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To Know Christ and to Make Him Known

Weekly Music Notes

Mar. 19, 2017: “The Holy Lamb of God,” by K. Lee Scott

Music Notes: The anthem, “The Holy Lamb of God,” is by K. Lee Scott (b.1950), an Alabama-born and based composer of much church music. This is a setting of the well-known English folk tune Kingsfold in three-part form: first in unison, with the accompaniment providing the variation, then in four-part harmony, and lastly the last half of the tune again in unison building to a dramatic end. David Boelzner

Mar. 12, 2017: “Lift High the Cross” with descant by Richard Proulx

Music Notes: Our recessional hymn is the well-known “Lift High the Cross,” which features a descant added by Richard Proulx (1937-2010).  Proulx is primarily associated with Roman Catholic church music but he was recognized across denominational lines, his hymns and other music appearing in hymnals for Lutherans, Anglicans/Episcopalians, Methodists, and many others. We owe much to his work: we sometimes use his setting of the Sanctus, S125, a number of his descants (nos. 405, 477, 494), and his arrangement of the Hebrew melody for “Open your ears,” no. 536. David Boelzner

Mar. 5, 2017: Edward Elgar’s “Ave verum”

Music Notes: The anthem is Edward Elgar’s “Ave verum,” which is listed as his Opus 2, No. 1.  Opus numbers generally indicate sequence of publication rather than composition, and this piece appears to be no exception. It was originally composed in 1887 as a setting of “Pie Jesu” in honor of an attorney for whom Elgar had worked as a 15-year old, but Elgar adapted it to the “Ave verum corpus” text and orchestrated it for publication in 1902. David Boelzner

Feb. 19, 2017: Breaking meter patterns

Music Notes: A few weeks ago I wrote about meters – the regular groupings of rhythmic patterns into measures. Most music proceeds regularly enough to allow for a prevailing a meter to be assigned – the ¾ of a waltz, for example. But these schemes are not rigid, as reflected in both the processional hymn and the anthem this morning. The processional, (“Creating God, your fingers trace,”) #394, is predominantly in 6/4, i.e. with 6 quarter notes grouped in each measure, but occasionally the pattern is broken, as at the end of the second line. The anthem, (“Christ is the World’s True Light” by W.K. Stanton,) shifts freely back and forth between measures containing four beats and measures with three beats. D. Boelzner  

Jan. 29, 2017: Asymmetrical 5/8 Meter (“They Cast Their Nets”)

Today’s Music: Last week I wrote about an asymmetrical meter, a grouping of the prevailing rhythmic pattern into measures of 7 beats each. This Sunday’s anthem, (“They Cast Their Nets”), has another such meter, this one 5/8 – five eighth notes are grouped in each bar of music. Sometimes choice of a “lopsided” meter is for musical effect only; in this instance I was led to choose this meter because of the “fishermen” theme of the text and my observation that boats do not actually bob in the water symmetrically. Although 6/8 is often used for nautical-themed music, if you watch a boat ride out a wave you’ll see that it appears to rise a bit more quickly than it sinks, so I thought 5/8 better captured the feeling of a boat in the water. The piece is also in a minor key because, notwithstanding the seaside imagery, the text is rather dark in mood. David Boelzner

Jan. 22, 2017: Asymmetrical 7/4 Meter (“Their is a love”)

Today’s Music: The vast majority of the music we listen to has regular rhythmic patterns that are reflected in music notation in groupings called meters – marked off in the music by vertical “bar” lines. We are all familiar and comfortable with regular meters such as 4/4 or 2/4, used for marches, for example, or 3/4 used for waltzes. The fraction, which appears at the beginning of the piece, tells the musicians which note gets the pulse or beat (/4 = quarter note, /8 = eighth note) and how many of them are grouped in each bar or measure (3/ = three beats). Today’s anthem (“There is a love”), though, is in 7/4 (somewhat inappropriately called an asymmetrical meter). See if you can hear the pattern, which may come across as a bit lopsided. David Boelzner

Dec. 24, 2016: “Puer nattes” by Joseph Reinberger

Christmas Eve Music Notes: The Prelude is a duet with organ, “Puer natus in Bethlehem,” (A child is born in Bethlehem) by Joseph Rheinberger. Rheinberger (1839-1901) is undoubtedly the most famous composer ever to come from tiny Liechtenstein. He was a child prodigy whose gifts rather alarmed his parents; he held a post as organist at the age of seven! Though known today principally to organists for his twenty organ sonatas, his organ music was actually a comparatively small part of his output, which included many choral works and chamber music. He believed music should be flowing and always melodic, which is clearly demonstrated in “Puer natus.” David Boelzner

Dec. 4, 2016: “In Christ Alone” by Brian Littrell

Music Notes: Brian Littrell, a native of Kentucky and the composer of today’s sequence hymn, is best known as a member of the Backstreet Boys. Since their heyday, he has written five top-twenty solo singles on the US Christian chart, with “In Christ Alone” reaching number one in the summer of 2005. A Christian since the age of 8, Littrell was inducted into the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame in 2015. Ann Boelzner

Nov. 27, 2016: Bach’s cantata Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme

Music Notes: Today’s offertory, a chorale prelude for organ, is from Bach’s cantata Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme. Bach’s cantatas are multi-movement works for soloists and chorus, based on chorale tunes, the Lutheran equivalent of chant. Wachet auf was written originally for what is now Proper 27, Year A, a Sunday which does not occur all that often in the church calendar. Because the prescribed readings, 1 Thessalonians 5: 1-11 (be prepared for the day of the Lord) and Matthew 25: 1-13 (the parable of the Ten Virgins), are also associated with the season of Advent, the cantata is commonly used during that season. Performed only once during his lifetime, the cantata is now regarded as one of Bach’s finest. David Boelzner