Opening Voluntary: Variations on on Nun komm der Heiden Heiland – F. W. Zachow (1663-1712)
At Communion: Veni Emmanuel – Jan Bender (1909-1994)
Closing Voluntary: Nun komm der Heiden Heiland – Martha Sobaje (1948-)
The opening and closing voluntaries today are both based on the Advent hymn, Nun komm der Heiden Heiland, which we sing in translation as our final hymn today, “Savior of the nations, come!” (#54, The Hymnal 1982). The commentary on the 1982 hymnal writes of this hymn, “This Advent text and tune are probably among the most important and valuable additions to the Hymnal. For years organ choral preludes based on it have been played by musicians in parishes across the country, but the text and tune were not available to congregations of the Episcopal Church until 1982.” (The Hymnal 1982 Companion, p. 54) This is one of Martin Luther’s earliest hymns written just before Advent of the year 1523. In German, the text is a close translation of St. Ambose’s 4th century advent hymn, Veni redemptor gentium. In addition to translating the Latin text, Luther creatively restructures the plain chant melody into a distinctive German chorale. Together, the text and tune are one of the masterworks of the German chorale tradition.
The opening voluntary is a series of four variations on this tune composed by Baroque German organist, Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow (1663-1712).Zachow was cantor and organist of the Market Church in Halle and was particularly known for his cantata compositions. He was criticized, however, by the community’s pietists for his “excessively long and elaborate” musc that could be appreciated only by “other organists and cantors.” He is chiefly remembered today s the first teacher of music to Georg Frideric Händel (1685-1759). The closing voluntary selection was composed by Dr. Martha Helen Sobaje, who was born in 1948 in Alameda, California. She studied at the University of the Pacific and the Eastman School in New York. She currently serves as organist at Phillips Memorial Baptist Church in Cranston, RI and is a teacher at the Community College of Rhode Island.
The short piece at the communion is based on the Advent hymn tune, Veni, veni Emmanuel, which we sing as our communion hymn today (#56, O come, O come Emmanuel). The text of the stanzas is based loosely on the “Great O” antiphons sung with the Magnificat at Vespers from 17-24 December. The melody was for many years of unknown source, but in the 1960s, it was discovered in a 15th century French Processional formerly belonging to Franciscan nuns where it was a troped verse of a funeral responsory. The setting played as the organ incidental piece was composed by Jan Bender (1909-1994). Bender was a student of Hugo Distler (1908-1942) and came to the United States in 1960. He spent most of this time at Wittenberg University until his retirement in 1975 when he returned to Germany where he remained until his death in 1994.