentionally emphasizing the integrity of the text as an independent literary work.

Hymnal 1982 contributor and well-known church musician, Alec Wyton, once wryly commented that, “Episcopalians would sing any heresy to a good tune.” Assembling a collection of good tunes was not, however, the only motivation of the compilers of the Hymnal 1982. Among the stated objectives of the Standing Commission on Church Music was “to prepare a body of texts which presents the Christian faith with clarity and integrity.”  The preface to the Hymnal 1982 reads that “the Commission looked for theological orthodoxy, poetic beauty, and integrity of meaning.” Critics of our authorized hymnal sometimes disparage it as a collection of outdated 17th century words and music, but a survey of the index of “Authors, Translators and Sources” (see p. 936), quickly dispels that myth.  In fact, some of the greatest Christian poets from antiquity to the 20th century are represented in one or sometimes several works, and this excludes works drawn from scriptural sources that date to antiquity.

There is no doubt that prayer and the regular reading of Scripture are foundational for our devotional lives. In a time when “resolutions” for the new year are high in our thoughts, I invite you to consider obtaining and using a Hymnal 1982 in your regular devotional practice. There are a number of indices and groupings within the cover of the hymnal to help you in selection, or simply consider “leafing” through and letting a text catch your eye. Try to disregard for the moment the music, and read the text slowly and thoughtfully as poetry or prayer.  You may be surprised at how meaningful this practice can become.

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