Pentecost 2016

09 June 2016
Leighton, Kenneth - odd brilliance of

This is what makes Leighton's settings so oddly brilliant, so highly charged. He is not content to leave the words as they are, to let them speak for themselves. Instead, he will disrupt the natural rhythm of a line, jolting it with his syncopation, bending syllables in extended melismas. There is an unsettling way in which he subjects even the most familiar words of the Anglican liturgy to ceaseless scrutiny by showing them in different aspects, where a melisma or a rhythmic accent voices a phrase in a new of forgotten way. By summoning up a swirling storm of music, Leighton demands that we look and listen to the words with greater attention, to examine them more closely.

Ted Tregear, liner notes to Crucifixus, sung by the Choir of Trinity College Cambridge, Stephen Layton directing.

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12 April 2016
liturgy - the crucible of love

Notes on a page are not music. Neither is the sound produced by an instrument, and neither are the motions of a conductor. Music is something more, something beyond symbols on a page, instruments, and performers. Likewise, liturgical prayer is not simply the words we say, nor the posture we adopt: neither gesture, nor vesture, nor our attitude, nor the result we desire. Liturgical prayer is something more than all these — encompassing them, but beyond them.

Sawicky, Blake. "The liturgy, the crucible of love". Covenant (The Living Church) 8 April 2016

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11 April 2016
Word - in the beginning was the

The Center for Liturgy and Music at Virginia Theological Seminary and Ellen Johnston should be commended for their recent guide to designing service leaflets for the service of the Holy Eucharist in the Episcopal Church ("A Resource on Designing Service Leaflets" PDF)

This kind of attention to detail is sorely needed, and I hope it sparks close examination of printed service leaflets in many parishes.

But there is a widespread discrepancy in service leaflets in the Episcopal Church that this guide does not address: the question of when the service begins.

It's quite common to see various locations in the service leaflet for the printed subtitle "The Word of God".

Often the prelude, introit (if there is one), and hymn are all listed prior to the subtitle "The Word of God". This makes it appear as though the Acclamation ("Blessed be God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit") is the beginning of the liturgy.

In other cases the subtitle "The Word of God" appears after the Collect of the Day and before the first Lesson.

I would respectfully suggest that both of these approaches confuse the shape of the service and the place of church music in our worship.

The subtitle of "The Word of God" is the first thing given on p. 355 of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. After this, the first item is a rubric: A hymn, psalm, or anthem may be sung.

It is apparent from this order that the first hymn of the service (and the introit, if there is one) qualify as the beginning of the service and fall under this heading of "The Word of God". To be clear: the only thing that should appear before "The Word of God" is the Prelude (if there is one).

If a subheading is desired before the lessons themselves, it should simply be "The Lessons" as seen on p. 357. This should not rise to the level of the subtitle that we see on p. 355 of the Prayer Book.

Why is this important?

Because listing the subtitle after the hymn affords this piece of church music second class status. The Prelude music before the service is precisely that: before the service. But church music which reflects the both the historic tradition of the church and careful selection by those persons called to a ministry of church music (propers, hymns, psalms, anthems, motets, etc.) is rightly a genuine part of the community's worship.

And getting this distinction right is the responsibility that we take on with printing the content of the Prayer Book in a service leaflet: faithfulness to the Book of Common Prayer. Reprinting the liturgy in a disposable leaflet is not an excuse to alter the liturgy as we see fit. This is contrary to the Anglican spirit of common prayer.

It is surely for this reason, among others, that the esteemed bloggers of Sed Angli, advocates of "straight up" Anglicanism, advocate for a minimal bulletin.

Reprinting the whole service obviates the need to have the Prayer Book around, and we are well not only to have the Prayer Book, but also to use it. Page numbers will suffice, thank you.

How it’s done, VI, 21 March 2012

Now for those who disagree with my assertion about the liturgy beginning with the first hymn, surely some will quote the puzzling statement by Marion Hatchett in A Manual for Clergy and Church Musicians: "The real beginning of the liturgy is the first lesson." (p. 106)

I would beg to differ.

If your service starts at 11:00 a.m. the "real beginning" of the service is 11:00 a.m. It is surely not a "fake beginning".

In the vast majority of places, this means the music before the service is ended, and the first hymn (or the introit) begins the service proper.

In order make a "real beginning" with the First Lesson, one would simply read it at the start of the service without fanfare. This kind of logic dismisses the historic pattern of the entrance rite of the liturgy–a rite that is designed to honor the Word of God. Not surprisingly, the Prayer Book doesn't allow for it; the Acclamation, Kyrie/Trisagion or Gloria, and Collect of the Day are all required elements.

And though we should cherish this historic pattern of entrance we should not make the mistake of elevating the entrance rite to a capital letter "Entrance Rite" in the service leaflet. The Prayer Book avoids this designation and so should we. Worship in the Episcopal Church can be convoluted enough without superfluous monikers.

We are indeed well to use the Prayer Book, whether in its hardbound format, on our iPad, or reprinted in a parochial service leaflet.

I implore my brothers and sisters in the Episcopal Church to utilize the very clear outline of the Holy Eucharist provided in the 1979 Prayer Book.

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07 April 2016
Ordinary - accidental, the Collect for Purity

An interesting argument that arose in the discussion surrounding my recent article "Old 100th is really new again" was in the classification of the Ordinary of the Eucharist.

In the historic Western liturgy, the Ordinary (those parts of the Mass that do not change week to week) includes the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Benedictus, and Agnus Dei.

These fixed elements are interspersed with variable elements, the Proper: Introit, Gradual, Alleluia/Tract, Offertory, and Communion.

A criticism of the practice of singing "the Doxology" ("Praise God from whom all blessings flow..." sung to the tune of OLD 100TH) was that it causes this short piece of music to join the "Ordinary" of the Mass, giving it an unduly elevated status in the liturgy.

But commonly accepted practice in the Episcopal Church has grafted other optional element into the "Ordinary" of the Mass.

Consider, if you will, how "Ordinary" is the Collect for Purity. This prayer is mandatory in Rite I but optional in Rite II. And yet, every Episcopal parish in which I have worshipped has included it weekly. Why?

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, 
and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our 
hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may 
perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; 
through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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05 April 2016
Ginastera, Alberto (1916-1983) - centenary of

Classical-music institutions rely far too much on anniversary-driven programming: they may as well put up a neon sign saying, “We have no ideas.” Sometimes, though, there are benefits. The centenary of the Argentinean modernist Alberto Ginastera, which falls on April 11, is prompting reconsideration of a composer who, in recent years, seemed ready to fade into the ranks of history’s also-rans.

Ross, Alex. "Modern Microcosm". The New Yorker. 11 April 2016.

It's true. I do always look at the anniversaries, but in the field of church music, where I think it's so easy to get stuck in a rut, sometimes these dates are the incentive I need to try new things.

Or in this case, to reach into my file drawer and pull out the score for the Ginastera's Toccata, Villancico y Fuga, Op. 18, which I have never really learned. It's a great piece, and when I've heard it played it has always stopped me in my tracks. So this is the year.

The opening of the Toccata is a nod to Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565 in terms of its rhetorical rhythm. The Fugue subject is BACH. The form of Ginastera's piece is probably a tribute to the Toccata, Adagio and Fugue of Bach, BWV 564.

Here's a recording Judith Hancock made as part of the "Popular Organ Music" series (the name of which always makes me chuckle).

Ginastera wrote another piece for organ, the Variazioni e Toccata sopra "Aurora lucis rutilat", Op. 52. This piece was premiered at the National Convention of the American Guild of Organists in Minneapolis by Marilyn Mason in 1980.

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