• Christmas,  Recording reviews

    Recordings for Christmas

    In 2018, I spent the 12 Days of Christmas compiling a short list of some of my favorite recordings of Christmas music. If I were to do the same thing this year (or any year) the list would probably be different, as I discover new albums or revisit some that I had long forgotten. The 2018 list also evidences my interest in commending a range of different styles and eras, not just polyphony from the Renaissance (which forms a large portion of my listening). Below are links to the 12 posts that introduce the albums I surveyed in 2018. Most of the posts include embedded performance tracks that provide a…

  • Hymns

    True lights that lighten every land

    On July 25th, we celebrate the Feast of St. James the Apostle. The epistle reading for this day is from the Book of Acts, and includes a reference to Kng Herod’s command to execute St. James and St. Peter. Our sermon hymn this year is “The eternal gifts of Christ the King.” Dating from the fourth century, this hymn (#132 in our Hymnal) recognizes Christian martyrs as princes of the Church, a great occasion for joy in the New Jerusalem. Since it is new for our parish, our choir recorded the first and last stanza to introduce the melody. On this page, you can hear the melody chanted in its…

  • Repertoire

    J. S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion: An introduction

    As one of the greatest pieces of music in the Church’s treasury, Bach’s St. Matthew Passion can be more than a bit intimidating on first hearing. But repeated exposure to Bach’s sensitive and insightful telling of the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus — and of the response of faithful believers to the event — brings rich rewards. In 2019, the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge and the Academy of Ancient Music recorded the work in a live performance. The part of the Evangelist was sung by tenor James Gilchrist. In the Spring of 2020, Gilchrist recorded a 30-minute guide to the work. His comments are illustrated with excerpts from the…

  • Psalms,  Service music

    A Psalm for Lent

    During Lent, when weather permits, we will be chanting Psalm 51:1–13 as part of our parking lot hymn-sing. The Anglican chant setting we will be using is by Charles H. Wilton (1761–1832), an English violinist, singer, and music teacher. We have sung this setting as a parish in the past, and you may download a pdf of the text and music here. As part of our Choir in Quarantine project, our choir has made a recording of this Psalm setting for use by the parish.

  • Service music

    Music for Quinquagesima

    Since the Epistle for today is I Corinthians 13 — the most focused discourse on love in all of Holy Scripture — the hymns and motets usually experienced in our Quinquagesima mass often complement St. Paul’s description of what love is. The choir frequently sings a setting of Ubi caritas, a text long used during the foot-washing rite practiced on Maundy Thursday. Where charity and love are, God is there.Christ’s love has gathered us into one.Let us rejoice and be pleased in Him.Let us fear, and let us love the living God.And may we love each other with a sincere heart.Where charity and love are, God is there. There are…

  • Hymns

    A hymn for Sexagesima

    In the Epistle for this Sunday (2 Corinthians 11:19–31), St. Paul presents a catalogue of all of the suffering he has endured — and survived — for the sake of the Gospel. One of the hymns frequently sung on this day affirms that those who are committed to “follow the Master” are defended by the Spirit and promised eternal life at the end of their pilgrimage: No foes shall stay his might,though he with giants fight Thus promises the text of “He who would valiant be,” a hymn adapted from John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress and especially fitting as the pilgrimmage of Lent approaches. Our Hymnal presents this hymn (#563) to…

  • Hymns

    A hymn for Septuagesima

    The weather is preventing our singing together in the parking lot this Sunday. But the choir has recorded a hymn for you to sing (or at least hum along with) at home on this first Sunday of the pre-Lenten season. “Awake my soul stretch every nerve” (Hymn #577 in our Hymnal, downloadable here if you don’t have a copy at home) was originally entitled “Pressing on in the Christian Race,” and is based on Philippians 3:12–14, a passage in which St. Paul — as he does in today’s Epistle reading from I Corinthians — compares the disciplined pilgrimage of the Christian life to the running of a race. Written by…

  • Interviews

    St. Polycarp’s suffering,
    in poetry and music

    In 2004, a large-scale musical work based on the martyrdom of St. Polycarp was premiered in South Carolina. The composer was J.A.C. Redford (who has visited our parish and even sung with our choir), and the libretto was written by poet Scott Cairns. I had the privilege of talking with both of them before the work was first performed for the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal. An edited feature from that  interview is presented here.

  • Repertoire

    A confident Advent hymn

    One of the most dynamic Advent hymns in our Hymnal is “Wake, awake, for night is flying.” The choir had already begun recording this hymn to accompany our parking lot singing this weekend before we learned that the services were to be cancelled. I hope that you have a chance to sing it sometime during Advent. Toward that end, here is the recording that the choir made: This page provides some background to the hymn’s text, and some examples of a few of J. S. Bach’s settings of the tune, known as WACHET AUF (which translates as “Wake up”). Last year I did some research on other treatments of this…

  • Interviews,  Repertoire

    St. Cecilia’s Day 2020

    As she is the patron saint of music and musicians, St. Cecilia has not surprisingly been the subject of many musical compositions. In this feature I produced this weekend for Mars Hill Audio, I introduce several of the pieces. Also included is part of an interview with Brian Dean Sousa, who has been gracing us with his work at our organ console in recent months. Brian talks about recording a piece inspired by St. Cecilia with his ensemble, Musica Sacra Virginia. Make sure to listen on YouTube to the recording he and his singers have made for this special day.