Tag Archives: Ralph Vaughan Williams

The Day of Pentecost 08 Jun 14

pentecost-clip-art-26

Opening Voluntary: Prelude on DOWN AMPNEY –  Chester Alwes (1947-)

Today’s opening voluntary is based on DOWN AMPNEY, tune to the much-loved hymn, “Come Down, O Love Divine” which we sing today as our offertory hymn (#516, The Hymnal 1982).  The text of the hymn is a translation of writing by Bianco da Siena (d. 1434).  Other than that he was a member of the short-lived Order of Jesuates (an order of unordained men following the Augustininan rule) and the place and year of his death, little else is known of this Italian writer.  A collection of his poems, some 92 in all, were published for the first time in 1851 in Italy.  Four of these were later translated by Richard Frederick Littledale (1833-1890).  Littledale was an Irish-born cleric of the Church of England. with many others of the 19th century, he participated in the revival of catholic ideas and content in the English church and was, in a sense, one of the fathers of Anglo-Catholicism.  Musically, he was the creator of The People’s Hymnal (London, 1867), prepared for Anglicans who felt, as he did, that they might benefit from many traditional Catholic teachings and practices without leaving their own church.  Unaccountably, The Hymnal, 1982 omitted the third stanza of the hymn, but we include it here for your consideration:

Let holy charity
Mine outward vesture be,
And lowliness become mine inner clothing;
True lowliness of heart,
Which takes the humbler part,
And o’er its own shortcomings weeps with loathing.

The tune DOWN AMPNEY was composed to be used with this text by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) and was published for the first time in The English Hymnal (1906) for which he shared authorship with Percy Dearmer (1867-1936).  Although The English Hymnal had this tune anonymously, it is now known as Vaughan Williams’ work and is appropriately named DOWN AMPNEY after the town of the composer’s birth.  It is rightly considered a masterpiece of English hymnody. Chester Alwes, composer of the voluntary, was born in 1947 in Louisville, KY and studied at Union Theological Seminary in NY.  He later studied and taught at the University of Illinois and is the author of A History of Western Choral Music published by Oxford University Press in 2011.

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St. Francis of Assisi (observed) – 6 Oct 13

francis2

Opening Voluntary: Prelude on Lasst uns erfreuen – George A. Lynn (1915-1989)

Choral IntroitMihi autem absit – Simple English Propers

Today’s opening voluntary is based on the tune (Lasst uns erfreuen) of our offertory hymn today, “All creatures of our God and King” (#400, The Hymnal, 1982), an English translation and adaptation of the original text attributed to St. Francis of Assisi.  St. Francis’ Cantico di fratre sole, laude della creatur, (Canticle of Brother Sun and of All Creatures), often titled “Canticle of the Sun,”  was originally written in the Umbrian dialect of Italian rather than Latin and is believed to be the first genuine religious poem in the Italian language. Whether or not this is precisely true,  it is most certainly a very early example of Italian vernacular religious song known as the Laude Spirituale, that flourished in the early thirteenth century. It is believed to have been written in about 1225-1226 during the last year of life of St. Francis, a period of intense pain and suffering for him. By tradition, the first time that it was sung in its entirety was by Francis along with his religious brothers, Angelo and Leo, two of his original companions,  while St. Francis was on his deathbed. Pious legend also asserts that the final verse to “Sister Death” was composed only moments before.  Although the hymn version by William H. Draper (1855-1933) has become a classic in its own right, it does omit some very characteristic features of the original, most notably the personifications of the natural world as “Brother/Sister” as in Brother Sun, Sister Moon, Brothers Wind and Air, etc.  Draper also makes a particular use of the ambiguity of the Italian word “per” which can mean both “for” and “from” by choosing the latter sense and turning the hymn into a pæan not “for” sun, moon, wind, air, water, death but a song of praise sung “by” these elements of nature.

 The tune, Lasst uns erfreuen, dates to the year 1623 when it was published in a hymnal by Catholic musicians in the city of Cologne.  It was, however, based in part on an even earlier Strassburg melody, first published nearly a century earlier in 1525. Several slight melodic and rhythmic variations are known to exist, and the version we sing today, arguably the most popular one, dates to the English Hymnal  of 1906 and was the work of its musical editor, Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958). The short prelude that we hear today as our opening voluntary is a work of George Alfred Lynn (1915-1989).  Lynn taught at Westminster Choir College and the University of Colorado in Boulder. He was also organist of several churches in Denver and Colorado Springs. Musically, the work is in the form of a trio in which the upper two voices present the melody, slightly varied, in the form of a canon  supported by a simpler pedal line that serves to complement the harmonic progressions created by the interweaving of the canonic melodies.


Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost – 8 Sep 13

Walter Chalmers Smith

Walter Chalmers Smith

Opening Voluntary: Meditation – Gerhardt Krapf (1924-2008)

Choral Introit: Iustus es Domine – H. Alexander Matthews (1879-1973)

Hymn Spotlight – “Immortal, invisible, God only wise”

ST. DENIO

In the fortuitous pairing of the text by Walter Chalmers Smith (1824-1908) with the tune, ST. DENIO, a Welsh song of uncertain origin, we find one of those lasting and inspired matchings that sprang from the musical genius of the great English composer and hymnologist, Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) and his collaborator the Reverend Percy Dearmer (1867-1936).  Indeed,  it is not at all an overstatement to assert that their collaborative work in the preparation of The English Hymnal (1906), has left the Anglican and Episcopal churches of the later 20th and 21st centuries in their perpetual debt.

Although time constraints allow us to sing only a selection of the stanzas of this great hymn (as our entrance hymn, #423, today), the entire text and tune are worthy of more extended study. Musically, the tune is of uncertain origin, although it first appeared in  Welsh hymnal Caniadau y Cysseger in the year 1839. It is felt, most likely, to have had its origins in the folk ballad and carol traditions of Welsh music.

The text is adapted from an original hymn written by Walter Chalmers Smith, a hymnist, poet and minister of the Free Church of Scotland. Although originally published in 1867, it is the edited version prepared by the Reverend Percy Dearmer for The English Hymnal for which Smith is chiefly remembered.  Dearmer selected the first three stanzas of Smith’s text and paired them with the first two lines of the original fifth and six stanzas to create the standard hymn known today.  Taking as his inspiration a doxology from the pseudo-Pauline letter of 1 Timothy, “To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever,” Smith creates a hymn of strong praise to God who creates and sustains the lives of all his creatures. The text focuses on the creator of the universe whose visible works in nature testify to his majesty and glory and juxtaposes this with the nearly-apophatic notion of God’s invisible and unknowable essence hidden by the divine light which blinds the senses of mortal beings.  To Smith, however, this “hiddenness” of God was not the final word on the subject, as is evidenced by the now-omitted, concluding lines from his original 5th and 6th stanzas:

“But of all thy good graces this grace, Lord, impart –

Take the veil from our faces, the veil from our heart…

And now let thy glory to our gaze unroll;

Through Christ in the story, and Christ in the soul.”


Music for Additional Listening- DOWN AMPNEY sung by King’s College Choir

Here is a lovely version of the hymn sung by King’s College Choir, Cambridge.

 


14th Sunday after Pentecost – 2 Sep 12

Ralph Vaughan Williams

Opening Voluntary: Prelude on DOWN AMPNEY –  Chester Alwes (1947-)

At Communion: Prelude on DOWN AMPNEY – Wilbur Held (1914-)

 Closing Voluntary: Festival Voluntary – Anonymous (1856)

Today’s incidental organ music is based on the tune, DOWN AMPNEY, to the much-loved hymn, “Come Down, O Love Divine” which we sing today as our hymn during communion (#516, The Hymnal 1982).  The text of the hymn is a translation of writing by Bianco da Siena (d. 1434).  Other than that he was a member of the short-lived Order of Jesuates (an order of unordained men following the Augustininan rule) and the place and year of his death, nothing else is known of this Italian writer.  A collection of his poems, some 92 in all, were published for the first time in 1851 in Italy.  Four of these were later translated by Richard Frederick Littledale (1833-1890).  Littledale was an Irish-born cleric of the Church of England. Like many others of the 19th century, he participated in the revival of catholic ideas and content in the English church and was, in a sense, one of the fathers of Anglo-Catholicism.  Musically, he was the creator of The People’s Hymnal (London, 1867), prepared for Anglicans who felt, as he did, that they might benefit from many Roman Catholic teachings and practices without leaving their own church.  Unaccountably, The Hymnal, 1982 omits the third stanza of the hymn, but we include it here for your consideration.

Let holy charity
Mine outward vesture be,
And lowliness become mine inner clothing;
True lowliness of heart,
Which takes the humbler part,
And o’er its own shortcomings weeps with loathing.

The tune DOWN AMPNEY was composed as a tune to be used with this text by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) and was published for the first time in The English Hymnal (1906) for which he shared authorship with Percy Dearmer (1867-1936).  Although The English Hymnal had this tune anonymously, it is now known as Vaughan Williams’ work and is appropriately named DOWN AMPNEY after the town of its composers birth.  It is rightly considered a masterpiece of English hymnody.


Maundy Thursday – 5 April 2012

Opening Voluntary: Prelude on RHOSYMEDRE , “My Song is Love Unknown”

– R. Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)Washing of the Disciples Feet

At Communion: Chorale Prelude on Pange Lingua

Flor Peeters (1903-1986)

The text “My Song is Love Unknown” was written by Samuel Crossman (1623-1683) and published in The Young Man’s Meditation, or Some Few Sacred Poems upon Select Subjects and Scriptures (London, 1664). Crossman was born in Bradfield Monachorum, Suffolk, England in 1623.  After earning a bachelor of divinity degree at Pembroke College, Cambridge, he ministered at first to both an Anglican congregation and a separate Puritan one.  Although he had strong Puritan sympathies, and was briefly expelled after the 1662 Act of Uniformity, he later recanted and was ordained in 1665 and became a royal chaplain.  He was eventually made dean of Bristol Cathedral in 1683, serving briefly before his death that same year. Although we will sing the hymn (#458) tonight to the tune by John Ireland (1879-1962), the text is also often (and optionally in The Hymnal 1982 ) paired with the  Welsh hymn tune RHOSYMEDRE by John D. Edwards (1806-1885).  The tune name is a reference to the village of Rhosymedre in North Wales where Edwards served as vicar from 1843-1885. The Opening Voluntary is based on this hymn tune and is from a collection of Three Preludes for Organ on Welsh Hymn Tunes by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)

My song is love unknown, my Savior’s love to me
love to the loveless shown, that they might lovely be.
O who am I that for my sake my Lord should take frail flesh, and die? – Samuel Crossman, 1664
 
A new commandment I giue vnto you, That yee loue one another, as I haue loued you, that yee also loue one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if yee haue loue one to another. John 23-34-35 (KJV, 1611)

The organ composition at the offertory is based on the Latin hymn, Pange Lingua (#329, The Hymnal 1982) and was composed by Flemish organist Flor Peeters (1903-1986).  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 along with his wife, who shortly after in 1849, after which he was received into the order of the Oratorians.  The hymn, Pange Lingua has been used traditionally as we employ it tonight, during the procession to the Altar of Repose as well as at the feast of Corpus Christi.

In supremae nocte coenae
recumbens cum fratribus
observata lege plene
cibis in legalibus
cibum turbae doudenae
se dat suis manibus.
 
Verbum caro, panem verum
verbo carnem efficit:
fitque sanguis Christi merum
et si sensus deficit
ad firmandum cor sincerum
sola fides sufficit
– Thomas Aquinas from Pange Lingua Gloriosi
 
In the night of that final Supper
reclining with his brothers,
He carries out the full Law
with the food of the Law.
He gives himself as food to the Twelve
with his own hands,
 
The Incarnate Word
makes true bread Flesh by a Word
and makes wine the Blood of Christ.
And if the senses are not enough
to strengthen the sincere heart,
faith alone shall suffice. 
-Thomas Aquinas from Pange Lingua Gloriosi (Translated)

In keeping with the solemn nature and customs of the Holy Triduum liturgies, there is no closing voluntary, and the liturgy concludes with the singing of Psalm 22, seen by the early Christians as a prefiguring of the crucifixion.


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