The birthday celebrations have begun! English organist and composer Francis Jackson will turn 100 on Monday, October 2.
With Heart and Voice, the organ and church music program from WXXI in Rochester, N.Y., begins the celebration with this week's episode, "Comes Autumn Time." The program include Jackson's hymn tune EAST ACKLAM and his Benedicite in G.
Episcopalians have this lovely tune at their disposal at Hymn 424 in the Hymnal 1982.
So often we see a birth date like (b. 1917) in this Hymnal, published over thirty years ago, and mentally assume that the person must have passed on. Not so with Francis Jackson!
Last night, a young chorister asked me if the author of the hymn, Fred Pratt Green was still living. The hymnal notes his birth year as 1903. Green died in 2000.
At St. Peter's, St. Louis, we will sing his marvelous anthem "Lo, God is here" this Sunday. Jackson composed this anthem for the Oxford anthology Anthems for Choirs 1, which he edited. I love this little anthem and its raw, visceral energy.
The anthem is acrobatic. There are no fewer than four key changes. The harmonic twists and turns sound unexpected but are not terribly difficult to manage. There are no fewer than four key changes in this short anthem! I find the consecutive upward leaps of a major seventh at the words "To thee may all our thoughts arise" particularly compelling and memorable.
Anthems for Choirs 1 is out of print, and used copies are cost-prohibitive for choirs that do not already own them, like the Choir of St. Peter's, St. Louis. Luckily, an Oxford "archive print" is available through Banks Music. It is a legally available facsimile of what appears in Anthems for Choirs (the first page is numbered 88).
We'll sing Hymn 424 and hear a bit of his organ music next Sunday.
And I think it's time to dust off his lovely Magnificat and Nunc dimittis in G, too.
Update, 3 October 2017: Pipedreams episode 1740, "Music for a Long While" also celebrates the Jackson centenary. The program is a good mix of Jackson's composition, performance, and includes some of the York Minster choir under his direction.
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