• 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.

  • Hymns

    Our new (yet very old) Evensong hymn

    Last week we sang (for many of us, for the first time) hymn #176 in our Hymnal. The opening words are “O gladsome light, O grace.” Those words come from an ancient Greek hymn best known by the first two words in the text, Phos hilaron. (Attentive readers will recognize light and gladness in those words; our English word “phosphorescent” is based on the Greek word “phos,” meaning “light,” And “hilarious” is from the Greek “hilaros,” meaning “cheerful.”) Phos hilaron dates to the late 3rd or early 4th century and is sometimes referred to as the “Candlelighting Hymn,” or the “Lamplighting Hymn.” This nickname is a tribute to the place…

  • Repertoire,  Service music

    Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels

    Today’s feast day is also known as Michaelmas, traditionally celebrated in Great Britain and elsewhere as the last day of the autumn harvest. The Book of Revelation (12:7-9) describes a war in heaven in which the Archangel Michael leads an angelic host to defeat Satan. That description accounts for the Church’s confident belief that God protects us each day by the watchful agency of angels, a protection recognized in the Collect for today: “O Everlasting God, who hast ordained and constituted the services of Angels and men in a wonderful order; Mercifully grant that, as thy holy Angels always do thee service in heaven, so, by thy appointment, they may…