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Coronavirus restrictions continue to limit our ability to create choral music in person right now, but we can still listen to great music! When we were all thrown into a virtual and tech driven world early last spring, Director of Music Will Gotmer began sharing some excellent choral music with the parish via Spotify playlists. After taking a break over the summer, Will’s playlists returned on The Feast of the Holy Cross! We hope you enjoy his curated collection of music at the links below.
The first liturgical Spotify playlist I made this year was for Palm Sunday and I can’t believe I’ve just made one for the First Sunday of Advent, yet here we are. This week’s playlist is bookended by two great Advent hymns, I included “Lo! He Comes With Clouds Descending” a few weeks ago, but it’s one of my favorites and Spotify has multiple arrangements available. Byrd’s “Ne irascaris Domine” is simply transcendent to me; the Latin text is a direct quote of Isaiah 64: 9. When I hear the first verse of Isaiah 64, “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down…,” my imagination swirls and I hear pieces like Judith Weir’s “Drop Down, Ye Heavens, from Above.”
Our collect for today talks about casting away darkness and putting on the armor of light. The Gospel reading brings back this image of darkness and the theme of “keep awake,” which we also had a few weeks ago. The next four pieces on the playlist pick up on these themes of casting out darkness and preparing for an unknown coming.
Like last week, this week’s list doesn’t need much introduction. We are celebrating two things – the last Sunday after Pentecost and the end of our liturgical year: Christ the King and Nov. 22nd is also the feast day for St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music. The playlist begins with two tributes to St. Cecilia, both by 20th century British composers. Next our playlist turns to music that focuses on Christ as king and his kingdom. I hope you enjoy the mix of hymns and choral anthems, some should be familiar and hopefully there is something new to you as well!
The playlist for this week shows how one psalm can influence composers from generation to generation, so here is a list based entirely on Psalm 90. The reading from 1 Thessalonians continues with the “keep awake” theme we already had last week, and the Gospel reading from Matthew isn’t that musically inspiring to me, so Psalm 90 it is! Each of the pieces on the list quote Psalm 90, most of them focusing on the first part of the psalm, “Lord, you have been our refuge…”. The earliest composer on the playlist is J.S. Bach (1685-1750), tracking through musical history we hear a piece by Thomas Attwood (1783-1856), Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847), two works by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958), Edward Bairstow (1874-1946), and Alan Hovhaness (1911-2000). I am sure this Psalm will continue to inspire composers for ages to come!
As we reach the last few weeks of our liturgical year, we start to run into some readings that almost sound like they belong in Advent. This week’s list focuses on two readings; the Epistle and the Gospel. The Epistle reading from 1 Thessalonians is only six verses long, but is full of stark and vivid imagery. The first six pieces on this list tie into these images of trumpet sounds and a descending Christ – except for the Goss. The Goss is a direct quote of 1 Thessalonians 4: 14, 18 and skips past the vibrant imagery.
As soon as I hear this Gospel reading from Matthew 25 my mind hears these last two pieces. You might be more familiar with André Thomas’s setting of “Keep Your Lamps,” but I came across this setting by Timothy Takach sung by Cantus (All male, 9-voice a cappella professional ensemble based in Minneapolis) and loved it. Spotify has a handful of fun recordings of the Thomas is you want to explore some of those on your own. The playlist closes with the fourth movement from Bach’s Cantata 140 “Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme” set for tenor voices accompanied by unison strings and continuo. You’ve heard a transcription of this played on the organ at Grace multiple times. If you want to check out the whole cantata, click here.
This week’s list is a bit longer…All Saints’ is one of those occasions (maybe second only to Christmas) that has endless musical possibilities…I just couldn’t limit it to 30 minutes, and I still feel like I haven’t prioritized the right mix of music! The readings appointed for All Saints’ this year can be found here; we are doing something different on Sunday morning, so you won’t hear all of these on Zoom or the Livestream.
I tried to prioritize some pieces that link more closely to the lectionary readings and not stray too far into requiem movements and other works. You’ve heard a handful of these pieces sung at Grace and I hope there are some that are new to you as well.
Commentary for each piece could go on and on, so I’ll let the music speak for itself. Two translations that might be helpful:
Brahms’s Ein deutsches Requiem (A German Requiem)
I. Selig sind, die da Leid tragen
Selig sind, die da Leid tragen,
denn sie sollen getröstet werden.
Die mit Tränen säen,
werden mit Freuden ernten.
Sie gehen hin und weinen,
und tragen edlen Samen,
und kommen mit Freuden
und bringen ihre Garben.
Rachmaninoff All-night Vigil
This week’s play list begins with a reflection on our collect of the day… “increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity.” You’ve heard Frederick Candlyn’s setting of “Thee We Adore” sung by the Grace Church Parish Choir last year. In the third verse, the choir reaches it height as they sing “increase our faith and love, that we may know the hope and peace which from thy presence flow.” Next we hear Henry Loosemore’s take on similar text. Briefly, we turn to a reflection on Psalm 1 with one of my favorite anthems by C. V. Stanford.
The Gospel reading for this week, Matthew 22: 34-46, begins with the two great commandments. I’ve selected three settings of the text “If ye love me” to go alongside this. You’ve probably heard the first two settings (Thomas Tallis and Philip Wilby) sung at Grace at least once in the past four years. The third setting by Paul Mealor is a beautifully introspective and simple unison setting; the sopranos from Westminster Choir College’s Williamson Voices sing it so well.
Lastly, we turn to two hymns. We know the first hymn, “Lord, whose love in humble service,” to a different tune (Blaenhafren). I couldn’t find a good recording on Spotify to the tune that is in our hymnal, but this text is just too good, so here it is sung to a different tune (Beach Spring). Once again, it amazes me how text written some time ago can still ring so true! The last hymn on this week’s list connects so well to the second part of our Gospel reading, especially with verse three:
Hail him, the Heir of David’s line,
Whom David Lord did call,
The God incarnate, Man divine,
and Crown him Lord of All!
Picking up on our the themes from our Old Testament reading from Isaiah, this week’s list starts with a majestic setting of the famous hymn “All people that on earth do dwell.” Isaiah 4: 5-7 really hit home with verse 2 of the hymn, “Know that the Lord is God indeed…”. Next, we turn to Psalm 96 (Cantate Domino). This psalm is rich with musical opportunities; as it progresses, we hear a list of ways in which all of creation can sing to the Lord – the heavens, the earth, the sea, the field, the trees. The hymn “Earth and all stars” provides one of the most fun hymn texts in our hymnal (perhaps only second to “I sing a song of the saints of God”). Just like Psalm 96, it makes its way through aspects of creation singing to the Lord with a new song. I was not familiar with this arrangement sung by The American Boychoir and The St. Olaf Choir, but it is so charming and once I heard it I had to include! Three more selections tied to Psalm 96; first, a chant setting by George Thalben-Ball and sung by the St. Thomas Choir of Men and Boys; second and third are the first two sections of a larger work by Samuel Sebastian Wesley, “Ascribe unto the Lord.” Feel free to click on album link to explore the remaining three sections of this work.
At first glance, our gospel reading from Matthew 22 wouldn’t seem to inspire much music, but there are a few good options. Christopher Tye’s “Give almes of thy goods” is one that always comes to mind. Of course, Bach always has something too. Cantata 163 Nur jedem das Seine! (To each his own!) was written specifically to go along side this Gospel reading. I didn’t include the whole cantata in this list, just the opening Tenor aria and closing choral.
1. Tenor Aria
Nur jedem das Seine!
Muss Obrigkeit haben
Zoll, Steuern und Gaben,
Man weigre sich nicht
Der schuldigen Pflicht!
Doch bleibet das Herze dem Höchsten alleine.
Führ auch mein Herz und Sinn
Durch deinen Geist dahin,
Dass ich mög alles meiden,
Was mich und dich kann scheiden,
Und ich an deinem Leibe
Ein Gliedmaß ewig bleibe.
We close with a setting of the hymn “God of grace and God of glory.” While the themes of the hymn are broader than our reading from Matthew, verse 3 provides a lot to chew on…both in regards to our Gospel, but also the current state of our world. It always amazes me when words written 100 years ago can still feel so true today in 2020.
Cure thy children’s warring madness, bend our pride to thy control;
Shame our wanton, selfish gladness, rich in things and poor in soul.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, lest we miss thy kingdom’s goal.
Our Epistle reading this week from Philippians 4 has a sentence that has inspired many well-known pieces of music: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” First, one of my favorite hymns (sung by my alma mater!); second, possibly the most famous setting of this text by Henry Purcell; third, and also well-known, a 16th-century setting from an unknown composer.
The musical selections for Psalm 23 are almost endless! We heard this psalm in the spring for the Fourth Sunday of Easter, so I’ve selected two different settings for this list. The first is a simple Anglican chant setting by John Goss and sung by the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge. The second is a contemporary setting by English composer Will Todd. You’ve heard at least one of his works before at Grace.
The Gospel reading for this week ends in a difficult place, but like he does with so many other painful and challenging texts, Bach manages to reflect on this reading with elegance and beauty. Part of Bach’s job was to perform a church cantata every Sunday, so he regularly composed a new cantata every week for the prescribed readings. Cantata 162 Ach! Ich sehe, itzt, da ich zur Hochzeit gehe (Ah! I see, now, when I go to the wedding) was composed specifically to reflect on the banquet parable from Matthew 22: 1-14. The text for this specific cantata comes from German lawyer, scientist, and poet Salomon Franck. Franck was a regular collaborator with Bach and was the librettist of some of Bach’s best-known cantatas. Be sure to follow along with the text here while listening.
Opening with a majestic arrangement of “All Creatures of Our God and King,” this week’s playlist primarily focuses on the Feast of St. Francis. The psalm appointed for this day, Psalm 148: 7-14, couldn’t match better with is hymn; both calling on all aspects of creation to praise the Lord!
7 Praise the LORD from the earth, *
you sea-monsters and all deeps;
8 Fire and hail, snow and fog, *
tempestuous wind, doing his will;
9 Mountains and all hills, *
fruit trees and all cedars;
10 Wild beasts and all cattle, *
creeping things and winged birds;
11 Kings of the earth and all peoples, *
princes and all rulers of the world;
12 Young men and maidens, *
old and young together.
13 Let them praise the Name of the LORD, *
for his Name only is exalted,
his splendor is over earth and heaven.
14 He has raised up strength for his people
and praise for all his loyal servants, *
the children of Israel, a people who are near him.
Next we have John Rutter’s setting of “Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.” This text is often associated with Saint Francis of Assisi and is usually referred to as the Prayer of Saint Francis, but it is entirely absent from his writings and hasn’t been traced back further than 1912. Whatever its origins may be, the has inspired artists, musicians, and world leaders. Next we have a piece by contemporary American composer Dan Forrest that quotes the Gospel reading from Matthew appointed for St. Francis, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”
The bulk of the playlist is one of Benjamin Britten’s most well-known works, Rejoice in the Lamb. Scored for four soloists, SATB choir, and organ, Rejoice in the Lamb is a cantata based on the poem Jubilate Agno by Christopher Smart. This eccentric poem, written while Smart was in an insane asylum, explores the wonder of God’s creation from a variety of perspectives. To see the full text of the cantata, click here.
We close the playlist with a nod to readings from Proper 22. Two pieces that share themes from the Epistle reading from Philippians, “Since By Man Came Death” from Handel’s Messiah and the Parker/Shaw arrangement of “Saints Bound for Heaven.” Finally, we close with the hymn “Christ is Made the Sure Foundation,” quoting the Gospel reading from Matthew. Click below for the playlist. Enjoy!
The first three selections this week are inspired by our psalm of the day, Psalm 25. Richard Farrant’s “Call to Remembrance, O Lord” draws on vs. 5-6 and the two contrasting settings of “Teach Me O Lord” actually come from Psalm 119, but are still very fitting with vs. 3-4 of Psalm 25. You’ve heard this text at Grace before set to music by 18th-century English composer Thomas Attwood. The next piece by Lee Hoiby is a dramatic retelling of the Epistle reading from Philippians. We heard this text two weeks ago in observance of Holy Cross, and I am thankful it returned because there is more than one playlist worth of musical inspiration!
Next, I’ve included Handel’s coronation anthem Let Thy Hand Be Strengthened. Many composers have written music for the coronation of monarchs throughout history and the body of Anglican music has certainly been enriched by music written for the grand coronations of British kings and queens. Handel wrote four anthems for the coronation of George II, but they have also become standard selections for later coronations. Perhaps the most notable is Zadok the Priest. Let Thy Hand Be Strengthened is divided into three parts: a cheerful light beginning in G major; a melancholy, slow middle section in E minor; and a closing Alleluia again in G major. The text is from Psalm 89 (verses 13–14), but also pairs well with themes in our Epistle and Gospel reading today.
Let thy hand be strengthened and thy right hand be exalted.
Let justice and judgment be the preparation of thy seat!
Let mercy and truth go before thy face.
Let justice, judgment, mercy and truth go before thy face.
If you enjoy that coronation anthem, check out the other three! You can find many recordings on Spotify, but the album by The Sixteen is great, click on the album name for any of the three coronation tracks on this week’s list where it says “Handel: Coronation Anthems.” Lastly, we close with a great arrangement of All Hail The Power of Jesus’ Name. Well not a direct quote, it draws on the themes of the Philippians text: “Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”
A slightly less “Anglican” start to this week’s playlist, but I was feeling spunky! Psalm 145 is the psalm of the day, this first piece by Byron Smith isn’t a word for word setting of the psalm text, but it certainly picks up on the same theme and images. “Let the trumpets sound, let the rocks resound, I will sing, I will shout, He’s worthy to be praised!”
Next, we turn to our Epistle reading, Philippians 1:21-30. I’ve selected three different settings of two texts that connect to this reading. First, three settings of “Steal Away.” You’ve heard the first setting at Grace and the last setting is arranged by Dale Adelmann who is the Canon for Music at the Cathedral of St. Philip in Atlanta. Of course, there are many more settings of this spiritual! Next, three settings of “Jesus Christ the Apple Tree.” Again, you’ve heard the first setting at Grace, this particular recording is from a professional choir based in Miami. They do a Christmas concert each year and always sing this piece surrounding the audience and end in a glorious 16 part canon of the melody. My personal favorite setting of this text is by Anthony Piccolo, especially verse four – “I’m weary with my former toil.” If you want to hear another amazing setting of this piece, there is a great setting by Stanford Scriven. There’s not a recording on Spotify, but you can click here to listen to a performance on YouTube.
Finally, our Gospel reading today demands we include the hymn “Come, labor on.” It doesn’t get any better than this recording by Gerre Hancock and the St. Thomas Choir of Men and Boys.
I’m so glad that many of you started using Spotify earlier in the year and have continued using it throughout the summer! As our program year starts back up and we remain online for many activities, I’d like to offer these weekly playlists again as encouragement to keep listening to great choral music with an ear to how it inspires and connects us to the texts, themes, and events of our weekly life at Grace!
This Sunday would have marked the return of our Adult Choir after a summer break. The past four years, we have always sung the same two pieces on our first Sunday back…Hubert Parry’s “I Was Glad” and Harold Friedell’s “Draw us in the Spirit’s Tether,” so I wanted to start this playlist with those two offerings.
Next, we turn to music celebrating Holy Cross Day. First, we hear Ralph Vaughan Williams popular hymn that quotes our epistle reading from Phillippians, “At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow.” Our psalm today, Psalm 98 (Cantate Domino – Sing to the Lord a new song), is one that by nature inspires music of all kinds! Enjoy two very different settings of this text. First, a setting by contemporary Spanish composer Josu Elberdin with text alternating between English, Basque, and Latin. Second, a selection from J.S. Bach’s motet “Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied,” which takes text from Psalm 149 and 150 but very much maintains the theme from Psalm 98. Last spring we heard the Aeolians of Oakwood University offer this specific chorus on their concert at Grace! The second half of this chorus breaks into a fabulous four-part fugue to the text of “Alles was Odem hat, lobe den Herrn, Halleluja!” or “Everything that has breath, praise the Lord, Hallelujah!” Perhaps most often heard during Holy Week, Crux Fidelis is a fitting text to meditate on today as well – enjoy two settings of this text:
Crux fidelis, inter omnes
arbor una nobilis:
nulla silva talem profert,
fronde, flore, germine.
Dulce lignum, dulces clavos,
dulce pondus sustinet.
Faithful cross, above all other,
One and only noble tree:
None in foliage, none in blossom,
None in fruit thy peer may be.
Sweetest wood and sweetest iron,
Sweetest weight is hung on thee!
Finally, a majestic arrangement of one of my favorite hymns…I know so many of you love this one too! Click the link below for the playlist.
We bring our Spotify playlists to a conclusion this week with the observance of Trinity Sunday. I am so glad that some of you have delved into this new tool for listening to music. It is such a fabulous resource! I encourage you to start exploring all it has to offer on your own this summer. For example, if you heard a recording you particularly enjoyed, scroll over and click on the album it came from and give that whole album a listen! A great album on this week’s playlist is King’s College’s Bernstein and Britten album, find “Britten: Festival Te Deum, Op. 32” on the playlist, scroll over and click on the album title. “Bernstein: Chichester Psalms – Britten: Rejoice the Lamb & Festival Te Deum.” You’ve heard a couple things on this album, but it includes some more great Bernstein and Britten too. From there, you can go even further by exploring more by the artist “Choir of King’s College, Cambridge,” found in smaller text underneath the album name at the top of the page. This brings you to the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge page. There are dozens of albums to peruse along with a “Fans Also Like” section. Keep clicking and listening!
Like last week for Pentecost, our list this week is somewhat self-guided with lots of references to the Trinity. Our tradition has so much good choral music and hymnody to go with this day! Our appointed Old Testament reading today is the creation story from Genesis 1, so I have included “The Heavens are Telling,” “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands,” and “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise” to help us reflect on that passage. All three pieces bring a smile to my face…especially Margaret Bonds arrangement of “He’s Got the Whole World” with Jessye Norman singing!
Possibly my absolute favorite piece of English choral music ends the list this week, a setting of the Te Deum by Herbert Howells. This piece is typically heard with just choir and organ, but this recording came out a year ago to include a fantastic version of an orchestrated accompaniment and I just love it. If you want to put your Spotify skills to the test, you can search for more recordings of this piece to hear it with choir and organ, or click here to watch an amazing performance of the piece at the Cathedral of St. Philip!
Will Gotmer, Director of Music/Organist
This week’s list for Pentecost is a little more straight forward…lots of music about the Spirit! The first three choral pieces and the hymns on this list were sung at Grace in the past year or so and should be familiar to many. I’ve included four different settings of the “Veni, Sancte Spiritus,” or “Come, Holy Ghost,” text…it’s another one of those texts that has stirred up the imaginations of composers for hundreds of years! The “Dona nobis pacem” (“Grant us Peace”) choral movement from Bach’s Mass in B Minor is a great reflection on our Gospel reading from John, “Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you…”. The playlist closes with a dramatic piece by English composer Edward Elgar – “The Spirit of the Lord” is probably the best known choral setting of this text. It is a movement from his oratorio The Apostles, a narrative choral work depicting the calling of the apostles and their reactions to Jesus’ teaching, crucifixion and ascension. Enjoy!
Director of Music/Organist
Whether we look at the readings appointed for Ascension Day or the Seventh Sunday of Easter we end up with a lot of the same music. I drew most of my inspiration this week from the readings appointed for the Seventh Sunday of Easter, but Psalm 47 and some other ascension related gems worked their way in too!
The Collect for today has inspired a few composers, Philip Stopford and Henry Purcell offer us two contrasting takes on the text “O God, the King of Glory.” Next a marvelous setting of the hymn “Crown Him with many Crowns,” such a perfect text to summarize the mood of today! The bulk of today’s list comes next, settings of Psalm 47 (appointed for Ascension Day), however Psalm 68 nods at many of the same phrases – “Let God arise,” “Sing praises, ” ect. “Ascendit Deus” or “God is gone up” is one of those texts that has dozens of settings over the course of centuries. It’s hard to pick a favorite, so hopefully you enjoy a four-way tie. My favorite piece on this list comes next…Patrick Gowers “Viri Galilaei” is set for 8 part choir, soloists, 2 organists, and trumpet. Not only is it a fun piece of music, but it weaves together all sorts of texts, we start with a quote from Acts 1, then a bit of Psalm 47, and finally the Christopher Wordsworth “See the Conqueror mounts in triumph” text. Circling back to Psalm 47, “O Clap Your Hands” is another verse that composers gravitate towards, and I just love Vaughan Williams setting. “Lift up your heads,” comes from Psalm 24, but is linked to Ascension Day – William Mathias and G.F. Handel offer us two contrasting takes. To close, a setting of another beloved Ascension hymn…enjoy!
Director of Music/Organist
This week’s playlist finds a lot of inspiration from our Psalm text. We start Psalm 66 on verse 7 this week, but verse 1 begins with “Be joyful in God, all you lands…”. Psalm 66 and Psalm 100 have a lot in common, but musically, Psalm 100 is the one that often gets quoted and is referred to as the Jubilate Deo. I think we can reflect on the theme regardless of the text belonging to Psalm 66 or 100! In the Anglican Tradition the Te Deum and Jubilate Deo are the two canticles that are typically set to music for a sung Morning Prayer service. Some of you cradle Episcopalians may remember this from when Morning Prayer was the principal service on Sunday mornings. Today, we are more familiar with the evening canticles – the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis for Evensong. Nearly every Anglican composer has settings of both morning and evening canticles, and the respective morning and evening preces and responses. The repertoire of service music is massive in the Anglican tradition!
Our playlist starts with a marvelous setting of “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” by Mack Wilberg, then transitions to four settings of the Jubilate Deo (there are many many more!), and then moves to Maurice Greene’s setting of Psalm 66 verses 14 and 17. You might enjoy knowing that the Grace Church Parish Choir was going to sing the Walton Jubilate Deo on Easter morning and you would have heard the Howells setting this Sunday for the parish picnic! Next, the playlist turns to four settings of our Gospel reading from John: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” For many of us, Thomas Tallis’s setting comes immediately to mind, but we have also sung the Philip Wilby setting at Grace too! Our playlist makes a nod towards the reading from 1 Peter with two excepts from Handel’s Messiah. We close with two hymn settings, “Come Down, O Love Divine” is a great response to our Gospel reading from John as Jesus says, “he will give you another advocate…the Spirit of truth.” Lastly, “Alleluia! Sing to Jesus” brings us right back to where we started – being joyful in praising God….but, also pay close attention to verse two. Our Gospel says “I will not leave you orphaned” and our hymn says “Alleluia! Not as orphans are we left in sorrow now.” What a great hymn text to tie together both our Psalm and Gospel today!
Director of Music/Organist
I never fully realized how great the Easter season readings can be for linking music to scripture until I sat down to make these playlists! This week, all of the readings just sing with options. I’ve sprinkled a few hymns in this week too, looking at 1 Peter 2:2-10, “Christ is made the sure foundation” and “The Church’s one foundation” just had to make the list. Between the Psalm and the Gospel reading, I felt I should include “O God, our help in ages past” as well.
The appointed Collect and Gospel reading both reflect on Jesus being “the way, the truth, and the life,” we will sing Ralph Vaughan Williams version of this text as a hymn on Sunday, but many of us are familiar with his solo and other choral settings of this text too. Turning to our reading from Acts, the Latin “O salutaris hostia” text resonates so strongly with me, so I’ve included two of my favorite settings. Esenvalds is a living Latvian composer and Rossini is a famous nineteenth-century Italian composer mostly known for opera.
O salutaris hostia
quae caeli pandis ostium,
bella premunt hostilia:
da robur, fer auxilium
O saving victim
who opens the gate of heaven,
hostile wars press on us:
give strength, bring aid.
Although set to text from Psalm 70, I’ve included Buxtehude’s setting of “In te Domine speravi” to link with today’s Psalm 31 excerpt. And in addition to the hymns, Vaughan Williams “O taste and see” links right into that 1 Peter reading…”if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.”
Finally turning to our Gospel reading, the concept of eternal dwelling places brings so much music to mind. Starting with two famous settings of Psalm 84, “How amiable are thy dwellings,” I’ve included some more Vaughan Williams and similar text but in German from Brahms’ Requiem. Next, turning to some Bach (Click here to see a translation of the Bach motet) and a spiritual.
Director of Music/Organist
Another great week for music…once again a set of readings that offer endless possibilities for music. There is an extremely vast body of art and music that deals with images of the Good Shepherd/Sheep/The Lamb/etc. Two main texts that come to mind are obviously Psalm 23, but also the “Agnus Dei” text links so well with our reading from 1 Peter: “O Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world…”. I started this playlist with three settings of Psalm 23, the first you have heard many times at Grace, the second is hopefully also somewhat familiar, and the third setting is one of my personal favorites. Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms is an extended three movement choral work that sets multiple psalm texts in their original Hebrew. Movement two features Psalm 23 with a dramatic interruption of a segment of Psalm 2 and provides one of the most hauntingly beautiful melodies of 20th Century American choral repertoire.
Next we turn to three settings of the Agnus Dei, words we typically observe every week as part of our service. The texts of the Mass “Ordinary” and the texts of a Requiem Mass are probably the most commonly set texts to music, so options for an Agnus Dei really are endless! Hopefully these three provide some good variety. A brief nod to Palestrina’s setting of the Easter “Victimae paschali laudes” text: “Let Christians offer sacrificial praises to the Passover victim. The lamb has redeemed the sheep: The Innocent Christ has reconciled the sinners to the Father…” Sticking with this 1 Peter reading, three movements from Handel’s Messiah. Handel’s libretto, quotes Isaiah 53:5-7 for these three movements, but I can’t hear this reading from 1 Peter without my brain singing Handel! To close the list, I’ve included a spiritual followed by a familiar return to Psalm 23.
P.S. for those wanting to explore more Bach cantatas…check out Cantata 175 “Er rufet seinen Schafen mit Namen,” “He calls His sheep by name.”
This week’s readings are one of those weeks that lends itself to great music. Spoiler alert: next week is one of those weeks too…Psalm 23! I chose to focus my Easter 3 playlist on the appointed Gospel reading: Luke 24:13-35. Two texts that come to mind for me are “Bleib bei uns” (Stay with us) and “O sacrum convivium” (O sacred banquet).
Bleib bei uns, denn es will Abend werden,
und der Tag hat sich geneiget.
Stay with us, for evening shadows darken,
and the day will soon be over.
O sacrum convivium!
in quo Christus sumitur:
recolitur memoria passionis eius:
mens impletur gratia:
et futurae gloriae nobis pignus datur.
O sacred banquet!
in which Christ is received,
the memory of his Passion is renewed,
the mind is filled with grace,
and a pledge of future glory to us is given.
Both of these texts have been set to music for centuries. If you have Spotify premium, the playlist is in order, if you have the free version, just imagine in the order as it shuffles. The playlist opens with a recognizable tune that encapsulates the entire reading, and then we turn to music reflecting on the disciples asking the unrecognized Jesus to “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” Perhaps you have heard the Hovland setting before, and then the Rheinberger is my personal favorite setting of this text. Next, we have another Bach cantata, you might remember that last week had a Bach cantata too. A cantata is a short, multi-movement narrative piece of music written for voices and instrumental accompaniment. Bach wrote many cantatas for both secular and sacred use; his church cantatas were composed for use in the Lutheran church and typically correspond with occasions of the liturgical year. Cantata 6 focuses on this “Bleib bei uns” text, click here for text and translation.
Next we turn to this “O sacrum convivium” text. The text is attributed with some certainty to Saint Thomas Aquinas and has been set polyphonically for choir for 500 years. It’s a more generic Eucharist text, however, it really ties into this Gospel when Jesus is revealed in blessing and breaking bread. These are just three of many settings. Lastly, we end with a fun spiritual!
Hi all, Happy Easter! I am glad many of you enjoyed the Spotify playlists for Holy Week, and that some tried Spotify for the first time too…it really is great. Here is a link to a playlist for this week, the second Sunday of Easter!
The sights and sounds of Easter morning will no doubt be different this year, but I hope these two things bring some extra joy to your day and the rest of your week! Here is a video clip of our opening hymn and collect from Easter 2019:
And for those playing along at home with Spotify, here is your Easter playlist!