Music from this Past Sunday

Lent III – 27 March
Morning Prayer II

Please click on the links below to hear music from this service. 

Parry: Elegy

Hymn 671: Amazing grace! how sweet the sound (New Britain)

Psaslm 116:1-4, 10-16 (Plainsong, Tone ii)

Hymn 685: Rock of Ages, cleft for me (Toplady)

Sitton: Tantum ergo sacramentum*

Elgar: O salutaris hostia*

Hymn: Alas! and did my Savior bleed

*For text, translation, and commentary on these two anthems please check the post on the Eucharistic hymns of St Thomas Aquinas here.

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Ohio Northern University Singers

What a great concert this was!  And what a pleasure to host my old college choir here at Trinity.  Kristine and I were delighted to have such a wonderful turnout, and we were especially pleased and proud of how well they sang.  They sounded ten times better than we ever did when we were in school!

Thank you to those choir members who helped with preparing and serving the meal to the singers prior to the concert, and a special thank you to those of you who hosted students at your homes.

For those of you who missed the concert (or for those of you who heard it and liked it), here are a few highlights.  Please click on the links below to hear the recordings:

Sleep (Eric Whitacre)

Tres Cantos Nativitos (Marcos Leite)

Be thou my vision (Paul Basler)

John the Revelator (arr. Caldwell, Ivory)

Additional pictures of the evening’s festivities at the Trinity Shutterfly site here.

For more information about University Singers and Ohio Northern, please visit the ONU Music Department homepage here.

St. Thomas Aquinas and Those ‘Old Time’ Eucharistic Hymns

 
St. Thomas Aquinas

 The focus on the Lord’s Supper during these weeks of Lent suggests the use of music based on some of the most ancient and venerable texts associated with the Communion liturgy.  One particularly rich source of these texts is the hymns of St. Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225-1274) written for a feast day specifically devoted to the Eucharist.

The feast is a Catholic observance known as the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ or, more traditionally, Corpus Christi–Latin for “the body of Christ.”  This feast day falls on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday because the first Eucharist was on Maundy Thursday, and the Thursday after Trinity is the first Thursday not during Easter Season (i, e., the first liturgically “open” Thursday).  Unlike most feast days, Corpus Christi does not commemorate a specific event in the life of Jesus, which is why Protestants don’t generally observe it; but its purpose was to celebrate and give thanks for the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper.

Corpus Christi was established in 13th century by Pope Urban IV, who commissioned Thomas Aquinas to write a number of hymns to be a part of the Corpus Christi liturgy.  Aquinas was a Dominican monk, and his writings may be viewed through the lens of the re-discovery of the great Classical philosophers after the so-called “dark ages.”  His work gives expression to the relationship between the facts of everyday life and the teachings of the church.  In short, he tries to make sense of life without destroying its mystery, and without corrupting Christian teaching into secular philosophy.  Some of the hymns written by Thomas Aquinas for the feat of Corpus Christi include:

Lauda Sion salvatorem
(Hymn 320: Zion, praise your Savior, singing)

Tantum ergo sacramentum
(Hymn 330: Therefore we, before him bending)

Pange lingua corperis
(Hymn 329/331: Now, my tongue, the mystery telling)

O salutaris hostia
(Hymn 310/311: O saving Victim)

Adoro te devote
(Hymn 314: Humbly I adore thee)

 as well as Panis angelicus (Bread of angels), which is best-known as a very beautiful solo by the 19th-century Belgian  organist and composer Cesar Franck.

Edward Elgar, Michael Sitton

Because these texts are over 700 years old, generations of composers have had a chance to set them to music in many different styles.  The examples we have this week are a lush version of O salutaris hostia by the 19th-century composer Edward Elgar, and a lyrical unison Tantum ergo by the contemporary American composer (and North Carolina native) Michael Sitton. 

Tantum ergo sacramentum

Translation:

So let us devoutly revere this great sacrament
and the old covenant may give way to the new rite.
May faith grant assistance to the deficiency of our senses.

To the Begetter and the Begotten let there be praise and jubilation,
salvation and honor, power and blessing;
and to Him that proceeds from the two let there be equal praise be. 

 Comments on the text: 

These are the final two stanzas of Aquinas’s hymn, Pange lingua corperis, which are sometimes used on thier own as a separate piece.

Old Covenant: Passover;
New Rite: Lord’s Supper

“The deficiency of our senses…”
see John 20:29, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

Begetter: God the Father;
Begotten: God the Son

“Praise and jubilation, / salvation and honor, power and blessing…”
see Rev. 5:13, like the final chorus in Handel’s Messiah

“Him that proceeds…”
refers to the Holy Spirit.  See the Nicene Creed: “…who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified…”

O salutaris hostia

Translation:

O saving victim
who opens the gate of heaven,
hostile wars press on us:
give strength, bring aid.

To the Lord, three in one,
be everlasting glory,
for life without end
he gives us in our homeland.

Comments:

This text is also excerpted from a longer hymn, Verbum supernum prodiens. 

The incompatibility of the two words “saving” and “Victim” are not to be overlooked.  It is one of the great paradoxes of our faith, that Christ can be both “…Priest and Victim in the Eucharistic feast” (Hymn 460).   In fact, the Latin word for Victim–hostia–is the source of “host” as a term referring to sacramental bread.

The first stanza is quite a plea for help and it is worth noting that, even though the path to heaven is made open by the atoning sacrifice of Christ’s death, Aquinas has no expectation that sin and strife will magically stop in our lives.  If anything, the Eucharist is a visible reminder of our dependence on God, and a token of his promise to bring us at length “in our homeland.”

The second stanza of O salutaris hostia (like the second stanza of Tantum ergo) is a doxology–that is, an ascription of glory to the three Persons of the Trinity.

Midday Music Moments in Georgetown

This past Wednesday, March 23, I had the opportunity to travel down to Georgetown to play at Prince George Winyah Episcopal Church, where my friend Jonathan Blamire is the organist and Choirmaster.  I played for a weekly series they have (that’s every week, not just during Lent) called Midday Musical Moments.  Held on Wednesdays at noon, these services are like a mini-recital organized around the order for Noonday Prayer (pp. 103-107 in the Book of Common Prayer or online here).  This service include a hymn, a psalm, a brief lesson, some prayers, and a nice variety of classical music.  It lasts for about thirty minutes. 

The organ at Prince George is a modest Cassovant from the late 1960’s.  I think it is something like 12 stops  (15 ranks) on two manuals, but I found it to be a sweet-sounding instrument that played easily.  I was surprised at the flexibility and variety of sound that was possible on an instrument that is so small.

Now that spring has sprung, if you are looking for a change of scenery or a mini-day trip I would highly commend taking a little drive down to Georgetown on a Wednesday to catch one of these Midday Musical Moments.  Prince George Winyah is a very old and wonderfully charming church building with a lovely cemetery–they have old-style pew boxes in the nave, some of which are carved with 200 year-old graffiti!  Georgetown is quite pretty just now, and there are some nice shops and restaurants.  Of course the Rice Paddy is a perpetual favorite, but I also recommend Portofino’s, right in Front Street overlooking the river–that’s where we ate and it was quite good (and we saw Bishop Allison there, as well).

Below are recordings of some of the things that I played this past Wednesday. 

Midday Musical Moments
Prince George Winyah, Georgetown
Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Hymn 150: Forty days and forty nights (Aus der tiefe)

Walther: Freu dich sehr, O meine Seele (Hymn 67)

Mathias: Canzonetta

Busarow: Schmücke dich, O liebe Seele (Hymn 339)

Boyce: Voluntary No. 2 in G

For full details about the Midday Musical Moments as well as the other aspects of the fine music ministry at Prince George, please visit their website here.

Music from this past Sunday

Lent I – March 13
Morning Prayer II

Click on the links below to hear music from this service.

Prelude: ‘Michael’ (Charles Callahan)

Hymn 665: All my hope on God is founded (Michael)

Invitatory Psalm: Venite

Psalm 138 (Plainsong, Tone ii)

Hymn 302: Father, we thank thee who hast planted (Rendez a Dieu)

Gospel Canticle: Benedictus

Marshall: Eternal light
text at Hymn 465

Haan: I will lift up mine eyes
Psalm 121:1-2

Hymn 691: My faith looks up to thee (Olivet)