Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children. (Matthew 14:19-21)
This week’s musical selections are all about this event depicted in Matthew.
The prelude and postlude will be movements from the same work by Anthony Giamanco (b. 1958). His Partita on Land of Rest features one of my favorite hymn tunes in different styles. The definition of partita has changed throughout history, but here it means "a multi-movement work remaining in one key". The hymn tune will be familiar to you as “I Come with Joy to Meet My Lord” or “Jerusalem, My Happy Home.” I would like for you to think of the second verse of the former --
“I come with Christians far and near to find, as all are fed,
The new community of love in Christ’s communion bread.”
The sequence hymn will keep this theme -- “Bread of the World.” Richard Heber, the author of the hymn, originally subtitled it “Before the sacrament.” Although we do not physically come together for communion as we did a few months ago, we are virtually gathered as we hear the miracle of the five loaves and two fishes.
Our first reading from 1 Kings tells of Solomon’s dream in which Solomon pleases the Lord with his desire to “discern what is right.” One line from the Old Irish poem “Rop tu mo Baile” (translated by Mary Byrne) reads:
“Be thou my meditation by day and night.
May it be thou that I behold even in my sleep.”
The reading and the poem meet in our prelude as the hymn tune Slane. The poem “Rop tu mo Baile” was translated and versified by Eleanor Hull into “Be Thou My Vision,” which we sing to the melody called Slane.
The reading from Romans begins, “The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.” Our sequence hymn “Like the murmur of the dove’s song” responds at the end of every verse- “Come, Holy Spirit, come.” This is an invitation to oneself to be open and receive even challenging messages. The first verse suggests something quiet or difficult as well as something strongly felt like wind or fire--
“Like the murmur of the dove’s song,
Like the challenge of her flight,
Like the vigor of the wind’s rush,
Like the new flame’s eager might:
Come, Holy Spirit, Come.”
Our postlude is a canon from Hymnal 1982. A canon features one melody joined by the same melody at a different time. Due to our unique circumstances, I’m alone in the loft and will sing a canon with the organ filling in for others. The text is made up of a few verses from Matthew which respond to our gospel reading --
“Seek ye first the kingdom of God
And its righteousness,
And all these things shall be added unto you;
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
The well-known hymn “Praise to the Living God!” draws inspiration from our reading from Isaiah. The associated hymn tune, Leoni, is a familiar one and is often used as a processional hymn. Our prelude this week will be an arrangement of this hymn tune to gradually bring us into that space -- think of standing up, perhaps sharing the hymnal, and entering the service.
Our sequence hymn, “Come Gracious Spirit, Heavenly Dove,” was written by Simon Browne (1680-1732) (text) and Lowell Mason (1792-1872). This line from the third verse brings us to the Gospel -- “Lead us to Christ, the living way.”
Alexandre Guilmant (1837-1911) was a prolific composer for the organ. His Prayer for organ is a contemplative piece. The top voice moves slowly and the entire piece is harmonically driven. I am playing this tune as a postlude because of the movement in the left hand. While the right hand plays a very slow melody, the left hand arpeggiates quickly. While we exit the rhythm of the service, the quick thoughts and mental to-do lists come back almost immediately. At least for the postlude, feel the slower and grounding pulse.
As we settle into worship, we will hear a hymn tune of John Foley, SJ, called "One Bread, One Body." The text echoes the parable of the sower from our reading this week --
"Grain for the fields,
scattered and grown,
gathered to one for all."
Our sequence hymn will be "Surely It Is God Who Saves Me" -- the text comes from Isaiah and is set over the tune Thomas Merton. I reharmonized the tune. This means that the melody remains the same, but the chords underneath are different.
The first two pieces of music in the service were both written in the 20th century. Our postlude, however, was written in 1713 by JS Bach. I will play an arrangement of "Sheep May Safely Graze" and I would like to share the (translated) text with you --
"Sheep may safely graze and pasture
In a watchful Shepherd's sight.
Those who rule with wisdom guiding
Bring to hearts a peace abiding
Bless a land with joy made bright."