Easter 2024

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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04 April 2016
anthem - Offertory, argument against, Stuhlman

“Although [the Offertory] has come to be a traditional place for an anthem, an anthem in this place tends to stop or delay the flow of action. What is required is 'cover' music, not a performance piece. Communion is a better time for a choir anthem. The custom of using both an anthem and a presentation hymn should be avoided.”

Stuhlman, Byron D. Prayer Book Rubrics Expanded. New York: Church Publishing Inc., 1987. Page 128.

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02 April 2016
Old 100th is really new again

Today I'm going to say something that no one seems to have the courage to say: there is nothing wrong with "The Doxology" in the liturgy of the Episcopal Church. Let me be clear on this point. I'm talking about the words "Praise God from whom all blessings flow" by Thomas Ken sung to the tune of OLD 100TH at the Presentation.

The much-maligned Thomas Ken
(1637-1711), born in the same
year as Buxtehude

Why am I saying this? Because there seems to be a rather uncritical, knee-jerk reaction against it. I witnessed an example of this a few weeks ago on the "Episcopal Church Musicians" Facebook Page. Anyone who dared suggest that Hymn 380, stanza 3 in the Hymnal 1982 (hereafter "the Doxology") was acceptable for Christian worship was hopelessly passé and out of touch. More specifically, they were Low Church (the Horror!).

Here's the problem: the anger that many objectors feel is actually misplaced frustration at an element of Anglican liturgy that Americans have hopelessly corrupted.

Here's the story.

Once upon a time there was the Western Liturgy what with its Mass and its Divine Office and its Liber Usualis and all that. At the time of the Offertory of the Mass, a chant was sung: the Offertorium. During this time the bread and the wine were presented to the celebrant by the people and prepared for the eucharistic celebration. At the conclusion of this chant, the Eucharistic Prayer was begun.

Zacchaeus stood forth, and said unto the Lord, Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have done any wrong to any man, I restore four-fold.
St. Luke 19.
Offertory sentence from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer

Eventually Anglicans got a hold of this liturgy and adapted it for their own devices. The traditional Offertory chants were not subsumed into Anglican worship, but rather new sentences, largely from the New Testament, were prescribed to be read aloud (note, not sung) by the celebrant. The 1662 rubric for the celebrant reads

Then shall the Priest return to the Lord's Table, and begin the Offertory, saying one or more of these Sentences following, as he thinketh most convenient in his discretion.

The rubrics direct that the alms are taken up while these Offertory Sentences are read aloud and then be brought to the celebrant.

Meanwhile, Anglicans adapted the offices of Vespers and Compline into Evensong with its famous Church-Musick rubric after the third collect, "In Quires and Places where they sing here followeth the Anthem."

What's an Anthem? Well, it's an elaboration of the Antiphon, like we have in that old Offertory chant. Some of these historic antiphons were developed by composers into polyphonic settings (much to the benefit of humankind) and they served to embellish the Roman Catholic liturgy.

The antiphon and therefore their polyphonic treatments were not translated into the Anglican liturgy wholesale (though the torch for them burned rather brightly at the Chapel Royal). And yet many Anglicans had already developed a choral tradition. So what to do? The "Anthem" at Evensong was a solution. Note, however, that this mention of an Anthem does not appear in the Eucharist.

But at the instigation of ever-ambitious musicians, Anglicans soon looked for ways to infest the new Prayer Book liturgy with music. Furthermore, there was serious uneasiness with church music in Latin, so in most places new English language music was desired. These two forces combined to see the writing of "Anthems" based on the Offertory Sentences and other comparable pieces of scripture. With this music, the drab spoken part of the celebrant could be handled rather deftly by the choir.

So, to review, here's how things stood around the time of the 1662 Prayer Book.

But if we jump ahead quite a bit to, say, this coming Sunday and check in on two branches of the Anglican Church, the one in England and the one in the United States, we see that practices have generally diverged.

In England

In the United States

Rubrical Clarification: I'm reading the rubric on p. 361 at face value: "During the Offertory, a hymn, psalm, or anthem may be sung."
The key points being that during the Offertory:
One piece of music is permitted, be it a hymn, psalm or anthem. So to sing an Anthem and a hymn or a fragment thereof would be a violation of this rubric.
• Music may be sung, but there may also be no music.
• Incidentally, I don't see permission here for exclusively instrumental (organ) music.

What becomes clear is that English churches have largely retained the historic shape of the Western liturgy, the Offertory Hymn taking the place of the Offertory Chant and serving the same function. American churches, meanwhile, have conflated the anthem of Evensong with the Eucharistic liturgy at the expense of its integral parts, seriously confusing the liturgical shape of the Offertory. (In both places there is ample room for music at Communion, but this is beyond the scope of this article).

To see how confused the present situation is, one need only look at the most ignored rubric in the 1979 American Prayer Book.

Representatives of the congregation bring the people's offerings of bread and wine, and money or other gifts, to the deacon or celebrant. The people stand while the offerings are presented and placed on the Altar.

1979 BCP, p. 361, emphasis mine

In how many places do the People stand while the bread and wine are presented? Note that the rubric seems to assume that the gifts are presented together. I'll address this below.

The presentation of the bread and wine is on behalf of the entire gathered assembly. These gifts, which are offered from the People to God, are then given by God back to his People. It is interesting then that this initial stage of the journey of the Eucharist elements is so ignored.

I would posit that in the vast majority of Episcopal churches the congregation sits while the elements are presented and the choir sings an anthem. Am I wrong?

This poses multiple problems

  1. The rubric instructing the People to stand is ignored. If the presentation of the bread and the wine is a liturgical act, done on behalf of all the People, the assembly should be standing to enact this.
  2. The Anthem takes on more "concert hall" importance as people sit to hear it. It also probably grows in length.
  3. If the money offering is collected during the Anthem then it, too, must be presented to the Celebrant. This is either done
    1. during the singing of the Anthem, which poses a minor logistical challenge in terms of timing
    2. after the conclusion of the Anthem, which then leaves open the question of what musical activity, if any, will cover the action.

    Note that in either case, the money is separated from the bread and the wine, making two presentations of the Offering. You could argue this is good, bad, or ugly, but if modern people are more attached to their own cash than the bread and wine that are provided on their behalf, I would wager that it helps the sensation of Offering if these things are Offered simultaneously as part of a single procession.

So here, at last, we arrive at the liturgical opening for the Doxology (point 3.2 above). As you can see, the merits of running the liturgy this way are questionable at best, but it is the practice in most Episcopal congregations (as best I can tell).

Whatever is sung or played here, it need be short.

Some possibilities

And let me ask you, could there be a more genuine text of praise in English verse than this? (Well maybe "Awesome God" by Rich Mullins, but I digress...)

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.

A penultimate point: the bifurcation of the elements of the bread and wine from the money may not be the central issue at all. For better or worse the Anthem at the Eucharist has become part of the Offertory theology of the Episcopal Church. We've made our bed, so let's lie in it, but first let's put on the silk sheets. Having the People join in a regular musical response after a more elaborate choral offering by the choir is highly appropriate (I believe the credit to the phrase "Musical Offering" must largely be given to J. S. Bach). It joins the assembly in worship in the same modality just offered by the choir. The effect of this can be clarified through careful planning of the Doxology—either by transposition or transition, or both. Gerre Hancock was a master of this. It's good Anglican musical theology.

Finally, there is nothing wrong with repetition in the liturgy. We repeat the words of the Gloria in Excelsis, the Sanctus, the Benedictus, whatever our parish sings at the Fraction.

I had the experience recently of the Rector of a parish asking me if the RSCM-affiliated Choristers could come into a meeting being held concurrently with our rehearsal to lead the people in the Doxology. Fantastic, I thought. "Yes," I replied. "We would love to do that."

I told the Choristers that we would be singing the Doxology. "The what?", they asked.

No problem. These Choristers were more than capable of singing a hymn. So we opened the hymnal to 380 and took a look at stanza 3.

“Are we really so elitist that we think that we're above the Doxology?”

It was fine. They could sing it. But it didn't resonate yet. It didn't roll off the tongue. Not as it did for me, and not as it did for the Rector. And not as it did for a large gathering in the Diocese who elected a bishop later that year. And not as it does for many gatherings in the Anglican Communion where a short, joyous outburst of praise is desired by all. ("Let's sing the Gloria in Excelsis!" said no one at a meeting, ever.)

I think we overlook the merits of the Doxology as a catechetical tool for young people at our peril. It is easily learned at a young age. It is the connective tissue between Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, the home, and liturgical worship.

More to the point, the Doxology is already known widely, not just by many Anglicans (admit it, you know it by heart), but by Christians around the world.

Are we really so elitist that we think that we're above the Doxology? Is it really "You must give me the Venite sung to my favourite single Anglican Chant and pass the sherry, and then give me Howells Magnificats and pass the single malt, but please, not Thomas Ken!"

No, I don't think so. And I'm rather fed up with people who think that they are above this.

Because the Doxology is not Welch's as so many fear. It is a fine Cabernet, rich and full.

It is one manifestation of the Christian unity that we so sorely need.

And it is available in equally attractive non-alcoholic options for our young people and our Baptist brothers and sisters.

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