Forest Hill & 43rd Street
Richmond, VA 23225

To Know Christ and to Make Him Known

Weekly Music Notes

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

Jan. 7, 2018: The tune “Stuttgart”

Today’s Music: The opening hymn (#127, “Earth has many a noble city”) tune, often sung with a different text, is entitled “Stuttgart” and dates from the late 16th century. The tune name, however, derives from a later use. In 1812 the pastor of St. Leonard’s Church in Stuttgart was removed by the king for having spoken too freely at the funeral of a court player. For 12 years the congregation longed for his return, permission for which was granted in 1824, and parishioners announced the decision to him by singing this tune with the text, “Sollt’ es gleich bisweilen scheinen als wenn Gott verliesz die seinen,” translated loosely as “it must sometimes seem like God has forsaken.” David Boelzner

Dec. 24, 2017: Savior of the Nations, come!

Today’s Music: The anthem is the ancient hymn Savior of the Nations, come! Both text and music are quite old. The text was adapted by Martin Luther from an old Latin chant dating from the 4th century. The music is from the second published Lutheran hymnal, the Erfurt Enchiridion, published in 1524. The songs in the Enchiridion were intended for daily use at home and elsewhere. In the preface, the old ecclesiastical chant they replaced was described as “shouting like the priests of Baal in unintelligible cries.”  D. Boelzner

Dec. 10, 2017: John Bacchus Dykes

Today’s Music: The tune of our communion hymn, 343, (“Shepherd of souls, refresh and bless”), was composed by the prolific hymn composer, John Bacchus Dykes, an Anglican clergyman and organist (d. 1876), who also wrote “Holy, holy, holy,” and many other hymns still in use. He reportedly wrote the tune for use with “Jesus, the very thought of thee,” with which it is frequently used. He named the tune “St. Agnes” after a fourth century Christian martyr and independent-minded woman: St. Agnes was executed because she refused to marry a nobleman, saying she was already engaged to Christ. David Boelzner

Nov. 26, 2017: Henry Thomas Smart

Today’s Music: The recessional tune (“Lead on O King eternal”) is by Henry Thomas Smart (1813-79), who began studying law but abandoned it in favor of music. (Imagine his parents’ joy!) Though largely self-taught, he became one of England’s pre-eminent organists. He was so adept that after becoming totally blind in 1865, he continued as organist at St. Pancras London, for another 14 years until his death. The hymn tune is in C major but meanders in the third line to a couple of other keys (notice the sprinkling of sharps and flats) before working back home in the last line. David Boelzner    

Nov. 19, 2017: “How can I keep from singing?”

Today’s Music: This morning the choir reprises an anthem we premiered a few weeks ago, “How can I keep from singing?” It was composed by Clifford Brock (b. 1982), a native of Georgia who works as a horticulturist at the Georgia State Botanical Garden and serves as organist/choir director of an Episcopal church in Lawrenceville, GA. The piece consists of three iterations of a tune that sounds folk-like, first by a soprano, next by a baritone, and finally by the entire choir, with each repetition altering the harmonic and textural background. David Boelzner