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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 in the spring of 2020, 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.
We’ve made it through a full liturgical year of Spotify playlists. As we transition back into the Nave for worship, Lent 5 was my last playlist.
I hope you have enjoyed these lists and reflections each week, and I hope you will continue to utilize Spotify in the future! If you would like to listen to last year’s Holy Week and Easter playlists, simply scroll down to the bottom of this page to find Palm Sunday.
This might even be a fun opportunity to try making your own playlist. To create a playlist, click the “New Playlist” icon on the left-hand side or go to file -> new playlist, and then search for music you like and click and drag it to your newly created list. Enjoy, and thanks for listening!
Director of Music
Our playlist for Lent 5 consists of just two settings of Psalm 51. The first setting on this week’s list, and possibly the most famous setting of Psalm 51, is by Italian composer Gregorio Allegri who composed his setting in 1638 exclusively for use in the Sistine Chapel during Holy Week. It was so good that, to preserve the sense of mystery around the music, the Pope forbade anyone from transcribing it and only three copies of the music were made. According to popular story, fourteen-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was visiting Rome when he first heard the piece during a Wednesday service. Later that day, he wrote it down entirely from memory. Somewhere along Mozart’s journey, he handed off a copy of his manuscript to a British music historian and it was later published. Obviously, there is no remaining ban on the performance or publishing of this piece as it is widely performed, recorded, and beloved. The hauntingly beautiful tones are unique and instantly recognizable even to those who know little about sacred choral music. Spotify has dozens of recordings of this piece; I chose Tenbrae’s recording, but there are many other good recordings if you want to listen to a few interpretations.
The second work is an eight movement setting by George Frideric Handel. In 1717, Handel became the composer in residence at Cannons in Middlesex, seat of James Brydges, who in 1719 became the First Duke of Chandos. During his stay, Handel composed anthems for use in Anglican church services which became known as the Chandos Anthems. These anthems are little-known masterpieces, overshadowed by his operas, coronation music, and of course the Messiah. “Have Mercy upon me, O God” is the third anthem out of eleven in the set. Brydges eventually built a larger chapel, but it was still under construction when Handel composed these pieces, so the anthems were performed in a smaller parish church where services were temporarily held. Due to the smaller space, these anthems were written for a small group of singers and instrumentalists. These anthems, along with Handel’s four Coronation Anthems for George II are great examples of what Ludwig van Beethoven called Handel’s ability to achieve “great effects with simple means.”
This week’s list opens with two tracks reflecting on the Psalm and Epistle appointed for today, but the bulk of today’s list turns to the famous passage found in the Gospel reading from the third chapter of John. The passage starts with a quick reference back to our Old Testament reading from Numbers. We hear two settings of John 3: 14-15, one by German Baroque composer Heinrich Schütz and one by nineteenth-century English composer John Stainer. Stainer’s setting of “As Moses Lifted Up the Serpent” provides a perfect transition into settings of John 3: 16-17, “God So Loved the World,” because they are both from the same larger work. You’ve heard Stainer’s “God So Loved the World” sung by the Parish Choir at Grace before. His setting is often sung as a stand-alone piece, but it’s the ninth movement from his oratorio The Crucifixion: A Meditation on the Sacred Passion of the Holy Redeemer. Composed in 1887, the work is scored for SATB choir and organ, and features solos for bass and tenor. Stainer intended for the work to be accessible to the capabilities of most parish choirs; it even includes five hymns for congregational participation. At least one of these hymns is familiar to us at Grace. The fifth movement is titled “The Mystery of the Divine Humiliation,” but you know it as hymn 160 in our hymnal “Cross of Jesus, cross of sorrow.” I’ve included three more settings of “God So Loved the World” and there are certainly many more out there! The list ends with one of my favorite hymns and I know it is a favorite for many in our congregation too. To me, the closest connection to the Gospel reading comes in verses two and three:
Each newborn servant of the Crucified
bears on the brow the seal of him who died.
O Lord, once lifted on the glorious tree,
as thou hast promised, draw the world to thee.
This list begins with Psalm 19 and Haydn’s joyful setting of “The Heavens Are Telling” from his oratorio The Creation. This second track might be a little unusual for some, but give it a listen. Frank Ferko is a living American composer, heavily influenced by French composer Olivier Messiaen, and also has a love for the poetry and music of St. Hildegard of Bingen. Listen for a mystical chant aspect throughout the piece. “O Verbum Patris” is the first of nine in his Hildegard Motets. Below is the translation of the Latin text, I find it to be a good reflection on Psalm 19 as well.
O Word of the Father, you are the first dawn’s light within the circuit of the wheel, performing all in energy divine.
O God’s foreknowledge, you have foreseen your every deed according to your will—
All that you have foreknown lay held within your power’s heart.
Your working is as like a wheel that all encompasses—
Beginning kept it not nor ever was it wound down to an end.
Skipping next to our Gospel reading from John that describes Jesus going to the temple in Jerusalem, being offended by what he found there, turning over tables, and chasing out the merchants who set up shop. When acceptable worship in the temple meant offering sacrifices and making offerings not with ordinary Roman coins, having merchants available to sell sacrificial animals and having money changers available for worshipers who didn’t have proper coinage could be understood in a positive way. Jesus, however, sees something important about the house of God has been forgotten. These next two musical selections of “Bring Us, O Lord God” poetically describe that something in the words of John Donne. Donne says the house of God has “no noise nor silence, but one equal music; no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light; in the habitation of thy glory.” The only piece of music I know of that depicts this actual Bible story is by twentieth-century Hungarian composer Zoltán Kodály. Between the harmonic complexity, rapid close canons, and challenging fugue “Jézus és a kujárok (Jesus and the traders)” is a little out there. Both the Ferko and the Kodály perhaps make this a more challenging list to listen to, but hopefully the beginning, middle, and end provide a nice buffer. The list ends John Rutter’s bubbly setting of “Lord of the Dance.” While not a direct link to these readings the text portrays Jesus’ life, mission, death, and resurrection – the Gospel reading from today deals with all of this.
The opening track on this week’s list is one of my favorite hymns and when I saw our first reading from Genesis, I had to include it! Psalm 22: 26 reads “All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall bow before him.” Perhaps little joyful for the season of Lent, but I immediately thought of Ralph Vaughan Williams “Let All the World in Every Corner Sing.” English composer Alexander L’Estrange has a great setting of this too. I included a different track from this album for the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, so perhaps you made your way over to this album already, if not, check it out this week! René Clausen is probably more known throughout the high school, collegiate, and community choir world, but his setting of “All that Hath Life and Breath Praise the Lord” fits right in with this psalm too.
Our New Testament reading from Romans 4 looks back on our Genesis reading and Abraham’s faith. Two contrasting settings of “O Lord, Increase My Faith” reflect on this. The first setting is by living American composer Carson Cooman and the second is by English Renaissance composer Orlando Gibbons. Carson lives in Boston and has quite a bit of choral and organ music, I don’t know his works too well, but he has a strong presence on YouTube if you want to explore more. The last three tracks turn to our Gospel reading from Mark with Jesus’s call “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” First, a soprano solo from Bach’s St. John Passion – I’ve included the text below. The last two tracks are two hymns settings of “Take up Thy Cross.” The second one is the one in our hymnal, but I wish we had both versions available.
Ich folge dir gleichfalls
mit freudigen SchrittenZoo
Und lasse dich nicht,
Mein Leben, mein Licht.
Befördre den Lauf,
Und höre nicht auf,
Selbst an mir zu ziehen,
zu schieben, zu bitten.
The first piece on this week’s list, “Wash me thoroughly,” doesn’t really line up with our appointed texts, but it is one of my favorite Lenten anthems and a good way to start our musical Lenten journey – you’ve heard this sung at Grace before. The next three pieces focus on Psalm 25. The first of the three is a vocal solo from a well-known song cycle by Czech composer Antonín Dvořák. Biblical Songs consists of ten musical settings of selected psalm texts set for piano and voice. No. 8 picks up after our appointed verses end with verses 16-21 but continues the theme of turning to God. Over the course of the pandemic, you have heard two from this set sung on our 10:45AM live stream, No. 3 (Hear my prayer, Psalm 55: 1-8) and No. 4 (God is my shepherd, Psalm 23: 1-4). Next are two contrasting settings of “Teach me, O Lord” by William Byrd and Philip Stopford. This text is from Psalm 119, but verses 3-4 of Psalm 25 parallel that text well.
The rest of the list reflects on the Gospel reading from Mark 1 where Jesus is driven into the wilderness. I’m a little surprised there aren’t more choral settings of the spiritual “Jesus Walked This Lonesome Valley,” it’s one of my favorites! “Jesus, So Lowly” should be familiar to most of you, it’s been sung regularly at Grace and is a favorite to many. The second verse fits in well with this Gospel reading: “Jesus, so lonely, weary and sad; teach me that only love maketh glad.” The list ends with three familiar Lenten hymns that reflect on these forty days.
On the Last Sunday after Epiphany we always hear the story of Jesus being transfigured, coupled with our other readings today there is so much imagery around light; this transfiguration story and theme of light inspire some great music! First a quick stop at our Old Testament reading from 2 Kings, I couldn’t pass by this reading without including the traditional spiritual, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” This arrangement is by Dale Adelmann, the Canon for Music at the Cathedral of St. Philip in Atlanta. The Cathedral Choir of St. Philip’s has a good recording of this too, but I picked a recording by VocalEssence, a fantastic ensemble from my home state of Minnesota!
The rest of the list focuses on transfiguration and light, I hope I’ve included some familiar and some new pieces. One notable piece that requires a little explanation is the third track on the list. That track is actually two pieces and I wish I could have found a recording of just “The Transfiguration,” but this is all Spotify had – feel free to listen to “The Song of Mary” or skip past it when it starts. Larry King was at St. John the Divine in New York City and is known for including an electronic tape part in some of his organ and choral music. He calls for lots of strange sounds on the organ, so sometimes it’s hard to tell what is on the tape and what is on the organ! When performing this piece, the tape part is played through the sound system and the conductor follows a stop watch to make sure the organ and choir are in time with the tape. If you want to see a video of it being performed, click here for a good YouTube recording. Here is the text for the piece:
Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain where they could be alone. There in their presence he was transfigured; his face shone as the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared to them; a bright cloud covered them with a shadow, and from the cloud there came a voice which said: This is my Son; listen to him.
This week’s list focuses mainly on our Old Testament reading from Isaiah 40. First up is a thrilling recording of the popular hymn “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise” by the Huddersfield Choral Society, this text weaves in and out with Isaiah 40 from verse to verse. Next a direct quote from Randall Thompson’s larger work, The Peaceable Kingdom – if you haven’t heard this whole work before, it’s worth a listen! The next three pieces deal with the closing verse of the section appointed for today “but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” Most of you have surely heard Michael Joncas’s setting of “On Eagle’s Wings”, it has remained a popular musical selection in many denominations, especially Catholic. The text doesn’t quote our Isaiah passage from today, but the theme is very much similar. On a completely different end of the musical spectrum, contemporary British composer Alexander L’Estrange has a stunning setting of different yet similar text – if you enjoy this piece, check out the whole CD of his works recorded by Tenebrae.
We make a brief stop at Psalm 147 for Mozart’s classic setting of “Laudate Dominum.” Lastly, we turn to our Gospel from Mark. You’ve heard the Goss sung at Grace a couple times in the past few years, but you might not be familiar with Herbert Howells’s setting of “O Saviour of the world.” It’s the first movement of his Requiem. There are handful of recordings of the Howells Requiem on Spotify, I like this one by Conspirare. If you are in the mood to listen to two choral albums today, check out the Conspirare album on this list (Requiem – Howells, Whitacre, Pizzetti) in addition to Tenebrae’s album of L’Estrange’s music (On Eagles’ Wings). We close this list with a fitting spiritual about healing. I was actually unfamiliar with this spiritual, but stumbled across it when making this list and I’m glad for it! Stacy Gibbs came onto the choral scene about twenty years ago and is a prolific and highly sought-after composer, arranger, and clinician. Best known for arrangements of spirituals, he is highly acclaimed for his ability to infuse new energy into familiar works without sacrificing their authenticity or power. Enjoy!
This week’s list is a less diverse, starting off with an Anglican chant setting of Psalm 111 and ending with the hymn “Thou Whose Almighty Word” as a reflection on the Gospel reading; the middle six pieces are settings of Ubi Caritas. When reading through this week’s lessons, I was caught by the first section of the Epistle reading from 1 Corinthians: “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; but anyone who loves God is known by him.” All of the settings of the text except for the Duruflé are by contemporary living composers. The text is very old, attributed to Paulinus of Aquileia in 796, so I’m not sure why it has all of a sudden become so popular in the 20th and 21st century. You’ve heard Ola Gjeilo’s original version at Grace, the version on this list is a little different; Paul Mealor’s setting was sung at Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding; while the settings by Briggs, Ešenvalds, and Stopford aren’t as familiar, they are all prominent contemporary composers. Side note: if you aren’t familiar with Latvian composer Ēriks Ešenvalds, he has some great choral music. If you attended Kinnara’s concert two years ago, you heard one of his pieces – Salutation. Other works to check out are O Salutaris Hostia, Trinity Te Deum, and Only in Sleep.
Below is the text and translation for Ubi Caritas to meditate on as these different settings play.
Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.
Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor.
Exsultemus, et in ipso jucundemur.
Timeamus, et amemus Deum vivum.
Et ex corde diligamus nos sincero.
Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.
Simul ergo cum in unum congregamur:
Ne nos mente dividamur, caveamus.
Cessent iurgia maligna, cessent lites.
Et in medio nostri sit Christus Deus.
Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.
Simul quoque cum beatis videamus,
Glorianter vultum tuum, Christe Deus:
Gaudium quod est immensum, atque probum,
Saecula per infinita saeculorum. Amen.
Where charity and love are, there God is.
The love of Christ has gathered us into one.
Let us exult, and in Him be joyful.
Let us fear and let us love the living God.
And from a sincere heart let us love each other (and Him).
Where charity and love are, there God is.
Therefore, whensoever we are gathered as one:
Lest we in mind be divided, let us beware.
Let cease malicious quarrels, let strife give way.
And in the midst of us be Christ our God.
Where charity and love are, there God is.
Together also with the blessed may we see,
Gloriously, Thy countenance, O Christ our God:
A joy which is immense, and also approved:
Through infinite ages of ages. Amen.
The Old Testament reading this week is short and to the point, but lends itself well to music about God’s mercy. This week’s list starts with two settings of the hymn “There’s A Wideness in God’s Mercy.” The first setting by Calvin Hampton is the one we have sung at Grace and has a beautiful instrumental descant line, the second setting by John Stainer would be more familiar in the Church of England. Those two hymns are followed by Richard Farrant’s “Lord, for Thy Tender Mercy’s Sake,” the second half of the piece is an extended “amen” and one of the most gloriously composed in choral music. I am particularly fond of this recording by an early music ensemble from Westminster Choir College.
Next, I’ve included three pieces to reflect on Psalm 62. The theme of God being a rock and a refuge is present in multiple psalms. Textually, none of these three pieces quote Psalm 62 directly, but I think you will find the themes to be completely interchangeable. My favorite of these three pieces is Vaughan Williams’s “Lord, Thou hast been our refuge.” Composed in 1921 it combines a setting of Psalm 90 with Issac Watt’s metrical version of the same Psalm – O God, our help in ages past.
The Gospel reading from Mark begins with Jesus proclaiming the good news, so this week’s playlist fittingly ends with two settings of “Ain’-a That Good New!” First a setting by Moses Hogan and then the Dawson setting that is probably more familiar to most of you.
This week’s list begins with three hymns. The first hymn (especially the refrain), “Here I Am, Lord,” is a perfect response to our first reading from 1 Samuel; John Bell’s popular setting of “Will You Come and Follow Me” turns to Jesus’s call to Philip to follow him; Hubert Parry’s gentle setting of “Dear Lord and Father of mankind” finds connection to so many themes, but most notably ends verse two with “Let us, like them, without a word rise up and follow thee.”
We turn next to Psalm 139 with two musical reflections from classic English composers. First up is Samuel Sebastian Wesley’s “Thou wilt keep him,” followed by Herbert Sumsion’s “O Lord, thou hast searched me out.” We make a brief stop on our interesting reading from 1 Corinthians with another classic English composer – H Walford Davies’s setting of “Blessed are the Pure in Heart” should be familiar to some of you.
Ralph Vaughan William’s multi-movement work Hodie is normally associated with Christmas, but “The Blessed Son of God” could be a soundtrack for so many occasions. The last sentence from our Gospel reading this morning is one of those occasions for me; “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” Perhaps the best response to this Gospel reading from John is Undine Smith Moore’s setting of “I Believe This Is Jesus.” Coming to see Jesus is one of the themes of the entire Epiphany season and it is certainly a theme this week. The story is about Jesus calling Philip to be a disciple and Philip going to tell Nathaniel that he has found the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth. Nathaniel sarcastically replies “can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip doesn’t argue or roll his eyes or take offense, he simply challenges him by saying “Come and see.” I can imagine Philip singing this spiritual and Nathaniel eventually joining in.
Back by popular demand, we will continue weekly Spotify lists through Epiphany and Lent! This Sunday is the First Sunday after the Epiphany and is the Sunday we typically remember the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan. We will get to that in a second, but first our Old Testament reading from Genesis about God’s first day of creation. Immediately I hear Handel’s Messiah yet again, the bass aria “For behold, darkness shall cover the earth” ties perfectly into this reading and fits especially well on the heels of the Feast of the Epiphany as the text concludes with “And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.”
Next we hear Donald Pearson’s bubbly setting of “Arise, Shine.” I just love this setting – the refrain is catchy, the text is full of imagery, and the text painting is fun. In St. Cecilia Choir (our K-2 Choir at Grace) we spend each January learning a song about “light” and talking about what it means to show light in the world. Spotify doesn’t have a lot of great kids music that fits in with our liturgical readings, but if you have a Chorister or a St. Cecilia singer, perhaps this month would be a good time to think back to those songs and lessons. Last January, we sang a song by Becki Slagle Mayo called “May my light shine.” I think this text is especially fitting for all ages right now:
May my light shine like the star of Bethlehem.
May the world see God’s love through me.
May my light shine for my Jesus and my King.
May I shine so others see.
Star of wonder, star of light, shining down for all to see.
Star of wonder, star of light, shine your light through me.
Star of wonder, star of light, may I keep my eyes on you.
Star of wonder, star of light, shine in all I do.
Next we turn to Psalm 29 and hear Edward Elgar’s dramatic setting of the whole psalm and Heinrich Schütz’s take on just the first two verses. The remainder of the list is a little more self-explanatory and focuses on the Gospel reading from Mark where John baptizes Jesus. First two hymns, then two spiritual settings, and finally we end with a solo by one of my favorites – Nina Simone.
Merry Christmas! This week’s list is quite a bit longer, but requires minimal introduction. There is probably more Christmas music on Spotify than you could listen to, so this really is just a sampling of endless possibilities. If you particularly like a track, you can explore that album more by clicking on the album title.
If you haven’t tried making your own playlist, perhaps making a Christmas playlist would be a good way to start! Under the file tab, click “new playlist”, give it a title, it should show up in the column on the left side of the screen, search for a song you like using the search bar at the top, and then click and drag the song to the playlist.
We will take a two week break from these playlists for the First and Second Sunday after Christmas, but they will return on January 10 for the First Sunday after Epiphany.
This week, the Fourth Sunday of Advent, we hear the story of the annunciation. Mary has been the theme of so much classical choral music for hundreds of years. Magnificat, Ave Maria, Nova nova!, Gabriel’s Message, the list goes on…
This week’s playlist is made up of a variety of Marian music…I couldn’t limit it to just 30 minutes, and struggled to keep it at 45! I hope this provides a good mix of familiar and new. A mix of traditional anthems, movements from larger works (J.S. Bach’s Magnificat and John Adams El Niño), and hymns; a mix of nationalities; a mix of time periods.
Elgar’s dramatic setting of “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me” starts our Advent 3 playlist with a quote of our first reading from Isaiah. Continuing with another direct quote from scripture, Johann Schein’s “Die mit Tränen säen” is the German text for Psalm 126: 5-6. A few weeks ago we heard a reading from Philippians with the theme of “Rejoice.” Many of the selections from that week would fit with our Epistle reading from 1 Thessalonians this week, so I selected “Rejoice Greatly, O Daughter Of Zion” from Handel’s Messiah to go on this list.
Next we focus on our Gospel reading from John. Starting again with a direct quote from John 1: 19-23, “This Is The Record Of John” by Orlando Gibbons. Following the Gibbons we turn to the theme of light; our Gospel reading starts with this: “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.” First, two contrasting settings of the text O nata lux followed by William Harris’s “Holy Is The True Light.”
O nata lux de lumine,
Jesu redemptor saeculi,
Dignare clemens supplicum
Laudes precesque sumere.
Qui carne quondam contegi
Dignatus es pro perditis,
Nos membra confer effici
Tui beati corporis.
The playlist closes with a majestic setting of the hymn “On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist’s Cry.”
This reading from Isaiah 40 is one of those readings where I hear music as the text is read. In my mind, it might be the most “Advent-y” reading of the season. I chose to highlight the movements from Handel’s Messiah that quote this text to start this playlist (I did leave out “O thou that tellest,” which you heard last year at Grace). Of course there are many more anthems, solos, and hymns that can link to nearly every verse of this Isaiah passage; the other selection I want to highlight is the second movement from Ein deutsches Requiem (A German Requiem) by Johannes Brahms. It doesn’t quote this passage exactly, but the themes are nearly identical. If you haven’t heard this Requiem in its entirety, I would encourage you to sit down with a nice cup of tea and listen through…it’s my absolute favorite piece of music. Here is the text for the second movement:
Denn alles Fleisch, es ist wie Gras und alle Herrlichkeit des Menschen
wie des Grases Blumen. Das Gras ist verdorret und die Blume abgefallen.
So seid nun geduldig, lieben Brüder, bis auf die Zukunft des Herrn.
Siehe, ein Ackermann wartet auf die köstliche Frucht der Erde und ist geduldig darüber,
bis er empfahe den Morgenregen und Abendregen.
Aber des Herrn Wort bleibet in Ewigkeit.
Die Erlöseten des Herrn werden wiederkommen und gen Zion kommen mit Jauchzen;
ewige Freude wird über ihrem Haupte sein; Freude und Wonne werden sie ergreifen,
und Schmerz und Seufzen wird weg müssen.
For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man
as the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower thereof falleth away.
Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord.
Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth,
and has long patience for it, until he receive the morning and evening rain.
But the word of the Lord endureth for ever.
And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs
and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
The next piece on the playlist by the American composer Ned Rorem quotes the second part of the appointed psalm text (Psalm 85) for today. I discovered this piece a couple years ago, and it’s just exquisite. Looking at the Epistle reading and the Gospel for the day, there are so many options for more music, but I decided to end with something fun. If you’ve never seen or listened to the musical Godspell, add it to your list!
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!