Adam Detzner in Alkmaar!

Adam Detzner, our Minister of Music, organist and choir director, is competing in the 15th International Schnitger Organ Competition in Alkmaar, Netherlands.  Again this year, Adam is the only American selected to participate in this important competition.

Adam competed in the first round of competition on June 23rd and was one of six selected (out of the nine competitors) to progress to the second round.  Round 2 will be on Monday, June 26th and will reduce the field to three competitors.  The final round will be on June 29th, when the three finalists will compete for the grand prize.

Please keep Adam in your prayers!

An update from the Music Search Committee

The music search committee has been meeting online since the stay-at-home order began. Our most recent work has involved the paring down of candidates based on their resumes and, in some cases, based on sample video clips they have submitted. The resumes we received from many of the candidates were very impressive, which made the “paring down” process challenging, but our search committee has reduced the pool to ten candidates. For the search committee, the most important part of our search process will be the in-person audition, where our finalists in the search will demonstrate their qualifications. In addition to keyboard skills, we also plan for each of the finalists to spend time with our choir in a rehearsal session to get a sense of how they work with people.

It was my intent to move forward with hiring our Minister of Music/Organist until the recent release of a report by a joint commission of the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) and the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA). In this report, the commission outlined the heightened risk of the spread of COVID-19 infection by singers. Apparently, singing has become risky business in this environment.

Hopefully you all are aware that for the foreseeable future, sacred music as part of our gathered worship will be dramatically different than what we are accustomed to, and the pandemic will certainly sideline most choral groups for some time. Because we don’t have clarity about when or how choral music can return as part of our worship together, I do not believe we can protect St. Alban’s staff, volunteer singers, and our parish family from COVID-19 infection. Because of the current environment, I have reluctantly decided to suspend our search for a full-time choirmaster/organist.

I am determined to move forward with this process when there is a clear path to doing so safely and long-term. I have reached out to each of the remaining candidates to assure them that my intent is to resume the search process at such time as hiring a full-time musician becomes feasible. Of course, I will keep our parish family up to date on the activities of the music search committee when we are reactivated and are able to continue our work.

Choir Notes: St. Alban’s Day

by Clarence Zuvekas

David BlackwellSunday, June 23 — Our anthem for St. Alban’s Day is O Thou, Whose All Redeeming Might, an arrangement of a plainsong tune by David Blackwell (b. 1961).

Blackwell previously headed music publishing at Oxford University Press and now freelances as a composer, arranger, writer and editor. He and his wife, Kathy, have written books for young string players and have conducted workshops on string teaching in Europe, Asia and Australia.

The text of today’s anthem is an English translation, by the Anglican cleric R.M. Benson (1824-1915), of an 8th century hymn.

Note: After the June 23 service, the choir will be taking its summer break.

Choir Notes: I Will Not Leave You Comfortless

by Clarence Zuvekas

Sunday, June 16 — American composer Everett Titcomb (1884-1968) was influenced by the Second New England School of musicians (George Chadwick, Horatio Parker, et al.), French music, and, most notably, the plainchant and polyphonic traditions of 15th -16th century Italy.  He was largely responsible for reintroducing the latter forms into the Episcopal Church.

Titcomb served for 50 years as organist and choirmaster at the Church of St. John the Evangelist in Boston, whose choir is now merged with that of St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral. We will be singing his Pentecost motet, I Will Not Leave You Comfortless, the sixth of his Eight Short Motets for the Greater Festivals of the Church.

Choir Notes: Holy Spirit, Truth Divine

by Clarence Zuvekas

Sunday, June 9 — This Sunday’s anthem is Holy Spirit, Truth Divine, by the English composer Andrew Carter (b. 1939). It is set to a text by Samuel Longfellow (1819-1892), younger brother of the more famous Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Carter attended Leeds University, joined the York Minster Choir as a bass, and founded the Chapter House Choir at York Minster (York Cathedral) in 1965. His compositions include organ and choral works.

Carter was invited to compose a mass to celebrate the 300th anniversary of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London in 1997. As a choral director, he has traveled widely in Europe, Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

Choir Notes: Thy Perfect Love

by Clarence Zuvekas

Sunday, June 2 — London-born John Rutter (b. 1945) has written a large body of sacred music: anthems, carols, a Requiem and other choral works, as well as orchestral and other secular music. He has also has made significant contributions as an arranger and editor.

Rutter studied at Cambridge and stayed on to found The Cambridge Singers in 1981. He still conducts this ensemble, which records on its own label, Collegium. For his services to music, Rutter was awarded a Lambeth Doctorate of Music by the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1996, and a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in the Queen’s New Year Honours List in 2007.

Some “hoity-toity musical gurus” and avant-garde composers have not considered Rutter to be a serious composer, because his music is too tuneful; but how many people listen to the music of Pierre Boulez? On June 2, the St. Alban’s Choir will be singing Rutter’s anthem, Thy Perfect Love, the text of which dates from the 15th century.

Choir Notes: Rise Up, My Love, My Fair One

by Clarence Zuvekas

Sunday, May 26 — Healey Willan (1880-1968) was born in England but came to Canada in 1913 to head the Theory Department at the Toronto (now Royal) Conservatory of Music. He is often referred to as the dean of Canadian composers.

Although he wrote more than 800 works in a variety of genres, Willan is best known as a composer of church music, including the Missa de Sancta Maria Magdalena (S-91, S-114, S-158, S-202 in our Hymnal, parts of which we have sung when using Rite I).

From 1921 until his death, Willan served as organist and choirmaster at Toronto’s Church of St. Mary Magdalene, an Anglo-Catholic congregation, where he “waged constant war on mediocre church music.” Our anthem for today is Willan’s Rise up, My Love, My Fair One, the last of the Three Motets in Honour of Our Lady.

Choir Notes: O Taste and See

by Clarence Zuvekas

Sunday, May 19 — Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) composed or arranged many of our Hymnal tunes, some of which came from English folk traditions. He also wrote nine symphonies and numerous other works in various genres.

RVW was born in the Gloucestershire village of Down Ampney, where his father was vicar of the Church of All Saints. He studied with Sir Hubert Parry at the Royal College of Music, earned degrees in both music and history from Cambridge University, and later studied with Sir Charles Villiers Stanford and Max Bruch.

We will be singing RVW’s anthem, O Taste and See, the text of which is from Psalm 34, verse 8. It was composed for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II on June 2, 1953.

Choir Notes: My Shepherd Will Supply My Need

by Clarence Zuvekas

Sunday, May 12 — One of the great musical settings of Psalm 23 is the arrangement by the American composer Virgil Thomson (1896-1989) of My Shepherd Will Supply My Need. The text was penned by Isaac Watts (1674-1748), who is regarded as the father of English hymnody.

The tune arranged by Thomson is an American composition of unknown provenance. It first appeared in print in an 1828 collection of hymns, and, in a form more familiar to us, it was included in the 1854-55 Southern Harmony collection. Thomson studied music at Harvard and, like Aaron Copland and many other of his American contemporaries, in Paris, with the revered composition teacher Nadia Boulanger (whose students addressed her simply as “Mademoiselle”).

Thomson composed in almost every genre, including film scores, one of which (Louisiana Story) won the Pulitzer Prize for music in 1949. He was also an influential music critic.

Choir Notes: This Joyful Eastertide

by Clarence Zuvekas

Sunday, May 5 — Returning from our post-Easter break, we will follow tradition and sing This Joyful Eastertide, a harmonization by Charles Wood (1866-1926) of a Dutch tune published in 1685. It appears in our Hymnal as No. 192, with a text by the Anglican priest, George Ratcliffe Woodward (1848-1934).

Charles Wood was born in County Armagh, Northern Ireland, and studied with noted composers Sir Charles Villiers Stanford and Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry at the Royal College of Music (RCM) in London. Later, as a Professor at the RCM and Cambridge, Wood taught Ralph Vaughan Williams (more about him in our May 19 service) and Herbert Howells. Although best-known for his sacred music, he wrote eight string quartets, co-edited (with Woodward) three books of carols, and founded the Irish Folk Song Society.