This week the choir sings an anthem based on William Billings’ “fuging tune” (or round), “When Jesus Wept.” Billings was self-taught in music (having dropped out of school when his father died at age 14), but is considered the first significant American composer. Blind in one eye, with one short leg and a withered arm, Billings was trained as a tanner, had an addiction to snuff and an “uncommon negligence of person.” His collection, The New England Psalm-Singer (1770), was the first printed book of American music. The frontispiece was engraved by Paul Revere, and Billings delayed publication a year until he could get American-made paper. Billings composed both music and words (based on John 11:35) for “When Jesus Wept.” The arrangement sung by the choir is by the American composer Fred Bock.
This week the choir will sing the Rutter Requiem as part of a Special Music Sunday. John Rutter attended Highgate School in London, where he took part in a 1963 recording of Britten’s War Requiem, conducted by the composer. In 1983 he travelled to the Paris Bibliothèque Nationale to examine a recently-discovered score of Fauré’s Requiem. There he discovered that Fauré’s original version was scored for a small chamber ensemble, and that the piece had only later been reworked for full orchestra. Rutter edited the original version of the Fauré Requiem for publication at the same time that he began composing his own version, and Fauré’s work was clearly inspirational. Rutter composed the work in two separate versions, one for full orchestra and one for chamber ensemble. We will perform this second version on Sunday, scored for flute, oboe, cello, harp, timpani and organ. The solo in the Pie Jesu movement will be sung by guest soprano Lauren Hauser. Rutter combined the traditional Requiem text (sung in Latin) with two psalm settings, of Psalms 130 and 23, sung in English. Dedicated to his father, who had died the year before, Rutter’s Requiem was finished in 1985 and immediately became immensely popular, receiving over 500 orchestral performances in the next six months in the United States alone.
This week — the first Sunday of Lent — the choir sings two anthems, the first a setting by Russell Schulz-Widmar of a poem by the seventeenth-century English poet, Robert Herrick (of “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may” fame). Schulz-Widmar sets Herrick’s devotional lyric, “Sweet spirit, comfort me” to a melody by the eighteenth-century French composer, Marc-Antoine Charpentier. The organ music this week is by Charpentier’s contemporary (and for a brief time colleague at the royal court), Francois Couperin. The second anthem this Sunday is “Haste thee, O God,” by the seventeenth-century English composer, Adrian Batten, a setting of Psalm 70.
If we reflect back on great movements in world history, those times when people had a moment of conscience or found themselves in conflict with others, one of the powerful byproducts were the songs they sang. Whenever and wherever people have gathered to study the Gospel and pray, a song has often followed. As one scholar put it: “Songs play an interpretative note in the narratives they punctuate.”  In the Old Testament, the Song of Moses and the Song of Hannah expressed the people’s longing for God’s justice as well as God’s deliverance from their enemies. In the New Testament, both Mary’s Song (Lk. 1:46-55) and Paul and Silas singing hymns to God from their prison cell (Acts 16:25) remind us that when people of faith faced difficult trials, songs of comfort, songs of praise, songs of lament, and songs of hope filled the air.
During the American civil rights movement, songs of resistance and hope burst forth out of darkness and violence. “We Shall Overcome,” they sang. “We’ll walk hand in hand” they sang. “We shall live in peace,” they sang. Today, as followers of Christ, what is our song? What is the song that unites people of faith in a common cause to heal and proclaim God’s love for all people?
During the season of Lent, we will explore this theme through liturgy, sermon, and song. We’ll look more closely at songs in scripture and the songs sung throughout history when the people of faith found their voices and made melody before the Lord (Ps. 27:6). Come and sing a new song!
 Brian Bock. Singing the Ethos of God: On the Place of Christian Ethics in Scripture. 2007.
Lent & Easter happenings at Westminster
Sunday, March 18—Fifth Sunday in Lent, worship services, 8:30 & 11:00 a.m.
Wednesday, March 21—Lenten communion service, 7:00 p.m.
Worship with communion, Taizé chants and readings.
Sunday, March 25—Palm/Passion Sunday, worship services, 8:30 & 11:00 a.m.
Children and youth are invited to join in the procession of palms to begin our journey into holy week.
The One Great Hour of Sharing offering will be collected—bring in your fish banks!
Thursday, March 29—Maundy Thursday, dinner 6:00 p.m., worship 7:00 p.m.
Soup supper followed by worship with the Last Supper dramatized in tableau.
Friday, March 30—Good Friday worship service, 6:00 p.m.
Tenebrae service with sung lamentations, candlelight, and Psalms.
Sunday, April 1—Easter, worship services, 8:30 & 11:00 a.m.
Celebrate Christ’s Resurrection at 8:30 with communion and at 11:00 with reaffirmation of baptism. Between the services enjoy brunch and participate in the flowering of the cross.