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.
This week the choir sings an anthem by Malcolm Archer, a former director of music at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London and now Director of Chapel Music at Winchester College. His anthem, “And I Saw a New Heaven,” is a setting of the first verses of Revelation 21 in an attractive, neo-Romantic style.
Sunday’s organ music also features some Romantic music, with a prelude by Gustav Merkel, a German organist who studied with Robert Schumann and was greatly influenced by Felix Mendelssohn.
This week the choir sings two anthems, “I Hunger and Thirst” by Kevin Siegfried, and “The King of Love my Shepherd is” by Edward Bairstow. “I Hunger and Thirst” is an arrangement of a Shaker song from the nineteenth century, which the composer heard sung by Sister Mildred Barker in Maine. “The King of Love my Shepherd is” is a hymn-anthem version of the familiar hymn. The text, a paraphrase of Psalm 23 by Sir Henry Williams Baker, freely Christianizes the psalm by including the cross with the rod and staff, finally addressing the “Good Shepherd” of John 10:11-18. Bairstow’s anthem highlights the text by depicting musically the flowing waters, the valley of death, and the straying of lost sheep.
This week the church holds its annual meeting after a shortened service, so the choir will sing one anthem, “I want to live so God can use me,” by Alice Parker. This anthem is one part of a larger, multi-movement work, A Sermon from the Mountain, written as a tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The piece was commissioned by the Franconia Mennonite Chorus in April 1968, just days after Dr. King was assassinated. The Sermon takes the form of a worship service, in which several spirituals are sung by the congregation (represented by the choir) in response to Biblical passages (sung by a soloist) and readings from Dr. King’s sermons and writings.
This week’s music continues with themes of Christmas. The Pastorale has four contrasting sections where you’ll hear a variety of the organ’s flute stops to illustrate “shepherds abiding in the fields”. Alexandre Boely, who wrote the closing Noel has set a French Christmas tune ‘Mon ame, dormez-vous’ (Do you sleep, my soul?) Listen for it in the pedal.
Jane Edmister Penner