The Singers and the Choristers help to lead worship this week. The Choristers will sing Teach Me Your Way by American composer Timothy Shaw with a text based on Psalm 86:11-13. As the Choristers prepared to sing in worship they have been singing songs and making crafts about following God. In worship we will sing one of their favorite hymns on this theme, Guide My Feet. The Singers will sing a round that was originally written by G. P. Telemann (1681-1767) and has been arranged by Dave and Jean Perry: I Will Rejoice. We have enjoyed working on this round and focusing our ears to hear all the parts while we sing together.
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 week the choir sings two anthems — the first, “Kyrie Eleison,” is an arrangement by David Angerman of a song by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend. Getty, from northern Ireland, and Townend, from England, frequently collaborate in writing modern hymns that have found acceptance in a wide spectrum of churches on both sides of the Atlantic. In the 11:00 service, this song will function as the confession of sin. The second anthem, “Christ has no body but yours,” by Bob Chilcott, was commissioned from the composer directly by Westminster. Chilcott, an English composer who sang with the choir of King’s College, Cambridge, both as a boy and as a university student, and was a member of the King’s Singers for twelve years, completed the anthem in the fall of 2015, and it was premiered at Westminster shortly thereafter.
This week Dana Patek and Megan Sharp sing a couple of duets, “Many in One” by Alice Parker, and “Love will find out the way” by Howard Goodall. This second song is a setting of an anonymous poem found in Thomas Percy’s Reliquies of Ancient English Poetry (1765). Some have thought Percy may have written some of the ballad texts in his collection himself, but in some form this poem was known in the seventeenth century. Parts of it were incorporated into the libretto for The Marriage of Figaro by Pierre de Beaumarchais, and there is also a setting of the poem by Joseph Haydn.