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.