Ordinary Time, 2016
Today marks one year since the death of John Scott, the organist and director of music of St. Thomas Church, New York City, and one of the very finest church musicians the world has ever known.
Gentle Jesus, grant him eternal rest.
Nunc dimittis from Howells "St Paul's Service" from St Paul's Cathedral, London 28 January 2004
John Scott, Director of Music; Huw Williams, Sub-Organist
If you're looking of canticles in the key of E for Evensong, here are some suggestions:
A solid, straightforward setting in which the organ ducks and weaves in and out of the choral texture. This one probably doesn't get enough respect.
Here's the Magnificat:
A grandiose (long!) service, but with every ounce of Wesleyan refinement.
Humphrey (1647-1674) died at age 27, but not before leaving us this gorgeous verse service.
(A popular performing edition has this piece in F minor, but Humfrey wrote it in E so we include it here.)
Watson was the conductor of the first performance of William Walton's The Twelve. Here's his contribution to the genre in this key: a quick, well-crafted, no nonsense setting. The Gloria is particularly arresting.
Watson in E - St. John's, Cambridge
And of course this list wouldn't be complete without the most famous American setting of the evening canticles in this key.
The Magnificat is wonderful, of course, but the Nunc dimittis is particularly expansive, as only Sowerby write. And, wait a minute, wasn't the Magnificat in minor? What key is this in?
Leo Sowerby was affectionately known as the "Dean of American Church Music". He was an incredibly prolific composer of music in many genres, including choral anthems.
Here are five Sowerby anthems that every church musician should know.
This is probably the most popular of Sowerby's anthems. While employing a good bit of chromaticism this anthem is well within the grasp of many church choirs. It requires an alto soloist.
If Sowerby's setting of Psalm 121 (above) is rather constrained in scope, some of his music takes place on a somewhat larger scale and can unfold rather deliberately.
His setting of Psalm 122 ("I was glad") begins with a grand organ introduction and declamatory singing from the choir. Several minutes in a more lyrical, imitative section begins with the words "O pray for the peace of Jerusalem". The music picks up in intensity again at the concluding section, "For my brethren and companions' sakes".
Hallmarks of Sowerby's anthem writing are on display here with lyrical, soloistic organ interludes and a quiet, ecstatic organ coda.
Among his shorter works, the unaccompanied "Eternal light" is a work of near perfection, with shimmering harmonies at key moments. Most performances are around two minutes.
A passionate panegyric for the Epiphany season. This work unfolds slowly and smoothly, like a brilliant sunrise. The recording from St. Mark's Cathedral, Seattle gives the organ solo line to a viola, adding even more expressive possibilities.
A freely composed work for Pentecost. Sowerby is unwavering in his 5/4 time signature.
As noted in this space several years ago, the summer months feature some very special musical gatherings all around the world that offer great music. And, via the internet, great opportunities to listen.
I am particularly enjoying the recent broadcast of Evensong from the Southern Cathedrals Festival. It is wonderful singing. Take note that it is the girls of Chichester and Winchester singing the top lines. Not the boys. The Reger introit that opens the service, previously unknown to me, is a delight.
You may also be interested to hear:
The sad result, though, was a reaction by academic elites against the whole concept of substitution, depriving the ordinary person in the pew of a great consolation that has struck the hearts of many throughout Christian history. I was one of those in the pew who was badly hurt by being told that “we don’t believe that idea of atonement any more.” And yet we continue to sing, on Palm Sunday and Good Friday, “ ‘Lo, the Good Shepherd for the sheep is offered/ The slave hath sinned and the Son hath suffered…’ Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee/ I crucified thee.” In other words, I am the guilty one, and the innocent one dies in my place, “for my salvation.” Thank God for our great hymns.
Saunders, Laura. "An Interview with the Rev. Fleming Rutledge." The Episcopal New Yorker, Spring 2016
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