'Program notes'
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,767
    I wonder how many of you write descriptive notes for anthems? Here's a sample of what I'll pin to the bulletin board tomorrow morning.

    Music at St. David of Wales
    The St David of Wales Parish Choir rehearses Thursdays 7:30 - 9:00 and Sunday 10:00 for the 11:00 - noon Mass, as well as announced Feast Days (usually 6:00 for 7:00 PM Mass). Beginners as well as experienced singers are welcome; if interested in joining please contact Richard Mix after a service or at RichardMix@hotmail.com.

    June 12 Trinity the spirit of truth Mozart: Benedictus sit, K 117 +
    This Offertory (along with the Mass in C major K 66) was composed for the ordination of Cajetan Hagenauer, son of the Mozarts’ landlord, a ceremony that lasted two hours. Today we sing the first of two movements.

    June 19 Corpus Christi: Byrd: Ave verum**
    William Byrd’s famous Eucharistic motet (“Hail True Body”) from the 1605 Gradualia makes striking use of cross relations, the contradictory inflections arising from simultaneous use of the melodic minor and harmonic minor scales.

    June 26 to Jerusalem OT 13 A. Févin: Omnes gentes plaudite
    Omnes gentes (“All ye people, clap your hands”, the Introit for Ordinary Time 13) is the second half of Benedictus Dominus Deus, a two part motet by Antoine Févin (c. 1470 – 1511), who worked at the French royal court in Blois and was estimed by contemporaries as “Josquin’s emulator”.

    July 3 OT 14 milk of comfort Vaughn-Williams O taste and see+
    This setting of Psalm xxxiii:9, the Communion verse for Ordinary Time 14, was composed and first sung for the Coronation of Elizabeth II, 2 June 1953, the year after her Accession.

    July 10 OT 15 Samaritan A Scarlatti: Ad te Domine levavi+
    Alessandro Scarlatti (uncle of the equally famous Domenico Scarlatti) wrote Ad te levavi (Psalm 24:1-4) for Advent, a season when the organ was silent. In the 1979 Roman Gradual it is now the Introit for Ordinary Time 15.

    July 17 OT 16 Martha & Mary Corteccia: Optimam partem+
    This setting of the last verse of todays Gospel (“Mary has chosen for herself the best portion”) is preserved in the choirbook of Florence’s Cathedral, where Francesco Corteccia (1507-1571) was a choirboy and chaplain before being appointed organist at San Lorenzo, the Medici’s chapel.

    July 24 OT 17 Pater noster Stravinsky: Pater noster+
    Stravinsky’s setting of the Lord’s Prayer (Отче наш 1926, latinized 1949) was the first of several pieces written for a Russian emigree congregation in Paris that worshiped upstairs from a dance hall. He relates that a special collection had to be taken to bribe the band into waiting to strike up until after the midnight Easter Proclamation.

    July 31 OT 18 like the grass Brahms: Ach armer Welt**
    Johannes Brahms composed Opus 110 No. 2 in 1889, setting an old German hymn: ‘Poor world, I realize you decieve me and yet cannot avoid you. You are false and your appearances fade, I know to my woe. Your glory, your goods all fail in true need, at death; your treasure is a counterfeit, therefore help me, Lord, to find peace.’

    Aug. 7 OT 19 unexpected hour Tavener: The Lamb+
    Sir John Tavener (1944-2013) was a descendant of the renaissance composer John Taverner (with an extra ‘r’) wrote The Lamb for the 1982 Chrismas Eve Lessons & Carols service at King’s College. Setting the poem (“Little Lamb who made thee?”) from William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience (1789), its opening melody is accompanied mirror-like by its own inversion.

    Aug. 14 OT 20 father against son Josquin: Ave Maria**
    So famous was ‘the prince of music’ to his contemporaries that Michelangelo was called ‘the Josquin of sculpture’. 500 years later the prestige of visual art has risen enough that it is more usual to hear Josquin’s Ave Maria called ‘the Mona Lisa of music’.
  • Richard,

    I've never done anything so entertaining and informative as you have in these short blurbs, in all my time as a parish musician.

    Thank you for improving my evening.
    Thanked by 2tomjaw ServiamScores
  • I have been doing something similar for the last ten years, and they have generally been well received by the congregation. Mine tend to be written less for the musician in the congregation, but for the layperson, assisting them in getting some sense of where these texts and tunes have come from. Mine are a bit longer, but when space demands, I'll edit them down to a few sentences. An example:
    Rise, O Church Like Christ Arisen was written by Susan Palo Cherwien,(1954-2021). Susan was a poet and musician. She received her bachelor’s degree in church music and voice from Wittenberg University; a Master of Liberal Studies from Mundelein College, Chicago, where she focused on spirituality, ritual, and the arts. Susan has composed numerous hymn texts which appear in denominational hymnals in the United States, Canada, and Europe. She served on the ELCA Language Consultation, whose work set language guidelines prior to the development of Evangelical Lutheran Worship. The tune, LAUDA ANIMA, was composed by John Goss (1800-1880). As a boy Goss was a chorister at the Chapel Royal and later sang in the opera chorus of the Covent Garden Theater. He was a professor of music at the Royal Academy of Music and organist of St. Paul Cathedral, London; in both positions he exerted significant influence on the reform of British cathedral music. Goss published Parochial Psalmody (1826) and Chants, Ancient and Modern (1841); he edited William Mercer's Church Psalter and Hymn Book (1854). With James Turle he published a two-volume collection of anthems and Anglican service music (1854).
    Thanked by 1Richard Mix
  • Richard,

    Josquin has a liturgical commemoration? Which calendar?


    I don't know why any Catholic publisher would use the work of Susan Cherwien, based on what you've listed as her pedigree, nor still why any musician would program her texts for singing in a Catholic parish, shrine, monastery or convent. Based on what you've written, may I guess that (when you wrote this) you work(ed) for the ELCA Lutherans?
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 5,148
    See p. 6 of this pdf for "Rise, O Church, Like Christ Arisen"

    CGZ - Is this hymn unsuitable for Catholics?
    (While we are at it) Are the hymns of Charles Wesley also unsuitable for Catholics since Wesley was not Catholic?

    O Blessed Spring - Susan Palo Cherwien

    1 O blessed spring, where word and sign
    embrace us into Christ the Vine:
    here Christ enjoins each one to be
    a branch of this life-giving Tree.

    2 Through summer heat of youthful years,
    uncertain faith, rebellious tears,
    sustained by Christ’s infusing rain,
    the boughs will shout for joy again.

    3 When autumn cools and youth is cold,
    when limbs their heavy harvest hold,
    then through us, warm, the Christ will move
    with gifts of beauty, wisdom, love.

    4 As winter comes, as winters must,
    we breathe our last, return to dust;
    still held in Christ, our souls take wing
    and trust the promise of the spring.

    5 Christ, holy Vine, Christ, living Tree,
    be praised for this blest mystery:
    that word and water thus revive
    and join us to your Tree of Life.

    And ... what about non-Catholic composers? - such as Holst (THAXTED) or Vaughan-Williams (DOWN AMPNEY), just to name two.

  • Charles,

    You illustrate my point, actually: based on pedigree alone, much would be left out which might be included, and much would be included which should be left out.

    Now, the parts of the pedigree I find alarming are these:

    Mundelein College, Chicago, where she focused on spirituality, ritual, and the arts.

    hymn texts which appear in denominational hymnals in the United States, Canada, and Europe

    the ELCA Language Consultation, whose work set language guidelines prior to the development of Evangelical Lutheran Worship.

    I'm pleasantly surprised by the text you bring to my attention.

    I've asked repeatedly around here what place might be made for beautiful polyphony which originated outside the Catholic church, even vernacular music, without damaging the integrity of the Roman rite, and without resorting to "well, you just do include it, so get over it".
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 5,148

    You illustrate my point by what appears to be an ad hominem attack based solely on pedigree, without so much as exploring what Susan Palo Cherwien (who lived relatively close to me, in the Twin Cities) actually wrote. Should I suppose her translation of Veni Sancte Spiritus might be something that you would find suspicious (based on her pedigree) if you hadn't read it or had foreknowledge of it?

    Really, you should do a little research before attempting to discredit her in such knee-jerk fashion.

    Thanked by 1Schönbergian
  • I think you and I agree, actually. Works can and should be judged on their merits.
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,767
    Which calendar?
    Gregorian, in our case, but see this thread.
  • Heath
    Posts: 933
    "June 19 Corpus Christi: Byrd: Ave verum**
    William Byrd’s famous Eucharistic motet (“Hail True Body”) from the 1605 Gradualia makes striking use of cross relations, the contradictory inflections arising from simultaneous use of the melodic minor and harmonic minor scales."

    Richard, are these notes for your congregation? Do you have a lot of congregants that know what cross relations are? :)

  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,767
    a lot of congregants that know what cross relations are?

    I would guess very few; my aim is to intrigue listeners, who must be struck on some level by the extraordinary opening. How would you have written for your congregation, Heath?
    Thanked by 1Heath
  • Heath
    Posts: 933
    A few things I would include off the top of my head:

    -"surprise" chord to highlight the word "verum"
    -harmonically rich (here's an opportunity to point out specific words that he highlights, such as the preceding "verum")
    -use of "echo" in the "O pie" section
    -use of polyphony in "miserere" section, which contrasts what came before (and yes, I always try to define polyphony in a clear, concise way)

    ...and anything interesting in a composer's bio.

    Many of the other entries you composed above were less jargon-y; I'd tend in the direction of those rather than this Byrd entry. :)
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,767
    Well, three to four lines is a severe art. My other constraint is to speak to various levels of experience rather than a hypothetical common denominator. I think there are a substantial number of students who have been told about minor scales, and I chose to tug at that thread.
    Thanked by 1MarkS
  • Schönbergian
    Posts: 1,063
    I always write for the entirely unmusical reader and allow the music to speak for itself. If listeners are unable to comprehend the meaning of the music from your interpretation, then no attempt at textual explanation will do anything. Better to use that space to discuss aspects of the work that cannot possibly be understood solely through listening.
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,767
    write for the entirely unmusical reader
    I know how I feel about that myself, as well as who supports the music program. But what would such a note look like, in 3 or 4 lines?
  • Fall edition
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,767
    Eastertide '23
  • Sometimes I'm asked to write a short reflection in our bulletin related to the music for that Sunday. This was this past Sunday's:

    Michael’s Musical Musings

    “I am the Good Shepherd, says the Lord; I know my sheep, and mine know me.” So begins the Gospel Acclamation for this Sunday, continuing the words of Jesus even after the reading of the Gospel. Christ is the New David, the true shepherd of His flock. The sheep knew David’s voice; all we, like sheep, know Christ’s voice.

    Jesus, like all pious Jews in His time, reflects often on the Psalms of David. But David was not merely a shepherd, he was also a musician. In fact, the two professions are intimately connected. Often tending to his flock for days on end, David would sing to them and himself. When he would call his sheep he sang, for the voice carries much further that way. And as he sang, he composed psalms (“מזמור - mizmor” which is derived from the verb meaning “to pluck” as in plucking an instrument). I have to think Psalm 23 (“The Lord is my shepherd…”) was one of his favorites out in the fields.

    His voice calmed and comforted his sheep. They knew him by his song. The New David, Jesus Christ our Lord, sings to us now. In fact, the whole of creation is but a beautiful love song that began with the love of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. I pray that we attend to that heavenly music and lift up our hearts and voices in to join in praise of Him who shepherds us.
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,767
    last minute changes
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,767
    July notes (2nd try)
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 5,148
    Richard, it says July2023, but its contents are Eastertide.
    Thanked by 1Richard Mix