• Service music

    Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity (October 20, 2019)

    Our Processional hymn — “When morning gilds the skies” — is a translation of an anonymous German hymn dating from the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century. It is one of many hymns describing the inescapability of song in the life of the believer. Worship, especially through music, is the fitting response to Jesus Christ not only by believers but — as the hymn’s final stanza declares — by all of Creation. In 1899, the poet laureate of Great Britain, Robert Bridges (1844-1930), translated this hymn for use in English-language hymnals. Other translations by Bridges in our Hymnal include “Ah, holy Jesus, how hast thou offended” (#71) and “O sacred head, sore…

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    Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity (October 13, 2019)

    Psalm 100 has traditionally held a place of privilege in the Church’s worship. It is commonly known (after the first word in the Latin) as the Jubilate: “O be joyful.” The Jubilate is one of the canticles appointed for use in the daily office of Morning Prayer in the Book of Common Prayer. There the opening verse begins: “O be joyful in the Lord, all ye lands.” This wording is from one of many English translations, some the work of noted poets, many by prominent Hebrew scholars. Catherine Parr, the sixth of Henry VIII’s six wives, tried her hand at a translation of Psalm 100 (apparently from a Latin Psalter,…

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    Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity (October 6, 2019)

    Our service opens with “Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven,” a hymn by Henry Francis Lyte (1793-1847), a devout Anglican priest and a sensitive and accomplished poet. The hymn’s affirmation of God’s character of being “slow to chide, and swift to bless” echoes the Introit for today’s service, a text taken from Psalm 86, which acknowledges that the Lord is “good and gracious, and of great mercy unto all them that call upon [Him].” Our Hymnal contains dozens of hymns which credit John Mason Neale (1818-1866) as translator, usually of Medieval hymns originally in Latin or Greek. Neale’s work of eloquent translation had an unrivaled influence in recovering for…

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    St. Michael and All Angels (September 29, 2019)

    In addition to celebrating on this feast day the victory of heavenly hosts over the power of evil, our bishop will be confirming a number of our brothers and sisters. Today’s hymnody thus reflects a dual focus. Before examining the hymns, you may be interested in a new page which explores one of the cantatas that J. S. Bach’s wrote for this feast day. On this page, each movement of the work is examined in turn, with the text presented in English, and an embedded video of a complete performance is featured at the bottom of the page. I think it would make rewarding reading and listening this Sunday afternoon…

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    Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity (September 22, 2019)

    Our opening hymn, “The Church’s one Foundation,” was written to reaffirm and expand on the teaching about the Church in the Apostles’ Creed (for more details, including the text of several stanzas missing from our Hymnal, see this page). The tune was by Samuel Sebastian Wesley (1810-1876), the grandson of Charles Wesley, who wrote the text for our closing hymn, “Praise the Lord who reigns above.” We’ve been practicing this hymn on Wednesday nights and to refresh your familiarity of it, it is sung below by the Choral Arts Society of Washington Chamber Singers. The hymns in between our Wesleyan moments include Isaac Watts’s “Come Holy Spirit, heavenly Dove.” Watts and the…

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    Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity (September 15, 2019)

    Our Processional hymn this Sunday, “Hail to the Lord’s Anointed,” is a loose paraphrase of Psalm 72, one of James Montgomery’s 400+ hymns. It was written in 1821 for use in a Moravian Christmas celebration. In addition to the five stanzas in our Hymnal, Montgomery (1771-1854) included the following text after stanza two: By such shall he be feared,while sun and moon endure,beloved, obeyed, revered;for he shall judge the poor,through changing generations,with justice, mercy, truth,while stars maintain their stations,or moons renew their youth. Following stanza three, this text was included in the original: Arabia’s desert-ranger,to him shall bow the knee;the Ethiopian strangerhis glory come to see;with off’rings of devotion,ships from…

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    Twelfth Sunday after Trinity (September 8, 2019)

    On an afternoon in the spring of 1863, Folliott Sandford Pierpoint, a young classics instructor and aspiring poet, surveyed from atop a hill the countryside in the valley of the River Avon outside of Bath, his native city. His gratitude for what he saw resulted in the hymn we sing as our Processional this Sunday, “For the beauty of the earth.” What is not widely known is that Pierpoint was also profoundly grateful for the beauty of the Church and the gifts God had given it; the stanzas of his hymn that reflect this are not included in hymnals. For thy Bride that evermorelifteth holy hands above,offering up on every…

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    Eleventh Sunday after Trinity (September 1, 2019)

    Our Processional hymn — “Father, we praise thee” — announces in the first line its identity as a “Morning Hymn.” Our Hymnal identifies it as a Latin hymn from the 10th century, although it may be even older. As a Latin hymn from that era, this was not a hymn sung by a congregation, nor as part of a Eucharistic service. It was an Office hymn, which means it was part of the Divine Office or the Liturgy of the Hours that formed the official structure of monastic life and worship. The word “hour” in this context refers not to a 60-minute period, but an appointed time for prayer. There are…

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    Ninth Sunday after Trinity (August 18, 2019)

    There are in our Hymnal fifteen or so hymns that describe the Church in light of its fulfillment as a “heavenly Jerusalem.” This genre of hymns fuses the earthly and heavenly, the material and the mystical, the sensuous and the spiritual. As the Hymnal 1940 Companion notes, these hymns combine “the imagery of a terrestrial Paradise with the apocalyptic vision of the heavenly City.” This latter element often borrows specific detail from the book of Revelation: gates of pearl, streets of gold, etc. Among such hymns are Peter Abelard’s “O what their joy and their glory must be” (#589), Isaac Watts’s “There is a land of pure delight” (#586), Alexander…

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    Eighth Sunday after Trinity (August 11, 2019)

    Our processional hymn, “Now that the daylight fills the skies,” is sometimes attributed to St. Ambrose. Our Hymnal (probably more accurately) regards it as an anonymous hymn from the sixth century. Around that time, the text began to be chanted during the Office of Prime, the first daylight hour of the Divine Office. The translation in our Hymnal is by the Anglican priest John Mason Neale (1818-1866). There are two tunes available for this hymn in our Hymnal, and the tune we usually sing is HERR JESU CHRIST, first published in a Lutheran hymnal in 1648. J. S. Bach used this tune in several chorales preludes, a few of which…