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To Know Christ and to Make Him Known

Weekly Music Notes

July 24, 2016: “Peace” and “This is the hour of banquet and song” by D. Boelzner

Music Notes: The Yogi-ism “deju vu all over again” may come to mind: the offertory is a reprise of my anthem “Peace,” which the choir has done with piano. This version is for a quartet and is sung a cappella. For communion Tricia, Ann and I will reprise my setting of the text, “This is the hour of banquet and of song,” (text at Hymns 316-317) which we first did last summer. The melody may suggest English folk song; it is primarily in Dorian mode, which is the same minor-sounding scale that was used for one version of the famous tune “Greensleeves.” David Boelzner

July 17, 2016: “Ave Maria”

Today’s Music: This morning we hear two instrumental settings of the Latin hymn to the Virgin Mary, “Ave Maria,” each of which is actually an adaptation. The prelude was originally from Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier collection. Is a sequence of broken (arpeggiated) chords, which was later fitted with a new overlaid melody (originally improvised) by the French composer Charles Gounod (d. 1893).  The offertory, by Franz Schubert, is widely believed to have been written as a setting of the Latin hymn. But actually the piece was originally a song, Ellen’s Song III, based on an episode from Sir Walter Scott’s epic poem, The Lady of the Lake. The song is a prayer addressed to the Virgin but the only part of the Latin text used is the opening words “Ave Maria”; some later arranger adapted the full Latin text to Schubert’s music. D. Boelzner

July 10, 2016: “Hyfrydol”

Music Notes: Our opening hymn (#460), “Alleluia! sing to Jesus!” is to the tune called “Hyfrydol,” a Welsh name meaning “cheerful.” It was composed by Welsh musician Rowland Pritchard (d. 1887) while still in his teens, for inclusion in a collection of hymns for children. The tune moves mostly in scalar steps, which makes it flexible for various harmonies. The postlude is a set of variations on the tune composed by the great Ralph Vaughan Williams. David Boelzner

July 3, 2016: David’s Compositions

Music Notes: One of the afflictions of being a composer is that sometimes one has an urge to add a countermelody to a masterwork by someone else. So it was that the prelude came about: Ann plays the famous slow movement from Beethoven’s “Pathetique” sonata while I play a countermelody on horn. Taking advantage of the summer sojourn of our Good Shepherd violist in Richmond, the offertory is a reprise of Abraham’s Walk, my depiction of God’s call to Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac. God calls three times, each time louder, before Abraham (viola) responds slowly, then with gradually increasing agitation. The rest of the piece is the fearful but determined trudge up the mountain, culminating in three more calls from God for Abraham to stay his hand. David Boelzner

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