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.
This week the choir sings an anthem by the English composer, John Rutter. Rutter attended school in London with John Tavener, and both began composing in their teens. Rutter is now most well known for writing Christmas carols, the first of which he had published when he was 18. He went on to university at Cambridge and served for several years as director of music at Clare College. His anthem, “Lord, Make Me an Instrument of Thy Peace,” sets a text widely thought to be by St. Francis of Assisi. The earliest source of the text, however, is no older than 1912, and the repeated references to the self are uncharacteristic of Francis’s writings. This Sunday the Choristers make their first contribution to a service this fall, singing the anthem “God of Many Names” by Dolores Hruby.
This Sunday is World Communion Sunday, and the service recognizes this with music from all over the world, from Russia to Peru, from South Africa to Norway, from Brazil to Latin America. In addition, the organ prelude and postlude are by Naji Hakim, a Lebanese organist who lives in Paris. The offertory anthem is “Eatnemen Vuelie,” written by Frode Fjellheim, a Norwegian musician of southern Sámi origin. The Sámi are an indigenous ethnic group living in northern Scandinavia, and have faced increasing cultural, political and environmental pressures. Fjellheim’s song is inspired by the yoik tradition, an ancient Sámi style of singing on improvised syllables which was condemned as sinful by Christian missionaries during the nineteenth centuries. In “Eatnemen Vuelie,” the yoik element is combined with the hymn, “Fairest Lord Jesus,” a 17th-century German chorale which by the 19th century had become a folk hymn in Silesia.
This Sunday’s anthem is a solo version of “Shall We Gather at the River,” by Robert Lowry (1826-1889). While he served as a Baptist minister at several churches, and then as professor of literature and later chancellor of what is now Bucknell University, Lowry is best remembered as a hymn writer. His most famous hymns include “How Can I Keep from Singing,” “Up from the Grave He Arose,” and “Shall We Gather at the River.” This hymn, Lowry explained, came to him on an oppressively hot July day where he lay down in a state of complete exhaustion. Visions of the apocalypse came to him, and images of the throne, heavenly river, and the gathering of the saints soon developed into the words of the hymn. The arrangement sung today is by the American composer Luigi Zaninelli.
This week the choir sings two anthems, “Bow Down Low” as arranged by David Bridges and “Laudate nomen Domini” by Christopher Tye. “Bow Down Low” is a religious song of the Shakers, the longest surviving religious communal group in the United States. The song is an example of a “laboring song,” in which the act of sweeping and cleaning is applied both to one’s home and one’s soul. The second anthem is an excerpt from Tye’s Actes of the Apostles, which was published in London around 1553. The only music of Tye’s to be published during his lifetime — and perhaps the only collection of polyphonic music to be based on that book of the Bible — the work consisted of the first fourteen chapters of Acts in Tye’s own versification, set to attractive but unpretentious music. History has not been kind to the work, especially to Tye’s poetry, and its music is generally now performed to alternative texts.