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.”