• Service music

    Epiphany (January 6, 2019)

    The star of Christmas becomes the star of Epiphany as the Magi arrive in Bethlehem. The Greek word behind our English “epiphany” means literally a “showing forth.” What is shown to these Oriental travelers is not simply the presence of God in human form, but — what they were seeking — the “King of the Jews.” And their coming to honor him is a sign that the King of the Jews is in truth the King of all kings. During Advent, we sang “Savor of the nations, come,” Epiphany is the season in which the universality of Christ’s rule is celebrated. It seems that this aspect of Christ’s birth is…

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    Sunday after Christmas (December 30, 2018)

    The text to our first hymn  “Of the Father’s love begotten,” dates to the late third or early fourth century. It is part of a longer poem by Marcus Aurelius Clemens Prudentius (348-413), a Romano-Spanish magistrate who retired from public service at the age of 57 to dedicate his life to prayer and the composition of devotional verse. While his poetry was not intended for liturgical use, some of the stanzas have been adapted for use as hymns. In his Sacred Latin Poetry (1874), Abp. R. C. Trench noted that Prudentuius “writes as a man intensely in earnest, and we may gather much from his writings concerning the points of conduct which were…

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    Fourth Sunday in Advent (December 23, 2018)

    Our opening hymn on this final Sunday in Advent, “How bright appears the Morning Star,” is another one of Philipp Nicolai’s stirring Advent hymns (we sang “Wake, awake, for night is flying” two weeks ago). It turns out that the text we sing is inspired by a poem by Nicolai, but it is actually quite a bit different (see here for an explanation). The Introit for this Sunday is from Isaiah 45 and Psalm 19: Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness: let the earth open and bring forth a Saviour. The heavens declare the glory of God: and the firmament showeth his handy-work. That text…

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    Third Sunday in Advent (December 16, 2018)

    Our service will open with one of the most familiar of Advent hymns, “O come, O come, Emmanuel.” This hymn conveys ancient texts in the life of the Church, but its recovery within English-Language hymnody is in large measure thanks to priest-poet-translator John Mason Neale (1818-1866). His involvement with the Oxford Movement led to efforts to restore to more common use a number of profound hymns from the Church’s first millennium. The Introit chanted (or said) on the third Sunday in Advent is from the 4th chapter of St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.” If our choir chanted that text in Latin,…

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    Gaudete in Domino semper

    The Introit for the third Sunday of Advent is from Philippians 4:4-6 — “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice: let your moderation be known unto all men: the Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing: but in every thing, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.” This is followed by the first verse from Psalm 85: “Lord, thou art become gracious unto thy land: thou hast turned away the captivity of Jacob.” Here is the Latin text: Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete. Modestia vestra nota sit omnibus hominibus: Dominus enim prope est. Nihil solliciti sitis: sed…

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    Second Sunday in Advent (December 9, 2018)

    This Sunday, our processional hymn is “Savior of the nations, come.” For some reason, this venerable hymn didn’t get included in the 1940 Hymnal we sing from (although it is in the 1982 Hymnal of the Episcopal Church and in the recent Book of Common Praise, the hymnal used by our brothers and sisters in the Reformed Episcopal Church). We’ll sing it from an insert in the bulletin with a harmonization taken from the final chorale of one of J. S. Bach’s cantatas for Advent. Our sequence hymn will again be “Creator of the stars of night.” Some remarkable arrangements of this melody are featured on the recording of Advent music I…

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    First Sunday in Advent (December 2, 2018)

    This Sunday, the choir will commence our Advent observation with a choral prelude just before the processional hymn. “Come down ye heavens from above” is a setting of portions of Rorate caeli. This text its sometimes called the “Advent Prose,” and is often sung in masses during Advent. Composer Judith Weir (b. 1954) has taken the plainchant tune for this ancient song of the Church and embellished it for a cappella choir. Our processional hymn is Charles Wesley’s “Come, thou long-expected Jesus,” and our sequence hymn during Advent is “Creator of the stars of night.” Our sermon hymn, “O Word, that goest forth on high,” is sometimes attributed to Thomas Aquinas,…

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    Sunday next before Advent (November 25, 2018)

    This Sunday’s Holy Eucharist will be one of our a cappella services. In lieu of an organ prelude, the choir will sing a chorale by J. S. Bach, taken from Cantata BWV 38, Aus tiefer Not schrei’ ich zu Dir. This cantata is based on Martin Luther’s early (1524) paraphrase of Psalm 130, and we’re singing this chorale since that text is the focus of some attention in the last few weeks of the Church year; the Offertory and Communion propers feature a verse from Psalm 130: “Out of the deep have I called unto thee, O Lord: Lord, hear my voice.” The story of the tune and text for…

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    Music for Trinity 25 (November 18, 2018)

    Although the Pilgrims never planned it so, our national harvest festival (some of us still call it Thanksgiving) occurs near the end of the Church’s liturgical year. Families and friends typically gather together at this time in a faint, secular echo of our Eucharistic feast, which in turn anticipates the great wedding feast ushered in with the second advent of our Lord. The music in our worship this Sunday resonates with Thanksgiving and anticipates Advent. Our processional hymn, “We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing,” has often been sung at Thanksgiving as a national hymn, the “We” taken to mean “America.” It is important to remember that the “We”…

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    Music for Trinity 24 (November 11, 2018)

    During Communion on Sunday, we will sing a familiar hymn text to a not so familiar tune. The bulletin will feature an insert with the music to “O Food to Pilgrims given.” You may recognize the words as almost exactly the same as hymn #192 in our Hymnal, “O Food of men wayfaring.” The story of the two different tunes and the slightly different texts is told here. The music sung by the choir during the Offertory and during Communion is from a 1641 setting of the Mass by Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643). This page offers more information about this work, and this article presents a introduction to the significance of…