Forest Hill & 43rd Street
Richmond, VA 23225

To Know Christ and to Make Him Known

Weekly Music Notes

April 21, 2019

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

Mar. 24, 2019: “Kind maker of the world”

Today’s Music: Our opening hymn invokes a couple of things that have been discussed in our Sunday School sessions on hymns. First, the text, “Kind maker of the world,” etc., is attributed to Pope Gregory the Great, who reigned from 590 to 604 and has had ascribed to him a great many poems and hymns because of his authority and his achievement in restructuring the liturgy; indeed, he was reputed to have received the whole body of chant from God via dictation through a bird (hence “Gregorian” chant, though he likely was not a musician and could not have written down any music because there was no system of notation at the time). The hymn is also in Dorian mode, one of those alternatives to our major and minor scales where some of the notes sound a little “off.” David Boelzner

Mar. 17, 2019: “O Lord, Increase my Faith”

Today’s Music: The anthem is by Orlando Gibbons, a great English organist and composer who died in 1625, having served as head of the royal chapel for King James I (he of the Bible commissioning). Gibbons lived during the transition from the imitative polyphony of the Renaissance to the simpler textures of the early Baroque period. Texture is how “busy” the music is, and “O Lord, increase my faith” illustrates the transitional style. It begins with all the voices singing in the same rhythm. But soon you hear some imitation, tenors beginning with “endue me with wisdom” and the other voices echoing and piling on. This is even more noticeable “in all my adversity,” but the texture simplifies at “sweet Jesus say Amen.” David Boelzner

Feb. 24, 2019: “Benediction” by Dorothy Christopherson

Today’s Music: The choir sings “Benediction” by piano teacher and composer Dorothy Christopherson, who was schooled in Minnesota and South Dakota and active in churches there. The setting includes an obbligato line, for either viola or French horn; despite its name, obbligatos are usually considered optional, but here it adds some variation to harmony that is very lush, comprising primarily 7th and 9th chords, but also somewhat repetitious. The effect is, to this writer, one of wistful sweetness. David Boelzner

Feb. 17, 2019: “Holy art thou” to setting of “Largo from Xerxes” by G.F. Handel

Today’s Music: The anthem, “Holy art thou,” is a setting of religious words to the well-known piece by G.F. Handel, usually called the “Largo from Xerxes.” The original piece was actually an aria from the opera Serse (Xerxes in Italian) entitled “Ombra mai fu,” sung by the Persian king, who, according to customary practice in those days (1738), would have been played by a soprano castrato (i.e. a male who was castrated at a young age to preserve his boy’s soprano range but with the lung power of an adult male). For some reason this practice declined in popularity and the piece is now sung by a countertenor or mezzo-soprano wearing male costume. “Ombra mai fu” was the first music to be broadcast on the radio, in 1906. David Boelzner

Feb. 10, 2019: “They cast their nets,” setting by David Boelzner

Today’s Music: This morning we reprise “They cast their nets,” one of the earliest anthems I composed for our choir. I was motivated to write it by a conviction that the previous setting of the text we had been singing was singularly inappropriate: a pleasant tune in a major key, apparently suggested by the pastoral opening line. The remainder of the text is quite dark, referring to unhappy fate of the apostles and the peace that “is no peace, but strife closed in the sod.” Thus my setting is predominantly in a minor key. It is in 5/8 meter, with a 2+3 or 3+2 rhythmic feel, reflecting my visualization of a boat rocking unevenly as the waves swell and recede. David Boelzner

Feb. 3, 2019: Bach fugue, “BWV 549″

Today’s Music: Ann is concluding the service with a Bach fugue, “BWV 549.” Ever wonder what those cryptic initials stand for? The Bach-Werke-Verzeichnisis a catalog of Bach’s works. There are over 1,000 known compositions by J.S. Bach, and most of them are listed in this catalog, which was first published in 1950 and has been revised since. Identifying which compositions are by a composer can be very difficult, especially once the composer becomes famous, because then works are sometimes falsely attributed to him to take advantage of the fame. Similar catalogs have been made for Mozart (the Köchel catalog) and for Schubert (Deutsch). D. Boelzner

Dec. 24, 2018: “The Shepherds Sing” by Bob Chilcott

Tonight’s Music: The anthem is a relatively new work, and brand new to our choir, by Bob Chilcott (b. 1955), who sang tenor for 12 years in The King’s Singers and is one of the leading choral composers in Britain. “The Shepherds Sing” begins with an arpeggiated piano accompaniment with solo instrument, Warren Chapman’s saxophone, and the first section of the vocal part is sung by soloists Tricia Vesely and Kate Post. The other women join in and then, about halfway through the piece, the men join. The soaring melody is accompanied with many chords built in fourths, creating an open sonority. David Boelzner

Dec. 23, 2018: Christmas favorites by the chimers

Today’s Music: This morning our chimers return, playing their new, more resonant bells. They’ll play Christmas favorites: “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly” is a Polish carol, perhaps as old as the 13thcentury. Of similar age, 14thcentury or earlier, is the tune for “Good Christian men, rejoice.” “God rest ye, merry gentlemen” is also quite old, perhaps from the 16thcentury; it is mentioned in Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. In contrast, “Silent Night,” though firmly entrenched as a Christmas favorite, is relatively new, having been composed for guitar and voice in 1818.  David Boelzner