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Weekly Music Notes

June 12, 2016: “Proclaim the Greatness of the Lord” by Andrew Hofer

The anthem this morning is “Proclaim the Greatness of the Lord,” by Andrew Hofer, O.P. (b. 1972). The words by Andrew Hofer are set to a traditional Irish tune (“The Flight of the Earls”), which was also the tune for an earlier hymn. O.P. stands for the Order of Preachers, (Ordo Praedicatorum in Latin) which is the Dominican Order within the Catholic Church, founded by St. Dominic in 1216. The Dominicans are known for their outstanding preaching, so Hofer wrote this song as a celebration of the preaching of the Gospel of God’s redeeming love, “what Christ Himself did preach.” Dick Hickman

June 5, 2016: “On God, and not on human trust,” by Johan Pachelbel

Music Notes: The anthem is “On God, and not on human trust” by German organist and composer Johann Pachelbel, composer of the famous “Canon” that is now a staple of weddings. If you attended the jazz performances in our recent festival you heard a technique of using a melody more as an organizing structure or starting place, mostly not recognizable after the initial hearing. Pachelbel’s  technique is not too different: he has the sopranos sing a well-known chorale melody while the other voices move in intricate faster-moving patterns underneath; the melody is so stretched out that it requires great concentration to discern it. David Boelzner

May 29, 2016: Handel’s “Brockes Passion”

Music Notes: The anthem is one of the choral numbers from the “Brockes Passion” by G.F. Handel. Barthold Brockes (d. 1747) was an influential German poet who recast the passion story, adding reflective and descriptive poetry, often highly emotional. Several composers did settings.  Handel’s choruses in this work are rather simple in style, perhaps surprising in view the large-scale choruses for which Handel is known, such as “Hallelujah” from Messiah. The anthem is a straightforward choral setting in chorale style, phrase by phrase, with the instrumental accompaniment carrying over in between (a ritornello). Bach admired Handel’s Brockes Passion, copying out sections of it for study. David Boelzner

May 22, 2016: “Holy, holy, holy!”

Today’s Music: This is Trinity Sunday and our recessional is “Holy, holy, holy!” Not only does the last line of text refer to “God in three persons, blessed Trinity,” but “holy” is repeated three times frequently throughout the hymn. (The first line of the hymn is, of course, the English paraphrase of the Sanctus: “Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus, Dominus Deus sabaoth” – Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts.) The trinity has been musically acknowledged for many centuries. Throughout the Medieval period, practically all sacred music was written in a triple rhythm. This makes some of these old sacred pieces sound rather lilting to our ears, but it is the result of respect for the trinity.

May 15, 2016: “Peace” by David Boelzner

Today’s Music: The anthem is a setting of Jesus’s words about the peace he gives us, which I composed last year. It begins with sopranos and altos on the same note, which the sopranos repeat while the altos diverge. This melodic section is then repeated with the whole choir providing a fuller texture. The middle section, on “Do not let your hearts be troubled,” begins with the basses and builds in texture and volume, then abruptly drops to the very quiet emotional climax of the piece, on “do not be afraid.” The opening full-choir section then repeats with a short coda. David Boelzner

May 1, 2016: Anton Bruckner’s “Locus iste”

Music Notes: The anthem is the motet “Locus iste” by Anton Bruckner (d. 1896), an Austrian composer best known for his large symphonies. But he was an accomplished organist, son of a church musician, and a deeply religious Roman Catholic. He was a fanatic admirer of Wagner and Wagnerian music but did not follow either Wagner’s interest in grand theatrical works or his musical style, writing more mainstream polyphony such as Bach might have written had he lived in the 19th century. Bruckner wrote the piece for the dedication of a cathedral chapel, so the text was appropriate: “Locus iste a Deo factus est” means “This place was made by God.” David Boelzner

Apr. 24, 2016: “On God, and not on human trust”

Today’s Music: The anthem is “On God, and not on human trust” by German organist and composer Johann Pachelbel, composer of the famous “Canon” that is now a staple of weddings; he died in 1706 and thus was an elder contemporary of J.S. Bach and he knew several members of the Bach family.  It had been common practice for a long time for composers to build complex counterpoint (several different voices intertwining) over a slow-moving cantus firmus, usually a chant or chorale.  Pachelbel inverts the scheme, as he does in his organ chorale preludes, having the sopranos sing the chorale melody slowly, while the other voices move in intricate patterns underneath – listen for the echoing entrances. David Boelzner

Apr. 17, 2016: “Sheep May Safely Graze”

Today’s Music: The anthem is J.S. Bach’s familiar “Sheep May Safely Graze,” from his Hunting Cantata. A cantata is a multi-movement work usually involving a mix of solos and choruses all pertaining to a particular theme or story. Bach composed a couple of hundred church cantatas, but this is actually from one of about 20 secular cantatas, with the words re-adapted to a religious purpose. The two violins and piano begin with a lilting sort of pastoral tune, then the choir enters with what almost sounds like a different piece, smooth and rhythmically slower. Toward the end of the second choral section, Bach uses to great effect a device called the suspension, where a note from one chord hangs on after the harmony shifts and then resolves into the new chord later. Listen for it on “peace abiding.” David Boelzner

Apr. 10, 2016: Arthur Sullivan

Today’s Music: The recessional hymn, 191, “Alleluia, Alleluia! Hearts and voices heavenward raise,” is by Arthur Sullivan (d. 1900), who is most famous as the composer half of the highly successful collaboration of Gilbert and Sullivan. Their comic operas, such as The Mikado, H.M.S. Pinafore and The Pirates of Penzance, remain popular and are produced today. He also composed a number of serious works, which were largely overshadowed—to some degree during his lifetime and certainly thereafter—by the comic operas. Throughout much of his career, however, he produced songs and hymns, and for periods of time he supplemented his income working as a church organist. David Boelzner