Easter 2024

21 January 2012
hymnody - Victorian

We at St. Paul's, Richmond (and miraculously, by the grace of God, the good folks at St. James's just up the street and St. Stephen's on the West End) are preparing for a large-scale collaborative performance of The Crucifixion: A Meditation on the Sacred Passion of the Holy Redeemer. Our concert is Friday, February 24 at 7:30 p.m. at St. Paul's.

And until then, it's time to study up on this much-maligned work, underestimated composer, and the musical milieu that surrounded it all.

In particular, I found myself wondering: what were victorian hymn registrations like?

And so, down the rabbit hole we go.

One resource that emerged fairly quickly was Ian Bradley's Abide With Me: The World of Victorian Hymns, and while I haven't yet digested the entire book, I don't think it's going to give specific registration instructions.

But Bradley has clearly done a lot of thinking about the era, and he helps set the scene. Hymn singing in the Church of England, he reminds us, was a new phenomenon, being first sanctioned only in the 1820s, and taking many years to make a dent in the stranglehold that the Old Version (Sternhold & Hopkins) or the New Version (Tate & Brady) of the Psalter had on congregational music in Anglican worship. Hymns Ancient and Modern, the quintessential Victorian hymnbook was first published in 1861.

And while congregations were familiar with singing metrical psalms, these were "lined out" by the parish clerk (congregation listening first to the clerk, then repeating a phrase at a time), not accompanied by an organ. And then there was that amusing "West Gallery music" phenomenon in parish churches. It also took many years for the organ and choir arrangement that we now take for granted to trickle down from cathedrals to parish churches.

So Stainer's five hymns contained in The Crucifixion, written in 1887, are fascinating in light of this dynamic period of hymn proliferation in the church, and the brand new organ and choir arrangement encouraged by the Oxford Movement.

So how to register them? Well, one resource doesn't give precise answers to that question, but we certainly get reminders that things were a little different back then.

Stainer, who was organist at St. Paul's Cathedral, London, had a great colleague in J. Frederick Bridge, Organist of Westminster Abbey. His Organ Accompaniment of the Choral Service was written in 1885, just two years before the premiere of Stainer's Crucifixion.

And Bridge's work is edited by none other than "Dr. Stainer" himself.

Bridge gives his thoughts on nearly every aspect of service playing, including some stern rebukes on what must have been prevailing customs of some other church musicians (rolling chords before beginning hymns, word-painting).

Also notable, he recommends a specific number of beats between stanzas of a hymn "to preserve the rhythm" -- believing that the meter and major metrical accents should be preserved over the breath.

Another interesting comment:

Except in special cases––as, for instance, at the words, "Now above the sky He's King," in the well-known Easter hymn, "Jesus Christ is risen to-day," where a moderate rallentando is very effective––no rallentando should be made in playing the verses of a hymn, other than that naturally called for at the last verse just before the "Amen."

p. 20

I direct you to the beginning of the discussion of hymns on page 18,

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08 January 2012
Vestibule - loitering in

One hundred and forty years ago today (that's in 1872, for those of you keeping score), the vestry of St. Paul's, Richmond unanimously passed the following resolution:

"Whereas the talking and other disorders of boys, and others, in the Galleries and Vestibule of this Church, having become so marked, Resolved, that the Rector be requested to give notice, that if such interruptions continue in the future it will become the duty of the vestry to cause a police officer to be stationed in each Gallery during the service, for the purpose of preserving order, whose duty it shall be also to prevent loitering in the Vestibule and on the steps in front of the Church.

from the Vestry Book of St. Paul's, Richmond, 1870-1873, p. 26.


07 January 2012
Hollingsworth Jr., The Rt. Rev. Mark - in the news

I haven't lived in the great state of Ohio for many years, but I was confirmed at Trinity Cathedral, Cleveland on 1 May 2004 by the, at that time, new Bishop of Ohio: Mark Hollingsworth, Jr.

Church music tangent: Exactly two weeks prior to the liturgy at which I was confirmed, I was briefly on the organ bench at the Mark Hollingworth's Consecration liturgy. It was an exciting time. (Below photograph is the bishop at said Consecration.)

Mark Hollingsworth's name has been making the rounds in connection to two news stories -- two stories that make me very glad that he was the bishop who confirmed me.

Wikipedia: Mark Hollingsworth

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06 January 2012
Surplice, Alwyn - "Brightest and best of the sons of the morning"

The music of Alywn Surplice, who has a funny name if you consider that his surname is also a vestment, is seldom heard.

Surplice was Director of Music at Bristol and Winchester Cathedrals. I don't believe he had any connection to Gloucester Cathedral, seen in the opening of this YouTube clip.

Note that American Episcopal congregations are familiar with the textual alteration "stars of the morning", which is a very different image than the "sons of the morning". Sung this way, the context for the rest of the hymn is quite different.

Maybe that's why I've always been ambivalent about this text.

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05 January 2012
anthems - best, list of

Why not create a list of the best anthems in the Anglican Choral Tradition?

Why not get everyone we know to help?

I've had fun setting this up and watching the results come in on, which is really simple to use. You can even sign in with your Facebook or Twitter account.

As of this writing Gibbons (pictured right) "Almighty and everlasting God" is winning.

Is your favorite anthem listed? Vote for it! Don't see it? Add it!

Looking forward to seeing what the "final" results will be.

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04 January 2012
Innocents - Holy, commemoration of Octave

Commemoration of Octave Day of Holy Innocents

Innocent babes were killed for Christ's sake, yea, the unrighteous king slew the sucklings : now they follow the Lamb wherever He goes, they are without fault before the throne of God, and say continually : Glory be to you, O Lord.

V. Herod was exceeding angry, and slew many children.

R. In Bethlehem Judah, the city of David.

We remember today, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod. Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims; and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish your rule of justice, love, and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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