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To Know Christ and to Make Him Known

Weekly Music Notes

Oct. 28, 2018: Léon Boëllmann

Today’s Music: The prelude comprises two short pieces by Léon Boëllmann, a French composer and organist of Alsatian origin – hence the German-looking surname. Boëllmann studied at the Ecole Niedermayer, a school for church musicians in Paris, which also produced Gabriel Fauré. (The leader of this school, Niedermayer, composed an opera about Alessandro Stradella, whom sharp-eyed devotees of the music note may recall was the rake and composer of the aria Ross performed a couple of weeks ago.) Boëllmann died at only age 35 in 1897, most likely of tuberculosis (which also claimed Chopin among others).  The first piece is Chant du matin (Song of the morning) followed by Entrée solenelle (Solemn procession). David Boelzner

Oct. 21, 2018: The Sanctus (“Holy, holy, holy”) setting by Franz Schubert

Today’s Music: The Sanctus (“Holy, holy, holy”) setting we have been using is adapted from Franz Schubert (1797-1828), who is renowned as a composer of lieder, art songs that convey subtle and profound moods through merely a vocal line and piano accompaniment. In view of his particular gift, it has bothered me that the Sanctus setting, from his Deutsche Messe (German Mass), does not suit the text: it doesn’t match rhythmically (which could result from translation from German) but it also seems in the wrong mood for the forceful words, e.g. “Lord God of hosts, heaven and earth are full of your glory.” Mystery solved: the Messe is not a setting of the usual Latin text but instead of German poems; the text for the music we’re using deals more with the eternal existence of God than his power. David Boelzner

Oct. 14, 2018: “Le Cygne” (the Swan) by Charles Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921)

Today’s Music: For the prelude this morning we have Warren Chapman and Ann playing a transcription for saxophone and piano of “Le Cygne” (the Swan) by Charles Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921). The piece is very well known, originally scored for cello and two pianos, part of the suite The Carnival of the Animals. This was the only movement from that wonderful work that the composer would allow to be performed in public during his lifetime; he felt the other movements were too frivolous and would harm his reputation as a serious composer. The calm gliding of the swan is evoked by the perpetual rolling arpeggios in the piano part and the flowing lyrical melody played by the sax.  David Boelzner

Oct. 7, 2018: “And now the bread is broken” by Cliff Brock

Today’s Music: This morning, in addition to the usual offertory, the choir will sing a communion anthem, “And now the bread is broken.” It is a relatively new piece, a premiere by our choir, written by composer Cliff Brock (b. 1982), whose “day job” is horticulturist at the Georgia State Botanical Garden. He is also organist at an Episcopal church in Lawrenceville, GA. We’ve done another of his anthems previously. Brock has a knack for writing an engaging melody, and this piece is no exception. The simple melody has a haunting modal quality. David Boelzner

Sept. 30, 2016: Alessandro Stradella

Today’s Music: As the prelude this morning, Ross and Ann play an aria (originally for voice) by Alessandro Stradella (d. 1682). Stradella, whose entire name was Antonio Alessandro Boncompagno (“good companion”) Stradella, was from an aristocratic Tuscan family, and he was a highly influential composer in his day. He apparently was aptly named “Boncompagno,” at least as far as the ladies were concerned, because he was notorious for his many affairs, one of which got him murdered by hirelings of a noble family. His melodramatic life inspired several operas, including an unfinished one by Cesar Franck. David Boelzner

Sept. 23, 2018: “Rise, crowned with light” by Healey Willan

Today’ Music: The anthem this morning is “Rise, crowned with light” by Canadian organist and composer (James) Healey Willan. Born in 1880 in England, he emigrated to Canada in 1913 and became organist at Toronto’s largest church, St. Paul’s, Bloor Street. Before leaving England, however, Willan had become interested in the Anglo-Catholic revival movement, and when in 1921 his royalties from composition allowed him the financial freedom to do so, he left “low church” St. Paul’s for the “high church” St. Mary Magdalene, where he remained until his death in 1968. He transformed the church into a mecca for Anglican church musicians. The tune of the arrangement is “Old 124th,” from a 1551 psalm collection. David Boelzner

Sept. 16, 2018: “The spacious firmament on high” from an oratorio by Haydn

The processional hymn (#409), “The spacious firmament,” is adapted from a joyful chorus, “The heavens are telling,” from an oratorio by Franz Joseph Haydn (d. 1809) entitled The Creation. Haydn was deeply religious and, like Handel in composing his oratorio Messiah, Haydn felt divinely inspired during the composition. An oratorio is a dramatic musical work on a sacred theme, a form that originated in the 16th century. The most famous oratorio is, of course, Messiah, but there are many other oratorios, even by Handel, and Messiah is actually atypical, in that most oratorios are more theatrical, just short of being fully staged like an opera. David Boelzner

Aug. 26, 2018: Blue Grass Sunday, “Wayfaring Stranger” and “Magnificat”

Today’s Music: We have two songs being performed for the first time today. The first is the traditional spiritual “Wayfaring Stranger.” Its origins have been traced back as far as 1780. It may be a reworked African spiritual or a creation from Southern Appalachia. In the song, the singer contemplates a better world in the afterlife with his family and Christ. Singers who have performed “Wayfaring Stranger” include Burl Ives, Joan Baez, Emmylou Harris, and Johnny Cash. The second song is the “Magnificat” which was composed by Dick Hickman for this morning’s Bluegrass Sunday. It is performed in the country rock style with an upbeat tempo. The Magnificat is Mary’s song of praise to the Lord found in Luke’s Gospel (1:46-55) Rick Curtis

Aug. 19, 2018: Ave Maria

Today’s Music: M. Bergman provides our special music this morning, singing the Ave Maria to music of Jacques Arcadelt, a piece the choir has sung numerous times as an anthem. The music, however, was originally a 16thcentury three-voice secular madrigal, which would most often have been sung by a small group of singers, or by a single singer or two with the other parts covered by instruments. Nineteenth century French composer Pierre-Louis Dietsch used the music from the 16thcentury love song to make a choral setting of the Latin hymn of praise to the Virgin Mary, Ave Maria. David Boelzner