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To Know Christ and to Make Him Known

Weekly Music Notes

July 23, 2017: “Amazing Grace”

Today’s Music: The Women’s Chorale sings one of the most famous and universally loved hymns in Christendom, “Amazing Grace.” The tune is anonymous, but the source of the text is interesting. John Newton was a sailor and, for six years, captain of a slave trader. When he was 29, in 1754, he left the sea and settled down with a devoted wife, became involved with the Wesleys and others, was eventually ordained, and served the church for 43 years. He described himself in his epitaph as “once an infidel and a libertine” – indeed a wretch who needed amazing grace. David Boelzner

July 16, 2017: Accidentals

Today’s Music: The closing hymn, 392, (“Come we that love the Lord”), is in the key of C minor and it never really leaves it, but the melody borrows notes from outside the scale of C minor. You can spot those by the “accidentals” the flat and natural symbols that precede some of the notes; the flat looks like a small letter b and lowers the pitch a half step, and the natural looks almost like a hashtag and negates a flat. As you’re singing, see if you can sense the harmonic shift to accommodate the unusual melody notes where these accidentals appear. David Boelzner

July 9, 2017: “Remembrance” by David Boelzner

Today’s Music: I entitled the offertory piece for alto saxophone and piano Remembrance not for any particular recollection but because of its general mood. But in writing it, my first composition for sax, I was reminded of a long-ago revelation: I had always thought of the sax as a jazz instrument, associated with those wailing solos a la Coltrane, but I heard a student at North Texas play the instrument so sweetly that I found a new appreciation for it as a lyrical instrument. Warren plays it that way, so I’m pleased to premiere this work with him. David Boelzner

July 2, 2017: “Rejoice greatly” from Handel’s Messiah

Today’s Music: For our offertory this morning our soloist will sing the aria “Rejoice greatly” from Handel’s Messiah. This is a challenging work for both singer and accompanist (originally scored for orchestra). The aria is in ternary form, ABA, the A sections energetic and full of characteristic Baroque coloratura melismas – long series of running notes sung to one syllable.  Respite comes in the slower middle section where the text is “he shall speak peace to the nations,” then the A section returns. DB

June 25, 2017: “Lord, deliver me from my trouble” by G. F. Handel

Today’s Music: The offertory, a short aria by G.F. Handel, “Lord, deliver me from my trouble,” uses a formal device typical of the Baroque era, the return of the same melody (“ritornello”) alternating with different music. The vocal part is in A-B-A-C-A sequence, but the piece also begins and, perhaps oddly to modern ears, ends with the piano accompaniment playing a version of the same tune. David Boelzner

June 18, 2017: Johann Jakob Froberger

Today’s Music: The postlude is an excerpt from a keyboard toccata by Johann Jakob Froberger (1616-67). Froberger is primarily remembered now for helping to develop the form of the dance suite as a concert work, a coordinated sequence of allemande, courante, sarabande, and gigue. But he was highly esteemed during his lifetime and thereafter; his works were known to and studied by—to drop a few names—Handel, Bach, Mozart, even Beethoven. David Boelzner

May 28, 2017: “Peace” by David Boelzner

Today’s Music: At the offertory the choir will reprise my anthem Peace. It sets Jesus’s words, “My peace I give you…” The women’s voices begin in two-part harmony, then the section repeats with all four voice parts. A middle section on “Do not let your hearts be troubled” begins with the basses, with imitative entries in each voice building to a climax, suddenly quieting on “Do not be afraid.” A repeat of the opening section with all voices leads to a short coda. David Boelzner

May 21, 2017: “Cantate Domino,” by James Chepponis

Today’s Music: The anthem is Cantate Domino (Sing to the Lord) by James Chepponis (b. 1956), an organist, composer, and Roman Catholic priest who served the Pittsburgh diocese as director of the diocesan music ministry and as music director at St. Paul Cathedral in Pittsburgh. Cantate Domino has a light, lilting triple rhythm, with chordal opening and closing sections, divided by Alleluias in imitative lines among the voices. It ends with one long cheerful Alleluia. David Boelzner

May 14, 2017: Antiphonal “Alleluia” by William Boyce

Music Notes: As an anthem the choir will sing an antiphonal (literally “opposing sound”; here it is ensembles that oppose) “Alleluia” by the English Baroque composer William Boyce (d. 1779). Boyce, a contemporary of Handel and Bach, was master of the King’s music beginning in 1755. Like Beethoven, he went deaf. The choir is divided into three groups; all sing the tune through once together in unison, but the tune is cleverly constructed so that it can be sung against itself, which is what happens as each group enters with it in succession (as in a round). David Boelzner