Forest Hill & 43rd Street
Richmond, VA 23225

To Know Christ and to Make Him Known

Weekly Music Notes

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

Aug. 5. 2018: “Jesus, lover of my soul”

Today’s Music: The men’s chorale sings the anthem this morning, “Jesus, lover of my soul,” a Charles Wesley text long associated with Joseph Parry’s tune, Aberystwyth. Parry (d. 1903) was a Welsh composer who worked as a child in the mines of Wales and later in the iron works in Pennsylvania, not receiving any musical training until age 17. Nonetheless, he became an organist and prolific composer, eventually becoming head of the music department at the university in Aberystwyth, Wales, hence the tune’s name. Like so many Welsh tunes, it is in minor mode (its first four notes are identical to our recessional, no. 571, another Welsh tune). Many believe that the pan-African anthem “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika,” the national anthem of several African nations and part of South Africa’s anthem, is based on the Parry tune, but the tunes are little alike.  David Boelzner

July 29, 2018: Dick Hickman’s compositions

Today’s Music: The text to this morning’s prelude, O Gladsome Light, arranged for guitar and mandolin, can be found in the hymnal, page 36. The Venite is my own composition written in 2015. The Offertory is The Rising Dawn, my adaptation of the verses beginning with Job 38:12. Dick Hickman

July 22, 2018: “Joyful, joyful, we adore thee”

Today’s Music: Our recessional is the stirring “Joyful, joyful, we adore thee,” a text written by Henry van Dyke, English professor at Princeton who had previously been pastor and, apparently, a spellbinding preacher at a Presbyterian church in Manhattan. He wrote the words after being inspired by the beauty of the Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts. Although he didn’t write the tune, when he handed the poem to his friend, President Garfield, he did apparently say that it must be sung to Beethoven’s Ode to Joy melody (from the Ninth Symphony). Not all hymnbooks preserve Beethoven’s syncopated anticipation of the beginning of the fourth line, but ours does. David Boelzner

July 15, 2018: “Sicilienne” and “Berceuse” for violin

Today’s Music: Our special music this morning will include two pieces for violin and piano, featuring Randy Allen. The offertory, “Sicilienne,” is attributed to the late 18th--century blind pianist Maria Theresia von Paradis, but this is spurious; the piece is in a 19th-century style. Communion music is “Berceuse” by Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924). Although its composer attached no particular importance to the early work, it caught on with violinists and secured a publisher for Fauré’s music. A berceuse is a lullaby, and as adapted by composers for performance it has a rocking sort of accompaniment and a flowing melody. David Boelzner

July 8, 2018: “Lord, for thy tender mercies sake”

Today’s Music: Our quartet will sing as the anthem “Lord, for thy tender mercies sake,” by English Renaissance-era composer and playwright Richard Farrant (d. 1580, known for founding Blackfriar’s, a company that featured children’s productions, and for serving at the court of Edward VI). The choral setting is relatively simple, moving homophonically (all voices simultaneously in harmony) at first, but then shifting to imitative on “that we may walk with a perfect heart.” The bass begins (with tenor counterpoint), followed by the alto and then the soprano. David Boelzner

Jun. 24, 2018: Antonin Dvorak

Today’s Music:  The offertory is one of the ten Biblical Songs composed by Czech composer Antonin Dvorak in 1894 while was working in New York. He selected the texts from the Psalms himself.  No. 4 is first part of the well-known twenty-third psalm, “The Lord is My Shepherd.” The texts were originally in Czech but Dvorak provided both English and German translations, which he insured were comfortable for the musical lines. The Czech operatic soprano Eva Urbanova has said, “Even if Dvorak had only written Biblical Songs and nothing else, it wouldn’t have mattered. Whenever I get the chance to sing them, I feel like I’m in heaven.” David Boelzner