Easter 2024

30 April 2011

Stop, collaborate and listen - Episode 4: Iula

The Craighead-Saunders "Casparini" Organ
at Christ Church, Rochester, New York

The instrument in this episode is a "research copy" of the 1776 Adam Gottlob Casparini instrument at Holy Ghost Church in Vilnius, Lithuania. Read more about this instrument and see full specifications here.

This instrument is part of the Eastman Rochester Organ Initiative (EROI).

Stop: Iula 8'
Organ: The Craighead-Saunders Organ, Christ Church, Rochester, New York
Organist: Jonathan Wessler


Thanks, Jonathan!

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29 April 2011
royal wedding liturgy - video of

Already online via "The Royal Channel".

I've embedded two copies of the video below. Each is queued cued up to start at the beginnings of the two newest works.

Rutter This is the day the Lord has made begins at 26:30 (see below)

Mealor Ubi caritas begins at 39:00 (see below)

WARNING After the motet, after the words "let us pray" the sound goes beserk and the picture goes out. If you are wearing headphones, you'll want to take them off before this.

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reviews - royal wedding music, Rutter, Paul Mealor

When . . . you have a choral society in Tokyo dedicated solely to the performance of your music, you don’t have to worry.

Rutter’s music has always been of the easy-listening variety: tuneful, popular, conservative and sweet-toothed. Classic FM as opposed to Radio 3. It’s also music that declares its sources without shame. You hear it and think: ah yes, the Bernstein bit, the Britten, Walton, Faure. But that said, it’s immaculately crafted; it’s loveable (I’d man the barricades for at least one of his Christmas carols, What Sweeter Music which, I’m afraid to say DOES reduce me to tears); he has a gift for melody that most “serious” composers would kill for (if they were honest); and his music touches people’s lives in a way that most contemporary writing doesn’t. It’s no wonder that the musical establishment regards him with suspicion; but then, he hardly needs its accolades. When your international profile is so huge that you have a choral society in Tokyo dedicated solely to the performance of your music, you don’t have to worry. So I don’t suppose it will bother him that the real hit of the wedding music turned out to be another new-ish piece – not a commission – by a little known composer called Paul Mealor.

Few outside the British choral tradition will have heard of him, but he’s fairly young (born 1975 in Wales), teaches at a Scottish university, and writes music less ingratiating than John Rutter’s but still easy to assimilate.

For contemporary church musicians it’s a stroke of luck: a chance to ride a moment when their culture acquires a sudden spotlight.

The Ubi Caritas setting they did this morning had an austere resonance of plainsong that then flowered into the kind of cloudy harmonic suspensions of a Morten Lauridsen or Eric Whitacre: the two figures that seem to define where-it’s-at choral writing at the moment. So, not terribly original, but well put together and effective. And I confidently predict that Mealor will now leap to sudden fame on the back of it. His Ubi Caritas was certainly the closest this wedding got to the nerve-touching John Tavener moment at the last big royal ceremonial that broadcast to the world: Diana’s funeral.

Music at a royal Abbey occasion can’t help having a significance. For future generations it will stand as evidence of past taste: who was in or out of favour. For contemporary church musicians it’s a stroke of luck: a chance to ride a moment when their culture – these days relatively marginal in public consciousness – acquires a sudden spotlight.

White, Michael. "Paul Mealor's Ubi Caritas was the real hit of the wedding music". The Telegraph 29 April 2011

John Rutter’s This is the day wasn’t undignified or poppy, but its easy tunefulness did border on the slick and saccharine - give it some new words, and one could imagine Elaine Paige belting it out at the tear-jerking climax of a West End musical.

A young Welsh composer Paul Mealor (not, I confess, someone whose name or work I was previously acquainted with`) contributed a well-crafted motet Ubi caritas et amor. Lachrymose and meditative in mood, it is an exercise in the minimalist school of spirituality, heavily influenced by Tavener, Part and Gorecki, and Classic FM’s favourite Karl Jenkins. Pleasant enough, I thought, but not memorable.

Christiansen, Rupert (Opera Critic). "Royal wedding music: a magnificent Pageant". The Telegraph 29 April 2011.

The two new commissions were "This Is the Day" by John Rutter and a setting of the "Ubi caritas" text by Welsh composer Paul Mealor. The Rutter was, well, Rutter. Pretty enough, easy for amateur choirs to sing, but immediately forgettable. There's nothing wrong with Rutter's compositions per se, it's just that once you've heard one, you've heard them all, so there's very little point to a new commission.

Considering the popularity of the lovely "Ubi caritas" setting by Maurice Duruflé, Paul Mealor had big shoes to fill. His music is gently dissonant and reminiscent of Eric Whitacre's work.

Adair, Marcia. "Royal wedding: what the music says about William and Kate" LA Times Culture Monster blog 29 April 2011.

Mealor on his "Ubi caritas"

The composition is for choir and is gentle, delicate and meditative. The ancient, 6th century plainchant of Ubi Caritas is blended with 21st century harmony to create a work that, I hope, is both new and reflective of the past.

Mealor, Paul. "Royal wedding music: a 'delicate and meditative' composition" The Guardian 29 April 2011

Website of Paul Mealor

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Williams, Rowan - on Royal Wedding


28 April 2011
Rutter, John - This is the day which the Lord hath made

The text of the anthem commissioned for the royal wedding tomorrow is available in the service leaflet

This is the day which the Lord hath made: we will rejoice and be glad in it.
O praise the Lord of heav’n: praise him in the height.
Praise him, all ye angels of his: praise him, all his host.
Praise him, sun and moon: praise him, all ye stars and light.
Let them praise the Name of the Lord.
For he shall give his angels charge over thee: to keep thee in all thy ways.
The Lord himself is thy keeper: the Lord is thy defence upon thy right hand;
so that the sun shall not burn thee by day: neither the moon by night.
The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: yea, it is even he that shall keep thy soul.
The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in: from this time forth for evermore.
He shall defend thee under his wings.
Be strong, and he shall comfort thine heart, and put thou thy trust in the Lord.
John Rutter (b 1945) 
specially commissioned 
by the Dean and Chapter of Westminster for this service

Psalms 118: 24; 148: 1–3, 5a;
91: 4a, 11; 121: 5–8; 27: 16b

Extract from The Book of Common Prayer, the rights in which are vested in the Crown,
is reproduced by permission of the Crown’s patentee, Cambridge University Press.

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27 April 2011
Farnum [sic], Lynnwood - famous Toccata of

Lynnwood Farnam was a Canadian organ virtuoso. He was also able to spell his name correctly.

His Toccata on "O filii et filiae" ("O sons and daughters") is probably his best known work.

This hymn is, of course, über appropriate for the Second Sunday of Easter. So, therefore, is this toccata.

Learn at your own risk.

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26 April 2011
Sagan, Carl - Earth Day message

And now a belated Earth Day (yes, that was Good Friday this year -- we can relate/equate those two another time) message from Carl Sagan:


21 April 2011
bell - alarm

21 Apr 1861 (150 years ago today) - The State Capitol alarm bell was rung because of the reported approach of the Federal gunboat "Pawnee" to Richmond. The bell apparently sounded at the end of Dr. Minnigerode's sermon. It was a false alarm.

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18 April 2011
children's sermon - the ideal

Let's face it. All children's sermons should be like this, really.


17 April 2011
suffering - cheerfully to

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15 April 2011
music - poetry and

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choir - vested, St. Paul's (Richmond)

The first appearance of a vested choir at St. Paul's, Richmond would have been on Easter Sunday, which was April 15 in 1895.

Happy 116th, vested choir!

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11 April 2011
The American Organist - an open letter to

Dear The American Organist, periodical journal of the American Guild of Organists,

You and I have had our issues about graphic design before, but this time you've really crossed the line.

Upon retrieving my latest issue (April, 2011) from the mailbox, I was surprised to see this offensive image:

The cover of your periodical would be rather lovely this month if not for the fact that the image of the face of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is fully obscured by the logo.

Congratulations on decapitating Jesus.

Given that the name of the church is Church of the Ascension, did you realize that the subject of the John La Farge painting you obscure is, in fact, Jesus Christ himself in the act of ascending into heaven?

How can you expect your readers to maintain artistic integrity in their fields, if your logo obscures the subject of one of the greatest murals in America?

It's clear what you want the subject of this photo to be: the organ -- but not even the organ case is fully pictured on this cover.

I just don't get it!

And, are you aware that many Christians are celebrating the Feast of the Resurrection (also known as "Easter") this month (24 April), a celebration that centers on the figure of Jesus Christ?

Interestingly, many Americans are Christian (about 78.4% last I checked), and many American Organists (presumably the ones your publication is named for) work at Christian Churches. Just to bring it full circle for you, these same churches are celebrating Easter.

Could you be any more insensitive?

I mean, really, how are we supposed to take the stuff you say about clergy-organist relations seriously when you behead the Savior on the cover of your journal?

I really do look forward to reading why you did this in a future issue of your magazine.

Sincerely (with much more sincerity about the graphic design than any religious issues),

David Sinden
The Jean Julius Christian Sibelius Chair of Musicology and Christian Polemics (Emeritus), University of Blogaria

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08 April 2011
Lenten Music Notes - Special Edition: Voluntary in D minor - Purcell

Here's a Special Edition of the Lenten Music Notes podcast that includes a complete performance of Henry Purcell's Voluntary in D minor.

My memory was that I had recorded the Voluntary for Double Organ (which was performed at the Lenten Preaching Service at St. Paul's, Richmond yesterday), but these pieces are so very similar that I had in fact recorded its single organ counterpart.

This recording comes from the three-manual Taylor and Boody organ at Christ Church Cathedral, Indianapolis.

For those who are interested: this was performed on the Rückpositiv using the Quintedena 8' and the Rohrflöte 4'

Download MP3

Subscribe with iTunes

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Lenten Music Notes - Week of 4 April

The latest "Lenten Music Notes" podcast is up, finally. These audio guides are designed to provide context and commentary on the organ pieces performed as voluntaries for the Preaching Services.

In this week's podcast, David Sinden discusses music by Bach, Buxtehude, Purcell & Alain.

Have you heard about how Purcell tried to make some extra money from his "position" at Westminster Abbey? I mention it in the podcast . . .

Download MP3

Subscribe with iTunes

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06 April 2011
Dalí, Salvador - collaboration with Walt Disney

Now that I've heard The Shaggs, I finally understand Destino, the film on which Walt Disney and Salvador Dalí collaborated.

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05 April 2011
foot - foot

Now that I've discovered The Shaggs, I think I understand popular music.

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04 April 2011
wood - touch

Gravitational xylophone. Lovely. And a good way to think about rubato.

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Lent 4, 2011 - tweets from

03 April 2011
Sibelius, Jean - Symphony No. 4, 100th anniversary of the premiere

Jean Sibelius's dark, brooding Symphony No. 4 in A minor was premiered on April 3, 1911.



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