This week the choir will participate in worship, virtually, singing Psalm 23: The Lord Is My Shepherd. This setting of Psalm 23 is an African-American spiritual arranged by Larry J. Long, the Organist and Choirmaster at the Church of the Epiphany in New York City. The combined choirs of Adults and Singers studied and recorded their portions of this song at home. Our skilled technician, Matt Lyons, brought all of these recordings together and aligned parts to combine our individual voices into a virtual choir. This week’s prelude is an organ setting of another African-American spiritual, Fix Me, Jesus, arranged by J. Roland Braithwaite (b. 1927), an African-American organist composer who taught at Talladega College in Alabama.
This week’s anthem is an arrangement of the well-known spiritual, “I want Jesus to walk with me.” Like many African-American spirituals, “I want Jesus to walk with me” has no known author and is essentially a folk song, part of a shared response to the experience of hardship and oppression. Many variants in the text and tune exist and additional verses might be improvised. One of the first records of the spiritual is in Dorothy Bolton and Harry Burleigh’s Old Songs Hymnal (1929), where its title is “I want Jesus to talk with me.” The spiritual was frequently performed by the Fisk Jubilee Singers, a group of singers formed in 1871 as a fundraising effort for Fisk University, a historically black college in Tennessee. According to the historian Calvin Earl, on one of their early tours singing this spiritual saved the group from a hostile mob.
This week in worship you will see and hear some of the Choristers using body percussion and singing Sing Alleluia! by Sue Ellen Page. Despite the snow last Sunday, we all managed to meet in the courtyard and record this anthem together. Sue Ellen Page was a prolific American composer of children’s anthems. The anthem offered in worship today was first written in 1968 for the Chorister’s Guild when Ms. Page was only 18. The Choristers Guild is an organization that, since the 1950s, supports church musicians to promote musical and spiritual growth of people of all ages through publications and educational opportunities. In 1986 the Choristers Guild publications committee asked Ms. Page to look again at her composition because they were interested in re-printing it. She changed the accompaniment to organ instead of guitar and updated the text while keeping the original form and fun rhythmic refrain.
This week’s hymn, “Heal me, hands of Jesus,” was written by Michael Perry, an English clergyman and hymn writer whose most famous work is the “Calypso Carol” (“See him lying on a bed of straw”), which he wrote (words and music) for a carol concert at Oak Hill Theological College while he was a student there. Perry’s hymn text intertwines themes of healing, forgiveness and peace. It is set to music by Carl Haywood, an African-American organist, choral conductor, and composer who was born in Portsmouth, Virginia. He teaches at Norfolk State University, a public, historically black university in Norfolk, Virginia.
Watch this message in which Lynne shares how we can continue deepening our faith during this time when we are not gathering at the church. Click here for links to a family worship serves, church school lessons for children, information about technology that can be used to gather remotely and a link to the Faith and Family class on Sunday. .
Lynne shares some of her thoughts on caring for ourselves and our families in this time of uncertainty in this video message. For a list of good Christian education resources for families, adults, kids, and teachers, please click here.