This week the choir will sing the Rutter Requiem as part of a Special Music Sunday. John Rutter attended Highgate School in London, where he took part in a 1963 recording of Britten’s War Requiem, conducted by the composer. In 1983 he travelled to the Paris Bibliothèque Nationale to examine a recently-discovered score of Fauré’s Requiem. There he discovered that Fauré’s original version was scored for a small chamber ensemble, and that the piece had only later been reworked for full orchestra. Rutter edited the original version of the Fauré Requiem for publication at the same time that he began composing his own version, and Fauré’s work was clearly inspirational. Rutter composed the work in two separate versions, one for full orchestra and one for chamber ensemble. We will perform this second version on Sunday, scored for flute, oboe, cello, harp, timpani and organ. The solo in the Pie Jesu movement will be sung by guest soprano Lauren Hauser. Rutter combined the traditional Requiem text (sung in Latin) with two psalm settings, of Psalms 130 and 23, sung in English. Dedicated to his father, who had died the year before, Rutter’s Requiem was finished in 1985 and immediately became immensely popular, receiving over 500 orchestral performances in the next six months in the United States alone.
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.
On Sunday, March 26 the adult choir will sing at both the 8:30 and 11:00 worship services. Special Music Sunday is an opportunity for the adult choir to offer a longer, sometimes more complex, piece of music in a worship service. This longer musical work appears in the worship service after the reading of scripture, allowing the congregation time to reflect upon the Biblical texts and to hear how the text of the choir piece might relate to the themes in worship that day. On March 26 the choir will sing two pieces by Felix Mendelssohn Wer nur den leiben Gott läßt walten (If Thou but Trust in God to Guide Thee) and Verleih uns Frieden (Grant Us Peace). The service will be further enhanced by a string quartet playing the opening and closing voluntaries with music by Fanny Mendelssohn and her brother Felix Mendelssohn.