the Episcopal Church of the Holy Comforter
The Rev. Rosa Lindahl
March 30, 2023
Message from Your Rector and Musical Musings:
Holy Week 2023 and Sacred Music, Part I
Dearest Holy Comforter Family,
Over the course of this Season of Lent, our regular Sunday Eucharist became increasingly spare and quiet, opening spaces between each of the parts and moments that make up our liturgy each week. During Holy Week, everything changes. The events we remember are both so horrifying and then so glorious that words aren’t enough to express the gamut of human responses this week elicits. We need the music! Randy Foster, our Organist and Choir Director, has the daunting job of selecting music each year and we are so fortunate 2 have him as part of our ministry. This year Randy took the time to put down on paper the large and small “back stories” of the music we will hear in church during Holy Week. In this newsletter, we have included the first part that covers Palm Sunday, now also known as Sunday of the Passion, and Maundy Thursday. The week after Easter, the newsletter we'll include the second-half of Randy’s musings. I hope knowing some of the details of the glorious music awaiting us next week will make it is even more beautiful and meaningful as it helps us walk into Jerusalem and towards the Cross. Rosa+
On Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday, the processional is the familiar text, “All glory, laud, and honor” set to a tune by Melchior Teschner (1584-1635) , composed in 1613 as a hymn for the dying in response to the plague in his hometown. The choral Offertory anthem is “Lord Jesus Christ, my Life, my Light” composed by Harald Rohlig (1926-2014) who was for many years music professor at Huntingdon
College, and organist/choirmaster at Saint John’s Church in Montgomery. He was a prolific composer of both organ and choral music, internationally recognized concert organist, and renowned improviser. Dr. Rohlig’s sensitive and beautiful setting of Martin Behm’s text (entitled “Prayer for a happy journey home, based upon the sufferings of Christ”) seems the perfect response from us to Matthew’s telling of Christ’s passion and suffering. The concluding organ voluntary is a somewhat introspective composition by Benjamin Cornelius-Bates, based on “King’s Weston” by Ralph Vaughn Williams.
Carson Cooman’s “Mediation on Ubi caritas” is the organ voluntary on Maundy Thursday. It is based on the Gregorian melody, a setting of the text “Where charity and love are, God is there,” one of the most beloved plainchant melodies long used as an antiphon for the washing of feet at this service. As this year’s service during the washing, the choir will sing a lovely arrangement by Moonyeen Albrecht of S.B. McManus’ poem to a tune of many names, the most common of which is “Twenty Fourth.” In the Sacred Harp it’s called PRIMROSE, with words by Isaac Watts and tune by a singing school master (and cabinet maker) from Massachusetts named Amzi Chapin. (Or possibly his older brother Lucius, a veteran of Ticonderoga and Valley Forge who was also a singing master. It’s been attributed to both.) No, I don’t know why the Chapin brothers — or their editors — chose the tune names they did. The names of early American hymn tunes can be quite arbitrary. It first appeared in Amzi’s tunebook, A Collection of Tunes (1812), and it got into both Southern Harmony and the Sacred Harp in the 1830s and 40s. It has appeared, with different texts set to it, in 28 hymnals over the years; like other early American folk hymn melodies, it has been revived in mainline denominational hymnals.
One of the most beautiful hymns by English composer and hymnist John Ireland is his music for Samuel Crossman’s 1664 poem “My Song Is Love Unknown.” Crossman, a Puritan minister, was exiled from the Church of England and wrote the last verse of this hymn as a tribute to George Herbert. Ireland is said to have composed the tune, ”Love Unknown,” in fifteen minutes at lunch one day on the back of a menu. His tune brought the text out of the obscurity it had fallen into during the Victorian period. Martin How (1931-2022) was a British composer and organist. He spent most of his life on staff and in support of the Royal School of Church Music, mainly as a choir trainer concentrating on training and motivation of young singers. His “Lenten Litany” is a beautiful piece that blends a series of prayers to the Trinity with the elating of the suffering and glorification of Christ at the Father’s side.
With prayers for a blessed Holy Week, Rosa+ and Randy