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Forest Hill & 43rd Street
Richmond, VA 23225


To Know Christ and to Make Him Known



Weekly Music Notes

Aug. 30, 2015: Chiming and A Song without Words

Today’s Music: Our service begins with music from the Good Shepherd chimers, renditions of “How firm a foundation” and Beethoven’s 9th Symphony melody set to “Joyful, joyful we adore thee.” Successful chiming is teamwork and requires concentration and rhythmic instinct. Most often music is written for a purpose, be it a desire to set a particular text, a commission to write for a particular occasion or combination of instruments, or the fun of meeting a particular musical challenge, like a fugue. But occasionally music will come unbidden. The tune I’ll play for the offertory simply intruded one morning, and later I teased it out into what you’ll hear. David Boelzner

Aug. 23, 2015: Blue Grass Sunday

Today’s Music: Today is “Blue Grass” Sunday, as you can tell from the deployment of banjos, guitars, mandolins, and the presence of Mr. Tambourine Man, Stuart Fulcher. This is fun music, more lighthearted than most of our usual fare, and the lyrics express a direct and simple relationship with God.  “Simple” does not mean “easy” – that picking on mandolin and banjo is far from easy and, as Ross preached last week, while Jesus’ burden is light, it is not always easy. But the other thing conveyed so well by this music is the unqualified joy of undertaking that burden when one accepts the grace that goes with it. Faith can be manifest in the simple and direct as well as the aesthetically profound. So, enjoy the fun spirit of these varied expressions of belief. David Boelzner

Aug. 16, 2015: Eric Routley, Herbert Howells

Today’s Music: This morning’s service features hymns by two influential 20th-century English church composers. The processional, 402, is by Eric Routley (d. 1982). A Congregational pastor as well as composer and musicologist, Routley taught for some years at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ, and is credited with, among other things, “halting the dreary practice of singing ‘Amen’ at the end of each hymn sung in American churches.” The recessional is by Herbert Howells (d. 1983), a highly respected composer of much organ and church choral music, whose ashes are interred in Westminster Abbey.  Howells was commissioned to write a motet for the memorial service for John F. Kennedy. In it he linked Kennedy’s death with the tragic loss in 1935 of his own 9-year-old son, Michael, to polio, which was also the impetus for his setting of “All my hope on God is founded”; the hymn tune is named “Michael.” David Boelzner

Aug. 9, 2015: O day of radiant gladness (German folk song tune)

Today’s Music: The music note has been going easy on you for the summer, focusing on composer biography rather than music theory, but the processional (Hymn 48: O day of radiant gladness) calls for a comment on form. The tune is a German folk song, and its structure ensures memorability. The second line is an exact repeat of the first, thus imprinting the musical gesture firmly in the brain. Then, because repetition gets boring after a spell, a new tune emerges for the third line, which appears to continue through the first part of the last line but then deftly slips back into the familiar first tune. A classic example of the structural activity that makes music work: creating patterns and then sometimes reinforcing them and sometimes diverging from them. David Boelzner

Aug. 2, 2015: Albert Hay Malotte (The Lord’s Prayer by Cindy Parsons)

We are pleased to have Cindy Parsons as our soloist this morning. Cindy is a native of Lenoir, North Carolina and has been involved in music from an early age. She attended the Brevard Music Camp and studied with William McDonald of the Metropolitan Opera. She also sang under the direction of Robert Shaw of Atlanta. She continues to sing in local venues such as the Hickory Choral Society, churches and other events upon request. Today’s Music: Our guest soloist sings the well-known setting of The Lord’s Prayer, composed by Albert Hay Malotte (1895-1964). This piece is Malotte’s best known composition, but he spent most of his career in Hollywood writing music for movies, much of it uncredited background music for Disney animated short films, including the Silly Symphonies. Two films for which he wrote music, Ferdinand the Bull and The Ugly Duckling, won Academy Awards for best short subject. In his youth Malotte sang in the choir at St. James Episcopal Church in Philadelphia and later studied with, among others, Victor Herbert, best known for his operettas. Malotte was an avid pilot and golfer, and even boxed with Jack Dempsey in Memphis. David Boelzner

July 26, 2015: Felix Mendelssohn

Today’s Music: Prelude and postlude are movements from an organ sonata by Felix Mendelssohn (d. 1849). Mendelssohn was a child prodigy–fortunately, because his life was tragically short, 38 years, in which he managed to compose an impressive amount of excellent music, including five symphonies, oratorios, a violin concerto, and the wonderful incidental music to A Midsummer Night’s Dream (including the wedding march). He helped revive interest in the music of J.S. Bach. The organ sonatas were commissioned by a London publisher but Mendelssohn never played them there, partly because English organs at the time mostly did not have sufficiently responsive keyboards and adequate pedals, which are required for these works. Historical tidbit: Mendelssohn loved and supported the singing of Swedish soprano Jenny Lind, and after his death she started a Mendelssohn scholarship in England, the first recipient of which was the young Arthur Sullivan (of Gilbert & …). David Boelzner

July 19, 2015: Felice Giardini

Today’s Music: The opening hymn is well known, often used with the alternate text, “Come thou almighty King.” The composer, Felice Giardini, was obviously Italian, so how did the tune get the name Moscow? It is one of those accidents of history. Giardini was a child prodigy who became not only a virtuoso violinist but also a versatile composer in all forms of the time, especially successful at opera and chamber music. He settled in London, where he worked in the 1750s and ‘60s with J.S. Bach’s son, J.C. Bach, and was highly successful. But then he tried returning to Italy and running a theater, suffering financial setbacks. After trying again in London without success, he relocated in Moscow, but again failed to achieve success and died there. Why the cataloguers of hymn tunes chose to name this tune after the locale of Giardini’s failure rather than his notable success, I do not know.  (It is sometimes called the “Italian hymn.”) David Boelzner

July 12, 2015: Camille Saint-Saëns

Today’s Music: The best laid plans gang oft aglay … My intention was to sing a song with the text of the Lord’s Prayer this past Sunday, but alas my voice was not with me in church. Four weeks ago we heard an anthem by Gabriel Fauré; this morning I’ll sing the song by his teacher, Camille Saint-Saëns. Saint-Saëns was a brilliant pianist and composer of the Romantic era, who admired Wagner’s influential works but adhered to a more conservative style. He was highly respected in France and throughout Europe in his day, even traveling across the Atlantic during World War I to play concerts in America. He even made a few recordings before his death in 1921. He resisted innovation but his works are always carefully crafted and rewarding to perform. D. Boelzner

July 5, 2015: Camille Saint-Saëns

Today’s Music: Three weeks ago we heard an anthem by Gabriel Fauré; this morning we hear a sacred song by his teacher, Camille Saint-Saëns. Saint-Saëns was a brilliant pianist and composer of the Romantic era, who admired Wagner’s influential works but adhered to a more conservative style. He was highly respected in France and throughout Europe in his day, even traveling across the Atlantic during World War I to play concerts in America. He even made a few recordings before his death in 1921. He resisted innovation but his works are always carefully crafted and rewarding to perform. David Boelzner