Category: Music

The recently observed Feast of the Presentation (also known as “Candlemas”) reminded me of an interesting YouTube video, a bit of living history, that I ran across some years ago. In 1997, a reconstruction of a Sarum rite Candlemas liturgy was conducted at Merton Chapel, Oxford.  The following link is to one portion of the service:

“Sarum” refers to medieval English worship practices centered at Salisbury Cathedral. The codification of the Sarum use was largely the work of Saint Osmund, nephew of William the Conqueror, who after the 1066 Norman conquest became Lord Chancellor of England (1070-1078) and then Bishop of Salisbury in 1078. His ceremonies and customs owe much to those of Rouen in Normandy, but were adapted in a way that he hoped would benefit both the French and the Saxons. It is noted that the Sarum rituals were more elaborate than other rites of the Roman Catholic Church, including the Tridentine.

In time the Sarum use came to dominate much of England, and the other rites (those of York, Lincoln, Aberdeen, Bangor, and Hereford, among others) were suppressed by King Henry VIII. The Sarum Rite influenced, and was in turn displaced by, the English language Book of Common Prayer after Henry’s death. Sarum usage enjoyed a brief revival from 1553-1559, under Queen Mary I.

The snippet of the Candlemas service above shows the Offertory. From the comments, I am informed that the background music is ‘Gaude, Gaude, Mater’ by John Sheppard. The musicians are from the Choir of the Church of Our Lady at Lisson Grove in London.

You can view the entire service in a series of YouTube installments, thanks to a YouTuber who calls himself “BrunoTheLabrador”.

This performance is by the London Symphony Orchestra and Tenebrae chorus under the direction of Sir Colin Davis.

We are God’s Hands

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The other day I was dropping my son off at wrestling practice when a lyric from a song on the radio jumped out at me and grabbed my attention. It was from the Matthew West song “Do Something.” The singer describes awakening and seeing the moral evils of “a world full of trouble,” including poverty and children being sold into slavery.” The following words grabbed my attention:

The thought disgusted me
So, I shook my fist at Heaven
Said, “God, why don’t You do something?”
He said, “I did, I created you”

This is s sobering reminder that we–you and I–are God’s hands. If we are fulfilling God’s mission for our lives then we are part of the body of Christ, the current physical manifestation of God on earth. Paul advises us of this in his first letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 12. An old Anglican prayer puts it so beautifully: “We are very members incorporate in the mystical body of thy son.”

One of the first things that came to my memory as I drove away from the school was that joke, of unknown authorship, which I have heard more than once as a sermon illustration. It is called “I sent you a rowboat”.

A very religious man was once caught in rising floodwaters. He climbed onto the roof of his house and trusted God to rescue him. A neighbour came by in a canoe and said, “The waters will soon be above your house. Hop in and we’ll paddle to safety.”
“No thanks” replied the religious man. “I’ve prayed to God and I’m sure he will save me”

A short time later the police came by in a boat. “The waters will soon be above your house. Hop in and we’ll take you to safety.”

“No thanks” replied the religious man. “I’ve prayed to God and I’m sure he will save me”

A little time later a rescue services helicopter hovered overhead, let down a rope ladder and said. “The waters will soon be above your house. Climb the ladder and we’ll fly you to safety.”

“No thanks” replied the religious man. “I’ve prayed to God and I’m sure he will save me”

All this time the floodwaters continued to rise, until soon they reached above the roof and the religious man drowned. When he arrived at heaven he demanded an audience with God. Ushered into God’s throne room he said, “Lord, why am I here in heaven? I prayed for you to save me, I trusted you to save me from that flood.”

“Yes you did my child” replied the Lord. “And I sent you a canoe, a boat and a helicopter. But you never got in.”

The corollary of this story would be this: Do you want God to rescue that man on the roof of his house? Then go grab your boat. Do you want God to do something about poverty and other ills? Find out what efforts might be underway already, and cooperate with the churches who are working in this area. Encourage and support others. One pastor elicited from me a large pledge and inspired me to launch this website–to add my voice to the public square in some small way–by simply inviting his audience in a sermon to “take the plunge”.

Is the problem that you have noticed, that is currently occupying your worries, something that no one else is trying to solve right now? Then, “tag, you’re it.” Pray for empowerment. Then roll up your sleeves.

C.S. Lewis had this to say about being the body of Christ, in his book Mere Christianity:

Is it not frightfully unfair that this new life should be confined to people who have heard of Christ and been able to believe in Him? But the truth is God has not told us what His arrangements about the other people are. We do know that no man can be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved by Him. But in the meantime, if you are worried about the people outside, the most unreasonable thing you can do is remain outside yourself. Christians are Christ’s body, the organism through which He works. Every addition to that body enables Him to do more. If you want to help those outside you must add your little cell to the body of Christ who alone can help them. Cutting off a man’s fingers would be an odd way of getting him to do more. (pg. 64)

(Image credit: “Jesus Christ–Christus Statue”, Jan 2006, posted at FLICKR, by midiman, available under Creative Commons license).

In consideration of Labor Day, I am reminded of the old hymn “Come Labor On” (Ora Labora). The hymn tune was composed by T. Tertius Noble (1867 – 1953). Below is a recording of the late Gerre Hancock (1934-2012) giving a farewell improvisation on this hymn in 2004, as he was retiring from his post as organist and choirmaster at St. Thomas Church Fifth Avenue in New York City. The performance was recorded by Dr. Alan van Poznak, and posted to YouTube by a YouTube community member named “contratromba858”. The words to the hymn are below.

Come, labor on.
Who dares stand idle on the harvest plain,
while all around us waves the golden grain?
And to each servant does the Master say,
“Go work today.”

Come, labor on.
The enemy is watching night and day,
to sow the tares, to snatch the seed away;
while we in sleep our duty have forgot,
he slumbered not.

Come, labor on.
Away with gloomy doubts and faithless fear!
No arm so weak but may do service here:
by feeblest agents may our God fulfill
his righteous will.

Come, labor on.
Claim the high calling angels cannot share–
to young and old the Gospel gladness bear;
redeem the time; its hours too swiftly fly.
The night draws nigh.

Come, labor on.
No time for rest, till glows the western sky,
till the long shadows o’er our pathway lie,
and a glad sound comes with the setting sun.
“Servants, well done.”

In honor of the Feast of the Ascension, and for your meditation and listening pleasure (courtesy of a Youtuber named Enrique Guerrero):

Latin text:
Ascendens Christus in altum, captivam duxit captivitatem: dedit dona hominibus.
Alleluia.
Ascendit Deus in jubilatione, et Dominus in voce tubae.
Dedit dona hominibus.
Alleluia.
Dominus in caelo paravit sedem suam.
Alleluia.

Translation:
Christ, ascending on high, led captivity captive: He gave gifts to men.
Alleluia.
God is gone up with a merry noise, and the Lord with the sound of the trumpet.
He gave gifts to men.
Alleluia.
The Lord hath prepared his seat in heaven.
Alleluia.

This beautiful work was published in 1572, while the young Victoria was studying for the priesthood in Rome.  The text is taken from the matins responsory for the Feast of the Ascension.

One of the classic hymns of an earlier day is “My Faith Looks Up To Thee”. The melody was written by Lowell Mason (1792-1872). Ray Palmer (1808-1887) wrote the lyrics:

My faith looks up to Thee;
Thou Lamb of Calvary;
Savior divine;
Now hear me while I pray;
Take all my guilt away;
O let me from this day be wholly Thine…

Ray Palmer was a Congregationalist minister, who graduated from Yale in 1830. According to Ernest E Ryden, author of Story of our hymns (1930; online here at CCEL.org), Palmer wrote these lyrics shortly after his graduation while working as a tutor at a New York school.  He was reading a German poem, and dashed some stanzas into a notebook  He was contemplating what it would be like to be a penitent sinner standing at the foot of the cross of Jesus.

Later, when Lowell Mason was compiling a hymn collection, he happened across Rev. Palmer on a street in Boston. Palmer had by then established a reputation as a decent poet, so Mason asked him to write something for a new hymnal. Palmer dug out his old notebook and gave him the lyrics.  Mason praised his work. “You may live many years and do many good things, but I think you will be best known to posterity as the author of My Faith Looks Up to Thee.”  Mr. Ryden has called the hymn “the most precious contribution which American genius has yet made to the hymnology of the Christian Church”.

I will tell another story. Nestled into the bucolic setting of the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, near Knoxville, is Johnson University (formerly Johnson Bible College). This small, nondenominational college was founded in 1893 as the School of the Evangelists. It was and is a symbol of frontier faith and zeal, which emanated out of the revivalist fervor of the “Second Great Awakening”. In 1904 the college suffered a major blow when a fire broke out and burned the Main Building to the ground.  Local lore has it that even as their dreams went up in smoke, the faculty and students held hands and sang this hymn together. (They were able to rebuild the following year).

The performance below is by an anonymous group of singers, performing an arrangement by Fred Waring; it is used in accordance with Creative Commons licensing, from the Internet Archive.


Here also is a lovely piano version, uploaded by someone named “HouseOfJoel”, also available in the Creative Commons section of the Internet Archives.

For a limited time, you may listen free to a veritable feast of gorgeous liturgical music, performed in an appropriate setting.  Those who follow my postings closely will know that I am a fan of the webcasts of Saint Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue. They are in the midst of their “2016 Orchestral and Organ Mass Series featuring the Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys and Saint Thomas Chamber Orchestra”. Already on demand are webcasts of recent services featuring the Mass in C, op. 169 by Josef Rhineburger, and the Mass in G major by Franz Schubert. This coming Sunday, June 6, will feature the Missa Solennelle by Louis Vierne.

These webcasts can be found at: http://www.saintthomaschurch.org/webcasts

In honor of the recently passed milestone of 100 posts, I feel it a fine time to play the actual “Brother James Air” (the music by that name, not my airs). This is performed by the choristers of Canterbury Cathedral in England. The text is a variation of Psalm 23. The piece was written by Scottish minister and hymn writer James Leith Bain (1860–1925).

Hymn: Christ, the Fair Glory of the Holy Angels
In honor of today’s Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels (Michaelmas).

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Photo: Public Domain image of St. Michael, by unknown Spanish painter, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City.

Relevent Verse: “For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.” Psalm 91:11.

Listen:

 

Lyrics:

Christ, the fair glory of the holy angels
thou who hast made us, thou who o’er us rulest,
grant of thy mercy unto us thy servants
steps up to heaven.


Send thine archangel Michael to our succor;
peacemaker blessèd, may he banish from us
striving and hatred, so that for the peaceful
all things may prosper.


Send thine archangel Gabriel, the mighty;
herald of heaven, may he, from us mortals,
spurn the old serpent, watching o’er the temples
where thou art worshiped.


Send thine archangel Raphael, the restorer
of the misguided ways of men who wander,
who at thy bidding strengthens soul and body
with thine anointing.


May the blest mother of our God and Savior, may the assembly of the saints in glory, may the celestial companies of angels ever assist us.
Father Almighty, Son, and Holy Spirit,
God ever blessèd, be thou our preserver;
thine is the glory which the angels worship,
veiling their faces.

(Words: Latin, ninth century; trans. Athelstan Riley, 1906)

About the hymn

The text was written in the 9th century by Rabanus Marus Magnentius, also known as Hrabanus or Rhabanus, born around 780. He was a Frankish Benedictine monk, the archbishop of Mainz in Germany and a theologian. He was the author of the encyclopaedia De rerum naturis.

The text is commonly set to the tune Caelite plaudens, a French melody from the 1728 Rouen antiphoner, which was subsequently harmonized by the great English composer Ralph Vaughn Williams. It appeared in the English Hymnal of 1906.

For more Information:
Hymnary.org
Wikipedia
Note: The audio file is a public domain recording, available at Internet Archive. It is listed as “St Michael’s Conference Hymn”; No further information is available about the venue, organ, or performers.

In reading about John Scott I found this gorgeous recording of the Hylton Stewart setting of Psalm 23, by the St Paul’s Cathedral Choir, conducted by John Scott. The performance took place in 1988 at the Grote Eusebiuskerk in the Netherlands.