Welcome to the Holy Nativity Episcopal Church Music Program!



sing unto the LORD a new songsing unto the LORD, all the earth. Sing unto the LORD, bless his name; shew forth his salvation from day to day.  –Psalm 96, KJV

Welcome to our music blog for the Church of the Holy Nativity!  I am Gabrielle Bronzich, M.M., the Director of Music, Organist and Choirmaster for Holy Nativity Episcopal Church in Plano, TX.  Holy Nativity is a Rite One Episcopal parish with a growing community and a music program full of enthusiastic, talented singers in our choir, vocal soloists and instrumentalists.  We have a growing program here, and we welcome anyone who feels called to serve the Lord through music in this parish to contact me personally and meet with me about what we offer here.   We also offer service hours through singing in the choir for students in elementary, junior high or high school from twelve years old and up.

On this blog, you’ll find YouTube videos and MP3’s of the music here at Holy Nativity, as well as articles on the hymns, organ music and vocal music offered to the Lord here.  We use the word “offer” here instead of the word “perform,” because although excellence of performance is important here, the highest purpose of our music in the worship service (which is mainly the Mass) is to offer a living sacrifice of praise to the Lord for His glory and for the edification and sanctification of God’s people.  Holy Nativity Episcopal Church is a warm, Christ-centered community of believers who promote the Christian way of life revealed in the Holy Gospel.   The community of Holy Nativity believes in the pursuit of a close relationship with Jesus in daily life, and the pursuit of a holy life as shown by Christ and preached by the Apostles in Holy Scripture.  The Church of the Holy Nativity believes in sacramental life and worship, which helps believers to grow in the Lord Jesus.

We hope you will find this blog inspirational and resourceful.  If you have any questions or would like to participate in our music program, please contact me at Holy Nativity, at 972-424-4574.  Have a blessed day!

The Music for the Feast of the Epiphany, Celebrated at Holy Nativity Church on Sunday, January 7, 2018: Part I, the Prelude, Processional Hymn, Psalm Chant, and Gradual Hymn

      Greetings in Christ Our Incarnate Lord!   On Sunday, January 7, 2018, the feast of the Epiphany was observed at Holy Nativity.  It was observed on Sunday, January 7, instead of on the date it fell, January 6, so that more people would be at church to enjoy and celebrate it.  So, I had the joy of providing organ music and hymns for the end of the Christmas season on the Gregorian calendar, on Sunday the 7th.  That same day was also Christmas Day for me, as an Eastern Orthodox Christian, on the Julian calendar.  It was special to me that I was able to sing and play Christmas carols at Holy Nativity on that particular day.

     Usually, I divide the music articles on this blog into two parts, one covering the hymns and psalm setting only, and the other covering the organ and choir music.  However, for Epiphany Sunday on January 7, the choir was on a well-deserved break from singing, having sung such beautiful music on Christmas Eve for the midnight Mass.  So, the music for Epiphany this year was all hymns with just a bit of organ music here and there.  This article will still be in two parts, as previous ones, but divided up differently than in previous articles.  Part I here focuses on the prelude, the opening hymn, the psalm chant, and the gradual hymn.  Part II will focus on the Offertory, Ablutions, and Final hymns as well as the organ music for Communion and the Postlude.  Right now, we will begin with the music for the Prelude. 

     There were two pieces of music for the prelude, as usual: some chanting from the Benedictine service of Lauds for the Holy Epiphany, and an organ piece.  Here are the titles:

Preludes: Benedictine Psalter for the Epiphany    Gregorian chant
À la venue de Noël (At the Coming of Christmas) Claude-Bénigne Balbastre (1724-1799)

     Everyone is, I think, accustomed by now to the traditional chanting of the Benedictine services, either Lauds or Terce, before each of the morning Masses.  I use a very free style of Gregorian chant, sometimes standard Gregorian psalm tones and other times psalm tones based on Gregorian hymn melodies.  The purpose of chanting the Psalter from the morning services prior to Mass is threefold: (1) to give congregation members entering the church a sacred, contemplative atmosphere which hopefully encourages individual prayer and devotions before Mass; (2) very simply, to observe some of the Benedictine Office for the benefit of others in the congregation who observe it, not to mention keeping the Rule of St. Benedict for myself;  (3) to help the congregation, through the theology contained in the Psalter and hymns from the Benedictine diurnal, in their preparation for Communion.

     For the Feast of the Epiphany, there are some quite lovely antiphons for Lauds.  I will share them here, along with a reference to the psalms with which each of them are connected.  Some Benedictine diurnals use the Greek system of numbering for the psalms.  For this article, I am using the King James Version psalter numbering which is used in the Book of Common Prayer, for the sake of clarity.  This is the same numbering which is used in most Bibles in the Western tradition. I will also give the Latin title associated with each psalm.

     First of all, the antiphon “Alleluia, Alleluia” is always used for the first three psalms of Lauds on a Sunday, which are Psalms 67 (Deus misereatur), 51 (Miserere mei, Deus) and 118 (Confitemini Domino).  The next group of psalms and their antiphons for Epiphany are as follows.  I used the Epiphany antiphons instead of the regular Sunday antiphons.

Psalm 93 (Dominus regnavit): Before the morning star begotten, + and Lord from everlasting, our Saviour is made manifest unto the world today.

Psalm 100 (Jubilate Deo): Thy light is come, + O Jerusalem, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee: and the Gentiles shall come to thy light, alleluia.

Psalm 63 (Deus, Deus meus): When they had opened their treasures, + the wise men presented unto the Lord gold, frankincense, and myrrh, alleluia.

The Song of the Three Children, Daniel 3:35-66 (Benedicite, omnia opera): O ye seas and floods, + bless ye the Lord: O ye wells, sing a hymn unto the Lord, alleluia.

Psalm 148 (Laudate Dominum), Psalm 149 (Cantate Domino), and Psalm 150 (Laudate Dominum in sanctis ejus):  Like a flame of fire, + that star glittereth yonder, revealing God, the King of kings: the wise men, when they beheld it, offered presents unto the mighty Ruler.

     These beautiful antiphons were chanted also on January 13, for the Octave of the Epiphany.  I actually chanted them one last time on Sunday, January 14, since January 13 fell on a Saturday and there were no church services at Holy Nativity for that day.  For online access to Benedictine services, I highly recommend this website, which has all of the psalms and other texts of each service in Latin on the left side of the page, and English on the right:  http://divinumofficium.com/cgi-bin/horas/officium.pl.  Another really great thing about this website is that there are options for which historical period one may want for usage of Benedictine services.  You can click on a link that allows you to have versions of the Benedictine services for all of the following historical periods/liturgical variations: Pre-Tridentine monastic (6th century to 1570), Tridentine 1570, Tridentine 1910, Divino Afflatu (1911), Reduced 1955, Rubrics 1960, and 1960 Newcalendar.   I personally like Pre-Tridentine monastic and Rubrics 1960 the best, in terms of liturgical format that is most true to the early Church.

     Let us now turn our attention to the organ prelude, an example of one of the 18th-century French Noëls for organ that were composed by several well-known French Baroque composers such as Louis-Nicolas Clérambault (1676–1749), Jean-François Dandrieu (c. 1682–1738), François d’Agincourt (1684–1758), Louis-Claude Daquin (1694–1772) and several others.  What is a French Noël?  Very simply, it’s a French Christmas carol, and in this context, a carol that has been arranged in a special way for organ.  First, the carol is played through, usually in a plein jeu registration (i.e., specified group of organ stops often indicated by the composer in the music).  The plein jeu consists of principal and reed stops, and tends to be quite loud and full.   After the Christmas carol is played in the plein jeu registration, it is presented by the composer in a series of variations that are played on solo organ stops and often presented as common Baroque dances such as the gigue.  The gigue, of which there is always at least one in most French Noëls for organ, is a very lively Baroque dance which features triple metres such as 3/8, 6/8 and sometimes 9/8, with lots of triplets and triple dotted rhythms.  Here is a performance on YouTube of a gigue, by two dancers in Baroque costume:


     The particular French Noël that I played for Epiphany Sunday was set to variations for the organ by Claude-Bénigne Balbastre (1724-1799).  We will talk a little bit about his life in a moment.  First, I want to discuss the actual Noël, or Christmas carol, that he used for this setting.  In French, it’s called À la venue de Noël, which I translated literally for the church bulletin, “At the Coming of Christmas.”  Another name for this carol is “Aici l’estela de Nadal” or “Nadal des Ausèls” (literally, “Christmas Carol of the Birds”).  It’s from the Occitan region of France, known as Provence.  The Occitan language actually is spoken not only in southern France, but also in the Occitan Valleys of Italy, Monaco, and the Val d’Aran of Spain where it is referred to as the Aranese language.  

     Nadal des Ausèls, also called Noël des Ausels, is listed by choral arranger Walter Ehret in his book, The International Book of Carols (published 1963 & 1980), as a carol from Bas-Quercy in southwestern France, near the Spanish border.  This is the first verse, in Occitan.   Next to each Occitan phrase I have placed the corresponding phrases of an anonymous, very inaccurate, but well-known English translation.  Here is Verse 1:

Aici l’estelo de Nadal                             Whence comes this rush of wings afar,

Qu’es aquel brut sur nostre oustal?   Following straight the Noël star?

Es une troupe d’auselons                     Birds from the woods in wondrous flight

A Bethléem ban dous à dons.              Bethlehem seek this holy night.

      Here is an old choral arrangement of this carol, in English.  We’ll probably sing this for next year’s Christmas Eve service.  You’ll find the musical arrangement I’m referring to at the bottom of this webpage: https://hymnary.org/tune/basquercy_17122.  Here is a copy of the music.

Christmas Carols and Hymns: for school and choir page 5


     Here is a performance of the English version of the carol, “Whence Comes This Rush of Wings Afar,” by the Vancouver Chamber Choir:


     Now there is but one question to puzzle over: How did this Occitan carol, Noël des Ausels, become known in Baroque urban France as “À la venue de Noël”?  Well, I have a theory about that.  King Louis XIV of France, the Sun King, started a program of standardising all of the French dialects into the dialect of French he spoke, which is called Île-de-France, after the Parisian area of France for which it’s named.  Along with that dialect standardisation came a lot of appropriation of folk songs from various areas of France.  My theory is that he had an Île-de-France version of the text written, and then this carol was popularised in his court.  Here is a French Baroque-style performance of the carol, as Louis XIV would have most preferred it: 


     The organ setting of this carol, by Claude-Bénigne Balbastre (1724-1799), was not from the period of Louis XIV’s reign at all, of course, but rather from the period of the reign of Louis XVI.  Louis XVI was the last French king, who was infamously executed by guillotine during the French Revolution.  À la venue de Noël was written in a Baroque style despite being from a later period, and it was one of several wonderful organ Noëls that Balbastre wrote.  The biography of Claude-Bénigne Balbastre can be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claude_Balbastre.  Here are the facts I found most interesting about him:  (1) The second part of his first name, Bénigne, was the name of his father.  (2) He came originally from Dijon, France.  That’s in the area of Burgundy.  Here’s the Wikipedia article on the town of Dijon: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dijon.  Dijon is famous for its mustard, the original recipe of which was created in 1856! (3) Claude Balbastre studied with Claude Rameau, the younger brother of famous Baroque French composer and musician Jean-Philippe Rameau.  The Rameau family was also from Dijon.  (4) Balbastre moved to Paris in 1750, where he became the organist at St. Roch.  St. Roch is pictured here.

P1190023 Paris Ier église Saint-Roch rwk.jpg

     St. Roch was the church where the infamous Marquis de Sade (from whom we get the word “sadism”) was married in 1763!  Guess who would have played the organ for his wedding?  Claude Balbastre!  Balbastre himself got married that same year.

      Balbastre eventually lost his job during the French revolution.  He survived the Reign of Terror by playing revolutionary songs on the organ.  He died in 1799, in Paris.  Here is a picture of him.  He looks rather sweet here, playing his Baroque-era guitar.  All I can say is that he was pretty smart to survive the Revolution, when his life would have been endangered by his aristocratic and Church associations.  He must have known how to schmooze.

Claude Balbastre. Miniature on ivory. Musée de Dijon.


     We now will focus on the Processional Hymn for Epiphany Sunday.  That hymn was “We Thee Kings of Orient Are.”  Here is the title as listed in the church program:

Processional:  #128, We Three Kings of Orient Are Three Kings of Orient

“We Three Kings” is also known as “The Quest of the Magi.”  It was written in 1857 by John Henry Hopkins, Jr.  He wrote it for a Christmas pageant in New York City, although he himself served as the rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

 John Henry Hopkins, Jr. (1820-1891) was a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The son of an Episcopal bishop (John Henry Hopkins, Sr., Bishop of the Diocese of Vermont, 1792-1868), he got his Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Vermont in 1839, and his Master’s Degree from that same university in 1845.  He started out as a journalist, but went into the Episcopal Church as a deacon, getting his degree from the General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church (in Chelsea, Manhattan, New York) in 1850.

The Christmas pageant for which he wrote “We Three Kings” was apparently just a family Christmas pageant for his nieces and nephews, not a pageant held at a major church in New York.  Aside from composing the famous Christmas carol so beloved in America today and so commonly associated with the Feast of the Epiphany, his other claim to fame was that he delivered the eulogy at the funeral for U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant in 1885.  His nephew, John Henry Hopkins III, wrote the popular children’s hymn in the Episcopal hymnal, “I Sing a Song of the Saints of God.”

John Henry Hopkins, Jr. played a major role in the development of hymnody in the Episcopal Church.  Here is the biographical entry about him from the Hymnary website, with a list of some of his other hymns: https://hymnary.org/person/Hopkins_JohnHJr.

     Below is a wonderful performance of “We Three Kings” by the Robert Shaw Chorale.

     We now turn to the psalm chant, written by William Knyvett (1779-1856).  William Knyvett of the late 18th and mid-19th century is not to be confused with Sir William Knyvett, the fourteenth- and early fifteenth-century knight.  Before I give some details on William Knyvett the non-knight, however, I will put a copy of the psalm setting here.  Underlined text indicates syllables sung on one note.  Bold text indicates one syllable sung on two notes.  Each dash represents a syllabic division, and on each of those syllables is sung one note.  The reciting notes are separated from the moving notes of the phrase by a measure line like so: |  .  I hope this is clear.

Music Time standard notation

Psalm 72: 1-2, 10-17        Deus, judicium

1 Give the King Your | justice, O God, *

          and Your righteousness | to the King’s Son;

2 That he may rule Your | peo-ple righteous-ly *

          and the | poor with justice.

10 The kings of Tarshish and of the isles | shall pay tribute, *

          and the kings of Arabia and | Sa-ba of-fer gifts.

11 All kings shall bow | down be-fore Him, *

          and all the | nat-ions do him service.

12 For he shall deliver the poor who cries out | in dis-tress, *

          and the op- | pressed who has no helper.

13 He shall have pity on the | lowly and poor; *

          he shall preserve the | lives of the needy.

14 He shall redeem their lives from op- | pression and violence, *

          and dear shall their | blood be in His sight.

15 Long may He live!  And may there be given to Him

          gold  | from A – ra – bia; *

     may prayer be made for Him always, and

          may they | bless Him all the day long.

16 May there be abundance of grain on the earth,

          growing thick even  | on the hilltops; *

     may its fruit flourish like Lebanon, and its

          grain like |  grass up – on the earth.

17 May His Name remain forever and be established

          as long as the | sun en – dures; *

     may all the nations bless themselves

          in |  Him and call Him blessèd.                  

Glory to the Father and | to the Son; *

          and | to the Ho-ly Spirit:

As it was in the be- | ginning, is now, *

          and | will be for-ever. A-men.


     William Knyvett was known mainly as a singer and composer of the early to mid-nineteenth century.    He had his start as a singer when he was just a child.  He was born on April 21, 1779, in London.  His father, Charles Knyvett (1752-1822), was a musician.  William was his third son.  William received his early musical training from his father.  He also studied with glee choral composer Samuel Webbe, who, interestingly enough, was a Roman Catholic in England during the time when that faith had become rather uncommon.   William Knyvett’s other teacher was Giovanni Battista Cimador, an Italian whose original surname was Cimadoro, but was Anglicised to Cimador by the musician himself when he moved to England in 1791.  Giovanni Battista Cimador is most famous now for his double bass concerto, because there are not many concerti written for that instrument.  Cimador was originally from Venice.  When he moved to London, he worked as a singing teacher, composer and pianist.  We can surmise that young William Knyvett, who would have only been twelve years old when Cimador first arrived in London, studied voice and composition with the Venetian immigrant.

     As mentioned before, Knyvett got his start as a principal alto in a London treble chorus.  He is first listed as being in the treble choir for the Concerts of Antient Music (spelling from that time period!), also known as the King’s Concerts, in 1795.  By this time, he would have been sixteen.  So, by age sixteen, he had changed from soprano to alto.  In 1797, at the young age of eighteen, he was already appointed as one of the gentlemen of the Chapel Royal!  Even though he was actually a deep bass in his natural vocal range, he had a well-developed falsetto and often took counter-tenor parts in the choir and on solos.  He became a concert singer in London and a conductor at various music festivals, such as the Birmingham Triennial Music Festival, for the next forty years or so.  The Birmingham Triennial Music Festival, which had become an annual music festival by 1784, raised funds for the Birmingham General Hospital.  The festival was held annually until 1912.  The start of WWI saw the demise of the festival.  Anyway, Knyvett was the conductor at that festival several times during his life.

     In addition to all of his work as a singer and conductor, he also wrote some popular songs and quite a few choral works.  He wrote a choral work for the coronation of Queen Victoria called “This Is the Day that the Lord Has Made.”  Unfortunately, that work was not published.  

     Although he gained the gracious patronage of the Prince of Wales, William Knyvett was not skilled in business matters.  He speculated badly, and ended up as a poor man.  His  obituary from the Gentleman’s Magazine, Volume 202, states the following: “November 17, 1856.  At his residence, Clarges-House, Ryde, in the Isle of Wight, in his 78th year, William Knyvett, Esq., Composer to, and Gentleman of, Her Majesty’s Chapels-Royal, and one of the Lay-Clerks of Westminster Abbey.”   A footnote in the obituary states this about his father: “Mr. Knyvett, senior, was one of the Gentlemen of the Chapels-Royal to George III, and became also Organist of the same in 1802.  He had three sons, Charles, Henry and William, all of whom left large and well-stationed families.”

     You can find the Gentleman’s Magazine, Volume 202, in Google Books.  There are many other interesting facts we can find out about William Knyvett by reading his obituary:  (1) He was married twice.  The name of his first wife is not listed, but it is noted that he had “a large family” with her.   (2) His two eldest sons became Lieutenant-Colonels in the East Indian Army.  (3) His second wife, Deborah Travis, was a famous musical performer of Handel’s works.  She bore him no children.  They married in 1826.  (4) He had a friendly personality and a good sense of humour, described thus in his obituary: “In private life, Mr. W. Knyvett gained the esteem of all who were acquainted with him, and these were not inconsiderable in number or station.  His conversation was marked by a playful humour, sometimes approaching to wit, and never tinged by spleen, that rendered him an agreeable companion in whatever society he mixed.”

     So, basically, what we have learned about William Knyvett is that he may not have been gifted with business speculation, but he certainly was a nice fellow who got along with everyone and could make people laugh.  Well, he could not very well have been a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal if he had been possessed of a sour disposition and irksome personality!  Musicians who wanted to be successful in late 18th- and early 19th-century London had to be charming as well as talented.  That’s actually still true of musicians today, in London or elsewhere.  Talent is important, but talent must blend with social skills if one wants to amount to anything.  That really hasn’t changed in 300 years.

     We now move on to the last piece of music to be discussed in this first part of the Epiphany article series: the Gradual Hymn, “What Child Is This?”  Here is the title as listed in the church program.

Gradual: #115, What Child Is This  Greensleeves

There are a couple of urban legends about the origin of the melody known as Greensleeves.  A rather absurd, fanciful book about Druids, which I won’t even bother citing here, claims that Greensleeves was the original Briton hymn sung by the Druids for the summer solstice!  Well, everyone who knows anything about Druids knows that they left no written tradition.  There’s no written or archaeological evidence that such a claim could even stand as a plausible sniff, let alone a historical fact.  

      The more popular urban legend is that King Henry VIII of England, Bluff King Hal, was the composer of the song.  This story was spread by his daughter, Queen Elizabeth I, as far as we know.  It is natural that she would want her renowned father credited with that song.  It’s also true that he was a good composer in his own right.  However, he did not write Greensleeves; it postdates his death!  The earliest published version of the song was 1580, and King Henry VIII died in 1547.  

The harmonic structure of the song is a progression of chords known as a romanesca, a popular harmonic formula that dates to the mid-sixteenth century, at the earliest.  It was most popular with Italian composers of the Renaissance, but it also was found very prominently in the songs of Spanish composers from that period.  (There’s another big ‘poo-poo,’ as Madeline of the Ludwig Bemelmans books would put it, on the whole idea of a Druidic origin of the song!).  Here’s a musical example showing the chord progression of a romanesca.

In September of 1580, the first ballad version of Greensleeves was published at the London Stationer’s Company by one Richard Jones, who referred to the tune as a “northern dittye.”  More versions of it were published by the year 1581.  It was also found in several late sixteenth-century lute books.  The bottom line here is that we don’t know who actually wrote the original Greensleeves melody.  Here is a thorough article on the mythology and history surrounding the tune: https://earlymusicmuse.com/greensleeves1of3mythology/. 

As early as 1686, there were Christmas and New Year’s texts that had been adapted to the tune.  The most famous lyrics, however, are those of the Christmas and Epiphany carol we know today.  Those lyrics were written in the 19th century by William Chatterton Dix (1837-1898).  His biography can be found here, on the Hymnary website: https://hymnary.org/person/Dix_WC.

Dix wrote the lyrics, “What Child Is This,” in response to his recovery from an almost fatal illness that he had contracted while working as an insurance company manager.  He managed a maritime insurance company in Glasgow, Scotland.  He was struck by the illness at the age of 29.  We have no record of what illness it was in his biographical information, but we know that he turned 29 in the year 1866.  If we trace the history of illness and epidemics in Glasgow from that period, we find that Glasgow was one of the most unsanitary cities in nineteenth-century Scotland with horrible housing conditions.  There was an epidemic of cholera in the late 1840’s during the Christmas season.  There were other epidemics throughout the nineteenth century of fevers and rheumatic diseases, specifically Measles, scarlet fever and diphtheria.  There were also a large number of children with rickets, and they easily contracted the aforementioned diseases.  Tuberculosis was naturally rampant in 19th-century Glasgow as well, and there were problems with pollution of milk in the city which led to a number of sanitary laws being passed about the sale of milk and standards to be observed on the condition of milk products delivered in the city.  My guess is that Dix caught one of the many fevers that spread through Glasgow during the 1860’s, or he might have drunk a cup of milk that was polluted with disease bacteria.  He was severely depressed by his illness, which he had for a long period.  His response to that illness was to become a writer of many hymn texts, of which are included famous hymns such as “As With Gladness Men of Old” and “What Child Is This?.”  The Wikipedia article on “What Child Is This?” states that Dix’s poem, The Manger Throne, from which the lyrics of “What Child Is This” were taken, was written in 1865.  However, that date does not match up with the claim that Dix had his severe illness at age 29.  Again, that would have been in 1866.  He had a spiritual renewal after his recovery from illness.  That renewal put him on the path of expressing his own Epiphany through the hymn texts he wrote.  Below is a picture of William Chatterton Dix, and a picture of his grave.  He was only sixty-one years old when he died, though the cause of his death is not listed.   By the time he died, he was no longer living in Scotland, but in Cheddar in Somerset, England.  He was buried in the churchyard of his parish church, St. Andrew’s.  I also have posted a picture of that here as well.

William Chatterton Dix.jpg

William Chatterton Dix (1837-1898)

The grave of William Chatterton Dix


A memorial plaque to William Chatterton Dix at Bristol Cathedral with names of his most famous hymn texts: he was born in Bristol, hence the honour accorded him here.



The parish church of St. Andrew’s in Cheddar, Somerset: the church dates back to the 14th century.  It was restored in 1873.

     I hope you have enjoyed this article on the first half of the music from Epiphany Sunday at Holy Nativity on January 7, 2018.  The second installment is coming soon, and will cover the rest of the music of the Mass that day, from the Offertory to the Postlude.  I hope that all who read this article are experiencing a blessed time during the Sundays after Epiphany, and a spiritually profitable preparation for Lent.

In Christ Jesus Our Lord,

Gabrielle Bronzich, M.M., Organist & Choirmaster of Holy Nativity Episcopal Church, Plano, TX

The Organ and Choral Music for Sunday, October 15th, Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost

     Greetings in Our Lord!  I recently completed the article on the hymns and psalm tone for Sunday, October 15, 2017. This article will now focus on the organ and choir music for that day.

     The hymns and psalm tone focused on the Scripture readings for October 15, which were the following: Isaiah 25: 1-9, Psalm 23, Philippians 4: 4-13, and Matthew 22: 1-14 for the Gospel reading.  For the special music, only the choral anthem really had connection with the readings.  The organ pieces were all focused on the recent Marian feasts that occurred on the Episcopal calendar during early October: the feast of the Holy Rosary on October 7, and the feast of the Motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary on October 11.  Also, for Communion, I played an organ piece in honour of the recently departed in our parish. 

     These are the pieces of special music for Sunday, October 15, that we will be discussing in this article:  

Prelude:  Benedictine Psalter  Gregorian Chant

Magnificat primi toni, BuxWV 203, Verses 1-6, Gloria Patri & Finale  Dieterich Hansen Buxtehude  (1637-1707)

Offertory Music:  Choral Anthem: If Thou But Suffer God to Guide Thee George Neumark (1621-1681)/arr. Jody Wayne Lindh (b. 1952)

Organ Solo:   Maria zart Organ Hymn      Arnolt Schlick (c. 1460-1521)

Communion Music:  Organ Solo: A Memorial Piece   Sir Charles H. Parry, 1st Baronet (1848-1918)

Postlude: Salve Regina (Hail Holy Queen), Verse 1   Peeter Cornet (1575-1633)

     Let us begin with the Prelude pieces: (1) a chanted portion of the Benedictine psalter from one of the Benedictine morning services, in this case Terce, and (2) the first six verses and final portion of the Magnificat primi toni by Buxtehude.

Prelude Part 1:  Benedictine Psalter. . . .Gregorian Chant

     I began the practice of chanting the Benedictine psalter from the morning services, either Lauds or Terce, as part of a double goal: first, to fulfill my own daily prayer rule, and secondly, to help people prepare their hearts for the Mass through the use of the Benedictine model of daily hours which are the foundation of the Book of Common Prayer.  Initially, for my own purposes, I was just chanting the office quietly to myself, but the congregation at both Masses, 8:00 and 10:30 A.M., told me that they liked having the Benedictine psalter chanted out loud before service.  So, I decided to chant a little bit louder from the organ loft while doing either Lauds or Terce, and here we are now.  I’m glad that people find it helpful, and I’m glad to be supporting Anglican tradition by using the hourly services that Cranmer used when he compiled the first BCP in 1549.

     In actual fact, on October 15, I chanted a portion of Lauds before the 8:00 Mass and all of Terce for the 10:30 Mass.  The reason I did Terce before 10:30 is that I had finished Lauds between the 8:00 and 10:30 Masses.  I never have time for Prime on Sundays, unfortunately, unless I do the much shorter Eastern Orthodox version, which is not Benedictine liturgically but based on Eastern practice.  For services at Holy Nativity, I endeavour to stick with the Benedictine tradition.  This particular Sunday, I used the antiphons from the Feast of the Holy Rosary because Saturday, the 14th of October, was the octave of that feast.  

     Most people reading this article will know what an antiphon is, but for anyone who is unfamiliar with the term, an antiphon is the refrain used at the beginning and end of a portion of psalms for a service in the Liturgy of the Hours.  (Here is review of the services from the Liturgy of the Hours: https://christdesert.org/prayer/opus-dei/the-eight-daily-prayer-periods/).  The Book of Common Prayer, as you may recall, has antiphons that are used at certain seasons of the Church Year.  The Benedictine diurnal has certain daily antiphons, as well as special antiphons for feast days.  For Lauds, there were five different antiphons for the Holy Rosary, not counting the regular Sunday antiphon of “Alleluia, Alleluia” because of Sunday always commemorating Our Lord’s Resurrection.  For Terce, there was only one antiphon because there were only three psalms for the psalter portion of the service.  

     For Sunday, October 15, I didn’t have time to chant all of the Lauds psalms before the 8:00 Mass, but I was able to get in the first three psalms for Sunday.  I will list those psalms with their antiphons here, using the King James Version numbering of the psalms to which people are most accustomed in the Western liturgical tradition.


Psalm 67 with the antiphon “Alleluia, Alleluia” for Sunday

Psalm 51 with the antiphon “Alleluia, Alleluia” for Sunday

Psalm 118, verses 1-29 with this Antiphon for Our Lady of the Rosary: “Be joyful, Virgin Mother; Christ hath risen from the tomb.”   

     This antiphon fits neatly with the Resurrection theme for Sundays, and the Resurrection is also the First Glorious Mystery of the Rosary.  The five Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary, the Paschal cycle, are said on Saturdays, the Sundays of Paschaltide and Ordinary Time, and Wednesdays.  Those of you who have the Rosary as a devotion are familiar with these.   

     For the 10:30 Mass, as I said before, I was able to do all of Terce because it’s a very brief service.  These are the Psalms for Sunday Terce, with the one antiphon designated for Terce on the feast of the Holy Rosary. 


Antiphon for the psalter portion:  “God is gone up with a merry noise, and the Lord with the sound of the trump.”   (NOTE: I would point out here that this antiphon about the Ascension of the Lord covers the Second Glorious Mystery of the Rosary.   The Five Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary are as follows, for anyone who doesn’t already know: (1) the Resurrection of Christ, (2) the Ascension of Christ, (3) the Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, (4) the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and (5) the Coronation of the Virgin Mary).   

Psalms for Sunday at Terce:  Psalm 119: 33-40; Psalm 119: 41-48; and Psalm 119: 49-56.

     The Scripture reading for Sunday at Terce is 1 John 4:16.  For Sunday on October 15, since I was observing the octave of the Holy Rosary feast, I did the Terce reading for Holy Rosary instead: Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 24: 25 and 39: 17.  Then, there was a response to be chanted: R/ Thou art beautiful *and pleasant. Thou art beautifulV/ O holy Mother of God, in thy felicity.  And pleasant.  Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. R/ Thou art beautiful *and pleasant.

     Well, that’s a lot of information, but it covers what was done for the Benedictine psalter portion of the Prelude, which appears to be here to stay.  It seems to be working well for people in helping them pray before Mass and prepare for Communion.

Prelude Part 2:  Magnificat primi toni, verses 1-6 and Finale. . . . . . . . .Dieterich Hansen Buxtehude (1637-1707)

     Now let’s talk about the Magnificat by Buxtehude.   In the Benedictine tradition and hence in the Anglican service of Evening Prayer, the Magnificat is sung for Vespers.  Therefore, since it’s sung during a service on the evening preceding the Mass of the next day, it’s perfectly okay to play a Magnificat for an organ prelude or a choral prelude.  Last year, I started the practice of directing the choir in singing a Magnificat setting for Christmas Eve during the prelude of Christmas carols before Midnight Mass, for example.  So, aside from honouring the Mother of God’s two feast days on the Episcopal calendar on October 7 and 11, the choice of a Magnificat setting works well liturgically, even if it’s going a bit backwards from having chanted Terce!  

     Buxtehude’s Magnificat primi toni (Magnificat on the First Tone) represents a long-standing Western liturgical tradition with the organ: the alternatim practice of alternating sung verses of a Gregorian chant with a small organ piece, often an improvisation, called a verset.  This practice goes back to the 16th century in Italy and can be found in the music of Girolamo Cavazzoni (1525-1577), although the practice is most often associated with the French Baroque period.  The alternatim practice originates from the antiphonal singing that was done at Mass and at Vespers in the Roman Catholic Church during the Renaissance.  Organ alternatim pieces are most often associated with the Ordinary of the Mass and the Magnificat of Vespers.  What’s interesting about Buxtehude’s alternatim setting of the Magnificat is that he was Lutheran, as was the church he worked for in Lübeck, Germany, St. Mary of Lübeck (the Marienkirche), though it started out as a Catholic Church.  For the history of the church, see this Wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Mary’s_Church,_Lübeck)So, the Lutheran Church must have retained the tradition of organ alternatim pieces for their Magnificat settings in their Vespers service.  Or perhaps it was just a practice of the Marienkirche.

     The Lutheran Vespers service during Buxtehude’s time would have resembled the Lutheran Vespers service during the time of Michael Praetorius (1571-1621).  To find the structure laid out clearly, you would want to consult the north German Kirchenordnungen, or Instructions to Churches, from the 17th century.  Basically, the Lutherans reduced the psalm portion of Vespers to one or two instead of four like today’s Benedictine Vespers, or five like the Roman Catholic Benedictine Vespers of the Counter-Reformation period.  Here’s a rough layout of the Lutheran Vespers structure of  Buxtehude’s time:  (1) Psalm portion, either one or two psalms;  (2) Reading of the day; (3) the Lord’s Prayer, (4) the Apostles’ Creed, (5) the Ten Commandments, (6) a seasonal hymn; (7) the sermon; (8) the Magnificat, sung either in Latin or German; (9) the Collect of the day; and (10) the Blessing (Benedicamus Domino).  Compare and contrast that with Order of Vespers from the Lutheran Hymnal of 1941, from the Missouri Synod:  

     If my readers would like something more specific, here’s a Lutheran Vespers rubric from the Evangelical Lutheran Hymn-Book of 1912: http://www.projectwittenberg.org/etext/hymnals/ELHB1912/evening_service.htm

     Buxtehude’s Magnificat primi toni has a total of sixteen versets, alternating between the sung portions of the chant versus the organ versets. However, some organists are of the opinion that Buxtehude’s Magnificat, this particular setting labeled BuxWV 203, was not written for liturgical use but rather for solo use.  The reason they think this is because the organ versets are not related to the chant except in the vaguest way, and in fact are more like toccatas.  The fourth verset resembles a French dance known as a courante.  Here is a brief article by Jan R. Luth expressing the opinion that this piece was meant as a solo piece during Buxtehude’s time:  http://www.hetorgel.nl/e1999-21.php.

     Regardless of how it was meant to be performed, I performed it thus so:  I sang the choral portions of chant in-between the organ versets with improvised chords underneath the chant melody, Renaissance in style.  Then, I played the corresponding organ versets.  For the Magnificat text, I used the King James Version of the Bible. Because there was not time to play the entire Magnificat setting, I sang the Gloria Patri after Verset 6 and skipped over to measure 125 of the piece, playing the remainder of the piece from there to the end.  I didn’t like how the chant portions of my Buxtehude edition only included half of each Scriptural verse from the Magnificat, so I adapted the chant melody to the complete Magnificat verses of my choice from the Gospel of Luke.  Thus, my performance of the piece went like this:  (1) VERSET 1: Chant Luke 1: 46-47  (2) VERSET 2: Organ  (3) VERSET 3: Chant Luke 1: 48  (4) VERSET 4: Organ  (5) VERSET 5: Chant Luke 1: 49-50  (6) VERSET 6: Organ  (7) Gloria Patri chanted (8) Measure 125 to the end.   

     Now, regarding Buxtehude’s life, he has been a frequent subject in the past few articles I’ve written because I have been playing a lot of his music.  So, instead of reviewing his entire biography, for which there is a nice link here (https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/dieterich-buxtehude-409.php), I will confine myself here to talking about one interesting episode of his life.  Today, we’ll talk about his plan to marry off his eldest daughter to the next man who succeeded him as Organist at the Marienkirche in Lübeck.  

     If you wanted the job as Organist at the Marienkirche in Lübeck, the main condition for your employment was that you had to marry the daughter of the organist you succeeded.  This worked out well for Buxtehude when he married Anna-Margarethe, the daughter of his predecessor Franz Tunder (1614-1667).  However, when Buxtehude was ready to retire, nobody was in a particular rush to marry his daughter, Anna Margareta.  (Do you suppose she was named after her mother?).  

     Some sources say that Anna Margareta Buxtehude (1675-1709) was considered very unattractive by prospective candidates for Buxtehude’s job.  Others say that the suitors considered her too old because she was approaching her early thirties.  It has also been said that she had a dull personality.  Whatever the truth may have been, approaching 30 as a prospective wife was a serious problem during Buxtehude’s time, because the age of 30 was virtually on the edge of menopause for women back then!  Women during that time did most of their childbearing between 18 and 25.  As a matter of fact, the average life expectancy for the eighteenth century was 35 years!  So, when 18-year-old George Frideric Handel interviewed for being Buxtehude’s successor in 1703, and found out that Anna Margareta was 28 years old, he gracefully declined the offer of the job.  His friend Johann Mathesson, who had come with him to also interview for the position, similarly lost interest after he met Anna Margareta and discovered her age.  Johann Sebastian Bach, who was 20 years old when he interviewed for the same position in 1705, also declined from marrying the poor woman, who was 30 by that time.  Bach had walked over 200 miles to meet Buxtehude, only to be asked if he might take a wife ten years his senior!  Instead, Bach ended up marrying a young lady from his choir when he returned to his church job in Arnstadt.  In fact, he had already expressed interest in that young lady before he journeyed to Lübeck for the famous meeting with Buxtehude.  As for Anna Margareta Buxtehude, the story is that she was as equally uninterested in Handel and Bach as they were in her.

     Poor old Buxtehude didn’t find a successor for his position until close to his death in 1707.  He had to extract a promise from his student and assistant, Johann Christian Schieferdecker (1679-1732), that Schieferdecker would marry Anna Margareta after Buxtehude died.  That’s what one story says.  Another story says that after Buxtehude died, Johann Christian fell in love with Anna Margareta, and the church ministers took care of the wedding details.  Whichever version was true, that wedding was on September 5, 1707.  The bride was 32 years old by that time, and the groom was 25!  In any case, at least she wasn’t left abandoned.  She gave birth to their only child, Johanna Sophia, in 1708.  Then, Anna Margareta died on December 18 of the following year.  The poor dear!  She was too old to be giving birth.

     What happened to Buxtehude’s other daughters?  They all got married too.  It’s not as if they had many professional options during that time.  The middle daughter, Anna Sophia, got a divorce from her husband, Johann Nicolaus Herman the spice dealer, three years after marrying him.  That was in 1716.  Oh, well.

     Thus ends your Buxtehude lore for today.  We now move on to the second piece of special music for October 15, the choral anthem for Offertory.

Offertory Music:  Choral Anthem: If Thou But Suffer God to Guide Thee George Neumark (1621-1681)/arr. Jody Wayne Lindh (b. 1952)

     This piece was actually the Communion Anthem for the previous Sunday of October, October 8.  The choir sang it a second time for this Sunday, October 15.  It has a text that can go with any Scripture readings.  On Sunday October 8, it was a good response to the exhortations in all the readings to bear good fruit in the Lord.  For Sunday October 15, it was a response to the parable of the wedding feast, Matthew 22: 1-14.  The text also went well with the other readings on October 15 about God providing a feast for His people, and the exhortation to live a holy life in the Epistle reading.   For all of those readings, see this link: http://lectionarypage.net/YearA/Pentecost/AProp23.html. 

     The entire text of the Lutheran hymn which was arranged for this choral anthem, “If Thou But Suffer God to Guide Thee,” can be found here: http://www.lutheran-hymnal.com/lyrics/tlh518.htm.   For our purposes, the stanzas of the hymn (and the anthem) that went best with the readings were verses 1, 3 and 7.  Verse 1 goes well with the Old Testament reading, Isaiah 25: 1-9, especially the last three verses of that reading: “Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us.This is the LORD for whom we have waited;  let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”  Verse 3 goes with Psalm 23, in particular these verses: “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.  Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.”  The last two lines of verse 3 in this hymn, “Nor doubt our inmost wants are known/ to Him who chose us for His own,” fit well with the last verse of the Gospel Reading in Matthew 22: 1-14:  “For many are called, but few are chosen.”  Verse 7 once again goes with Psalm 23, the psalm for Sunday, October 15.  It also fits with how the king in the Gospel parable sent out to invite all of the poor and the wretched–those who were considered undeserving—to his wedding feast, in place of his original guests who refused to come.

1. If thou but suffer God to guide thee
And hope in Him through all thy ways,
He’ll give thee strength, whate’er betide thee,
And bear thee through the evil days.
Who trusts in God’s unchanging love
Builds on the Rock that naught can move.

3. Be patient and await His leisure
In cheerful hope, with heart content
To take whate’er thy Father’s pleasure
And His discerning love hath sent,
Nor doubt our inmost wants are known
To Him who chose us for His own.

  7. Sing, pray, and keep His ways unswerving,
Perform thy duties faithfully,
And trust His Word, though undeserving,
Thou yet shalt find it true for thee.
God never yet forsook in need
The soul that trusted Him indeed.

     Now, I will mention some interesting facts about the composer of the hymn, Georg Neumark, and then some facts about the very talented arranger of the anthem, Mr. Jody Wayne Lindh, who is also a composer.

     Georg Neumark (1621-1681), a German poet and composer of hymns, lived for sixty years during a time that was not only marked by the hardships of the Thirty Years War (1618-1648), but also a time when the average life span was anywhere from thirty-five to forty.  He was the son of a clothier, Michael Neumark, and his wife Martha Neumark.  Georg was born in Langensalza, a spa town in Thuringia, Germany, on March 16, 1621.  Here is the Wikipedia article on that town and its history: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bad_Langensalza.   Starting at the age of nine, he attended school first at the Gymnasium (similar to a high school, only starting with younger students much like an English prep school) of Schleusingen, a town about an hour and twenty-seven minutes south of Langensalza with today’s transportation.  In his time, you would have had to calculate the time in terms of the fact that the average carriage during the 17th century could not travel over fifteen miles per hour.  He was only at the school in Schleusingen for a short time, being transferred to the Gymnasium in Gotha, a town that is presently thirty-two minutes southwest of Langensalza.  In 1640, he received his certificate of dimission, that is, his certificate of permission to depart from the school.  He subsequently enrolled at the University of Königsberg to study law.  Remember that during his time, in order to attend school or obtain employment, he had to have a sponsor or reference.  He could not just show up in Königsberg and put his name on the enrollment list.  Remember also that he would not have received his certificate of leave from the school in Gotha had not his marks (grades) and conduct been sufficient to the school’s standards.  There was no such thing as being a C-average student, and certainly no such thing as failing one’s courses.  The field of law, to which he aspired, was one of the most solid professions in Europe during the Renaissance and Baroque periods.

     On his way to Königsberg, however, the young man met with misfortune, the first of several in his life that would keep him on his knees to God, crying for help and mercy many times.  He joined a band of merchants who were on their way to the Leipzig Michaelmas Fair, hoping to have safety through their numbers as he made his way towards Königsberg.  Unfortunately, their numbers were not sufficient for protection, for a band of highwaymen swept down upon them when they reached Gardelegen, a town about 268 miles from Königsberg.  The robbers took everything that Georg Neumark had, except for his prayer book.   The leader of the gang, who was honest enough to know that being an unrepentant thief did not exactly put him on the path to heaven, was afraid to take Georg’s prayer book.  He didn’t need Divine reprisals!  The thieves were already struggling enough with hunger and displacement caused by the war, hence their choice of occupation.  So, they left Georg his Lutheran prayer book. Otherwise, they took all of his money and other possessions except for some money that he had sewn into the insides of his clothes. Crestfallen and traumatised, he trudged backward to the town of Magdeburg, a city on the Elbe river that is two hours and twenty-nine minutes north of Georg’s hometown of Langensalza and fifty-two minutes (40.2 miles) from Gardelegen—at least by today’s transportation standards.  But poor Georg was making the journey on foot.  That meant three miles per hour!

     Again, there are 40.2 miles between Gardelegen, where Georg was robbed, and Magdeburg.  40 divided by 3 is 13.4, so that means that it took Georg about 13 hours to make that walk.  He would have had to have stopped and slept during that time, so that would have been about a day and a half or so with no food or money.  He would have been compelled to rely on the charity of any church he might pass, or the kindness of farmers along the way.  Or perhaps he would have had to simply gather oats in barns that he passed, rely on any fruit that might have fallen to the ground from an obliging tree, or gather nuts and berries along the way, and even then he would have needed to know which ones were poisonous.  It was autumn, so he had to rely on whatever woodland food was available in northern Germany during that season.  He didn’t have a weapon with which to kill or skin woodland game such as rabbits, because any knife he had would have been taken by the robbers.  (And it would have been a knife; it was highly unlikely that he carried a bow and quiver of arrows, and certainly not a gun).  The only thing to drink along the way was river water.  So, it is reasonable to assume that by the time he reached Magdeburg, he was not at all well physically.  Here is a picture of Magdeburg today.  It probably looks similar in many ways to what Georg Neumark would have seen as he approached it.


     In Magdeburg, Georg made some new friends.  (We unfortunately don’t know their names).  Because he desperately needed employment so that he could save up money for travelling to Königsberg, they tried to find him a job to no avail.  They suggested that he move on to Lüneberg. That was another walk of 126 miles, which means that it would have taken him 42 hours of walking.  When he reached Lüneberg, he made friends there as well, but again could find no employment.  His friends at Lüneberg sent him on to Winsen, a fourteen-mile (i.e., five-hour) walk from Lüneberg, not as bad a walk as the previous one!  In Winsen, he was sent on to Hamburg.  For that journey, he had to walk 22.7 miles, or rather, about eight hours.  Surely in Hamburg he would find employment!  Alas, no!  Remember that the season was autumn.  So, either from October or November to December, he languished in Hamburg, searching fruitlessly (literally!) for a job.  Finally, in December, he left for Kiel, a town 60.7 miles (and therefore twenty hours on foot) from Hamburg.  There, in Kiel, he befriended the chief Lutheran pastor, Nicolaus Becker.

     Becker took the hapless young man under his wing, trying in every way to help him find a position.  Finally, at the end of December, the family tutor of the local judge, Judge Stephan Henning, fled town due to his involvement in a disgraceful scandal.  Pastor Becker stepped up and immediately recommended Georg Neumark to Judge Henning for the post of tutor.  Thus, finally, Neumark received the employment that would later enable him to finally make the journey to Königsberg.  

     Remember that during this time, the Thirty Years War was raging all around the protagonists in our story.  It has been said that the events of the Thirty Years War propelled Neumark towards the town of Kiel.  There is no record that we can find of Neumark running into an actual battle.  Most of the battles in his area of Germany had already taken place about ten years earlier.  Thus, when Georg Neumark was in Magdeburg, that town was still recovering from being sacked by Catholic armies in May of 1631.  Hamburg had been briefly under Danish rule in 1621.   There was a major victory for the Protestant armies over the Catholic forces in 1631, northwest of Leipzig, at the Battle of Breitenfeld. The effect of all this was the shifting of populations from city to city, often on the road as refugees.  Then, when the battles were over, there was widespread poverty and hardship due to destroyed homes and property.  So, most of the cities to which Georg Neumark travelled in search of work were still in a state of recovery from the effects of the Thirty Years War.

     To return to the subject of Georg Neumark’s employment, which he finally found in Kiel with the help of his Lutheran pastor, it was the reception of this job after his grave period of hardship that inspired him to write his famous hymn, “If Thou But Suffer God to Guide Thee.” 

     He stayed at his position in Judge Henning’s house for about two and half to three years, and it was a happy time for him.  In June of 1643, he finally had enough money to travel to Königsberg, where he was received as a law student at the university there.  He studied law for five years while supporting himself as a family tutor.  He met with another great misfortune during this time: in 1646, he lost all of his possessions once more, this time in a fire.  In 1648, he left Königsberg, going from Warsaw to Thorn and then back to Hamburg.  In 1651, he had the good fortune to attract the notice of Duke Wilhelm II of Sachse-Weimar.  The Duke appointed him to several positions: court poet, registrar of the Weimar administration, librarian, and secretary of the Ducal Archives. He became a member of the Fruitbearing Society, a literary society in Weimar founded by scholars and nobility in 1617 for the promotion of literature and scholarly writing in the German vernacular.  Neumark also became a member of the Pegnitz Order, another literary society founded in 1644.  He did very well in Weimar until he went blind in 1681.  But the Duke was merciful to him, and allowed him to continue receiving a salary.  Neumark died in Weimar on June 18, 1681.

     As you can see from his life, he had many occasions to be thankful to the Lord for provision during times of dire testing and trials.  But his most famous hymn, “If Thou But Suffer God to Guide Thee,”  Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten, was written in 1641 after he received the position as tutor to Judge Henning’s family.  Here is what Neumark himself wrote about the composition of that hymn:  “Which good fortune coming suddenly, and as if fallen from heaven, greatly rejoiced me, and on that very day I composed to the honour of my beloved Lord the here and there well-known hymn ‘Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten’; and had certainly cause enough to thank the Divine compassion for such unlooked for grace shown to me.”   He wrote this as a reflection on his life, Thrünendes Haus-Kreuiz, in Weimar, in 1681.  Since he was blind by that time, he must have dictated the text.  He exemplified a Christian attitude of gratitude, and trust in God during difficult times.  Below is a picture of Georg Neumark.

     The arranger of Neumark’s hymn as a choral anthem, Mr. Jody W. Lindh, is a retired Minister of Music.  He served University Park United Methodist Church in Dallas, TX from 1969 to 2013.  Here is the notice of his retirement, along with the announcement of the retirement of his wife JoNell, who was pastor at Chapel Hill United Methodist Church in Farmers Branch, Texas: https://www.chapelhillumc.org/2013/letter_from_pastor_jonell_february_26_2013/.   Here is a more extensive biography on composer, arranger and Minister of Music Jody Lindh, on the Choristers’ Guild website: https://www.choristersguild.org/document//197/.  Although Mr. Lindh served in the Methodist Church for most of his career, he actually is a Lutheran.  He was born and raised Lutheran, in Elim Lutheran Church in Marquette, Kansas, a parish founded by his great-grandfather during the 1880’s.  Here is an article from the University Park Methodist Church’s published periodical, The UP Word, in which Mr. Lindh is interviewed about his forty-five years of service as Music Minister of University Park Methodist Church.  He tells his inspiring story here: http://www.upumc.org/download_file/view/109.

     This hopefully has revealed everything you would want to know about Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten and the beautiful choral arrangement of it by Lindh, excellently performed by Holy Nativity Episcopal Choir for the Offertory anthem on October 15.  We now move on to the organ solo played after the anthem.


Offertory Music:  Choral Anthem: If Thou But Suffer God to Guide Thee George Neumark (1621-1681)/arr. Jody Wayne Lindh (b. 1952)

Organ Solo:   Maria zart Organ Hymn      Arnolt Schlick (c. 1460-1521)

     Maria zart, as the title of the piece indicates, is an organ piece written in honour of the Holy Virgin Mary, Mother of God.  Remember that the term “Mother of God” does not refer to the Virgin Mary being the mother of God the Father, but to the fact that she was and is the mother of God the Word, our Incarnate Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  Her actual original Greek title, bestowed upon her by the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D., is Theotokos, which means “God-bearer.”  It’s important because back then, as now, there were many people who were not willing to acknowledge the Divine Nature of Jesus Christ.  There were many people who, like some people today, merely thought of Jesus as a rabbi, a teacher, a philosopher, or a nice guy.  Sound familiar?  The Council of Ephesus was one in several that condemned such heretical thinking, and sought to affirm that Jesus was/is both human and Divine.  But I digress.

     The title Maria zart is German, and literally means “Mary Tender.”  The entire title of the song is Maria zart, von edler Art.  The song is a Marian devotional piece written by Arnolt Schlick (c. 1460-1521), and published in his tablature (lute) book of 1512, in Mainz.  Composer Jacob Obrecht used the song in a Marian Mass setting called Missa Maria zart. This is the German text of the song, with its English translation below.

Maria zart, von edler Art, ein Ros ohn’ allen Doren. 
Du hast aus Macht herwiederbracht, 
Das vor lang war verloren durch Adams Fall. 
Dir hat die Wahl Sankt Gabriel versprochen. 
Hilf, daß nicht wird gerochen mein‘ Sünd und Schuld. 
Erwirb mir Huld, 
Dann kein Trost ist, wo du nicht bist. 
Barmherzigkeit erwerben; am letzten End, 
ich bitt’, nich wend’ von mir in meinem Sterben. 

Maria rein, Du bist allein der Sünder Trost auf Erden, 
Darum dich hat der ewig Rat erwählt, ein Mutter werden 
Des höchsten Heil, der durch Urteil 
Am jüngsten Tag wird richten. 
Halt mich in deinen Pflichten, 
O werte Frucht, all’ mein‘ Zuflucht 
Hab’ ich zu dir; am Kreuz bist mir 
Mit Sankt Johannes geben, 
Daß du auch mein’ Mutter wöll’st sein, 
Frist hier und dort mein Leben. 

English translation: 

Maria tender, of noble being, a rose without thorns. 
By your power you have returned 
what had been long lost through Adam’s fall. 
You have been chosen by Saint Gabriel’s promise. 
Help that my sin and guilt may not be avenged. 
Procure my grace 
For there is no consolation without You. 
Gain mercy for me; at the end, 
I pray to You: turn not away from me at my death. 

Maria pure, you alone are the sinner’s earthly consolation, 
Therefore the eternal counsel chose you as a Mother 
To the Utmost Salvation, Who by judgment 
On the last day will judge. 
Hold me in your duty, 
O worthy fruit, all my refuge I find in you; 
On the cross you are given 
together with St. John, 
That you may also be my mother, 
Here in this time, and in my life.

     The text has a reference to Christ’s judgment in the second stanza that can only be understood if the words “Utmost Salvation” are capitalized in the English translation.  Otherwise, that particular verse can be confusing to the reader.  The tone of this song is very Catholic, beseeching the Virgin Mary to intercede for grace, consolation, refuge and a good account on the Day of Judgment.  In the first verse, when it refers to the Theotokos returning “by her power” what had been lost through Adam’s fall, that “power” referred to is her response to the Archangel Gabriel following the Annunciation: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord.  Be it done unto me according to thy word.”  It is the power of free will to choose God’s will. 

     The organ version of Maria zart is an ornamented piece written by Schlick, based on his own tune.  It has some very short fugal passages in it.  It has been said that Schlick made some advances in his organ music that were precursors of compositional features found in German Baroque music.  He was one of the first Renaissance composers to weave contrapuntal lines around a chorale tune, in the manner of the later Lutheran chorale preludes which would develop in the 17th century.

     Here is the Wikipedia article on Arnolt Schlick: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arnolt_Schlick.    He has an interesting story.  The most interesting fact about him is that he was apparently blind for much of his life, and yet his profession was that of court organist in the service of Elector Philip the Upright, ruler of the Palatinate (territory in the Holy Roman Empire) of the Rhine.  He also was an organ building consultant!  Ponder the fact that he did all of his inspections of church organs with only his senses of touch and hearing to aid him, in a time two-hundred years before Braille had been invented, and before any standardized way of teaching life skills to the blind had developed in the educational system.  This means that he taught all of those skills to himself, and developed his own methods of dealing with his handicap.  I think that’s pretty amazing.  Don’t you?

     Schlick was a native of Heidelberg, Germany and spent his life in a house not far from Heidelberg Castle.  He wrote the first German treatise ever on organ building and organ playing, Spiegel der Orgelmacher und Organisten (“Mirror of Organ-builders and Organists”), published in 1511.  In addition, Schlick played the harp and the lute.  He was very skilled on both instruments.  His blindness did not prevent him from playing instruments, just as blindness does not prevent such things in the present day.  However, for composition, he would have had to rely on someone to write down his works as he played them, of course.  Again, it would be two hundred more years before the invention of Braille. Below is a picture of Heidelberg Castle, an illustration from Schlick’s organ treatise, and a picture of Schlick himself.  



Heidelberg Castle


Illustration from Schlick’s treatise on how to build and play organs, 1511


Image result

Arnolt Schlick himself

     Schlick married one of Elector Philip’s servants, a lady by the name of Barbara Struplerin.  He was much sought after as a consultant on newly built organs.  He managed to test many new instruments.  Only one person ever had the cheek to make disparaging remarks about his blindness, and that person was the German composer Sebastian Virdung (born in 1465).  Schlick’s response was to point out Virdung’s many mistakes in the musical examples found in the treatise Virdung wrote, Musica getutscht.   Think on that for a moment:  Virdung, a sighted person, was making more mistakes in his musical manuscripts than a blind fellow.  That rebuke was quite a good smack in the face from Schlick to Virdung!  Schlick also rebuked Virdung for being ungrateful to those who had helped him.  Ingratitude was a serious accusation in the age of patronage.  Virdung later was dismissed from his position at Konstanz Cathedral in 1508 due to problems with his temper.  Apparently, he was too harsh with the choirboys!  Schlick, by contrast, was very well liked by all who knew him.  There is no record of him having had any children by his wife Barbara.  My guess is that it was a childless marriage.

     We now move forward to the music for Communion.

Communion Music:  Organ Solo: A Memorial Piece   Sir Charles H. Parry, 1st Baronet (1848-1918)

     We have already discussed several details of the life and work of Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry, 1st Baronet.   In this article, I will merely post a biographical link here: http://www.classical.net/music/comp.lst/acc/parry.php.  I also will list a couple of interesting facts not highlighted in my previous articles.  First of all, he was not only knighted in 1898 and created as First Baronet in 1902, but also he was appointed Commander of the Royal Victorian Order in 1905 for his contributions and service in the field of music.  The second fact I’ll mention is that he taught composition to students who would become some of the major English composers of the early twentieth century: Ralph Vaughan Williams, OM (Order of Merit), who lived from 1872 to 1958; Gustav Holst (1874-1934); George Butterworth, MC (Military Cross), 1885-1916; and Herbert Howells, CH & CBE (Order of the Companions of Honour and Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire), 1892-1983.  Parry taught these honoured and decorated men, some of whom became pillars of hymnody in the Church of England.

     Here is another biographical link on Parry from the Hymnary site: https://hymnary.org/person/Parry_CHH.  Here is his picture, also. 

    Unfortunately, I cannot find any information on his Memorial Piece which I played for Communion.  Presumably, it’s meant to be a prayer for the departed.  Since we were approaching All Saints and All Souls Day, forthcoming at the end of October, and since we had a few recent deaths in Holy Nativity parish, I thought it would be good to have a piece in memory of the departed.  What better time to remember the departed than when the congregation is receiving Holy Communion?

     We now move on to the last special piece of music for October 15, the organ postlude.

Postlude: Salve Regina (Hail Holy Queen), Verse 1   Peeter Cornet (1575-1633)

     I don’t suppose it takes a lot of guesswork to surmise that the postlude was another Marian piece, which I selected in honour of the feast of the Holy Rosary of the Mother of God.  Let’s take a moment to talk about the prayer and chant on which the piece was based, and then I’ll give some brief details about the life and work of Peeter Cornet.  (You don’t suppose, with the spelling of his first name, that he could have been. . . .Flemish?  Surely not!).  

     The text Salve, Regina, known in English as “Hail, Holy Queen,”  is a fervent Latin hymn asking for the Blessed Virgin Mary’s intercession, dating from somewhere between 1054 and 1153 A.D.  The author of the hymn is unknown, though there have been many educated guesses.  Among the potential authors are the Bishop of Le Puy (c. 1080 A.D.), Adhemar de Monteil (died 1098 A.D.), Hermann Contractus of Reichenau (1013-1054 A.D.), and Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153), a saint of the Roman Catholic Church. Hermann Contractus of Reichenau is thought to be the most likely author.  In the Benedictine tradition, the Salve Regina is sung as the final anthem of Compline during the period of the Western liturgical year from Saturday evening Vespers before Trinity Sunday, to None of the Saturday before the first Sunday of Advent.    The “Hail, Holy Queen” is also the final Marian prayer of the Rosary.  Below is the most well-known translation of the hymn.

Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy.  Hail, our life, our sweetness and our hope.  To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve.  To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears.  Turn then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy towards us; and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.  O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary!

     Before we talk about the chant and Cornet’s music, I would like to clarify something about the Salve Regina that is of importance to both Anglican and Eastern Orthodox theology.  In both the Anglican and the Eastern Orthodox traditions, the title “Queen” given to the Mother of God is meant to be honourific.  It does not literally mean “Queen” in the same sense of a Roman Empress or a royal personage equal to Christ.  It is a logical honourific for Mary the Mother of God, because Christ her Son is the King.  It therefore follows that she is the Queen.  HOWEVER, the distinction of an honourific title versus a literal title is very important, because she is not considered equal to Christ.  

    In Latin, the idea of “Queen” being an honourific title is problematic because of the meaning of the Latin word Regina.  There is no other word with the proper shade of meaning to convey an honourific title in Latin.  Regina in Latin literally means “Queen” and refers to a woman who rules a kingdom in her own right.  Queens in early medieval Europe, which is the time during which the title Regina would have been used (because there was no such title in ancient Rome), ruled as co-governors with their kings.  For more information on this, please reference page 282 of Women in Early Medieval Europe by Lisa M. Bitel.  In Greek, if you were talking of the Virgin Mary as a queen, you would use the word Basilissa, which literally means “Empress.” HOWEVER, that word is not understood in Greek culture and history to mean a woman ruling in her own right, or as a co-governor with a king.  Basilissa was an honourific title in the Late Roman (i.e. Byzantine) Empire.  All women referred to as “Empress” in the Late Roman Empire were understood to be merely regents who ruled until their sons came of age.  The Basilissa was also an intercessor for the people before her son.  To avoid confusion, the Eastern Church dispensed with calling the Virgin Mary by the title of Basilissa and instead relied on titles such as Theotokos (God-Bearer) and Panagia (All-Holy).   So, whenever one sings the Salve Regina, he/she will want to bear in mind that the word Regina is problematic theologically.  It might be better just to sing the hymn in English, where there is more leeway for interpreting the title as honourific rather than literal.

      If you are asking yourself, “Why does all this matter?,” the answer is quite simple.  There have been evangelical groups for quite some time who have accused Anglican, Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christians of being pagan in practice rather than Christian, especially in the veneration of the Virgin Mary.  Why?  Unfortunately, the title “Queen of Heaven” can be found in reference to several pagan goddesses of the ancient period, in particular the Egyptian goddess Isis and the Sumerian goddess Inanna.  First of all, the idea that veneration of the Mother of God is a continuation of ancient pagan practice is part of an erroneous assumption known as the Pagan Influence Fallacy.  Correlations have been drawn between Divine and honourary titles in Christianity and divine titles in pagan religions because of literal translations of Latin, Greek, and middle Eastern languages of the ancient world, into modern English.  First of all, this approach is flawed, because we must bear in mind the fact that those languages were all quite different from modern English.  Words in those languages had various shades of meaning. Words could change their meaning according to context in a sentence.  In modern English, we tend to have one word per shade of meaning, for English is a very precise language.  In other languages, especially ancient languages, there is often only one word that has different shades of meaning depending on how it is used in context.  In short, one has to read the full sentence to understand the meaning of the word.  What “Queen of Heaven” meant to an Isiac priest or priestess from the Roman Empire was completely different from what it means to a Christian taking the word “queen” in the context of “intercessor,” or as an honourary title given to the Virgin Mary because Jesus is the King.  Secondly, archaeological evidence and primary sources (written records) of the time periods in question often tend to contradict the Pagan Influence Fallacy.  The Pagan Influence Fallacy was invented to discredit liturgical Christianity by its opponents, and later it was used to discredit Christianity by those opposed to the faith altogether.  The Pagan Influence Fallacy has its origins in the 16th-century Reformation, and became quite prevalent in atheist and agnostic circles during the late twentieth century.  It was also a popular idea promoted by communists.

     So, when one uses “Hail, Holy Queen” in a liturgical setting or in private prayer, one must remember that “Queen” is an honourific title that denotes the Virgin Mary’s role as an intercessor before her Son, as was the case with the Byzantine empresses, who modeled their rule on none other than the Virgin Mary, Mother of God.  Also, when we say, “Hail, Holy Queen,”  we are not addressing her in the same context in which the Egyptians or Sumerians addressed their goddesses.  “Queen of Heaven” to them meant a goddess who was the author(ess) of creation.  Every Christian has always known from the earliest history of the Church, indeed from the Gospels themselves, that the Virgin Mary was not and is not the Creator of the universe.  V/Here endeth the soapbox.  R/Thanks be to God.

   Now, about this piece of music and Peeter Cornet:  the chant used for the Salve Regina can be found here, in modern notation.

Image result for salve regina dominican

     This is the melody that Peeter Cornet used as his cantus firmus in his piece, which is an ornamental piece based on the above Gregorian chant melody.  It is the sort of piece that can be played quietly and meditatively, or loudly with a grand organ registration.  Because it was the postlude, and it was not the Lenten or Advent season when postludes might sometimes be more quiet and reflective, I chose to play it with zest and a full sound.   There are people who try to register Renaissance pieces as though they were being played on Renaissance organs.  Sometimes, I use this approach, but other times I think it’s nonsense to limit the sound of an organ piece based on the limited registrations of organs in Cornet’s time.  Sometimes, I think that if you’ve got the sound, then you should use it!  So, for Sunday, October 15, I used a full registration for this piece with principals, mixtures and reeds.  I treated it rather like a French Baroque plein jeu.  If any aficionados of early music don’t like that, then they can play the piece according to their own tastes.

     Last but not least, let us finally discuss the life and work of Flemish composer Peeter Cornet.  Well, folks, not much is known about him! Wherever he went, he would change his name according to national custom.  In French-speaking areas of Europe, he was known as Pierre Cornet.  In Italy, he was known as Pietro Cornet.  He was a native of Brussels, which at that time was the capital city of the Southern Netherlands.  He came from a musical family of violinists, singers and organists.  He was born around 1575.  He got his first job as Organist at the St. Nicholas Church in Brussels.  This would have been a Catholic church, because Brussels at that time was under the rule of Spain.  Spain ruthlessly suppressed Protestantism in the Netherlands during the late 16th and 17th centuries.  The history of that can be found in this article: https://www.museeprotestant.org/en/notice/protestantism-in-belgium/.

     To return to the subject of Peeter Cornet, he worked at St. Nicholas from 1603 to 1606.  In 1606, he was appointed court organist by Albert VII, Archduke of Austria and his wife Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia of Spain.  (Infanta was the title given to the royal princesses of Spain).  In 1611, Cornet was briefly a canon of the Roman Catholic Church, but he gave that up because he decided to get married. 

     It seems that Cornet remained in the position of court organist for the rest of his life.  We don’t hear much of him after 1611 except for the following:  (1) his name is listed as court organist in the court account books between 1612 and 1618; (2)  he made English composer and organ virtuoso Peter Philips (c. 1560-1628), who was also an exiled Catholic priest, the godfather of one of his children;  (3) he gave advice on the maintenance or building (not sure which) of the organ at St. Rumbold’s Cathedral in 1615; and (4) he signed a contract with the same church in 1624 to build a choir division for that organ.   So, evidently, he was involved in organ building, though we hear precious little about the details.  Here is a picture of St. Rumbold’s Cathedral in modern-day Belgium.


    In his music, he liked to use the types of rhythmic changes and ornamental passages commonly associated with virginal (harpsichord) music of the time.  He wrote pieces that were essentially Italian in style, only he expanded the forms and did more varied things with the cantus firmus melodies and fugal passages. 

     Today, he is often considered to be one of the best early Baroque composers of keyboard music.   What I like about his music, aside from the high quality, is his liturgical adaptability.  One can find many of the liturgical pieces needed for the Church Year among his works, and these pieces can be used for a variety of functions during the Mass.  Best of all, he has some wonderful Marian pieces for feast days of the Mother of God.

     Well, thus ends the series of articles on the music offered to the Lord at Holy Nativity during mid-October.  I hope you have found the information here interesting and informative.  

In Christ Our Lord,

Gabrielle Bronzich, M.M., Organist & Choirmaster, Holy Nativity Episcopal Church














The Hymns and Psalm for October 15, 2017

     Greetings in Our Lord as we go into the season of the fall harvest!  I have spent much time over the past few weeks trying to get caught up on writing my September articles for this blog, with the result that nothing whatsoever has been written about the current and most recent Sundays of October.  So, in an attempt to remedy that, I will be writing an article about a Sunday in October every time I write one for September.

     The Scriptural theme for Sunday, October 15, was God providing a banquet for His people.  We heard passages about Him providing food and blessings for His people in all of the readings: (1) In Isaiah 25: 1-9, God’s provision of a feast for His people is referenced in verse 6: “And in this mountain shall the LORD of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined.” (King James Version).  (2) The psalm, Psalm 23, references this provision in verse 5: “Thou preparest a table for me in the presence of mine enemies:  Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.”  (3) In the Epistle, Philippians 4: 4-13, St. Paul references trusting in God’s provision and help in verse 11:  “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”  (4) The Gospel reading is about the wedding feast to which the King invites all (Matthew 22: 1-14), and about the responsibility we have to prepare ourselves for Christ’s wedding feast in Heaven. . .and the consequences if we just show up at that feast and take it for granted that we will partake with everyone else.

     So, the readings of Holy Scripture for this past Sunday both assured us of the love and providence of God, while at the same time exhorting us to live holy lives and seek to be clothed in righteousness, so that we can be among those who remain at the wedding feast instead of being among those who are cast out.   My selection of hymns for October 15 reflected these Scriptural concepts.  I sought to affirm them.

     Finding edifying hymns that fit these ideas, however, proved a little bit difficult this week.  There are not as many edifying hymns with spiritually challenging texts in Episcopalian hymnody as there once were.  Before the two great European wars of the twentieth century, one could find as many hymns about sanctification and edification of the soul as one could find about God’s grace, providence and comfort.  But after those wars, especially after World War II with its doubly devastating toll on human life, the hymnody of the Church of England and the Episcopal Church in America shifted in its focus.  More hymns became focused on God’s consolation and the joys of newly acquired grace than on the harrowing process of self-examination, purification and surrender that leads to the soul becoming more holy and fully united with Christ.  Sentimental “feel-good” hymns started being more prominent in the hymnals.  I’m not certain if this happened across the board in all Western churches, but it certainly happened with the Anglican and Episcopal churches.   The result of this change is that, when there is a need for the congregation to be challenged spiritually through the hymns in accordance with the harder lessons from the Old Testament and the Gospels, the proper hymns for that purpose are hard to find.  One can often find a good text, but then it has a tune that is difficult for the congregation to sing, or the tune is sappy.  (Sappy tunes = exit of the men from the congregation.  Churches that have sappy music are few in male members.  That’s just how it is.  Men can’t stand schmaltz). Then again, one can find a nice tune, but the words are trite and sound more like they belong on an episode of “Sesame Street” than in a hymnal for use in the liturgical Church.  Such hymns fail to issue that essential challenge to all believers, the challenge to dig a little deeper within the heart and surrender faults and little spots of nastiness to the Lord that He might cleanse the wedding garments of our souls.

     Feeling good in the Lord is certainly nice, but it’s not the reason we go to church.  We don’t go to church to feel good and “get something out of it.”  We go to church in order to be encouraged in the Christian life, to be sanctified and healed within ourselves through God’s cleansing and purifying grace, and to move towards being “partakers of God’s nature” through grace (2 Peter 14: 3-4), “having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (KJV).  We also go to church to join as a community in praising God, and, if we belong to a church that teaches the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, we go to church to receive Him in Communion.  The Anglican tradition maintains the belief in the Real Presence.  The Anglican definition of that Real Presence and its nature is similar to that of the Orthodox Church: it’s a Holy Mystery, not really explicable in exacting scientific terms.

     My point with all this?  It’s great when we sing hymns we love that we find uplifting or comforting.  But the purpose of hymnody is not just to make us feel certain ways, and indeed hymns should not be selected just to make a congregation feel a certain way.  Choosing hymns in that manner can lead to emotional manipulation of a congregation.  Emotions are not a reliable barometer of spiritual experience because emotions are too variable: they can be up or down based on physical illness, tiredness, high energy, lack of sleep, too much sleep, circumstances in life. . .all sorts of things in our lives that change from day to day.  A true spiritual experience is noetic.  It is an experience that is beyond emotion and reason, although it is best precipitated by a balance between the two.  A noetic experience, a true experience of God through the nous (the eye of the soul within us that enables us to perceive God), is not something we can easily put in words.  Words actually fail to describe it, except that it is accompanied by the “peace of God which passeth all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).  It is this true spiritual experience of God that we want to have when we worship, this true Communion with Him.  There will be Sundays when we feel closer to that, and Sundays when we feel further from it.  Those are the standard ups and downs of the daily spiritual life.  But if the hymns are always chosen to align with Scripture and to aim towards that higher experience of God that is beyond emotional sentimentality or beyond merely pure human logic, then there is a better chance of people drawing nearer to God during the Divine services of the Church (Mass, Vespers, Matins, etc).

     Finding hymns that fulfilled that purpose was difficult this week, but after about an hour and a half of looking at texts and tunes in the Hymnal 1982, I came up with a proper and equitable selection of hymns that seemed to work well this past Sunday.  We will now discuss each of them one at a time.

Processional: #7, Christ Whose Glory Fills the Skies Ratisbon

     This hymn was selected primarily to go with the first reading, the Old Testament reading of Isaiah 25: 1-9.   This passage from Isaiah praises the wonderful things that God has done, the glory of His creation, and His continuing providence for His people.  Hymn #7 does the same.  At the end of verse 1, there is a call in the hymn for Christ to shine His light in our hearts.  Verse 2 is a statement of the gloom and darkness of a day spent without inviting God’s presence.  Verse 3 is a prayer for God to cleanse and sanctify us, and increase our faith.  Such a text is a very good preparation for hearing the passage from Isaiah, as well as the Gospel reading of Matthew 22: 1-14.

     The text was written by Charles Wesley (1707-1788), the Church of England priest whose brother was one of the founders of the Methodist movement.  Charles was a leader in the Methodist movement as well, but he believed in maintaining communion with the Church of England.  We have discussed before the work of Charles Wesley in hymnody.  His biography is amply provided for us on the Hymnary website here, https://hymnary.org/person/Wesley_Charles, and in the Wikipedia article on him here, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Wesley.  

     Every time I read about someone whose work we’ve already discussed, I discover at least two more interesting facts about them that I had failed to notice before.  Here are the two facts I found this week:  (1)  He was the author of two of the hymns referred to as the Great Four Anglican Hymns.  (See the article on that here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Four_Anglican_Hymns).  Those hymns are: “All Praise to Thee, My God, This Night” (#43 in the Hymnal 1982, music by Thomas Tallis and words by Thomas Ken); “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” music by Felix Mendelssohn and words by Charles Wesley;  “Lo!  He Comes with Clouds Descending,” music by Augustine Arne and words by Charles Wesley;  and “Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me,” with music by Thomas Hastings and words by Augustus Montague Toplady.  (What a name!).  (2) He was the eighteenth child of his parents, Samuel and Susannah Wesley, out of nineteen total!  Only ten of those nineteen kids lived to adulthood, Charles of course being one of them.  It’s amazing to me that a woman of the eighteenth century should have been able to bear nineteen children, especially since prenatal and natal care was far from optimal, childbirth was natural and thereby excruciatingly painful, and puerperal fever was an ever-present danger as well as other post-partum infections.  No wonder ten of Charles’ siblings didn’t survive!  He was fortunate to be of the nine who lived, especially since he was born premature, which is yet another interesting fact about him.

     The music for “Christ, Whose Glory Fills the Skies” was possibly written by Johann Gottlob Werner (1777-1822), a German organist, teacher and composer from Chemnitz in Saxony, Germany.  Chemnitz was the site of a Benedictine monastery in 1143.  It was made into an imperial city by the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I during the early 1170’s.  (Ah, the 70’s of the twelfth century. . .Hildegard of Bingen’s times!  So different from the 1970’s!).  Chemnitz was heavily bombed and reduced to mostly ruins during World War II.  It became a part of Communist East Germany after the war.  After the reunification of East and West Germany in 1990, the citizens of Chemnitz voted to retain the city’s name.

     We know little to nothing about Werner, the composer to whom the hymn tune Ratisbon (“Christ Whose Glory Fills the Skies”) is often attributed.  He was born near Leipzig.  In 1798 he was employed as an organist in Frohburg.  (See the article on Frohburg here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frohburg).  By 1808, he had moved to a new job in Hohenstein as assistant to the cantor Christian Tag, whose biography can be found here: https://musopen.org/composer/christian-gotthilf-tag/.  Werner’s last job was as an organist and music director in Merseburg, in 1819.  Here is the Wikipedia article on Merseburg: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merseburg.   Below are two pictures from Frohburg and Merseburg:  St. Michael’s Church at Frohburg, and the Merseburger Castle.

Saint Michael Church

St. Michael’s Church, Frohburg, Saxony, Germany


Merseburger Schloss

Merseburger Schloss (Merseburg Castle)

     The melody of Ratisbon is very joyful with a steadfast, driving beat–that is, as long as it’s not taken too slow.  It makes a very joyful opening hymn of praise for the Mass.  According to the Hymnal 1982, the melody was not composed by Werner, but made its first appearance in a Lutheran hymnal of 1524, the Geystliche Gesangk Buchleyn.  According to the Hymnary website, the melody was attributed to Johann Gottlob Werner and found in a book of chorales called Werner’s Choralbuch from 1815.  I could easily believe that it dates back to the early Lutheran hymnals, because the melody is similar to other chorale melodies from that time.  How did it get the name Ratisbon?  I don’t know, because the name Ratisbon is associated with the truce that ended the war between King Louis XIV of France, Spain and the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I.  The truce was signed in Bavaria on August 15, 1684.  I have no idea why this hymn tune was named for that peace treaty.  I know that “Ratisbon” is another name for the city of Regensburg, Germany, which is about three hours and twenty-five minutes south of Leipzig, travelling by modern automobile.  The distance between the two cities is 213.3 miles.

     That’s about all I know on the subject of this wonderful hymn.  Let us move on to the psalm.


Psalm 23:   Psalm Chant: Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry, 1st Baronet (1848-1918)

     The psalm tone for this past Sunday, October 15, was the beautiful E Major tone written by Sir Charles Parry.  We have often talked about Parry.  His name comes up quite a bit because he wrote some gorgeous hymns, as well as some lovely psalm tones and organ pieces.  He was one of the major late nineteenth-century composers of music for the Church of England, and he was knighted by King Edward VII for his accomplishments in music for God, king and country.   We also noted, in the last article in which I mentioned him, that he was so popular as to have his picture featured in a cigarette advertisement.  His biography can be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hubert_Parry.   Here is a picture of the country house he owned, Highnam Court in Gloucestershire.

     Here is his picture for the cigarette ad.  I thought it was pretty funny before, so I’ll post it again.

     Here is the lovely psalm tone of his that we used.  In fact, here is the entire setting.

Music Time standard notation

Psalm 23          Dominus regit me

1 The LORD | is my Shepherd; *

       I | shall not want.

2 He maketh me to lie down | in green pastures; *

      He leadeth me be- |side the still waters.

3 He restoreth | my soul; *

      He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness | for His name’s sake.

4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the | shadow of death, *

      I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy |

        staff, they com-fort me.

5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence | of mine enemies: *

      Thou anointest my head with oil; my | cup run-neth ov-er.

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days | of my life,*

        and I will dwell in the | house of the LORD for-ever.

Glory be to the Father and | to the Son,*

   and | to the Ho-ly Spi-rit.

As it was in the be-| ginning, is now,

   and | will be for-ever, A-men.


     I pointed this psalm for Parry’s tone myself.  It has proven a beautiful tone for this text, and we have used it several times. In fact, I have made it the standard tone we use for Psalm 23 at Holy Nativity.

     There is another biographical link for Sir Charles Parry, if you don’t like Wikipedia.  Here it is: https://hymnary.org/person/Parry_CHH. 

     I always point out a previously unknown or unnoticed fact about any composer whose life and work we have already discussed.  The fact I will share with you today is that Sir Charles Parry’s father did not intend for his son to have a career in music.  When Parry left Eton to study at Oxford, his areas of study were law and modern history. 

     Music has often not been a field that many fathers wanted their sons to pursue, unless the fathers themselves were musicians, like the fathers of Bach and Buxtehude.  This is especially true of British parents who send their sons to Eton, as a rule.    Are they right to discourage their sons from musical careers?  Well, to an extent, I understand their position, because music really is not the most stable profession in the world.  A man can make a good living in it.  Note that I said a man can make a good living; female musicians, as a rule, are paid about 10K to 20K less than men.  Happily, that is finally starting to change, but lower pay for ladies is still the norm in many places.  Often musicians can do well in education, but music tends to be one of the first academic areas cut when a school is low on funding.  Also, music is a profession where social and professional connections, great social skills, and wisdom about workplace politics are quite crucial to success.  I have known many musicians who either made the wrong connections or completely lacked the aforementioned social skills and wisdom.   (And some have just had plain bad luck through no fault of their own!).  Historically, one musician who suffered the hardest knocks for lack of social and networking skills was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.   He never learned how to interact well or get along with people.  You have to be able to get along well with people when you’re a musician, because providing music for them involves working with them and being a team player!  Most people in his field who knew Mozart couldn’t stand him.  Mozart was basically an arrogant know-it-all who told crude jokes, waxed eloquent about his perceived superiority to other musicians around him, and thought that people owed him the best jobs and highest income because of his talent. Talent is only 50% of the game; PR and reputation is the other 50%.  Mozart’s father Leopold tried to teach him that, but he began the lessons all too late, when Mozart was already in late adolescence.  Any parent will tell you that if you don’t have your son in hand and well taught by the time he’s a teenager, the boy will run wild.  That was essentially what happened with Mozart.  He was so unlike his colleague Franz Joseph Haydn, who received regular and rigid discipline as a boy and ended up with a very well-paying job for almost all of his adult life, with the royal family of Esterházy in Hungary.  Anyway, Mozart is an example of how professional musicians shouldn’t behave.

     In churches also, music can sometimes be one of the first areas where administrations want to cut salaries when funds are low because people say, “Oh, our parish music program can just be run by volunteers.”  Well, there’s two problems with that: (1) Volunteer commitment is limited sometimes because of their changing schedules.  (2) Volunteers are often not sufficiently skilled in the area of leading a music ministry program or playing the organ; those are specialized skills that require schooling and private lessons.  Sometimes, the only people who can volunteer their time as organists are people who are retired, and it really isn’t right to ask such people to work for free. 

     As a result of the prevailing attitude of society that music is a secondary area of importance in any given institution, it’s rare these days for musicians to be at jobs for over five years or so, ten years tops, the exception sometimes being public education. There are also some situations where a church will have the same music minister for 25 years or more.  Those situations are wonderful, blessed and worthy of praise, but not always easy to find.  God willing, Holy Nativity will be one of those long-term situations for me, because I love my work at this parish!  

     So, in response to the question about whether or not Sir Charles Parry’s father was right to discourage him from the music field, I would say that his father was not entirely wrong.  At the same time, it was good that accommodation was eventually made for developing Parry’s musical talents, because musical talent is never something to waste.  Sir Parry’s father need not have been concerned about his son’s capacity to make a living in music. Fortunately, Sir Charles Parry made the right connections, certainly had the proper social skills, and landed the prestigious positions needed not only to support his family well, but also to gain the respect of others, even royalty.

     There are three kinds of musicians, according to my experience in the field: (1) talented musicians who make a comfortable but not greatly luxurious living (unless they have independent wealth, which is wise to acquire and quite a different subject!); (2) talented musicians who make next to nothing because they lack business or social skills or they make wrong choices in life; and (3) talented musicians who make it to the top of their field because of talent, charm, good looks, connections, social class, or all of the above.  Most musicians I’ve known have fallen into either the first or second category.   Sir Charles Parry belonged to the third category, and his social class played a large role in getting him to the high position whereupon he alighted.  In today’s world, multiple streams of income are essential in almost every field, be it music or retail management.  This is something I would tell anyone seeking a career in music: have more than one stream and source of income. 

      If I had children, male or female, and any of them wanted to pursue a career in music, I would insist that they pursue a double major or a minor in business, medicine (such as the field of music therapy) or law.  That’s my honest opinion.   I got my Master’s Degree from the University of North Texas in Organ Performance with a minor in choral conducting.  If I had it to do over again, I would add to that a double major or minor in Business Administration. All musicians need to know how to start, open and operate their own business if necessary.

     Now that I’ve digressed terribly, I think it’s time to close the subject of Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry for now.  There will be more interesting facts on him to come in future articles, because he really is one of the finest English composers of church music, and we plan to use his music often.  Let us move on to the Gradual Hymn!


Gradual Hymn: #339, Deck Thyself, My Soul With Gladness Schmücke dich

     We discussed Schmücke dich, O liebe Seele in quite a bit of detail in my last article on the music of September 3, 2017.  We discussed the fact that both the words and lyrics of this German Lutheran hymn were written by two sixteenth-century gentlemen who lived in Brandenburg, Germany: Johann Crüger (1598-1662) who wrote the music, and Johann Franck (1618-1677).  What I did not provide before was a picture of either man.  

     Here is Crüger’s portrait.


     Here is Franck’s portrait.

Related image

     Here are a couple of interesting facts about each man. 

     Johann Crüger was the composer of two other well-loved and beautiful hymns:  Herzliebster Jesu, which is listed in the Hymnal 1982 as “Ah, Holy Jesus,” number 158;  and Nun danket alle Gott, better known as “Now Thank We All Our God,” number 396 in the Hymnal 1982.   

     In addition to being an author of hymn texts, Johann Franck was also a politician.  He became Mayor of his town, Guben (in Lower Lusation, a historical region of Central Europe where the Western Slavic language of Sorbian–not Serbian–was spoken).  Lusatia, where Franck lived, is southeast of Brandenburg in Germany and southwest of Poland.

     Now, I will focus for a moment on how the text of Schmücke dich, as given in the Hymnal 1982, ties in with the Gospel reading for October 15.  The Gospel reading, Matthew 22: 1-14, is the parable of the wedding banquet given by the king, and of the man who came to the feast without a wedding garment and was bound and cast out.  The hymn text of “Deck Thyself, My Soul, with Gladness” fits with this Gospel reading in the following ways.  Verse 1 calls Christians to clothe themselves with joy: “Deck thyself, my soul, with gladness.”  Also, verse 1 speaks of our call to the banquet that Christ has prepared: “unto Him Whose grace unbounded/ hath this wondrous banquet founded.”  The last line of Verse 1 affirms the Incarnation of Christ.  Verse 2 is about how Christ is the Light of our souls and our whole being.  Then the verse becomes a fervent prayer to the Lord to make us worthy of His banquet: “At Thy feet I cry, my Maker,/ let me be a fit partaker/ of this blessed food from heaven,/ for our good, Thy glory, given.”  Verse 3 is a prayer that we, through our obedience, may be received by Christ at His feast: “From this banquet let me measure,/ Lord, how vast and deep its treasure;/ through the gifts thou here dost give me,/ as Thy guest in heaven receive me.”  This is the perfect Gradual hymn to prepare one for hearing that particular Gospel passage from Matthew.

     We now move on to the Ablutions hymn.

Ablutions Hymn: #701, Jesus, All My Gladness Jesu, meine Freude

     Should an ablutions hymn be a reflection on the Gospel reading, or a reflection on having just received Communion?  There are many opinions on this subject.  My opinion is that the best results occur when the Ablutions hymn is both a reflection on the Gospel and having received the Eucharist.  So, I always look for a either a Eucharistic hymn that contains texts in harmony with the Gospel reading, or I find a hymn directly addressed to Jesus Himself.  In this case, I chose a hymn addressed specifically to Christ.

     In my previous article on the organ music of September 3, I discussed the hymn Jesu, meine Freude in some detail.  Like Schmücke dich (Deck Thyself, My Soul, with Gladness), it was written by Johann Crüger (composer of the music, 1598-1662) and Johann Franck (lyricist, 1618-1677).  Their Wikipedia articles are here, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johann_Crüger, and here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johann_Franck.   I don’t mind using Wikipedia articles for musicology, because the people who write those articles, by and large, use standard music history sources and biographies for their research, and they list their sources at the end of their articles.

     For this particular monograph, I will do as I did with the text of “Deck Thyself, My Soul, with Gladness;”  I will analyse the text of Jesu, meine Freude (“Jesus, All My Gladness”) as it is presented in the Hymnal 1982 and show how it fits with the Scripture readings for October 15.

     The overall spiritual theme of the text, as translated by Arthur Wellesley Wotherspoon (1853-1936), is surrender of the heart and soul to Christ, and putting Him first in daily life.  In verse 1, the text addresses Christ as “all my gladness,/ my repose in sadness,/ Jesus, heaven to me.”  Then the verse goes on to mention how the soul yearns after Christ.  A parallel can be drawn between this part of the first verse and Psalm 42:1, as well as Psalm 63: 1.   For our readings, it goes with the idea of living pure lives in the Lord (as addressed in the Epistle reading, Philippians 4: 4-13) and preparing for His wedding banquet, because only through this surrender to Christ and seeking “whatever is true, whatever is just, whatever is honourable, whatever is commendable” (verse 8) can we be ready for Christ when He calls us to His wedding feast in heaven.  This concept is further illustrated in the last phrase of verse 1: “Thee alone I treasure.”

     Verse 2 talks about giving up any earthly pleasures, pomp, and fortune that would keep the soul from putting Jesus first.  It also states that no matter what we suffer, we will not be parted from Jesus.  Verse 3  talks about Jesus entering in and getting rid of “dark clouds that lower,” as well as finding joy in tribulation, even the scorn of others.  It’s an exhortation to praise God even in suffering.  All of these things mentioned in verse 3 are part of the purification and maturation of the soul when walking with Jesus Christ on a daily basis.  If we continue the race and keep on going no matter what, then we’ll find ourselves ready for that wedding banquet at the end.  Instead of our earthly sufferings being totally aimless and seemingly meaningless, we are able to use them to further God’s grace, though I must say that this is very hard to do and certainly not easy when we’re in the throes of life’s sufferings.  It takes a synergistic effort of walking with Christ.

     I find it interesting that Jesu, meine Freude, in the translation of this hymn, speaks of surrender as a work of the soul.  Remember that Martin Luther was famous for believing that only faith saves, no works at all.  Well, saying to Jesus, “Thine I am, O holy Lamb;/ only where Thou art is pleasure,/ Thee alone I treasure” is a work.  Making that commitment and striving to live by it is a work.  This is what I think: works are just the other side of the faith coin.  We have faith, and in the end that’s the main thing that saves us (as witnessed by the thief on the cross who repented), but works are the physical manifestation and the fruit of that faith.  The continuous everyday commitment to Christ, no matter what happens, is something that takes daily labour within our hearts and minds, as we are bombarded with all the happenings and vicissitudes of life.  Faith and works are actually not separate, but two sides of one coin.  That’s why St. James writes that faith without works is dead (James 2: 14-26).  I don’t know about you, but I find commitment to Christ every day a continuous work in progress, and sanctification the call given to us after we’re baptised.  It’s a daily walk.  It’s a daily labour.  

     That is, at least, my personal reflection on the text of this hymn.  Feel free to agree or disagree as it suits you.   We now move on to the final hymn.

Final Hymn: #556 Rejoice, Ye Pure in Heart! Marion

     #556, Rejoice, Ye Pure in Heart, is a response to the Gospel reading.  The Final Hymn is sometimes a hymn of praise, sometimes a hymn of thanksgiving for receiving communion, and sometimes a response to the Scripture readings.  I always try to select a final hymn that is both a hymn of praise to God and a response to the Gospel reading.

First, we will discuss the history of the hymn itself.  The words to the hymn were written by Doctor of Divinity, Edward Hayes Plumptre (1821-1891).  Father Plumptre was a native of London, born there on the Feast of the Transfiguration, August 6, in 1821.  He was the son of a solicitor (lawyer) named Edward Hallows Plumptre.  I find it interesting that his father had a middle name associated with the feast of All Saints.  Edward Hayes Plumptre was home-schooled, and he must have received a very fine education indeed, because he ended up studying at Oxford University!  He enrolled as a scholar at University College, Oxford, graduating from there in 1844.  He also studied at King’s College in London.  He was ordained to the priesthood in 1846.  He then proceeded to occupy the following positions in his professional life:  Assistant Preacher at Lincoln’s Inn; Select Preacher at Oxford; Professor of Pastoral Theology at King’s College, London; Dean of Queen’s, Oxford; Prebendary in St. Paul’s Cathedral, London; Professor of Exegesis of the New Testament in King’s College, London; Boyle Lecturer; Grinfield Lecturer on the Septuagint, Oxford; Examiner in the Theological schools at Oxford; Member of the Old Testament Company for the Revision of the A.V. of the Holy Scriptures; Rector of Pluckley, 1869; Vicar of Bickley, Kent, 1873; and Dean of Wells, 1881.  What a career!  He was a copious writer, and not only wrote verse, but also many works on theological subjects and the interpretation of Scripture.  

He wrote the words for “Rejoice, Ye Pure in Heart” in May of 1865, as the Processional Hymn for the Peterborough Choral Festival, a festival that still goes on to this day (http://www.pdcf.org.uk/).  It was first used, therefore, at Peterborough Cathedral.  There is no record of which hymn melody was first used with the text.  It originally had eleven stanzas, in order to give the choirs in the festival plenty of time to process into the church.  Plumptre published it in the third edition of his book of poems, Lazarus and Other Poems, in 1868.  That same year, it was also published in the Appendix to Hymns Ancient and Modern, with only stanzas 1, 2, 8, 9 and 11.  In the Hymnal 1982, we have seven stanzas of the hymn.

     The melody associated with it now, Marion, also called Messiter, was not written until 1883 by a British/American organist and choirmaster of Trinity Episcopal Church in New York City, Arthur H. Messiter.  He named the tune after his wife, Marion!  Messiter was actually an English immigrant to the United States.  He was born in Frome, Somerset, England in 1834.   He was educated by private tutors in England, and was schooled in the English cathedral tradition of church music.  When he came to the United States in 1863, he had an active musical career in Philadelphia, serving as Organist at St. James the Less, a historic Episcopal church built in 1846.  Here is the website of that church: https://stjamesphila.org/about-us/church-of-st-james-the-less/.  He also served as a music professor at a ladies’ college in Vermont.  When Mr. Messiter moved to the Trinity Episcopal Church position in New York, he became an important contributor to American Episcopal hymnody.  He edited the Episcopal Hymnal of 1893, compiled the Psalter of 1889, compiled the Choir Office Book of 1891, and wrote a history of the music at Trinity Episcopal Church that was published in 1906.  Messiter was Organist at Trinity Episcopal Church for 31 years.  He died in New York City in 1916.  Here is a paragraph that details his career much more extensively, in his own words from his own book, the aforementioned history of music at Trinity Episcopal entitled A History of the Choir and Music at Trinity Church, New York: From Its Organization to the Year 1897, page 114.  Notice that he uses American spelling.

Arthur Henry Messiter, born in 1834 at Frome Selwood, Somersetshire, England, took up the study of music at age seventeen; was articled for four years to Charles McKorkell, of Northampton, England, a musician of talent and high local reputation, graduate of the Royal Academy of Music and a pupil of Moscheles.  Afterwards took a short course of piano lessons with Herr Derffel, an Austrian pianist of some celebrity, and in singing with Signor Arigotti.  Devoted himself chiefly to teaching the piano, and came to this country in 1863; sang for a short time as volunteer tenor in the choir of Trinity Church,  and was then appointed organist at St. Mark’s Church, Philadelphia.  Remaining there only a few months, his next appointment was as Professor of Music at the Female College in Poultney, Vermont.  After one term there, returned to Philadelphia, was organist successively at St. Paul’s, Calvary Chapel, and St. James the Less, and came to New York in the early part of the year 1866.  In the year 1887 received the honorary degree of Doctor of Music from St. Stephen’s College, Annandale, New York.

After this paragraph describing his career, he alludes to a snide newspaper article about his appointment at Holy Trinity that referred to him as “an organist from Philadelphia” and then stated that “at the next vacancy they will try Coney Island.”  He goes on to describe the allegedly backward state the choirs were in at the various parishes where he worked, before he became director!  It’s an interesting book.

There is a very interesting literary fact about Trinity Episcopal Church in New York.  Edith Wharton, author of The Age of Innocence and The House of Mirth as well as many other books about old, high-society New York, was married in the chapel associated with the parish.  Trinity Chapel was later bought by the Serbian Orthodox Archdiocese and became St. Sava Orthodox Church of NYC.  Here’s a web link about Trinity Chapel/St. Sava: https://www.trinitywallstreet.org/blogs/news-notes/look-inside-st-sava.  Here is an interesting blog article about the role of Trinity Chapel in Edith Wharton’s New York:  http://edithwhartonsnewyork.blogspot.com/2013/01/trinity-chapel.html.

     Unfortunately, the chapel burned down on May 1, 2016.  Efforts are still in progress to completely restore it.  Here is an article on that tragic fire: http://untappedcities.com/2016/05/02/stunning-interior-photo-of-serbian-orthodox-cathedral-of-st-sava-lost-in-fire/.

Now we will briefly discuss the text of the hymn and how it relates to the readings.  It is basically a hymn of praise, but it ties in with the Gospel reading because it describes the rewards of preparing for Christ’s wedding banquet in heaven. It doesn’t allude specifically to the Gospel reading, but it does describe what happens to those who take up their cross and pursue purity of heart, especially in verse 1 and verse 6:

Rejoice, ye pure in heart!
Rejoice, give thanks, and sing! 
Your glorious banner wave on high, 
the cross of Christ your King. 

At last the march shall end;
the wearied ones shall rest;
the pilgrims find their Father’s house, 
Jerusalem the blest. 

The reading with which this hymn best blends is actually the Epistle reading, Philippians 4: 4-13, in which Christians are exhorted to think upon those things that are true, just, honourable, and pure (verse 8 again).

I hope that you all found the hymns to be rich in theology, keen in exhortation, and beautiful in melody.  I certainly enjoyed selecting and playing them, and I believe I can say that we all enjoyed singing them.

     Here endeth the monograph.  R/ Thanks be to God.

In Christ Our Lord,

Gabrielle Bronzich, Organist & Choirmaster, Holy Nativity Episcopal Church





The Organ Music for Sunday, September 3, 2017: The Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost

    Greetings in Christ!     I’m still trying to get caught up on writing my September articles, so that I can get started on October, which is now about two weeks overdue already.  So, this article will be on the subject of the organ music selected for September 3, 2017, the Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost.  The Gospel reading for September 3 was Matthew 16: 21-27.  In this Gospel passage, Christ reminds us that to be His followers, we must deny ourselves and take up our Cross.  This passage always causes me to reflect upon the fact that, in this statement, Christ gave meaning to the sufferings we undergo on earth.  Up until that point, it seemed meaningless, aimless, and sometimes it was attributed to one’s sin or the sins of one’s family.  But Jesus negated that whole idea when He healed the sick on the Sabbath and many other times.  At the same time, He told us that we can not be greater than He: a servant cannot be greater than his Master.  So, if the Master must undergo the pain and death of the Cross, so must we bear our own crosses in life.  But our hope is in the Resurrection, which Christ made manifest for all of us after his suffering and death on the Cross.  An Irish priest once told me that our lives are a series of periods during which we undergo the Paschal Mystery again and again.  Again and again throughout our lives, we die on our crosses, and then we rise again.  With each Resurrection we learn something else about God and, hopefully with His help, we draw nearer to Him.

     The organ music for Sunday, September 3, was selected with these spiritual truths in mind, as well as the upcoming Feast of the Holy Cross, or the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, on September 14.  The organ music was also selected with the continuous and singular goal of facilitating prayer during the Mass and lifting the hearts and souls of the faithful to the Lord.  Some people think that music needs to be “down to earth,” and bring God “down to earth for all of us.”  My response to that is that God already came down to earth incarnate as Christ Jesus.  He came down to earth incarnate, suffered, was crucified, dead and buried; He rose from the dead on the third day, and on the fortieth day He ascended into Heaven.  Although He promises to be with us unto the end of time, and He is present with us at every moment if we walk with Him, our job in the liturgy is to lift our hearts up to Him and thus ascend to Him in order to more fully partake of His grace.  This is why church music, at its best, should be transcendent in nature,  not all earthy and filled with the worldly rhythms and cadences of pop music.  That, at least, is my opinion.  Many people think that Masses for youth need to be filled with Christian music in the pop idiom.  I don’t necessarily agree with that.  I think we do a disservice to our children and youth when we don’t teach them how to ascend in their hearts, through high church music, to that higher Reality Who is God.  While Christian rock music has a place, I think that the place of such music is at fellowship events such as picnics, parties and retreats.  In the Mass, we are called to that Ascension I spoke of, and therefore the music must be something beyond what is earthly.  This means that some people may be called upon to step outside of their comfort zone.  For many people in our day and age, classical music is outside of their comfort zone.  But this is only due to limits imposed on them by the dumbing down of American culture and a certain anti-intellectualism that has run rampant in America in a new way during the past fifty years or so.

     Sunday, September 3, was not a Mass for youth, per se, but for everyone.  However, I wanted to make my thoughts known on the subject of traditional church music vis-à-vis youth.  There are many young people these days who crave the traditional high church music that we offer at Holy Nativity.  I pray that all who thirst for us may be able to seek and find us.  Amen.

     Now, let us return to the organ music selections for September 3.  We began with a prelude by Johann Sebastian Bach, one of his many chorale preludes for organ, based on Lutheran hymns.

Prelude: Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier (Beloved Jesus, We Are Here, Gathered to Hear Thy Word), BWV 730 &731      Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

     The hymn on which this chorale prelude is based, Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier, is found in the Hymnal 1982, #440, “Blessed Jesus, At Thy Word.”  The original text of this hymn, and its translation, can be found on the Bach Cantatas website here.


     For our purposes, I’m going to put that English translation below for you to contemplate.  This hymn is a general prayer for Christ to hear our prayers and sanctify us in all we do.

Dearest Jesus, we are here
To listen to you and your word.
Direct our minds and desires
to the delightful teaching of heaven:
so that from the earth our hearts
maybe completely drawn to you.

Our knowledge and understanding
are overshadowed with darkness
where the hand of your spirit
does not fill us with clear light:
to think, act, and write well
you yourself must carry this out in us.

You, splendour of glory,
light from light born from God,
make all of us ready,
open our hearts, mouths and ears:
Grant Lord Jesus that our prayers, pleas and singing may succeed well.

     This hymn works well as a prelude on most any Sunday, but I selected it for this particular Sunday because it blends well with the Old Testament reading (Jeremiah 15: 15-21)  and the Psalm (Psalm 26: 1-8).  The composer of the hymn Liebster Jesu was Johann Rudolf Ahle, who was born in Mühlhausen, a city in Thuringia, Germany, in 1625.  For the rich history of Mühlhausen, see the Wikipedia article about it here:


     Ahle spent all of his life there, leaving there only for a short time to attend Erfurt University as a student of theology.  He was at Erfurt University from 1645 to 1649. (Erfurt is about thirty-one miles southeast of Mühlhausen).  He also became an organist while he was in Erfurt, but nothing is known about how long or with whom he studied the organ.  It’s probable that he studied organ while he served as a cantor at the Church of St. Andrew in 1646.  When he returned to Mühlhausen, he became the organist at St. Blaise’s Church.  He also became a composer of organ and sacred choral music, more well-known for the latter.   His son, Johann Georg Ahle, succeeded him as organist at St. Blaise and also became a composer.  Later in his life, Johann Rudolf became Mayor of Mühlhausen.  He had previously served as a town council man during the 1650’s, and was elected mayor not long before his death in 1673.  Here is a picture of St. Blaise Church, where he and his son served as organist, and where, in 1707, Johann Sebastian Bach worked for a very short time. 


    Johann Rudolf Ahle died in Mühlhausen in 1673, twelve years before Bach’s birth.  Here is a picture of the skyline of Mühlhausen.

     A singularly interesting fact is that neither Johann Rudolf Ahle nor his son Johann Georg are remembered with any renown as citizens of Mühlhausen.  Renaissance composer Joachim vom Burck (1546-1610) and 14th-century Jewish Talmudic scholar Yom-Tov Lipmann-Muhlhausen are both more famous as historical figures, and of course Johann Sebastian Bach, even though he only worked at St. Blaise for a year.

     Ahle wrote the hymn Liebster Jesu in 1664.  He also wrote a treatise on choral singing called Compendium per tenellis, published in 1648 and then in several successive editions until the last edition in 1704.  His choral motets and concertos written for church use are the best known of his compositions.  

     The lyrics of Liebster Jesu were written by Tobias Clausnitzer (1619-1684).  Clausnitzer’s biographical information can be found here:


     The fact I found most interesting about Clausnitzer is that he was appointed a chaplain to a Swedish regiment in Leipzig.  

     Clausnitzer’s lyrics were translated into English by Catherine Winkworth (1827-1878), a native of London who became one of the most famous translators of German hymn texts into English, and whose translations can be widely found in the Hymnal 1982.  Winkworth was an advocate of higher education for women during the nineteenth century.  Her biographical information can be found on the Hymnary website here.


      Catherine Winkworth’s Wikipedia article is here.  The most interesting facts therein are that she coined a popular pun that was published in Punch magazine when she was only sixteen years old, and that she has a feast day on the calendar of the Episcopal Church (USA).  She shares a commemoration day on August 7 with Fr. John Mason Neale, another famous translator of hymn texts for the Anglican Church.


     For September 3, I played two of Bach’s chorale preludes based on Liebster Jesu, both BWV 730 and BWV 731.  These are two of six chorale preludes Bach wrote based on the hymn.  I played both of these preludes together in succession because they were in the same key, and I felt that they complimented each other in mood and treatment of the melody.  The mood of both pieces was gentle and comforting, as well as reflective, so I thought that these would be good pieces for helping the congregation prepare their hearts for Mass.  Almost all of my preludes have the purpose of preparing the congregation for liturgy, helping them prepare for Communion, or making a musical statement about a recent feast day or liturgical season. . .nonverbal catechesis, if you will.

     I cannot find when or where Bach composed these pieces.  It has been speculated online that they were composed some time around 1708 and possibly in Weimar.  See this entry from a Dutch website, for which you may have to activate your computer translator.


Here is a YouTube video of me playing Liebster Jesu on the Holy Nativity organ.

     We now move on to the two organ pieces I played for the Offertory.


Offertory Music:  

Organ Solos:

Jesu, meine Freude (Jesus, My Joy), BWV 610                 J.S. Bach (1685-1750)

Gott der Vater, wohn uns bei (God Our Father, Dwell With Us), BuxWV 190 Dieterich Buxtehude (1637-1707)

     Of course, both of these pieces are based on Lutheran chorales.  What I like most about chorale preludes is that they greatly facilitate planning organ music according to the Scripture readings.  Jesu, meine Freude has lyrics that fit will with verse 26 of the Gospel reading for September 3, Matthew 16: 21-27: “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?  or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”   Here are the lyrics to Jesu meine Freude, translated by Francis Browne in 2006:

Jesus, my joy,
pasture of my heart,
Jesus, my adornment
ah how long, how long
is my heart filled with anxiety
and longing for you!
Lamb of God, my bridegroom,
apart from you on the earth
there is nothing dearer to me.

Beneath your protection
I am free from the attacks
of all my enemies.
Let Satan track me down,
let my enemy be exasperated –
Jesus stands by me.
Even if there is thunder and lightning,
even if sin and hell spread terror
Jesus will protect me .

I defy the old dragon,
I defy the jaws of death,
I defy fear as well!
Rage, World, and spring to attack:
I stand here and sing
in secure peace.
God’s might takes care of me;
earth and abyss must fall silent,
however much they rumble on.

Away with all treasures!
You are my delight,
Jesus, my joy!
Away with empty honours,
I’m not going to listen to you,
remain unknown to me!
Misery, distress, affliction, disgrace and death,
even if I must endure much suffering,
will not separate me from Jesus.

Good night, existence
chosen by the world,
you do not please me.
Good night , you sins,
stay far behind me.
Come no more to the light1
Good night , pride and splendour,
once and for all, sinful existence,
I bid you good night.

Go away, mournful spirits,
for my joyful master,
Jesus, now enters in.
For those who love God
even their afflictions
become pure sweetness.
Even if here I must endure shame and disgrace,
even in suffering you remain,
Jesus, my joy

     The verses of the above hymn which most fit with Matthew 16: 26 are verses 4 and 5 (the two verses just prior to the last one above).  Jesu, meine Freude is a good hymn for any Sunday on which the Gospel reading focuses on choosing Christ over the world.  The lyrics to the hymn were written by Johann Franck (1618-1677), a native of Brandenburg, Germany.  His biographical information can be found here.


     The music of Jesu, meine Freude was written by Johann Crüger (1598-1662), another native of Brandenburg.  His biographical information can be found here.


     Here is a picture of the original publication of Jesu, meine Freude, from Johann Crüger’s Lutheran hymn book, Praxis Pietatis Melica, published in Berlin in 1653.

Jesu Meine Freude Praxis Cruger 1653.jpeg

     Jesu, meine Freude has been set to music by many composers, a list of whom can be found on the bottom of this webpage.


     Bach’s chorale prelude that I played on this Sunday, Jesu, meine Freude, BWV 610, is one of the chorale preludes included in Bach’s Orgelbüchlein (Little Organ Book).  It is unique because it has the cantus firmus, the melody of the chorale, in the soprano line as a completely unadorned melody–no ornamentation!  Bach’s Orgelbüchlein is a small collection of forty-six chorale preludes written for use during the Church Year.  Bach composed all but three of those preludes during his time as Court Organist for the ducal court at Weimar.  That would be between the years 1708 and 1717.  When we read these dates, we get a glimpse of Bach’s professional movements: remember that he was the organist at St. Blaise in Mühlhausen from 1707 to 1708.  Now we know why he left that post!  He left his post at a town church for a much more prestigious post in a duke’s palace!  We’re talking about a significant upgrade in salary for him.  Who could blame him?  Remember also that he had quite a family for which to provide.  This web link has a list of his children: their names, birth dates and death dates.


     The next chorale prelude I played, by Dieterich Hansen Buxtehude (1637-1707), was Gott der Vater, wohn uns bei, or “God the Father, Dwell By Us” in literal translation.  We have talked about Buxtehude’s life before, because I have played many of his works.  He was a very prolific composer of chorale preludes for use during the Church Year.   What we didn’t discuss was how he got his surname.  His original surname was actually “Hansen,” or, in his original Danish, “Son of Hans.”  His father’s name was Johannes, or, Hans Jensen Buxtehude.  In Scandinavian countries, using the standard surname based on one’s father, “Hansen” or “Hansdatter” (if one was a girl), was a sign that the person in question had a family in the lower middle class and most probably in a trade profession such as fishing or shipbuilding.    If one could call oneself by a slightly more prestigious surname, one might be able to obtain higher-paying employment.  At some point, Buxtehude’s father, who actually was an organist rather than a fishmonger, started using the surname “Buxtehude” instead of “Jensen.” However, I would point out that trade professions were still a big part of the family.  Dieterich Buxtehude’s brother, Peter, was a barber.

     The name Buxtehude actually comes from the town of that name, located in northern Germany on the Este River within the Hamburg region.  The town of Buxtehude is referenced in one of the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm, “The Hare and the Hedgehog.” It has a Weinfest, a wine festival, every year called the Vinum.  The town council of Buxtehude officially adopted Lutheranism as the town’s religion in 1542.  There is an old German saying associated with the town, “to hunt somebody to Buxtehude” or “nach jagen Buxtehude.”  This saying refers to exiling someone to a far place.  Here is a picture of the harbour in Buxtehude.

Schittwedder in Buxtehude.jpg

     The odd thing about Buxtehude is that there is no evidence that the Buxtehude family ever lived there.  They immigrated from their original town of Helsingborg, Denmark, to Lübeck, Germany in 1668, when Dieterich (or, in Danish, Diderik) got a job there at the Marienkirche.   The only reason I can think of for the Jensen-Hansen family to take the name of the town of Buxtehude is that it was not very far from the Danish border.  Today, it is exactly a four-hour and eight-minute drive from the town of Buxtehude to Denmark.  Surely, at some point, the family must have stopped there or visited there at one time.  That’s the only reason I can think of why they might have used the town’s name for their surname, aside from the possibility that “von Buxtehude” sounded more upper-class as a name than “Jensen” or “Hansen.”  (I speculate that actually, more than likely, all Dieterich got from the Germans was a suppressed chuckle when he introduced himself as Herr Buxtehude.  Saying that your last name is “Buxtehude” is like saying that your last name is “Boondocks” or “Loachapoka”!).

     The Buxtehude family home in Helsingsborg, Denmark, is the featured image at the top of this article.  By the way, Lübeck, the town where Buxtehude settled in 1668, is only a three-hour and 56-minute drive from the Danish border today.  This brings us to another interesting point about Buxtehude.  He Germanized his name from Diderik to Dieterich.  I think that his adoption of a German town name as his surname also might have stemmed from a desire to fit in with society in his newly adopted country of Germany.  Fitting in, getting a better-paying job. . .all of these are fairly regular and quite human reasons for undergoing a name change at that time.  He took his oath of German citizenship on July 23, 1668.  He married Anna Margaretha Tunder, the daughter of his predecessor in his job, Franz Tunder, on August 3.  They proceeded to have seven daughters, only four of whom survived infancy.  By the way, he ended up being the most highly paid organist in Lübeck, his salary equaling that of the pastor.  It is still interesting to note, however, that in Lübeck, he was considered part of the fourth social class.  That class was the trading class that included wholesalers, retailers and brewers.

     Now, about the chorale Gott der Vater, wohn uns bei:  it is a hymn by Martin Luther (1483-1546).  It was published in the Geistliche Gesangbüchlein, or, the Little Spiritual Songbook, in 1524.  It was based on a 15th-century litany. 

      The hymn is a prayer for God to be with us, help us to trust Him, and keep us steadfast and true to Him.  It is a good response to the Gospel reading from Matthew 16: 21-27.  You can find the text, translated by Richard Massie (1800-1887), here at this link from the Hymnary website.


     Buxtehude wrote his C major chorale prelude, BuxWV 190, with the chorale melody recognisably presented in the soprano line, in a relatively less ornamented form than in other works.  The humourous aspect of this is that, apparently, Buxtehude was in such a habit of ornamenting hymns during his introductions that people in the congregation couldn’t recognise the melodies.  The result was a board with hymn numbers written on it for each Sunday, put up by the ministers of the St. Mary’s Church in Lübeck, so that the congregation would know which hymns to find in their hymnals!  I think this is pretty funny.

     The abbreviation BuxWV refers to the Buxtehude-Werke-Verzeichnis  or “Buxtehude Works Catalogue.”  This is the catalogue and the numbering system used to identify Buxtehude’s works.  These numbers are important, since Buxtehude wrote more than one setting of various Lutheran chorales, not to mention more than one type of composition, such as organ preludes and cantatas.

     Below are a couple of YouTube videos of me playing these pieces: Jesu, meine Freude and Gott der Vater, wohn uns bei.



     In the Hymnal 1982, Jesu, meine Freude is #701, “Jesus, All My Gladness.”  Gott der Vater, wohn uns bei is not to be found in the Episcopal hymnal, at least not in the Hymnal 1982.  For that hymn, you must consult a Lutheran hymnal.  We now will discuss the organ music played for Communion.


Communion Music:

Organ Solo:  Chorale Partita: Schmücke dich, O liebe Seele (Deck Thyself, My Soul, With Gladness)                Johann Gottfried Walther (1684-1748)

     We have discussed the definition of the term “Partita” before: to remind my readers, a partita is simply a piece of music consisting of a theme and variations.  A chorale partita, therefore, is a set of variations based on a Lutheran chorale.  Schmücke dich, O liebe Seele is one of the loveliest of the communion hymns found in the Hymnal 1982.  It is listed as #339, “Deck Thyself, My Soul, with Gladness.”   Like Jesu, meine Freude, this hymn was written by Johann Franck (1618-1677), who wrote the lyrics, and Johann Crüger (1598-1662), who wrote the music.  Their biographical information is listed in links above, under the Offertory music in the paragraphs about Jesu, meine Freude.  Having already discussed them, I will focus on the composer of this particular chorale partita, Johann Gottfried Walther (1684-1748).  First of all, here is his picture.

     Johann Gottfried Walther was born in Erfurt, Germany, on September 18, 1684.  This was the year before Johann Sebastian Bach was born.  Remember the mention of Erfurt earlier?  It’s the town that lies about 31 miles southeast of Mühlhausen, which was the hometown of another Johann, the one who wrote the hymn Liebster Jesu, Johann Rudolf Ahle.  He’s the one who was the mayor of Mühlhausen in his last years, and Erfurt was the town where he attended the university and received his musical training. Remember?

     Being a university town, it’s not difficult to imagine that Erfurt would be a town where a famous contemporary of Bach’s would be born.  In fact, Johann Gottfried Walther was not only Bach’s contemporary.  He was Bach’s cousin!     Walther was famous not only as an organist and composer, but also as a music theorist and lexicographer.  As a lexicographer, he compiled an enormous dictionary of music and musicians entitled Musicalisches Lexicon, published in 1732.  It was the first dictionary of music and musicians ever written in the German language.  It was also the first book in German ever to list biographical information about composers and performers up until the 18th century.  It had over 3000 musical terms listed and defined.  Walther used and referenced over 250 sources in compiling it.  Considering that he did not have the benefit of a typewriter, much less a computer, this is pretty amazing for his time period.  This means that he wrote all of that information down by hand.  Of course, everyone wrote everything by hand then, before committing it to the printing press.  But the sheer scope of Walther’s work is amazing.

     Walther also wrote a handbook about how to compose music.  He wrote it for his employer and patron, Prince Johann Ernst von Sachsen-Weimar.  The book was entitled Praecepta der musicalischen Composition, and was published in 1708.  Remember 1708?  That was the year that Walther’s cousin, J.S. Bach, left his job as organist at St. Blaise in Mühlhausen, because he was employed as the court organist in the ducal court at Weimar.  As it so happens, Bach worked for Prince Johann Ernst’s father, Duke Johann Ernst III of Weimar.  Bach was the court organist for the Duke, and his cousin Walther was the music teacher of the duke’s son.  Walther gave the prince his book on musical composition as a twelfth birthday present.  It must have instructed the prince very well, because Prince Johann Ernst went on to become a talented composer of concertos.  Bach transcribed some of those concertos (technically, concerti) for harpsichord and organ.  ‘Twas a small world in Weimar at that time, was it not?  The prince’s musical composition and commissioning of musical works by Walther and Bach were the accomplishments for which he was most famous in his reign.

     Here is the Rottes Schloss, or Red Castle, where both the Duke Johann Ernst and his son, Prince Johann Ernst, lived in Weimar.  Both Bach and Walther would have seen the interior of this house on a fairly regular basis.

Rotes Schloss - 1, Weimar.jpg

     A list of Prince Johann’s compositions can be found in his Wikipedia article, here.  The poor prince died when he was only eighteen, of a leg infection that spread to his abdominal area.  It is believed that the infection was caused by a rare cancerous tumour called a sarcoma.


      Now we return to the life and work of Johann Gottfried Walther.  (There sure are a lot of Johann’s here!  It seems to have been the top male name between the 16th and 19th centuries).  Walther’s musical studies began in the lower school of Erfurt in 1691.  He had two organ teachers: Johann Andreas Kretschmar, and. . .drum roll here. . .Johann Bernhard Bach (1676-1749), second cousin of Johann Sebastian Bach!    The Bach family seems to have been very largely congregated in the Erfurt, Mühlhausen and Weimar area!  By the way, nowadays, Weimar is a thirty-minute drive from Erfurt.  From Mühlhausen to Erfurt, it’s a drive of an hour and eight minutes.  During the Baroque period, the average horse and carriage would have traveled at fifteen miles an hour.  You can do the math to figure out how long it would have taken the Bach family, including all the cousins, to get from one of those three towns to another.

     Anyway!  After finishing his grade school years, Walther went on to study at the Ratsgymnasium, which basically refers to a high school sponsored by the town council.  Being a home-town fellow who graduated from a home-town school, he then obtained his first job as Organist at the Thomaskirche (St. Thomas’s Church) in Erfurt, in 1702.  At that time, he was only eighteen years old!

     Let’s take a moment to put Walther’s schooling into perspective from a modern point of view.  During the 17th century, school was a very serious business!  There was no such thing as a C-average student.  School was a sober, pious and highly disciplined undertaking.  If someone took the trouble to sponsor your attendance at a school (because generally one could only attend school with references and financial sponsorship), you certainly would not do things like staying out too late, going party-hopping with your friends on Saturday nights, overeating, getting drunk, skipping classes, goofing off in class, or making less than the highest marks in all the subjects you studied.  The education that Walther received was a Classical, Christian education in the Protestant tradition.  Prayer and attendance at services was a regular part of the school day.  Being a student in Walther’s situation was a lot like being in a monastery.  Also, based on the school you attended, who your teachers were, and their recommendation, you may or may not land a well-paying position.  Your teachers and your family steered you into the best positions they thought you should have, and they also steered you into the marriage they thought best for you–and for them.  This is why, in the late 18th-century, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s disobedience to his father Leopold in terms of his marital choice was a very serious matter.

    But I digress–back to Walther!   Although he had finished school, he continued to read and study on his own. He loved learning.  He consulted treatises on music and studied composition with a teacher named Buttstett (Johann Heinrich Buttstett, 1666-1727).  He travelled to Nuremberg in 1706 for further studies, and ended up in Weimar, where, in 1707, he obtained the position of Organist at the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul.  He held that position until the end of his life.  His post as music teacher to the Prince of Weimar was a second job, though certainly not secondary in importance to him.   His relationship with his cousin, Johann Sebastian Bach, was a friendly one.

     In 1721, he obtained a third post as Hofmusicus (court musician) in the Duke of Weimar’s court orchestra.  No doubt he obtained that through his connections with Bach, who was the Duke’s court organist.  He also probably obtained it on his own merit as well, because his instruction of the Duke’s son was very successful despite the Prince’s early death.

     Walther laboured at his three jobs for the next twenty-seven years.  From all the sources I’ve seen, he doesn’t appear to have ever married.  He died at the age of sixty-three in 1748. The average life expectancy during his time was thirty-five years, so, considering that, he had a pretty long life.

     His chorale partita on Schmücke dich, O liebe Seele has four versets, or variations.   The first one is a very light-hearted rendition of the chorale with eighth notes and sixteenth notes in combination, and a lightly ornamented version of the chorale melody in the soprano line.  It can be played on the manuals (keyboards with no pedal), and thus is quite easy to play.  The second variation is a bit more difficult, with contrapuntal lines in three voices and a pedal line that moves from the top to the bottom of the pedal board.  The melody is passed around from the alto line to the soprano line with some canon phrases going on between the voices.  Actually, it is quite possible to play this on all manuals too, but my edition has the three voices separated into two keyboards and a pedal part.  The separation is what makes Variation 2 so challenging.  However, the advantage is that you can have some clear distinction in the sounds of each voice (soprano, alto, and bass—no real tenor line).  The third variation passes around little ostinato-like themes between the right hand and the left hand,  in combinations of eighth and sixteenth notes.  The chorale melody is significantly ornamented and spread out in sixteenth-note patterns.  This is one of those pieces that would have flummoxed Buxtehude’s pastor at the Marienkirche, because it’s not as easy to distinguish the hymn melody!  This variation can be played entirely on the manuals.  The fourth variation, which I didn’t play this time around, is the most difficult of all.  It has a moving bass line in the pedal, all on eighth notes, a complex series of sixteenth-note patterns in the right hand, and the melody in the left hand, in the alto line, in quarter notes.  As if that weren’t enough, the right hand line jumps down into the bass register of the keyboard while the left hand must hold out the last two whole notes of the cantus firmus and the pedal finishes jumping about.  I think that this one would be a challenge to learn, but once I had learned it, the coordination would be remembered long-term, like riding a bike.  I’m thankful that I only played the first three versets for the service.

     Why was Walther’s Schmücke dich chosen as a piece to play while the congregation received Communion on September 3?  There were two reasons: (1) The text is a call for sanctification through surrendering the heart and soul to Christ, which fits well with any set of readings on a given Sunday, but most particularly fit well with the Old Testament reading for Mass, Jeremiah 15: 15-21, and the Psalm, which was Psalm 26: 1-8.  (2) Walther’s piece was in the same key as the Ablutions hymn for that day, which was #707 in the Hymnal 1982, “Take My Life and Let It Be Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.”  Also, the mood of Walther’s piece, seriousness combined with lightness, was a nice prelude to the solemnity of the hymn that followed it.

     All that being said, it is now time to discuss the last organ piece played on September 3, 2017, the postlude.




Suite de premier ton (Suite on the First Tone): 1. Grand plein jeu & 4. Trio    Louis-Nicholas Clérambault (1676-1749)

     What is the purpose of the postlude in a liturgical service?  Is it just exit music in the background while people burst into conversation after an hour and a half or so of hymns, silent prayer, sacramental experience and reverence?  Is it a musical opportunity for the organist to strut his or her stuff and show off brilliant technique?  

     Well, I will share a couple of thoughts from other writers on the subject.  This article by Roman Catholic philosopher and composer Dr. Peter Kwasniewski has some excellent points to make in defense of organ postludes, which apparently are annoying to some Roman Catholics because they feel it distracts them from doing prayers of thanksgiving after Mass.   


     I like three of his quotes in the article, so I will share those here.  

“In the Latin Church the pipe organ is to be held in high esteem, for it is the traditional musical instrument which adds a wonderful splendor to the Church’s ceremonies and powerfully lifts up man’s mind to God and to higher things.” — Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium (1963).

“Solemn sacred music, with choir, organ, orchestra and the singing of the people, is not an addition of sorts that frames the liturgy and makes it more pleasing, but an important means of active participation in worship. The organ has always been considered, and rightly so, the king of musical instruments, because it takes up all the sounds of creation and gives resonance to the fullness of human sentiments. By transcending the merely human sphere, as all music of quality does, it evokes the divine. The organ’s great range of timbre, from piano through to a thundering fortissimo, makes it an instrument superior to all others. It is capable of echoing and expressing all the experiences of human life. The manifold possibilities of the organ in some way remind us of the immensity and the magnificence of God.” — Pope Benedict XVI, speech for the Dedication of the Organ in the Regensburg Basilica (September 13, 2006).

     The third quote is from Dr. Peter Kwasniewski himself:  “When the Lord finally makes Himself present to us and even gives Himself to us in Holy Communion, our hearts should be bursting and ready to cry out “Alleluia!” with all of creation. That is what an organ postlude does better than anything else can do: it makes creation resound with the divine praises as we get ready to step forth into the world again.”

     Dr. K really sums up the purpose of a postlude in the above quote: a postlude is for the purpose of expressing our joy in the Lord and our thanks to Him for granting us His grace and presence.  To anyone in a liturgical church that teaches the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the postlude after Mass is to give thanks for the Lord’s gift of Himself to the minds, hearts, souls and bodies of His people.

     That being said, I try to make the postlude joyful and sometimes majestic, while at the same time attempting to fit the theme and title of the postlude with the Readings.  To me, the postlude is a prayer of joy and thanksgiving to God—actually more of a shout than a prayer–and it also neatly affirms the message received through Holy Scripture during the liturgy.

     In this particular instance, the postlude was more of a general act of praise than a piece blended with the readings or liturgical theme.  Some of the most joyous music that can be shared with the congregation as a postlude comes from Baroque-era France during the reign of the Sun King, Louis XIV.  

     The Grand plein jeu of a Baroque French organ suite is always a very grandiose piece that rings with the glory of God, being registered on the organ with a full set of principal pipes (8-foot, 4-foot and 2-foot), reeds, mixtures and a 16-foot in the keyboard.  It’s a very loud but quite glorious sound.  So, I chose a Grand plein jeu for the first part of the postlude.  The term Grand plein jeu basically means “big full chorus.”  Plein jeu actually means “full game” in French, when one translates literally.  There are pedal parts in plein jeu pieces, but the manuals are coupled to the pedals, so there is no distinct pedal sound.  The 16-foot pedal stops aren’t used, as a rule, unless there’s a cantus firmus in the bass and one wants to make it stand out.  I use the pedals on a Grand plein jeu when my hands can’t reach all of the notes in the manuals.  Again, I always simply couple the manuals to the pedals so that the whole piece sounds like it all is played on one keyboard.

     There aren’t always two parts to a postlude, but when one is playing movements from a French suite, at least two movements are necessary because the pieces in a French Baroque organ suite are often quite short.  So, for the second part of the postlude, I chose the trio movement of Clérambault’s Suite on the First Tone (Suite de premier ton).  A trio is usually quite a joyful piece with lots of ornamentation and eighth-note runs, musical phrases that bounce off each other and play against each other sometimes, and is often written in a light-hearted triple metre.  The sound of a trio tends to have principal stops and reeds, so it isn’t usually soft.  The term trio in this context is used because there are three voices being heard in the organ: the soprano, alto and bass.  There is no pedal line in a trio, but I always add a big 16-foot note on the final note of any given trio.  It adds a glorious effect.  The French Baroque composers might not have approved, but they’re dead now, and therefore hardly in a position to express disapproval.  I daresay that, being among the departed, they have other things on their minds than what Gabrielle Bronzich does with the final notes of their pieces.

     If you put a Grand plein jeu together with a trio, you have a grandiose, slower piece followed by a faster, more raucous piece.  It makes a nice postlude. 

     I should mention that any time a title of a piece refers to being on the First Tone, the Second Tone or any other tone, it is referring to the eight Gregorian chant psalm tones.  Here is a chart of those from Dr. Kwasniewski’s website: 


    This chart from the Musica Sacra website is a little bit easier to read.


     These tones are based on the eight Gregorian chant church modes, which are similar to scales, on which tones and chants are built.  Here is the Wikipedia article that explains those.


     And now, I will say a little bit about the composer of this particular French Baroque organ suite, Louis-Nicholas Clérambault (1676-1749).  Here is a picture of him.

Louis-Nicolas Clerambault.jpg

     He was born in Paris on December 19, 1676 and died in Paris on October 26, 1749.  He came from a musical family.  His father, Dominique Clérambault, was a musician in the king’s violin consort, and served the king both at Versailles and at the royal churches.  His son, Louis-Nicholas, learned how to play the violin and harpsichord as a boy.  He studied organ with André Raison (c. 1640-1719), one of the most famous and influential French organists at the time.  Louis-Nicholas studied composition with notable French Baroque composer Jean-Baptiste Moreau (c. 1656-1733), the Master of Music at the court of King Louis XIV.  To say that Louis-Nicholas Clérambault studied with some very well-respected musicians of his time would be an understatement.

     One of the most interesting facts about Clérambault was the person with whom he found employment: King Louis XIV’s second wife, Madame de Maintenon, who took over his household and shaped the mood and tastes of his court during his final years.  Her full name was Françoise d’Aubigné, Marquise de Maintenon (1635-1719).  Initially, she became Louis XIV’s third or fourth mistress (can’t remember which) after he discarded his most famous mistress, the Marquise Athénaïs de Montespan. 

     The Marquise de Montespan had not only become ill-tempered and difficult to deal with, but she was also implicated in an enormous and sordid court murder scandal, the Affair of the Poisons.  (You can read about that most interesting and convoluted affair here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Affair_of_the_Poisons).  The King naturally dumped Madame de Montespan not long afterward, focusing his attentions instead on her lady in waiting, Madame de Maintenon.  The King found, to his general relief and pleasure, that his new mistress was a loving, caring and religious woman who desired not only to please him, but also that he might excel in Christian virtue and exemplify a proper Roman Catholic king.  In fact, Madame de Maintenon set out especially to convert the king back to the strict form of Catholicism that he had spurned during his earlier years.  After the Queen of France, Marie-Thérèse of Spain, died, King Louis XIV married Madame de Maintenon in a private ceremony.  

     It is hard for us to fathom these days the phenomenon of someone having an open mistress right under the nose of his wife, but such was the case with Louis XIV.  Nobody questioned his right to do whatever he wanted because he was considered to be God’s anointed.  On the one hand, Madame de Maintenon was acting like a faithful Catholic in her devotions and Mass attendance; on the other hand, she was allowing the king to use her in committing adultery.  It’s hard to stomach for us, in modern-day America.  Apparently the King’s father confessor, and indeed all the priests associated with the French court, were indulgent on these matters.  We must also remember that divorce was not permitted by the Catholic Church.  At least Madame de Maintenon was very kind to the Queen, unlike the Marquise de Montespan, and the Queen expressed her appreciation.  The Queen died at peace, thinking the King very fortunate to have Madame de Maintenon in his life.  (It still boggles the mind!).  Being a Spanish Catholic, she had never approved of the license and liberty taken by the French courtiers. . .that is, when she knew about it.  The King had enormous respect for her, and kept her innocent of a great many intrigues.  She also did not have enough command of French to understand many of the ribald jokes made during court entertainments!  Anyway, she died at peace, and the King actually cried when he received the news.

     When Madame de Maintenon succeeded Marie-Thérèse as Queen of France, she encouraged the king to give up gambling, adultery (!), and many other immoral habits he had cultivated over the years.  The king became penitent and a regular attendee at Mass.  His flamboyant, party-oriented court became quite toned down.  Here is a picture of Madame de Maintenon.  She prided herself on her religious conversion of the King, on having brought him back to the straight and narrow.

      Everyone was surprised at Madame de Maintenon’s ascendancy, because they expected her to be cast aside like all of Louis XIV’s other mistresses.  In fact, the courtiers had an inside joke about her, a play on words about her name.   They called her “Madame de Maintenant,” which means “Madame. . .for now.”  But they underestimated the change going on in the king’s personal life.  He was getting on in years, having health issues (syphilis and gout), and therefore thinking much more often of what might befall him in the afterlife.  So, suddenly, Madame de Maintenon came forth as his queen, though he never actually called her by that title because of her previous status as a lady-in-waiting and governess to his children by the Marquise de Montespan.  As the new queen, Françoise de Maintenon wanted the music of the French court to be charming, stylish, but not contrary to her vision of proper Catholic behaviour.   The party was over!

     This was the atmosphere that prevailed, therefore, when Madame de Maintenon hired Louis-Nicholas Clérambault as her music superintendent.   Clérambault’s operas were mostly written on the fairly safe subjects of Greek mythology, which was viewed as a nobler type of fiction.  He wrote many religious compositions, and he served as organist at more than one church in Paris.  After the King died, Madame de Maintenon appointed Clérambault as the Organist at Saint-Sulpice (where famous nineteenth-century and twentieth-century organists and composers Charles-Marie Widor and Marcel Dupré would later serve!).  Madame de Maintenon also appointed Clérambault to oversee the music at Saint-Cyr, a boarding school for girls from the families of poorer nobility.  The girls’ choir he directed at Saint-Cyr was called the Demoiselles de Saint-Cyr, or, the Damsels of Saint-Cyr. He was the organist-choirmaster at the school and its associated parish.  He held those positions until Madame de Maintenon’s death.  She had strict instructions about the type of music he could teach and write at the school: it had to have simplicity and modesty, and it had to be an aid in developing the girls’ piety.  After Madame de Maintenon’s death in 1719, he succeeded his original organ teacher, André Raison, at the Church of the Grands-Jacobins, a Dominican parish in Paris.  

     For all the emphasis on religion in the French court during his time, his music tends to be rather whimsical and given to a dance-like spirit.  

     It is not known whether he married, but no source mentions him having had a wife or children.  I suppose, with all of his various positions at the royal court, he would have barely had time to even look at a woman, much less court her.

     Well, that comprises all the facts I know about him at this time.  This is also the conclusion of my article on the music for September 3, 2017.  I hope you have enjoyed reading about the people and places who played a role in the creation of the organ music you heard at Mass on the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost. 

Glory to God for all things.

In Christ,

Gabrielle Bronzich, M.M.

Organist and Choirmaster, Holy Nativity Episcopal Church





















The Hymns and Psalm Tone for Sunday, September 3, 2017: A History of Music and Composers

     Greetings in Christ!   This article is a continuation of my attempt to get caught up on writing about the music we offered to the Lord at Mass throughout the month of September.   Today we will explore the hymns and psalm tone, with their composers, for the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost, September 3, A.D. 2017.

     At the beginning of September, the Church in her wisdom begins to prepare Christians for the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross.  Therefore, many of the Scriptural readings and become centered on Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross for our sins.  It is fitting, therefore, that the hymnody do the same.  We will first talk about the Processional Hymn.  It is important to note that, while the term “Processional” is a liturgically correct term for an introit, the word “Recessional” really isn’t correct for the closing hymn.  Do the priests and altar servers really “recess” from the church?  Not really!  They process out, but they don’t recess out.  So, at Holy Nativity, we always refer to the closing hymn as the “final hymn” instead of calling it the “recessional.”

Processional: #484, Praise the Lord Through Every Nation Wachet auf

     Wachet auf is traditionally known as the Advent hymn “Sleepers, Wake!  A Voice Astounds Us,” which can be found in the Hymnal 1982, hymn number 61.  61 is the carefully voiced Bach version of this Lutheran chorale.  Number 62 is the version that is somewhat less metrical and more true to the original time period of the chorale, which is a sixteenth-century hymn.  The rendition of the hymn we sang for September 3, #484, is the harmonized Bach version with a general text of praise to Jesus Christ.  The text praises Christ for His salvation of humankind in the first verse.  In the second verse, He is specifically praised for His death and resurrection, and His reign that will never end when He comes again.

     The words for this version of the hymn were written by Dutch poet Rhijnvis Feith (1753-1824), a poet so famous in the Netherlands that he has a street named for him in Amsterdam.  Rhijnvis Feith had the prefix Jonkheer attached to his name; this is an honourary prefix that denotes Dutch nobility.  Jonkheer is the lowest title of Dutch nobility; its German equivalent is the title Junker.  Both Dutch Jonkheer and German Junker literally mean “young lord.”  During the Middle Ages, this title was used for young noblemen who were were children of high-ranking knights or other nobility, but were not married.  In English parlance, the title Jonkheer is equivalent to “the Honourable.”  Although Jonkheer was a title that denoted an unmarried status originally, by the time of Rhijnvis Feith it was just an honourific.  Feith was married!  He went all the way to Germany to find a wife.  See the next paragraph!

     So, the Honourable Rhijnvis Feith came from an aristocratic family in Zwolle.  He later became burgomaster of that town.  Here is an article on the town of Zwolle (of the Netherlands, not to be confused with Zwolle in Louisana!), for your interest: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zwolle.  Feith was better known for novels and plays than for poems.  He got his degree in law, not in literature, from the University of Leiden.  In 1772, he went to Germany, where he met and married a lady named Ockje Groeneveld (Greenwood).  The wedding took place in Weener, Germany, in the month of November.  Not long after that, the two of them returned to Zwolle, where they proceeded to have ten children.  Feith became burgomaster of Zwolle in 1780.  He received a number of awards for his poetic and other literary works, and became a member of the Royal Institute, that is, the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.  One of the most interesting facts about him is that his literary output included a tragedy written about the short reign and execution of Lady Jane Grey (c. 1537-1554), who was imprisoned and executed by Queen Mary I of England.

     Feith’s text of this hymn was published in 1806.  Later, on January 10 of 1828, it was translated into English by Moravian minister James Montgomery.  It is that translation that can be found in the Episcopal Hymnal 1982.  More details about Feith’s life and Montgomery’s life can be found on the Hymnary website.  Here are their biographical links:



     One interesting detail about Feith’s life which is totally missed by the Wikipedia article is that he was also a minister of the Dutch Reformed Church.

     Now we will briefly talk about the hymn Wachet auf, briefly because there will be more time to discuss it in detail during the Advent season, when we most certainly will sing it.  It was composed by a Lutheran pastor, Dr. Philipp Nicolai, in 1599.  Dr. Nicolai, Doctor of Divinity, was from Westphalia, a region in northwestern Germany which would later be famous for being the location where the Westphalia peace treaties were signed that ended the Thirty Years War.  Philipp Nicolai was born on August 10, 1556.  He was the son of a Lutheran preacher.  He received his Doctorate of Divinity in 1579 from Wittenberg University, now known as the Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg, because Martin Luther was its most famous student.  He had some difficulties because the first town in which he served as a pastor, Herdecke, was invaded by Spanish troops in 1586.  In panic, the inhabitants of the town reverted to Roman Catholicism.  Nicolai resigned his post as pastor, while his associate pastor converted his Lutheran parish back to a Catholic one.  Philipp Nicolai became deacon and later pastor at Niederwildungen, a spa town in Germany now known as Bad Wildungen.

     Bad Wildungen has an interesting history, which you can read here: 


     It is also famous for a beautiful painted altarpiece by Conrad von Soest (circa 1370-1422), whose Wikipedia article can be found here: 


     Anyway!  Philipp Nicolai was pastor in that town for a while, and in other towns, eventually settling down to his main pastorate in Westphalia in 1596, which was also interrupted by a Spanish invasion which forced him to flee until 1599.  He died in Westphalia of fever on October 26, 1608.  His hymn Wachet auf was published in 1599, in a book entitled Frewden-Spiegel dess ewigen Lebens (The Joyous Mirror of Eternal Life), at Frankfurt-am-Main.  The featured image for this post is the Bad-Wildungen altarpiece, for your enjoyment.

     We now move on to the Psalm tone for Sunday, September 3.  

Psalm Chant: Shirley Hill (b. 1933) based on “Lift High the Cross”

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      This tone, by Shirley Hill, is based on the well-known hymn “Lift High the Cross,”  #473 in the Hymnal 1982.  I selected it for the psalm portion, which was Psalm 26: 1-8, because of the approach of the feast of the Holy Cross coming up on September 14.  Also, this psalm tone and other hymns about the Cross match the Gospel reading, Matthew 16: 21-27, in which Christ predicts that He will go to Jerusalem to suffer crucifixion.  The lectionary used at Holy Nativity Episcopal Church is the Book of Common Prayer Lectionary from 1979.  The version of the Bible used in the Prayer Book Lectionary is the New Revised Standard translation from 1989.

       Unfortunately, I can’t find anything out about composer Shirley Hill except that, being born in 1933, she is the same age as Yoko Ono.  Even the Hymnary website does not have any biographical information on her.  I also know that she adapted this psalm tone from a hymn tune called Crucifer, writtern by Sir Sydney Hugo Nicholson.  We have discussed his life and work before.  Here is his biographical link from the Hymnary website. 


       I found an obituary of an organist named Shirley Kimball Hill, 1933-2014.  I don’t know if this is the same lady.  There is no mention of this lady having arranged an Anglican chant for the Anglican Chant Psalter, but the obituary does say that Shirley Kimball Hill served at several Episcopal churches.  That’s the best I can do for this one!   Here is the obituary.


       We now move on to the Gradual hymn.

Gradual Hymn: #675, Take Up Your Cross, the Savior Said Bourbon

       This hymn was chosen to prepare the congregation for the Gospel reading, Matthew 16: 21-27.  It almost directly quotes verse 24:  “Then said Jesus unto His disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

       The first verse of the hymn is: 

Take up your cross, the Savior said,

If you would my disciple be;

Take up your cross with willing heart,

And humbly follow after me.

       The melody I grew up hearing for this particular text was not the one used in the Hymnal 1982, the hymn tune called Bourbon attributed to Freeman Lewis (1780-1859).  I grew up hearing this text sung to a tune known by three different names: Germany in the Methodist Hymnal, Fulda on the Hymnary website in several other hymnals, and Gardiner in the Episcopal Hymnal 1982.  It’s the tune that is presented in the Hymnal 1982 as “Where Cross the Crowded Ways of Life,” number 609.  I grew up singing this particular tune for “Take Up Thy Cross, the Savior Said.”   However, this is NOT the tune used for this text, “Take Up Your Cross,” in the Hymnal 1982.  Again, the tune used in the Hymnal 1982 sounds very early American, and indeed it is: it was written by Presbyterian organist and composer Freeman Lewis, who was born in New Jersey in 1780 and died in Ohio in 1859.   Here is some biographical information on Freeman Lewis, from a most interesting source, the “Find A Grave” memorial website.  There is a picture of Lewis’ grave, as well as his obituary, here.


       Some more information on Freeman Lewis can be found here.


       The most interesting fact I found about him was that he was an organist only in later life.  He started out his professional life as a land surveyor, and he accompanied one of Napoleon’s generals and engineers, General Bernard, in an 1816 expedition in the U.S.  He must have been a very skilled surveyor, because an engineer and general on Napoleon’s staff would not have just chosen anybody for such a job.

       The lyrics for this hymn were written by Charles William Everest (1814-1877).  His biographical information can be found here.


       More information can also be found here, where you can find a picture of his grave.


       What is not listed about him in any of the above links is that he served as an Episcopal rector.  The Hymnary website lists him as having been rector in Hampden, Connecticut from 1842 to 1873.  However, it was not mentioned that he was Episcopalian.  Indeed, he was.  He wrote the texts of two hymns: “Take Up Thy Cross, the Savior Said” and “Oh, Why Should the Spirit of Mortal Be Proud?”.

       We will now discuss the Ablutions hymn.

Ablutions Hymn: #707, Take My Life, and Let It Be Hollingside

       We have discussed the composer Reverend Dr. John Bacchus Dykes (1823-1876) before.  His biographical information can be found in his Wikipedia article.  The fact that I did not notice about him before, in reading about him, was that he was the son of a ship builder.  I would like to remind our readers about the remarkable fact that he was serving as assistant organist at his father’s parish, St. John’s Church in Hull, at the age of ten!  Here is the Wikipedia article on him below.


       He wrote the tune Hollingside in 1861.  The words to the hymn, “Take my life and let it be/ consecrated, Lord, to Thee,” were written by Frances Ridley Havergal (1836-1879).    She was the daughter of the Reverend W.H. Havergal, an Anglican priest who initially served in Astley, Worcestershire, but later served as the Rector of St. Nicholas Church in Worcester.  Here is some information on Worcestershire County in England.  Yes, it is the same Worcestershire County where Worcestershire sauce originated!


       Worcestershire County is also said to be the place that inspired The Shire, the abode of the hobbits in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth books, in particular The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

       You can read many interesting facts about Frances Ridley Havergal in her biographical entry on the Hymnary website.  What I find most interesting about her are the words she said about how she first came to Christ.  She committed herself to Jesus Christ when she entered school in 1850, a school run by a Mrs. Teed.  These are her words about that experience: “I committed my soul to the Saviour, and earth and heaven seemed brighter from that moment.”   Frances Havergal was the lyricist for many hymns.  She lived her later years in Swansea, Wales, where she died in 1879.  The Hymnary article on her is below.


       We now move on to the final hymn for September 3, 2017, a most famous early American hymn and one that is loved by many people.

Final Hymn: #439, What Wondrous Love Is This Wondrous Love

       Wondrous Love is a Southern folk hymn written in the early 1800’s by hymnody’s most famous composer ever, Anonymous.  We do not know the name of the composer nor the author of the words.  It was probably improvised by someone up in the Appalachian mountains somewhere.  That would be my guess.  It was published first in a book of hymns called A General Selection in 1811, a collection of hymns compiled by Reverend Stith Mead (1767-1834).  In the “Find A Grave” memorial site, we discover that his body was lost or destroyed.  He has no grave that we can find anymore.  That information is here.


       The only other facts we know about Mead is that he was from Virginia, and that his father was Colonel William Mead.  His wife’s name and the names of his siblings are recorded in the link above.  The full name of his hymn collection was entitled A General Selection of the Newest and Most Admired Hymns and Spiritual Songs Now in Use.  The hymn Wondrous Love was also published later in The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion, a shape-note hymnal from 1835 compiled by William Walker.   The method of singing associated with this hymnal originated during the colonial period, when there were singing schools where congregations were instructed in choral singing for church services.  Here is the Wikipedia article on The Southern Harmony hymnal.


       Here is a picture of the front cover of the original hymnal.

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One more interesting fact about hymn-singing from this time period is that we have a prime literary example of a singing school from this period.  In Washington Irving’s short story from 1820, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” itinerant schoolmaster Ichabod Crane starts a singing school in the titular town of the story.

       As a last thought, consider the first verse of Wondrous Love and how it fits well with Christ’s command of us all that, in order to follow Him, we must take up our cross.

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!

What wondrous love is this, O my soul!

What wondrous love is this

That caused the Lord of bliss

to lay aside His crown for my soul, for my soul,

to lay aside His crown for my soul.

       I hope that you have enjoyed this article on all of the hymns we sang on September 3, 2017.  Have a blessed week!

In Christ,

Gabrielle Bronzich, M.M.

Organist and Choirmaster, Holy Nativity Episcopal Church












The Hymns and Psalm Tone On Sunday, August 27: A History of the Music and Composers

     Greetings in Christ! This is my second article in an attempt to get caught up on my writing about our Sunday music, since we began the choral new year during the first week of September. This article is about the hymns we sang on the last Sunday of August in 2017.

     August 27 was the Sunday following the feast day of the Queenship of Mary on August 22, so all of the organ and instrumental music was Marian in theme. However, the Scriptural readings had quite a different theme. The Gospel reading was centered on the notion of Christ as the foundation of the Church and of the Christian life. The Gospel was the famous “Tu es Petrus” reading, Matthew 16: 13-20. The Epistle reading was Romans 11: 33-36, which speaks of the wisdom of God. The psalm was Psalm 138 (which is 137 in Septuagint numbering), a psalm that praises God for His sovereignty, His kingship and His care of the lowly. The hymns were therefore selected according to these readings.

     I will now discuss the hymns and psalm tone, one by one.

Processional: #518, Christ Is Made the Sure Foundation Westminster Abbey

     The first verse of this hymn is directly from the Gospel passage from St. Matthew: Christ is made the sure foundation,/Christ the head and cornerstone,/chosen of the Lord and precious,/binding all the Church in one;/Holy Zion’s help forever, and her confidence alone.

The text of the hymn is from a Latin text of the 7th century, translated by the famous Anglican clergyman Fr. John Mason Neale (1818-1866), who translated many Latin texts and hymns and thereby made them available to the Church of England. The very interesting biography of Father John Mason Neale can be found here: http://justus.anglican.org/resource…. More detail on his life can be found in the Wikipedia article about him, here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_….

     The music of the hymn was written by one of England’s greatest composers, Henry Purcell, Esquire (1659-1695). Henry Purcell created a purely English style of Baroque music. His legacy in England and in the Anglican Church was so great that he not only was buried right near the organ at Westminster Abbey, but he has a date of commemoration on the calendar of the Episcopal Church (USA). His feast day is July 28, and he is honoured on that day along with Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel. Here is a biographical link about him: http://study.com/academy/lesson/hen…. His Wikipedia article also has many details in it about his life and work.

     I find the following facts about him most interesting: (1) Although he was the organist at Westminster Abbey in the service King James II, and later King William III and Queen Mary II, he wrote very little for music for the organ. (2) He was one of several composers to succumb to what was eventually known as the White Plague, tuberculosis, the pervasive disease that killed 25% of the people in Europe between the 17th century and the middle of the 20th century. (3) He began composing at the tender age of eight! (I have also read that the age was nine, in his biographical link on the Hymnary website, https://hymnary.org/person/Purcell_…. Nevertheless, composing at such a young age is no mean accomplishment). (4) He succeeded the famous composer and organist John Blow as organist of Westminster Abbey. In fact, John Blow resigned in favour of Purcell, who was his pupil. (5) His anthem, “Thou knowest, Lord,” preserved in the setting of the Burial Service by composer William Croft in 1724, has been sung at every state funeral in England since that time. Here is an excellent choral performance of it by the Manor Choir on YouTube, with the score in the video for you to follow: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YN1….

     Here is “Christ Is Made the Sure Foundation,” performed by the Westminster Choir as a processional. The video affords a nice view of the Westminster Abbey Church. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cR9…. I find it humourously ironic that this is the opening hymn at an ecumenical celebration with Pope Benedict present! One might believe that the Archbishop of Canterbury had purposely picked out that hymn, which names Christ as the cornerstone of the Church instead of St. Peter.

     We will now move on to the Psalm and Psalm tone for August 27. The psalm was 138 in its entirety. It was chanted on a tone by prolific Anglican composer Jonathan Battishill.

Psalm Chant: Jonathan Battishill (1738-1801)

     Jonathan Battishill’s Anglican psalm tones tend to be very simple and easy to use, and yet also very nice musically. Here is the graphic of his tone below, the one we used for Sunday, August 27.

Jonathan Battishill: Psalm Tone in F Major

     Jonathan Battishill was born in London in 1738. He was a composer, organist, harpsichordist and concert tenor. One of his first concert engagements was as a tenor soloist in the ode Alexander’s Feast by Handel, in 1756 on March 16. His name was incorrectly spelled in the write-up about the event! He was referred to as “Mr. Batichel.”
As early as the age of nine, Battishill became a chorister at St. Paul’s Cathedral under the composer Charles King. almoner and master of choristers. After King died in 1748, and Battishill’s voice changed, he studied singing, organ and composition under King’s successor, William Savage. Savage’s biography can be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willi…. At St. Paul’s Cathedral, he made the acquaintance of composer and organist William Boyce (1711-1779), who later appointed Battishill as his deputy at the Chapel Royal.

     Jonathan Battishill worked in several venues as a musician: as conductor and harpsichordist at the Covent Garden Theatre, a composer of choruses and incidental music at the Theatre Royal of Drury Lane, organist of St. Clement Eastcheap, and organist of Christ Church on Newgate Street. He received his organist appointments at those parishes in 1764 and 1767 respectively, and served both parishes until his death in 1801.

     There was one post he failed to procure, that of Organist at St. Paul’s Cathedral, for a very sad reason. He had a problem with alcoholism. He became an alcoholic after his wife, an actress and singer named Elizabeth Davies, had an affair with an actor and deserted him. She and the actor, a man named Anthony Webster, settled together in Ireland in 1776. Battishill eventually gained the affections of another woman in his life, Anne Battishill, whom we are not certain he officially married–at first. According to all accounts, he lived with her for many years. The fact that she had his name by the end of his life means that he did in fact marry her, because common law marriages were not recognised in England until 1811, ten years after the composer’s death. He also would have had to marry her in the Church of England, because only church weddings were recognised by the state, in accordance with the Marriage Act of 1753. Because his first wife abandoned him, he would have had the grounds to declare her legally dead, if she failed to return within seven years. His first wife would have been declared legally dead both in church and state documents, thereby legally establishing Battishill as a widower and eligible for marriage. My guess is that this is probably what happened.

     Despite this second marriage, Battishill never got over the desertion of his first wife. The alcoholism into which he descended caused him to put out very little composition during the latter part of his life.

     Despite his tumultuous personal life (or perhaps because of it), he was an avid reader, being interested most in classical literature and theology. He wrote mostly church music, overall, having written many hymns, anthems, and Anglican chant tones. When he was on his deathbed, he asked to be buried near William Boyce in the cemetery at St. Paul’s Cathedral. His wish was granted, and he was buried in the churchyard of St. Paul’s in 1801.

     We will now move on to the Gradual Hymn.

Gradual Hymn: #525, The Church’s One Foundation   Aurelia

     The Gradual Hymn is always selected based on the Gospel Reading, or at least, that is my personal practice. I prefer for the Gradual Hymn to prepare the congregation for the Gospel reading. For obvious reasons, this hymn, “The Church’s One Foundation,” was ideal for the Gospel reading on Christ being proclaimed by St. Peter as the Son of the Living God, and Christ making Peter’s proclamation of faith the Rock on which the Church would be founded.

     The composer of the tune for “The Church’s One Foundation,” Aurelia, was Samuel Sebastian Wesley (1810-1876). Samuel Sebastian Wesley was the son of Samuel Wesley, who was in turn the son of Charles Wesley, hymnist and brother of John Wesley who founded the Methodist Church. Here is Charles Wesley’s biography from the Hymnary website, as a review: https://hymnary.org/person/Wesley_C…. We have discussed Charles Wesley before. The important fact to remember about Charles Wesley is that he stayed firmly within the Church of England, and was not completely in agreement with his brother John about the changes made to the services in the spirit of Methodism.

     Samuel Sebastian Wesley, English composer and organist, was another Londoner associated with the Chapel Royal, just as William Boyce and Jonathan Battishill had been. He was born in London on August 14, 1810. His was given the middle name of Sebastian after Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), whose music was very much admired and loved by Samuel Wesley Senior. The Wikipedia article on Samuel Sebastian Wesley can be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samue…. These are the facts about him which I found interesting: (1) He is also the author of another well-known hymn, “Lead Me, Lord, Lead Me in Thy Righteousness.” When I was a young girl at Auburn United Methodist Church in Auburn, Alabama, this hymn was often sung by the choir as a prelude to the Gospel reading during Sunday services. (2) Samuel Sebastian Wesley started his musical career as a choirboy in the Chapel Royal. (3) Almost all of his professional appointments were at cathedrals! He served as the organist and choirmaster at the following cathedrals in England: Hereford Cathedral in 1832, Exeter Cathedral in 1835, Winchester Cathedral in 1849 after a post at Leeds Parish Church from 1842 to 1849, and finally Gloucester Cathedral in 1865. (4) He received his doctorate in music from Oxford University in 1839, so on future worship programs at Holy Nativity, he will henceforth be listed with his title as Dr. Samuel Sebastian Wesley. (5) Having died at the age of 65 at his home in Gloucester, he has a memorial stained glass window at Gloucester Cathedral in his honour and a memorial stone plaque at Exeter Cathedral. There is a picture below of the memorial plaque at Exeter. I can’t find a picture of the memorial window at Gloucester Cathedral. However, the cloisters of Gloucester cathedral were filmed as a part of Hogwarts in the first, second and sixth films of the Harry Potter series. Those cloisters are also pictured below.

Dr. Samuel Sebastian Wesley’s memorial plaque at Exeter Cathedral

The famous cloisters of Gloucester Cathedral, with their fan-vaulted ceilings, were used as the hallway of Hogwarts in three “Harry Potter” films.

     Dr. Wesley was a hymnist and a composer of several well-known choral anthems. The most well-known of those is “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace.” Here is a performance of that anthem by Consortium, with the score in the video which we can follow while listening: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ZD….

     Dr. Wesley was married to the sister of the Dean at Hereford Cathedral. They had a daughter, who preceded him in death. He was, at his request, buried next to her in St. Bartholomew’s Cemetery at Exeter by the Old City Wall.

     The lyrics we most commonly sing to Aurelia, “The Church’s One Foundation,” were written by a clergyman of the Church of England, Father Samuel John Stone (1839-1900). Father Stone was educated at Pembroke College in Oxford. His biographical information can be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samue….

     We now move on to the Ablutions Hymn.
Ablutions Hymn: #304, I Come With Joy to Meet My Lord    Land of Rest

     The purpose of the Ablutions Hymn in the liturgy is not only for allowing time while the priest washes the chalice and paten, but also for the purpose of reflection on having received the Eucharist. The ideal Ablutions Hymn is selected not only within the theology of Holy Communion, but also, if possible, in conjunction with the Scripture readings of the Mass.

     This particular Ablutions Hymn, “I Come with Joy to Meet My Lord,” was selected because of the reference to oneness in Christ through the Eucharist in verse 3. Verse 3 seems to fit the spirit of Christ being the foundation of the Church, as presented in the Gospel reading.

     The melody of the hymn, Land of Rest, is an American folk melody. The tune has its roots in English and Scottish tradition. Like many hymns with Scottish roots, it made its way into the hymnody of the Appalachian Mountains. It was published in the Sacred Harp hymnal of 1844. It was later adapted and harmonised by Annabel Morris Buchanan (1888-1983), a composer, organist, university professor, and musicologist who collected and harmonised American folk melodies.

     Annabel Buchanan was born in Groesbeck, Texas. She was a graduate of the Landon Conservatory of Music in Dallas, TX and the Guilmant Organ School in New York City. She became a professor of organ, piano, theory and composition in Texas, Oklahoma and most notably at Stonewall Jackson College in Abingdoll, Virginia. Her contributions to the preservation of Southern culture are featured in this article: http://engl080.web.unc.edu/about/.

     The lyrics of this hymn, “I Come with Joy to Meet My Lord,” were written by Dr. Brian A. Wren (b. 1936), an internationally recognised hymnist and writer from Romford, Essex, England. Wren is married to a United Methodist pastor, Reverend Susan M. Heafield. Brian Wren has the following degrees from Oxford University: a Bachelor of Arts in Modern Languages, a Bachelor of Arts in Theology, and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Old Testament Theology. He received an honourary doctorate in Humane Letters from the Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis in 2004. He was ordained as a minister in the United Reformed Church in 1965. He served in the British army for two years, from 1955 to 1957, before beginning his studies at Oxford. He wrote the text, “I Come with Joy,” in 1970. In addition to being a minister at numerous churches, he also was the Conant Professor of Worship at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia, USA, from 2000 to 2007. In 2007, he retired from that position and is now Professor Emeritus there. He is known for his hymns, his books and articles on worship, and his championship of the cause of inclusive language in hymnody.

     We now move on to the Final Hymn.

Final Hymn: #535, Ye Servants of God    Paderborn
     The lyrics to this hymn were written by Reverend Charles Wesley (1707-1788), whose life and work we have already discussed. The melody of this hymn, Paderborn, was published in the Catolisch-Paderbornisches Gesang-buch, a hymnal from 1765. The melody actually dates from 1616, from an earlier hymnal from the city of Paderborn, entitled Katholische Kirchengesänge (Catholic Church Songs). The version in the Hymnal 1982 was harmonised by Sir Sydney Hugo Nicholson (1875-1947), an English choral director, composer and organist who is famous for having founded the Royal School of Church Music. His biographical information can be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sydne….

     Sir Sydney Nicholson has the distinction of not only having been knighted into the Royal Victorian Order, but also having been buried at Westminster Abbey. If you recall, Henry Purcell, Esquire, one of the great composers of England, was buried there as well.

     Paderborn is a city in eastern North-Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. The river Pader runs near the city, which is how the city got its name. The bishopric of Paderborn was founded by Charlemagne in 795. Charlemagne had built a castle near the city in 777. Here is a picture of the cathedral at Paderborn.

Paderborn Cathedral in Paderborn, Germany: the cathedral dates back to the 13th century, and is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, Saint Killian and Saint Liborius, the patron saint of Paderborn.

     So, we have the distinction of having sung a hymn that is associated with a historical dwelling of Charlemagne! We still don’t know the name of the hymn tune’s original composer, but we do know that Sir Sydney Nicholson decided to harmonise the hymn for the Church of England after hearing it sung at Paderborn Cathedral when he was visiting Germany.

     The text of the hymn refers to the wisdom and sovereignty of Christ, which is in keeping with the Epistle reading, Romans 11: 33-36. The hymn is appropriately joyful for a final hymn at Mass during Ordinary Time.

     I hope you have enjoyed this article and have received a little bit of education and enlightenment by it. My next article will be about the music of our first Sunday in September of 2017.

In Christ,

Gabrielle Bronzich, M.M. Organist & Choirmaster, Holy Nativity Episcopal Church

The Organ Music for Sunday, August 27, 2017

     Greetings in Christ! I have been getting a bit behind in my article writing since our choir year began. We’re off to a glorious start, but in the meantime I have some Sundays to catch up on in terms of giving you a history of our music and composers offered up between late August and now, late September of 2017. So, this article will be on the subject of the organ music for Sunday, August 27, the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost, Ordinary Time. My next article will be about the hymns for that Sunday.
     For Sunday, August 27, the special instrumental music was not just offered to the Lord on organ, but also on voice and harp. First of all, I have gotten into the habit of beginning all of the prelude music for every Mass with not only instrumental music, but the chanting of the Benedictine Divine Office. This is really for a very simple and practical reason. As an Eastern Orthodox Christian, I personally have a certain prayer rule that I endeavour to fulfill each day. Each Orthodox Christian has a prayer rule that he/she follows daily, and this prayer rule is approved and blessed by his/her priest at his/her parish. My priest, Fr. Photius Avant, has blessed me to not only do regular Eastern Orthodox daily prayers, but also to do the Benedictine Office. I have a love for Western Rite prayer traditions, and as long as I use only those traditions that stay within the theology of the Orthodox Church, those prayers are allowed to me. The Rule of St. Benedict of Nursia is a time-honoured prayer tradition from the time before the schism between the Christian East and the Christian West. So, I am allowed and expected to do some Benedictine hours every day. Sunday is no exception.
     Well, I can either do those hours silently before playing the organ at Sunday Mass, or I can chant them. Chanting them is really what is called for, so that’s what I do. In doing a bit of Gregorian chant before Mass at Holy Nativity every Sunday, I accomplish two purposes: (1) keeping my prayer rule by doing the Office, as I’m supposed to do; and (2) aiding the prayer and meditation of the congregation before Mass. Every Sunday, I’ve been starting out my morning Lauds service before the 8:00 and 10:30 Masses. I start Lauds before the 8:00 Mass, and continue with Lauds before the 10:30 Mass. Sometimes, if I manage to finish Lauds between the two Masses, I go ahead and chant Terce (or Third Hour) before the 10:30 Mass. Sometimes, if I have missed a Vespers hymn from the night before because I was too tired to do Vespers, I’ll do that hymn before the 10:30 Mass. These Benedictine hours are done in accordance with the liturgical year, and these daily hours coincide precisely with the Anglican calendar and tradition, because the Benedictine tradition is the foundation of the Anglican one. Actually, Anglican prayer and liturgy is founded on two traditions: the Benedictine tradition, or the Rule of St. Benedict of Nursia, and the Sarum Rite. People seem to have responded well to this chanting before services. As long as no one minds, I’ll continue to do it.
     Here is an article that explains the Benedictine Divine Office, also known as the Liturgy of the Hours. It’s the Wikipedia article, and I like it because it does a little explaining not only about the Liturgy of the Hours in the Benedictine tradition but also in other traditions as well: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canon…. There are eight daily services that are basically prayed in the Rule of St. Benedict, which dates from the sixth century: Matins or Vigils (really late at night or really early in the morning), Lauds (technically at dawn but I’m never up that early!), Prime (about 7:00 or 8:00 A.M.), Terce (between 9:00 and 11:00 A.M.), Sext (Noon: this servie can be found in the Book of Common Prayer as Noon-day Prayers), None (3:00 P.M., or between then and 5:00), Vespers (Evening), and Compline (before going to bed). These services all fit with various times of day, which I have put in parentheses by the name of the service. I rarely have time to do all of them. I usually get about three of them done every day, and that’s enough. We do what we can, and don’t sweat about the rest.
     I should point out that I try to do the canonical hours as closely as possible as they would have been done before the Great Schism of 1054 A.D. Christians in the Orthodox Church look askance at changes made in the texts and structure of the hours after 1054 A.D. We do our best to use English translations of the original Latin texts of the hymns of St. Ambrose of Milan, instead of using the altered texts that were substituted for many of the originals between the medieval period and the sixteenth century. During the seventeenth century, major alterations were made to the Ambrosian hymns, alterations reflecting the Council of Trent. We don’t observe those! We watch vigilantly for any medieval and Renaissance theological revisions in the text which don’t conform to the Seven Ecumenical councils, Scripture or the early Church fathers. We’re picky that way. What can I say? To my general delight, I have found many Anglicans/Episcopalians who are equally as picky about texts and translations. I am grateful to be the Organist and Choirmaster in a parish that appreciates and encourages these efforts to be as true as possible to the early Church. That being said, I use the Monastic Diurnal published by Lancelot Andrewes Press, a reprint of the 1963 Oxford University Press edition, for my Benedictine Hours. However, I use the Septuagint Psalter from Holy Transfiguration Monastery for the psalter portion. When I spot the aforementioned alterations in the Latin translation of the Ambrosian hymns used in the services, I correct those as best I can with the original translation and write the corrections into my diurnal. For the most part, I haven’t needed to correct anything with the Sunday texts. It’s in the weekday texts and proper hymns of saints where the translation issues arise most often. 
     So, on Sunday, I chanted a bit of Lauds, as usual, before the Prelude. Then, for the Prelude, I played a medieval piece on the Celtic harp. So, let’s talk about the Prelude.

Prelude: Harp Solo: Edi Beo Thu, Hevene Quene & Ave Maris Stella   Saxon Marian hymn & Gregorian Chant Mode I, St. Gall manuscript, 9th century

     The special music for Sunday, August 27, was Marian in nature because there were two Marian feast days on the Episcopal calendar in August: the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin on August 15, listed on the Episcopal calendar as “St. Mary the Virgin,” and the Queenship of Mary on August 22. Edi Beo Thu, Hevene Quene is an English gymel (polyphonic vocal piece) from the 13th century, in Middle English. I listed it as a Saxon hymn, but technically the music is Welsh in origin. It comes from the Llanthony Priory, an old Augustinian priory, in Monmouth, Wales. The title of the song, Edi Beo Thu, Hevene Quene, means “Blessed be thou, heaven’s queen.” The title of Queen for the Virgin Mary is purely honorary and logical: Jesus is the King, so his mother is a queen. It’s not the same in meaning or context as the old Sumerian title for the goddess Inanna, “Queen of Heaven.” Some detractors of Marian veneration claim that calling the Virgin Mary “Queen” is the same as using the old pagan titles. No: it’s just an honourific, no more, no less. The text of Edi Beo Thu, Hevene Quene can be found at this link: https://mainlynorfolk.info/shirley….. Information on the Llanthony Priory can be found here: http://www.breconbeacons.org/llanth….
     I arranged the piece for the harp myself. I generally do my own arrangements, mostly improvised, because there are limits to what can be played on that little Celtic harp of mine up in the organ loft. My Celtic harp has a name: Ciarán, after St. Ciarán of Clonmacnoise (c. 516-549 A.D.). The name is pronounced “KEE-rawn.”
     Here is a lovely vocal performance of Edi Beo Thu, Hevene Quene by the Anonymous Four: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BDh….
     The second piece I played on the harp was simply a Celtic-style rendition of the Gregorian chant Ave Maris Stella. The Ave Maris Stella is the standard Vespers hymn for all Marian feasts in the Benedictine diurnal (book of the daily Liturgy of the Hours). As a hymn, the Ave Maris Stella dates to the Church before the Great Schism of 1054. In fact, it dates exactly to the ninth century, for it appears in a manuscript from the Abbey of St. Gall in Switzerland. Nobody knows who actually wrote it. Some people think it was St. Bernard of Clairvaux, but the date on the manuscript is too early for that. This link provides the Latin text, its translation, and its history with a little list of the people thought variously to have written it: http://www.preces-latinae.org/thesa…. But there’s no proof that any of them did in fact write it.
     The melody I used for the hymn is the Gregorian chant from the Liber Usualis, a book published in 1961 with all of the standard Gregorian chants for the Daily Office. Most all of those chants date from the Middle Ages. One or two might could be traced to an earlier time. The chants in the book are in medieval notation. I cannot find the exact date of the standard chant for the Ave Maris Stella, but I do know that it appears as a cantus firmus (“fixed song,” literally, a melody upon which a piece of music is composed, often shown in the bass line in elongated notes) in vocal and instrumental music as early as the fourteenth century.
     Here is a graphic of the Ave Maris Stella in modern notation.

The standard melody for the “Ave Maris Stella” from the Liber Usualis, shown here in modern notation from the St. Gregory Hymnal
     We will now move on to the next organ piece and a vocal solo during the Offertory.

Offertory Music:
8:00 Mass Organ Solo: Magnificat: Suite du premier ton (Suite on the Magnificat, First Tone)    Jean-Adam Guilain (c. 1680-1740)

10:30 Mass Vocal Solo: Ave Maria (text in Latin)     Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
Judy Craig, Mezzo-Soprano

     For the 8:00 Mass, the organ piece was again Marian in nature, being an example of a couplet, a small organ piece following a portion of Gregorian chant, from the Magnificat. The Suite du premier ton (Suite on the First Tone) was written by Jean-Adam Guilain (c. 1680-1740). His biography can be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-…. The most interesting fact about him was that he wasn’t French at all. He was a German who moved to Paris in 1702, and then wrote organ and harpsichord music in the French style. His original name was Johann Adam Wilhelm Freinsberg! As you will see from the article on his life, not much is known about him. The Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians states that he was friends with famous Baroque French organist, harpsichordist and composer Louis Marchand. Marchand’s biography can be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis….
     Guilain may have studied with Marchand. It is pure speculation as to whether he studied with Marchand, or just befriended Marchand. We can surmise that Guilain had a devotion to the Mother of God, because he wrote Magnificat suites for the organ on all eight Gregorian chant tones. Why did he move from Germany to France? My guess would be that France had become the cultural and musical center of Europe by that time. Any man who wanted to succeed in music moved to France, and attached himself to the court and musical world of King Louis XIV. For that matter, there were women who succeeded also as musicians at King Louis XIV’s court. There was a notable female composer in King Louis XIV’s court, Élisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre (1665-1729). But that’s another story for another time.
     If you look at Guilain’s music, you’ll see that there’s nothing in it resembling the Magnificat chant on the first tone at all. So, this suite on the Magnificat was a through-composed piece with the movements written to compliment the chant rather than highlight the chant as the basis of the composition. If the chant is in Guilain’s piece somewhere, it’s clouded completely by his melodies and ornamentation. There are other composers, like Nicolas de Grigny (1672-1703), who use a clear cantus firmus (fixed melody of chant used often in the bass) of the original chant. But in this piece, the clear intent is to interpret the text of the Magnificat emotionally and spiritually. It is a lovely, reverent piece to use for the preparation of the altar. It starts out very seriously and ponderously in the first movement (or couplet), and then moves into more joyful moods with the subsequent couplets. Just for clarification, I’ve posted a graphic below of the Magnificat in its Tone 1 setting, or at least the first phrase.
     Now we’ll talk about Judy Craig’s lovely solo for the 10:30 Mass, the Ave Maria by Franz Schubert (1797-1828). Judy Craig sings in the soprano section of our choir, and has been singing solo pieces at Holy Nativity for many years.
     The Ave Maria by Schubert is possibly his most famous piece of music ever written. George Gershwin once said that he would trade every gift he had as a composer if he could write one song that approached the quality of Schubert’s Ave Maria.
     Schubert’s biography can be found here: https://www.biography.com/people/fr…. One interesting fact about him was that he had prodigious musical gifts even as a child. As a child, he was skilled at playing the organ, the violin, and the piano. He also sang beautifully. He received his earliest musical training in the bosom of his family, from his father and his older brother. Another fact I found interesting about Schubert was that, like me, he left the field of school teaching. He had a hard time making a living as a composer, until the publication of his songs in 1821. Things got better for him during that year, but by 1822 he was facing difficulties again. His financial situation was characterized by ups and downs for the rest of his life. He should have left teaching for church music, like me! In the field of music, the two most solid ways to make a living are by teaching or working for a church. There are people who make a living by performance or by conducting, but in order to do that, one has to be very talented and one must have connections, great social skills, and skills in advertising and PR. For most musicians, composing is usually a sideline. The only way a composer can make a decent salary is if he or she composes music that is popular. In Schubert’s day, the popular music was opera. Also, in Schubert’s day, it was still quite essential that composers have noble patronage for their work. His decision to strike out on his own without obtaining a patron led to his difficulties, and the health problems which ultimately claimed his life. If he had been smart like Haydn, he would have found himself a job with a prince or some other royal appointment. Fortunately, he was able to move in with his brother Ferdinand at the end of his life.
     The odd fact about Schubert’s Ave Maria is that it was not originally composed with the liturgical text of the Hail Mary. It was not composed as a sacred solo for church usage at all. It was a song based on an epic poem by Sir Walter Scott, The Lady of the Lake. The Lady of the Lake in Scott’s poem is not the traditional Lady of the Lake from Arthurian legend, but a Scottish lady named Ellen Douglas who lives on Loch Katrine in the Scottish Highlands, during the time of King James V of Scotland. The story is entirely fictional. Ellen sings the Ave Maria when she is in a state of distress, in Canto III of the poem. Here is an article on the poem and its story: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_L…. Schubert’s Ave Maria was a German translation of that portion of the poem. Despite the piece having secular origins, it has found wide usage in the Church as a Marian prayer. The German text has nothing theologically wrong with it, but most people prefer to sing the Latin text of the Hail Mary when using Schubert’s piece in church. Judy Craig sang the Latin text.
     Here is a beautiful YouTube performance of Schubert’s Ave Maria, with the German text, by soprano Barbara Bonney: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CM0….
The next organ piece for Mass on August 27 was a piece played for Communion.

Communion Music: Organ Solo: Aria    Dr. Gordon Young (1919-1998)

This piece was not Marian, because I never play Marian pieces during Communion. During Communion, I want the congregation to focus on receiving the Body of Christ. So, any organ piece I select will either be directly connected with Christ in a Scriptural or textual capacity, or it will be a non-descript sort of piece which has a meditative quality to it. The Aria by Gordon Young is an example of a non-descript piece. It is from a suite of pieces he wrote as an homage to the Baroque organ tradition. The suite is called, appropriately enough, the Baroque Suite. Dr. Gordon Young wrote it in 1963. It has four movements: (1) Plein jeu à la Couperin, (2) Marche Petite, (3) Aria, and (4) Toccata. The Aria is a very nice piece with a gentle, meditative quality. I find it easy to play. It is in F minor, with the melody played on a reed stop (or other solo stop) and a chordal accompaniment in the left hand and a simple pedal line. I can’t find any YouTube performances of it that aren’t annoying because of choice of registration, background noise, or choice of tempo. So, in time, I’ll record myself playing it and share that.
     Dr. Gordon Young was born in McPherson, Kansas on October 15, 1919. He was an organist and a composer of organ and choral works. He received his Bachelor Degree in Music from Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas. He then received a scholarship to study with organist Andrew McCurdy at Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. In 1964, he returned to Southwestern where he completed his doctorate in Sacred Music. He received 18 composition awards consecutively from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. He wrote over 800 works, and many of his organ pieces have become standard repertoire. He was considered one of the most brilliant organists ever to grace the field in America. During the course of his long career, he worked as a radio organist in Tulsa, OK, a critic and columnist for newspapers in Oklahoma and Pennsylvania, choirmaster at churches in Philadelphia and Kansas City, organ professor at Wayne State University for fifteen years, and choir director at First Presbyterian Church in Detroit. He died on October 2, 1998, in St. Clair Shores, Michigan. The only personal information I could find on Dr. Young is that he was the son of a minister. There is no information on whether or not he married or had children; it seems that he did not.
     The last organ piece we’ll discuss today will be the postlude.

Postlude: Ave Maris Stella: 1. Plein jeu à 5 & 3. Duo   Nicolas de Grigny (1672-1703)

     This piece, another Marian piece based on the hymn we discussed earlier, Ave Maris Stella, is an example of a French organ piece based on a cantus firmus. De Grigny has placed the Gregorian melody of the Ave Maris Stella in the pedal line during the first movement. The registration called for is a plein jeu, which is a combination of principal stops and reeds. For anyone who isn’t familiar with these terms, a principal is a basic sound on the organ. It’s a building block for all other sounds. With the melody in the bass line during the first movement of De Grigny’s suite, I had to be careful not to let the reeds selected for the manuals drown out those of the pedal. The third movement, the Duo, is a dance-like, merry piece that is more of a reflection on the chant than a piece based on the chant. For this, I used a registration of principals and solo stops (the Tierce 1 and 3/5 and the Nasard 2 and 2/3 stops) on the Great. I put a reed registration on the Swell. I played the Duo on two manuals. (For anyone unfamiliar with organ terms, the term “manual” simply refers to the keyboards on which we play. The organ at Holy Nativity has three manuals, or three keyboards).
     It is important not to play either of these pieces too fast. The reason I selected these two movements instead of the whole suite is that these movements are uplifting spiritually. The third movement, the Duo, is a joyful piece of music for ending the worship service. It is also a good celebratory piece to play in honour of Marian feast days.
     De Grigny’s movements in his suites are called versets, instead of couplets. He tends to use a Gregorian chant melody in every first movement of each suite. His book of organ music, his Livre d’Orgue, was copied by Johann Sebastian Bach and Johann Gottfried Walther. (Remember that if you wanted new music back then, you often had to travel to the composer’s home town and hand-copy it yourself).
     It’s of singular interest that Nicolas de Grigny wrote pieces in honour of the Mother of God, since he was baptized on the feast of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, September 8, 1672. He died quite young, at the age of thirty-one. He was born in Reims, France, in the parish of Saint-Pierre-le-Vieil. Here is his biographical information: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicol…. He was married to a merchant’s daughter, Marie-Magdeleine de France, and had seven children by her. His first child was a boy, born in 1696. Being an organist was a family tradition. His grandfather, his father and his uncle were organists. His brother André was the sub-prior at the abbey church of St. Denis in Paris, where Nicolas served as organist from 1693 to 1695. He left Paris for his home town not long after his marriage, which was in 1695.
     Nicolas de Grigny’s grave was unfortunately destroyed in World War I. Here is a link with a photo of the church where he was buried, the 13th-century Église de Saint-Michel. The church is in ruins. https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/…. The ruins have never been torn down because the French government declared them a historic landmark in 1920. Here is a picture of the door of the church, from an earlier drawing:

The door of the Église de Saint Michel in Reims

     Last but not least, here is another picture of the church, from a 19th-century drawing. I hope you have enjoyed this article.

In Christ,
Gabrielle Bronzich, Organist & Choirmaster, Holy Nativity Episcopal Church

Church of Saint Michael in Reims, burial place of Nicolas de Grigny, as it looked during the 19th century. The church was destroyed in WWI.