Forest Hill & 43rd Street
Richmond, VA 23225

To Know Christ and to Make Him Known

Weekly Music Notes

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

Dec. 2, 2018: Craig Sellar (“Robin”) Lang

Today’s Music: By coincidence we feature this morning two instances of the work of Craig Sellar (“Robin”) Lang, a New Zealand-born British organist, composer and music teacher (1891-1971). He added the descant line to our processional hymn, “Hark! the glad sound” – he wrote several descants used in our hymnal – and he composed the tune itself for the communion hymn, “From glory to glory.” As well as secular and church works, Lang wrote or composed several influential texts and exercises for teaching purposes. D. Boelzner

Nov. 18, 2018: I Sing the Mighty Power of God by Don Chapman

Today’s Music: This morning’s anthem takes a well-known tune, “I sing the mighty power of God,” and soups it up a bit with an underlying syncopated rhythm. This sort of arrangement is not surprising, because it comes from Don Chapman, a leading composer and arranger of contemporary praise music for worship. Notwithstanding his commitment to contemporary music in worship, he has strongly condemned the practice, which he says is all too common in megachurches, of making it all about the hipness of the performers and not about worship. I’m not too worried about our choir being too hip. D. Boelzner

Nov. 11, 2018: Anthems by Clifford Brock (b. 1982)

Today’s Music: This Sunday the choir sings two anthems we have done before, by composer 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 offertory will be “How can I keep from singing?” 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. For communion we have “And now the bread is broken,” a lovely piece with a haunting melody with a modal quality. D. Boelzner

Nov. 4 2018: “Let peace then still the strife” by Mack Wilberg

Today’s Music: The anthem this morning is a reprise of Mack Wilberg’s very stirring piece, “Let peace then still the strife.” The particular uplifting quality of this work stems partly from the melody, which is partly in Lydian mode, a scale with the fourth note raised a half step (fa in the do-re-mi scale), and has a leap of an octave right near the beginning. Wilberg also uses block harmonic shifts, which lends a sort of grand feel to it. David Boelzner