Our prelude this Sunday is a familiar tune - Hendon - which many might know as “Take My Life and Let it Be.” This text is set to a few different hymn tunes, but I appreciate what Hendon does for the text with the reading from Romans. This rendition will begin as a meditation but evolve into the stately hymn that calls us to devote and serve.
Before the gospel this Sunday, we will sing “Wilt thou Forgive that Sin,” which combines the text and music of two greats -- John Donne and J.S. Bach. Like the prelude, this was selected because of the reading from Romans. Each line that ends in a question, or the suggestion of a question, ends on a major chord. Since the tune is minor, this creates a feeling of intrigue and hope.
As we finish the service and prepare to start a new week, I will play the hymn tune Westminster
Abbey with Doug’s wonderful recording (I will play the descant). We know this tune as “Christ is Made the Sure Foundation.” The text echoes the Collect and reminds us of the many ways in which we are joined, even when times are so strange.
We will settle in for the service this week with a selection from Johann Kaspar Kerll’s Canzona III. Kerll (1627-1693) strongly influenced other Baroque composers such as JS Bach, Johann Pachelbel, and George Frideric Handel. The piece is minor and texturally rich -- there are fugal moments leading to sequenced passages which return to fugal texture. In the last few measures, the tension that the texture built eases with the use of suspensions leading to the final chord -- D major (a Picardy third). This bright chord brings us into the service for the Seventh Sunday of Easter and observance of Ascension Day.
Before the Gospel reading, we will sing “Crown Him with Many Crowns.” The first and fifth verses are especially well suited for Ascension Day.
1. Crown Him with many crowns, the Lamb upon His throne;
Hark! How the heavenly anthem drowns all music but its own;
Awake, my soul, and sing of Him who died for thee,
And hail Him as thy matchless King through all eternity.
5. Crown Him the Lord of heaven, enthroned in worlds above;
Crown Him the King, to whom is given, the wondrous name of Love.
Crown Him with many crowns, as thrones before him fall,
Crown Him, ye kings, with many crown, for He is King of all.
George Elvey wrote the hymn tune, Diademata, in 1868. The music for the last two lines of every verse lead to stronger congregational singing which is fitting for the text.
When the service has concluded, I will play a well-known piece by Jean Joseph Mouret (1682-1738). Mouret wrote it 1729 as part of his first Suite of Symphonies. The selection -- the first movement -- is now recognizable as the theme from PBS’s Masterpiece Theatre. I have played this tune in brass ensembles for various happy occasions, and I am thrilled to play it on the organ this Sunday.
This Sunday, we will sing a hymn based on the first reading (Acts 17:22-31). This passage paints a picture larger than we can fathom --
“The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth,
does not live in shrines made by human hands... From one ancestor he made all nations
to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries
of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps
grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For
‘In him we live and move and have our being’...”
The hymn “Creating God, your fingers trace” zooms out of our point of view and surveys “the bold designs of farthest space.” We come back to our planet in the second verse: “Sustaining God, your hands uphold the earth’s mysteries known or yet untold; let water’s fragile blend with air, enabling life, proclaim your care.”
That second verse connects the rest of this Sunday’s music with Rogation Sunday. We will begin with the hymn tune Noel nouvelet (“Now the green blade riseth"). Although this will be instrumental, the familiar text brings us back to the earth --
“Now the green blade riseth from the buried grain,
Wheat that in dark earth many days hath lain;
Love lives again, that with the dead has been:"
The melody of the refrain ascends under the text "Love is come again" and is supported by the brightest chord in the tune. The melody drifts back down to the soil with "like wheat that springeth green."
For our postlude, I want to keep attention on the blessings of the earth. I will play an arrangement of Royal Oak, which is familiar to most of us as “All things bright and beautiful.” I invite you to think of these two verses when you are able to experience the outdoors this week.
“Each little flower that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colors,
He made their tiny wings.
The cold wind in the winter,
The pleasant summer sun,
The ripe fruits in the garden,
He made them every one.”