The Fourth Sunday of Advent will feature a musical offering by the Creator Chime Choir. Most of us began as chime beginners (myself included). We all experienced the challenge and reward of making music with chimes.
I invite you to do this exercise with someone at home or even over the phone. Take a sentence both of you know- “Mary had a little lamb whose fleece was white as snow.” Speak it together, alternating who speaks which word. It might not sound quite right at first. The rhythm one would naturally use in speaking disappears between two or three people. That is how we make music in the chime choir -- one word (note) at a time.
I am very proud of what these four accomplished together. Some came in knowing how to read music, others did not. Chime choir is inviting and challenging regardless of prior musical experience. I hope that you enjoy our offering of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” and our planned Christmas offerings.
If you would like to make some music with us, we meet safely (masks + gloves + distance) in the parish hall at noon on Sundays.
Many hymn tunes are named for a place or person significant to the composer (Duke Street, Forest Green, Thomas Merton). A favorite All Saints’ Day hymn tune is Sine Nomine, a latin phrase meaning “without a name.” Ralph Vaughan Williams composed Sine Nomine in 1906 to accompany Walsham How’s text “For All the Saints” for use on All Saints’ Day. The tune features a walking bass line -- this bass part is not meant to be sung. It propels the harmony forward one note at a time.
Below is a clip of this hymn as performed in The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
I am very excited to begin a handchime choir at Creator. A handchime is an instrument that you ring by hand, similar to a handbell. Handchimes look different, they sound different, and they require different technique, but the applications are similar. This video (in another language but with English subtitles) shows handchimes in action --
Handchimes are wonderful for making music together while we maintain a safe distance from one another. All you need in order to join is an interest in making music together. Reading music is not a requirement -- it is helpful to read music, but playing handchimes is an excellent way to learn as you go (and I will help!).
I hope to see you after the 10:30am service on September 27 for a short meeting before we can start rehearsing. At this meeting, we will discuss distancing, sanitizing, and of course rehearsal time. If you cannot make that meeting, please feel free to see me before the service or email me (email@example.com).
Our Gospel reading this week includes the verse “‘For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.’” (Matthew 18:20) This leads me to start the service with a prelude on Ubi Caritas. A translation of the Latin text “Where charity and love are, there God is. The love of Christ has gathered us into one.”
“Now you, mortal, say to the house of Israel, Thus you have said: ‘Our transgressions and our sins weigh upon us, and we waste away because of them; how then can we live?’ Say to them, As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel?”
Synesius of Cyrene (c.370-c.413) wrote several hymns as the Bishop of Ptolemais, and one of those is included in our hymnal. The translation by Allen William Chatfield --
Lord Jesus, think on me, and purge away my sin;
From harmful passions set me free, and make me pure within.
Lord Jesus, think on me, with care and woe oppressed;
Let me thy loving servant be, and taste thy promised rest.
Lord Jesus, think on me, nor let me go astray;
Through darkness and perplexity point thou the heavenly way.
Lord Jesus, think on me, that, when the flood is passed,
I may the eternal brightness see, and share thy joy at last.
I pair this hymn with the reading from Ezekiel because it seems to me that Synesius is asking how to live. He is asking for the strength and the vision required to do so.
Johann Gottfried Walther’s (1684-1748) chorale prelude on “Warum sollt ich mich denn grämen?” will conclude the service. The English translation is a happy question: “Why should sorrow ever grieve me?” and the tune is bright and bouncy.
This Sunday’s prelude is on the hymn tune Finlandia. Some might know this as the hymn tune of “Be Still, My Soul.” Others might think of Jean Sibelius’s orchestral tone poem. Please listen to this work here. The intensity of the brass rivals the brass role in Holst’s “Mars” from The Planets. But if you keep listening, a hymn emerges. This tune has been used for a few different hymns (“Be Still, My Soul,” “This Is My Song,” among others) and has been suggested many times as the national anthem of Finland. I find the tune to be uplifting, especially after the music leading up to it in the full work.
Our sequence hymn which will follow the reading from Romans is a familiar one -- “The Church’s One Foundation.” The hymn celebrates unity in Christ --
For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function,
so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.
The hymn tune Chelsea Square with descant will conclude the service. The accompanying text from “Put Forth O God thy Spirit’s Might” encourages us to carry our light into the world.
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."
This Sunday, we will hear three American tunes. The prelude is based on the tune "Wondrous Love". The composer is unknown, but it is likely to have come from an Appalachian folk song. The tune had been written down by the 1830s in the shape note tune book Southern Harmony.
Our sequence hymn responds to the reading from Romans and introduces the Gospel. What can follow one of the last verses from the epistle, “Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” and bring us into this reading from Matthew:
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light”?
One of my favorite hymns, written by the American composer William Batchelder Bradbury, instantly came to mind -- “Just As I Am” (words by English poet Charlotte Elliott).
As the service ends, I will play an arrangement of the African American spiritual “Oh, Freedom!” as found in the hymnal Lift Every Voice and Sing II.