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Forest Hill & 43rd Street
Richmond, VA 23225


To Know Christ and to Make Him Known



Weekly Music Notes

Nov. 2, 2014

Today’s Music: The anthem (“Let Peace Then Still the Strife”) this morning is another new venture for the choir, augmented by a few draftees. The composer, Mack Wilberg, directs the Mormon Tabernacle choir, and while the piece doesn’t require quite those resources, it does work better with a fuller sound. The work comprises several repetitions of the same tune, with a gradual and very stirring buildup of musical sound and texture. The tune itself is partly in Lydian mode, a major scale with the note fa raised a half step above normal; you hear this effect in the opening phrase. Wilberg also uses parallel harmonic movement to create a sense of large shifts, supporting the sweeping quality of the music. David Boelzner

Oct. 26, 2014

Today’s Music: The anthem (“Call to Remembrance”) is by English Renaissance-era composer and playwright Richard Farrant (d. 1580). The choir will present it in “surround-sound,” which was actually a practice particularly favored in Venice in this era. The piece ends with the voices moving mostly in the same rhythm, but it begins imitatively with repetitions of a tune at staggered intervals. Our singers are reading from score, i.e. music that shows what all voices are doing; in the Renaissance, each singer would have had only his music notated, making it even trickier to be sure of entering at the right time. – David Boelzner

Oct. 19, 2014

Today’s Music: The anthem (“Hark! I Hear the Harps Eternal”) this morning is new to the choir’s repertoire, and it is a rouser. By Craig Carnahan, a composer out of Concordia College and active in Minnesota, it is an arrangement based on a Southern Harmony tune, with the characteristic pentatonic melody common among folk tunes. The tune is bandied about among the voices in a highly rhythmic setting; in one spot it is in canon, with the basses leading and the sopranos following with the same tune a beat behind. The foot stomps are called for in the music. David Boelzner

Oct. 12, 2014

As the recessional we sing “Rejoice, the Lord is King!,” which in our hymnals is set to a tune by Handel, but the tune much more commonly associated with this text is the one we will use, “Darwall’s 148th,” which we use for Hymn No. 625.  The tune is named for John Darwall, vicar of Walsall parish in 1773, who composed it for Psalm 148 to further his advocacy of singing psalms more quickly than they had traditionally been sung, so that “six verses might be sung in the same space of time that four generally are.”  (We’ll just sing four verses.)  The text is not Psalm 148 but rather a hymn of praise by Charles Wesley.  – D. Boelzner  

Oct. 5, 2014

Why should children in school or congregations in church be subjected to music other than what they like to listen to on the radio?  Consider two statements, the first from a recent article about music in the Catholic church: “Worshipers do not come to Mass to find the everyday world, but to have some experience, however fleeting, of the next world, of the divine.”  Joshua Bell, the renowned violinist, cited in an interview this week studies showing that when children are exposed to classical music in school, their test scores in other subjects rise.  Investing one’s brain and heart in music of high artistic value, whatever the style, edifies us and opens up an experience beyond the ordinary.  That is good for schoolchildren and appropriate for church.  – D. Boelzner  

Sep. 28, 2014

The music for the well-known processional hymn, “All hail the power of Jesus’ name,” was composed not by a professional musician but by a skilled amateur.  Oliver Holden (d. 1844) was a carpenter, ran a general store, dealt in real estate, served as justice of the peace, and for 15 years served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.  He was also pastor of the local Puritan church.  A great lover of music, he composed hymn tunes and published several collections of hymns. Our anthem this morning is also the contribution of another skilled musical amateur, our own Dick Hickman, who, come to think of it, also has ties to a legislature.  – D. Boelzner

Sep. 21, 2014

The communion hymn, 326, “From Glory to Glory,” nicely illustrates “relative” keys or modes.  Whether a scale is in major or minor mode depends on the order of the 5 whole steps and 2 half steps of the scale in relation to the tonal center.  (A half step is the gap between two adjacent notes on a piano, including black keys.)  This hymn begins with its first phrase in E minor.  The phrase is then mirrored exactly but starting three notes higher, in the relative major.  It’s the same scale, but the focus of the tonal center a third higher shifts the half-step locations in relation to the tonal center, which in turn affects the harmony, emphasizing the “brighter” major rather than the “darker” minor chords  – D. Boelzner

Sep. 14, 2014

The prelude (Prelude, Op. 11, No. 12) is an early work of the Russian Alexander Scriabin (d. 1915). Scriabin’s early works are Chopinesque but quirky, and this lovely piece is a good example. Its melody skips rather wide intervals and the harmony makes unusual shifts. The postlude is something I wrote for use while the organ was disassembled but didn’t get completed quite in time! It makes heavy use of 5/8 meter, which gives a syncopated feel. – David Boelzner

Sep. 7, 2014: Guest Musicians

This morning, we are fortunate to have two of Richmond’s most accomplished performers contributing to our worship. Pete Pettit is a freelance trombonist who teaches and performs in the Richmond area as a soloist as well as with many Richmond area large ensembles. Karine Eva performs with Richmond’s Capitol Opera, where she serves as a Member of the Board. She is also an active recitalist, concert singer, and film and voice over actress. Special thanks to Pete, for selecting the music, and to Ann Boelzner, for accompanying our musicians.