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.

Choir Notes: Holy Week

by Clarence Zuvekas

Sunday, April 14

At the beginning of the Palm Sunday service, we will sing Ride On, Jesus, a traditional spiritual arranged by Jens Klimek (b. 1984), a prolific German choral composer and director. Our anthem will be O Mortal Man—the traditional Sussex Mummers Carol—arranged by John Scott (1956-2015). Scott spent 26 years at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, where he was named organist and director of music in 1990. In 2004 he moved to New York to occupy the same posts at St. Thomas Church on Fifth Avenue.

Thursday, April 18

On Maundy Thursday we will be singing Anthems at the Mandatum, composed by Nicholas White (b. 1967) specifically for the foot washing on this day. Mandatum is the Latin word for commandment. The text of this composition is from the 13th Chapter of St. John’s Gospel and Psalm 85.

Born in London, White moved to the United States in 1989. One of his posts was assistant organist and choirmaster at Washington National Cathedral (1994-98). In addition to composing, White has been active as a conductor, singer, organist and pianist.

Friday, April 19

Our anthem for Good Friday is Crux Fidelis, the text of which is attributed to the Italian poet Venantius Fortunatus (c. 530/540-c. 600/609). The music is thought to be composed by King João (John) IV of Portugal (1604- 1656). When not busy seeking alliances (especially with France) to preserve Portuguese independence from Spain, John IV busied himself with hunting, music and other artistic pursuits.

The music for Crux Fidelis was edited by the English conductor and composer of church music, John Rutter (b. 1945).

Saturday, April 20

Christus Vincit (“Christ Has Conquered”), by Joseph Noyon (1888-1962). is our anthem for the Easter Vigil Service. Noyon served as organist and/or choir director at several Parisian churches and also directed the choirs of French Radio and Television Broadcasting. His Christus Vincit has been arranged by the American organist, choir director and composer, Gerre Hancock (1934-2012).

Sunday, April 21

Our Easter anthem is He Is Risen, by the English organist and composer Percy Whitlock (1903-1946). Whitlock’s goal was to be a cathedral organist, but as an organist in Bournemouth (from 1930), he is remembered more for “pops” performances in a municipal series than for his post at St. Stephen’s Church. Likewise, as a composer he is known mainly for “light” music, although he wrote a symphony for organ and orchestra and other more substantial works. As usual, we will close the service with Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus.

Sunday, April 28

The choir will take its traditional post-Easter break.

Choir Notes: March 3, 2019

Thomas TallisThomas Tallis (c. 1505-1585), England’s pre-eminent 16th century composer, lived under four monarchs, both Catholic and Protestant.

While he probably leaned toward Catholicism, he managed to adapt his composing to the often-confusing prevailing winds, as well as to the influences of composers from the European continent.

O nata lux de lumine (O Light Born of Light) is one of about 15 Latin motets written during the reign of Elizabeth I, who permitted compositions in both English and Latin.

— Clarence Zuvekas