This week the choir sings two classic anthems for the season of Advent. The first is a setting of the hymn, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” as it is found in the oldest source of that melody, a fifteenth-century French ceremoniale. The second anthem, “E’en so, Lord Jesus, quickly come,” is the most well-known work of the Minnesota composer Paul Manz (1919-2009). The piece was written in 1953 at a time when Manz’s young son was critically ill, and Paul and his wife Ruth took turns staying with him, Ruth by day and Paul at night. Ruth wrote the text for the anthem, based on several passages from Revelations, especially 1:4-5 and 22:5. Paul wrote the music while watching at his son’s bedside. Their son recovered, and the anthem has since become beloved by choirs around the world.
This week the choir sings two anthems by American composers, “I Love Thee, I Love Thee,” by John Carter, and “O Jesus, King Most Wonderful,” by Gerald Near. Carter, a church musician from Ohio, arranged an anthem by another American church musician, Jeremiah Ingalls, who worked in Vermont at the beginning of the 19th century. Near, a prominent American composer of choral and organ music, served as organist and canon precentor at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Dallas.
This week the choir sings an arrangement of the traditional song, “Saints Bound for Heaven,” by Alice Parker and Robert Shaw. An American folk hymn, the song is found in William Walker’s Southern Harmony, from 1835. The arrangement, dating from 1956, is the product of a long partnership between Parker and Shaw that began when the Robert Shaw Chorale signed a recording contract with RCA Victor in 1948. While Shaw wanted to record the great choral masterworks, RCA thought some lighter, popular music might sell better. Shaw was persuaded to do both and asked Alice Parker to make appropriate arrangements of folk songs, hymns, and spirituals for use by his choir. The 223 arrangements the pair collaborated on form a treasury of choral music for use by all sorts of choirs and all ages.
This Sunday is the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s famous posting of his 99 theses on the door of the church in Wittenburg, considered the beginning of the Reformation. To mark this event, the choir this Sunday will sing the first movement of J. S. Bach’s cantata 80, a setting of Luther’s hymn, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. In this magnificent piece, Bach takes each phrase of the chorale in turn, weaving contrapuntal lines derived from that phrase of the melody, before finally presenting the melody in long, plain notes in the bass (in our case, the organ pedals). The service will conclude the way Bach’s cantata does, with Bach’s ornate harmonization of the last verse of the hymn. In contrast, the second anthem is a setting of Psalm 146 from the 1565 Scottish psalter, the first complete psalm book and the first music of any kind to be printed in Scotland. While psalms had been part of the musical repertoire of the church for centuries, the Reformation gave them a new role, as the entire congregation (instead of a choir) began to sing the psalms in their own language (not Latin), set as rhymed poetry. While the choir will sing Psalm 146 alone, the congregation as a whole sings Psalm 90, in the paraphrase version of Isaac Watts (Our God, Our Help in Ages Past). The third hymn this week is I Greet Thee, Who My Sure Redeemer Art, a text attributed to John Calvin.
This summer the theme for the Montreat Worship and Music Conference that I attended was “Then Sings My Soul!” taken from the refrain of the well known hymn, How Great Thou Art. If your soul is looking to join a community of song, you are in the right place. Westminster has choirs and musical experiences for all ages and abilities. Below you can find the rehearsal times for musical groups. We also have an all-choir potluck on Thursday, September 7, which is a good time to meet people in choir and enjoy a time of fellowship. For full descriptions of these groups please click here.
Adult Choir-open to all adults and university students
Rehearsals-Thursday, 7:00-9:00 pm, choir room
Choristers-for children in kindergarten through fourth grade
First rehearsal-Thursday, September 7 4:00-5:00 pm, choir room
All Choir Potluck-bring a dish to share, and a friend to introduce
Thursday, September 7 6:00 pm in the choir room
Singers-for youth from fifth grade and up, and adults
First rehearsal and retreat-Sunday, September 10 from noon-2:00 pm with pizza and games
Life-Long Song-an adult daytime singing opportunity
First meeting-Thursday, September 14 11:00 am, room 208
If you have questions or would like more information, please contact Megan Sharp, Director of Fine Arts.