• 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…

  • Hymns

    “I will fear no evil, for thou art with me”

    This week, we’ll sing together — weather permitting — a hymn first published in 1863. The caption that appeared above the hymn is the title I’ve used for this post. The hymn — “In heav’nly love abiding” — is one of many hymns inspired by Psalm 23, a text with great reassuring power especially treasured in times of uncertainty. The text is by Anna Laetitia Waring (1823-1910), a Welsh poet who was raised in the Society of Friends but converted to the Church of England because of her eagerness to participate in the sacramental life of the Church. She is also known to have learned to read Hebrew so she…

  • Hymns

    A hopeful hymn for anxious times

    This week, our parish welcomes a new hymn to our repertoire. “If thou but suffer God to guide thee” is not in our Hymnal, though it is familiar to many of us who have worshiped in churches that rely on other hymnals. The hymn has inspired many composers to incorporate it in their own work. Bach, Mendelssohn, and Schumann used the tune very straightforwardly, and Brahms may have allusions to it in his Requiem. The hymn also made an appearance in the 1987 film Babette’s Feast. Near the end of the movie, one of the two pious sisters at the center of the narrative sits at the piano and sings…

  • Hymns

    Hymn for Trinity VIII

    We continue our outdoor singing after the services this week with a hymn that stresses God’s power and might: “Give praise and glory unto God” (#287). Throughout the hymn, divine power is portrayed as merciful and protective: God’s might is not a display of sheer unlimited will, but the agency of righteousness and justice. The hymn’s Lutheran author, Johann Jacob Schütz (1640-1690), practiced law in Frankfurt and is noted for his friendship with Philipp Jakob Spener (1635-1705), a central figure in the Pietist movement which transformed Lutheranism and later influenced John Wesley. The tune ELBING is named for the birthplace of its composer Peter Sohren (d. c. 1693), a Lutheran…

  • Hymns

    Hymn for Trinity III

    Next Saturday and Sunday, our after-service hymn-sing will feature a favorite hymn in our parish, “The King of Love My Shepherd Is.” By letting everyone know in advance what hymn we‘ll be singing together, families who wish to do so may teach the hymn to their children. If you don’t have a hymnal at home, you may download a page with the music here. I’ve also prepared some audio files that will help those of you interested in learning to sing the harmonies to this hymn, instead of just the melody. Here is the entire hymn as recorded by our choir several weeks ago, as part of our Choir-in-Quarantine project.…

  • Hymns,  Service music

    Sunday after Ascension (May 24, 2020)

    If we were together this morning, our processional hymn would probably be Charles Wesley’s triumphant “Hail the day that sees him rise.” Since we’re not together, as part of our continuing Choir-in-Quarantine series, we’ve recorded this hymn from our individual spaces (you can sing along at #104, second tune). Wesley’s original poem (first published in 1739) contained ten stanzas (our Hymnal includes four of these, with some alterations). The hymn affirms Christ’s kingly rule (he is seated at the right hand of the Father to rule, not to relax), his continued full humanity (his human hands still bear the scars of his crucifixion), and our destiny to behold him face…

  • Hymns,  Poetry

    Christopher Wordsworth, “See the Conqueror mounts in triumph”

    One of the most compelling hymns about the Ascension, “See the Conqu’ror mounts in triumph” was written by Christopher Wordsworth (1807-1885), Bishop of Lincoln (1869-1885) and nephew of the poet William Wordsworth. Between 1830 and 1836 he was a fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge. The most celebrated Greek scholar of his day, from 1836 until 1844 Wordsworth was headmaster at Harrow. As Sheila Doyle explains, this hymn was “First published in The Holy Year (1862), where it was a long hymn of 10 stanzas in the author’s favoured 15.15.15.15 metre. It was originally intended for both Ascension Day and Pentecost, and was subsequently divided to give two separate hymns, five…

  • Hymns,  Service music

    Rogation Sunday music

    Our singing hymns together has been suspended for some time. I hope that there is music in your homes. The choir recorded a hymn for Rogation Sunday (and the next three Rogation days), which you can listen to here. It is hymn #101, if you care to sing along. With Wallace’s help, we’ve also recorded one of the parish’s favorite Communion hymns: “Deck thyself my soul with gladness.” You listen to our quarantine-style recording right here. You may be interested in reading more about this hymn here, and reading the text to the 6 stanzas in the original that are missing from our Hymnal. Since we’ve been unable to take…