Forest Hill & 43rd Street
Richmond, VA 23225

To Know Christ and to Make Him Known

Weekly Music Notes

Apr. 22, 2018: “Sheep May Safely Graze” by J. S. Bach

Today’s Music: The anthem is J.S. Bach’s familiar “Sheep May Safely Graze,” a choral number from his Hunting Cantata (BMV 208). A cantata is a multi-movement work usually involving a mix of solos and choruses all pertaining to a particular theme or story. Oddly enough, since we are using it in church, this piece is from one of about 20 secular cantatas Bach composed (as compared with a couple of hundred church cantatas), this one for the birthday of the Duke of Saxe-Weissenfels. The original text analogized a good ruler to a good shepherd who oversees his flock, permitting serenity and peace to prevail. With minor adaptations, the text makes Christ the Good Shepherd, appropriate for Good Shepherd Sunday. David Boelzner

Apr. 15, 2018: “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

Apr.1, 2018: “Twelfth Mass: Gloria” (attributed to Mozart)

Today’s Music: After a composer becomes famous, publishers are desperate to be able to bring out more works by him. This morning’s anthem is “attributed to Mozart.” More accurately, it was attributed to Mozart in its first publication by Novello in 1819 (28 years after Mozart’s death), but most scholars, including the cataloguer of his works, Köchel (Mozart’s works are given a “K” number), now reject it as a composition by him. To this annotator’s ear, the writing is unsophisticated even for the juvenile Mozart. But it has remained popular for a reason: it is joyous and fun to sing, certainly appropriate to the mood of the Easter season. David Boelzner

March 25, 2018: “For God so loved the world” by Bob Chilcott

Music Notes: The anthem for today is a lovely contemporary setting of For God so loved the world, by Bob Chilcott, British composer and former tenor with the King’s Singers, a splendid a cappella vocal group. When the main theme repeats listen for the haunting solo soprano voice that weaves in and out over the texture of the choir singing softly. David Boelzner

March 18, 2018: Lenten Kyrie and Sanctus

Today’s Music: The Kyrie and Sanctus we have been using through Lent are by Hans Leo Hassler, the greatest German composer of the late 16th century (d. 1612) (roughly contemporary with Shakespeare). Hassler, though a German and a Protestant, studied in Italy with the Andrea Gabrieli, and his music blends Italian melodic sweetness with German seriousness. The late Renaissance style features abrupt (to our ears) changes of harmony and mode, from minor to major. See, for example, in the Sanctus, the juxtaposition of the F major on “cometh” with the E-flat minor chords on “in the” immediately after it. DB

Feb. 18, 2018: Good Shepherd Choir

Today’s Music: The choir did not have its usual rehearsal on Wednesday, February 14th, due to the Ash Wednesday service. Therefore, at our last full practice on February 7th, we were faced with the challenge of making sure all of the music for February 11th, 14th, and today was ready to go. It took close to an hour just to review the hymns, service music, and anthems for these three services. I am most thankful; generally for the wonderful tradition of music in our parish and specifically for our hard-working singers. A. Boelzner

Feb. 11, 2018: Soggetto Cavato for trombone

Music Notes: The prelude this morning is a piece I wrote for Ross and me to play. To derive the principal melody, with which the trombone beings the piece, I used a technique used by composers such as Bach and Schumann called soggetto cavato, literally “subject carved.” The musical notes are generated by reference to alphabetical letters, so as to “spell” a name in the music. As there are only 7 letters in the musical scale, 8 if you use German, you have to finagle a bit, borrowing consonants or vowels from solfegg (do-re-mi, etc.). The melody spells out Ross’s favorite theologian “Karl Barth” using [K]C-A-Re(D)-La (A)-B-A-Re(D)-Ti (B-natural) H (German B natural).” In the slower middle section, the melody in the trombone is the Karl Barth theme backwards. David Boelzner

Feb. 4, 2018: “Now Let Us All Praise God and Sing” by Gordon Young

Music Notes: The anthem, (“Now Let Us All Praise God and Sing”) by Gordon Young, is in a three-part form, ABA. The opening and closing sections are identical, quick and in a triple rhythm, while the middle section is completely contrasting, slower, in duple meter, and intended to be sung a cappella. This is a very common structure; why do you suppose it is?  It stems from how music works on our aesthetic brains: we get pleasure (a dopamine shot) when something satisfying happens, such as encountering something familiar, but we get bored with too much repetition, so we need the stimulation of contrast. David Boelzner

Jan. 14, 2018: “God of Mercy, God of Grace,” tune by Beethoven

Music Notes: Classical music devotees may recognize the tune of the anthem, (“God of Mercy, God of Grace”), which is an adaptation of the slow movement of Beethoven’s fifth piano concerto, nicknamed the “Emperor” by its English publisher, probably because it was dedicated to Beethoven’s patron and pupil, the Austrian Archduke Rudolf. The movement has a chorale sort of feel to it, and indeed the harmony of our arrangement is all Beethoven’s; I just distributed the notes among the choir voices and adapted a text. David Boelzner