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Musical Weekly: November 19, 2019

The phrase “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” although the title of a jaunty and more-or-less secular carol, actually refers to a liturgical thing — the length of the Season of Christmas in the Church Calendar: 12 days (Dec. 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, Jan. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5).  It is this ecclesiastical understanding of Christmas as a season that I am highlighting in this year’s St. Martin’s Christmas concerts, entitled “The Twelve Days of Christmas: A Narrative of Carols.”  We will present 12 scenes (or “days”) in the nativity story, and each scene will have a carol or two attached to it.  This week, I’ll just give you the names I’ve attached to these 12 scenes, along with a Latin title drawn from a musical text associated with that scene.

Day One: The Annuciation  Ave Maria
Day Two: Joseph’s Dream – Ecce virgo concipiet
Day Three: The Visitation  Magnificat
Day Four: To Bethlehem  Puer natus in Bethlehem 
Day Five: The Nativity – Christus natus est
Day Six: The Animals’ Vision – O Magnum Mysterium
Day Seven: The Angels – Gloria in excelsis
Day Eight: The Shepherds – Adorare Dominum
Day Nine: The Star in the East  Videntes stellam
Day Ten: The Magi’s Gifts – Aurum, thus, et myrrham
Day Eleven: Herod Slays the Innocents – Vox in Rama
Day Twelve: The Presentation in the Temple  Nunc dimittis

Next week I’ll flesh this out by telling you the carols I’ve programmed for each scene.  In the meantime you can think of what you might program for each “Day”…  🙂

These concerts will take place as follows:

  • Fri., Dec. 20, 7:30pm – St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral, Denver
  • Sat., Dec. 21, 7:30pm – First Plymouth Congregational, Englewood
  • Sun., Dec. 22, 3:00pm – Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Wheat Ridge
Evensong this Thursday honors three important Tudor-era musicians, Thomas Tallis, William Byrd, and John Merbecke.  The first two appear frequently among my music lists as the two most prominent musicians of the early Anglican Church.  The third of the set is included for his important work in setting portions of the new Book of Common Prayer to music, arranging most of it from Catholic sources (mostly Gregorian chant).  The music will be rendered by an a cappella quartet, and consists of the following:

November 21, 2019, 5:45pm, Choral Evensong; Byrd, Tallis, Merbecke
Responses: Wiliam Byrd (1543-1623)
Canticle of Light: “O nata lux” by Thomas Tallis (c.1510-1585)
Psalm: 47 – plainchant
Service: Thomas Causton (d. 1570) in the Dorian Mode
Anthem: “Ave verum corpus” by William Byrd
Office Hymn: 692 (The Third Tune)

This coming Sunday is the last of the church year (there’s been a lot about the church year in this Weekly!), often called “Christ the King” (or, more prosaically, Proper 29).  I am having just the Women of the Choir sing this week, and the music will be as follows:

November 24, 2019, 9:00 and 11:00am, Proper 29
*Introit: “O thou sweetest source” by Louis Bourgeois (1551), arr. Philip Ledger (1973)
Anthem: “King of Glory, King of Peace” by William H. Harris (1883-1973)
Fraction Anthem: “O salutaris hostia” by Pasquale Pisari (c.1725-1778)
Communion motet: “I will worship” by George Dyson (1883-1964)
Hymns: 495 (In Babilone), *494 (Diademata), 483 (St. Magnus), 477 (Engelberg)
*11:00 only

This setting of one of my all time favorite texts (George Herbert’s poem “King of Glory, King of Peace”) is probably my favorite of them all.  It is actually an anthem “for boys” (dedicated to the boys of the choir of St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle), so is technically SSS.  However, with just a little tweaking and editing it is easily made into an anthem for SSA.  One reason I like this text so much is that it contains what I consider my creed as a church musician:

Wherefore with my utmost art
I will sing thee,
And the cream of all my heart
I will bring thee.

What I do from week to week in the service of music I do with my “utmost art,” meaning (in my case) that I do not allow anything unprofessional or slovenly to creep in; that I choose the music with care for quality and appropriateness; that I prepare it with care and love; and that I render it reverently and seriously.  The “cream of all my heart” is that I do this joyously and thankfully, full of gratitude for the gifts I’ve been given and the opportunity I have to do such fulfilling and meaningful work, and with such exceptional colleagues and musicians.