Sundays in Song: About this Week's Music

September through May we post the hymns and service music,

as well as the choral and instrumental music, that will be included in the 

upcoming Sunday's liturgy, along with commentary on their relevance to the liturgy of that day.

We also invite you to visit past seasons, and explore our YouTube channel to

enjoy the recordings of the choir in past years.


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September 17, 2017


The Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost


Proper 19 A




Opening Voluntary: “Tiento (Offertoire)” from “Suite Médiévale,” by Jean Langlais (1907-1991)


Processional Hymn: Father, we praise thee (Christe sanctorum)


Gloria: Setting by William Mathias (1934-1992)


Gradual: Psalm 103:8-13, setting by Kellow J. Pye (1812-1901)


Offertory Anthem: “With a voice of singing,” by Martin Shaw (1875-1958)


Offertory Verse: All people that on earth do dwell (Old 100th), first and last stanzas


Sanctus: Setting by William Mathias


Communion Motet: “My song shall be always,” by Godfrey Sampson (1902-1949)


Communion Hymn: Forgive our sins as we forgive (Detroit)


Postcommunion Hymn: God is love, let heaven adore him (Abbot’s Leigh)


Closing Voluntary: “Prelude,” by Jean Langlais




The Service of Evensong, for the Feast of Hildegard von Bingen (transferred)




Prelude Recital: “Wings,” by Joan Tower (b. 1938) and “Living in the Body,” by Lori Laitman (b. 1955), performed by Tyrone Page, Jr., Saxophone, and Tayler Hillary Boykins, Mezzo-Soprano




Processional Hymn: I’ll praise my Maker while I’ve breath (Old 113th)


Preces and Responses: Thomas Morley (c. 1558-1602)


Phos Hilaron: O gracious light, setting by Thomas Tallis (1505-1585)


Gradual: Psalm 96, setting adapted from Bingen’s “Caritas abundant in Omnia”


Canticles: St. Catherine’s Service, by Sally Beamish (b. 1956), American Premiere


Anthem: “Brigid’s Flame,” by Amy Williams (b. 1969), World Premiere


Closing Hymn: When in our music God is glorified (Engelberg)


Closing Voluntary: Improvisation on Hildegard von Bingen’s “Caritas abundant in omnia,” Douglas Buchanan, organ




As the scriptures for this Sunday feature mercy and forgiveness, so to do our musical offerings. Reflected in our hymnody, we first hear “Father, we praise thee, now the night is over”—not only a morning hymn, but a hymn from the release of mourning. God’s loving-kindness is emphasized, too, in both the Psalm (set by Kellow J. Pye, the first student at the Royal Academy of Music, London) and in our closing hymn, “God is Love.” This message is also reflected in the communion motet, “My song shall be always of the loving-kindness of the Lord.” In Sampson’s setting a mellifluous Edwardian style, filled with parallel first-inversion triads that float downwards from a gentle flute melody. This is picked up first by the sopranos, and then repeated by the full choir, a cappella—occasional tinges of color add brightness to the work.




These tinges pale in comparison to the prismatic harmonies of Langlais’ “Suite Médiévale,” however. The opening voluntary, amidst a shifting harmonic backdrop, quotes the Kyrie (specifically, the Kyrie “Fons Bonitas”)—again, an emphasis on mercy which resonates with our communion hymn “Forgive our sins, as we forgive.” Langlais’ exuberant Prelude to the Suite closes the morning liturgy.




The service of Evensong for the Feast of Hildegard von Bingen opens the 2017-2018 music series at St. David’s featuring works of women composers in honor of the first recorded composer in Europe, Hildegard, a truly visionary artist, poet, and musician. The service begins with a prelude recital offered by Tyrone Page, Jr., saxophone, and Taylor Hillary Boykins, mezzo-soprano. The recital begins with the solo saxophone work “Wings,” by Pulitzer prize-winning composer Joan Tower. The duo continues with Maryland composer Lori Laitman’s song cycle “Living in the Body.”




Following the recital, the service of Evensong continues, featuring the American premiere of Sally Beamish’s “St. Catherine’s Service.” The Magnificat alternates between exuberant, eight-part exhortations and placid, monophonic lines, creating an expansive palette from which emerges a joyous Gloria Patri. The Nunc Dimittis features a minor, modal-tinged line for basses with a pseudo-pizzicato organ line. The voices build to an exuberant, but somewhat dark, climax. This setting pairs well with Amy Williams’ “Brigid’s Flame,” a work evoking the ancient traditions of Celtic Christianity. (Williams, Professor of Composition at the University Pittsburgh, is currently on a Fulbright grant to Ireland.) An extended organ prelude, fitfully dancing across the keyboard like foxfire, prepares the choir’s entrance. The choir sings a combination of two texts: a lorica, or “breastplate” (like the hymn St. Patrick’s Breastplate) to St. Brigid, imploring protection. Intoned by two soprano soloists, this prayer has as its counterpoint a 7th-century hymn by St. Ultan of Ardbraccan, “Christus in nostra insula”:




“Christ was made known to men on our island of Hibernia by the very great miracles which he performed through the happy virgin of celestial life, famous for her merits through the whole world.”




The theme of celestial music continues with a closing improvisation by Director of Music Ministries Douglas Buchanan, based on Hildegard von Bingen’s ecstatic chant “Caritas abundant in omnia,” also an example of Hildegard’s poetry:




Love abounds in all,


from the valleys


to the most excellent one above the stars,




Exquisitely loving all,


to the ultimate King


she gives the kiss of peace.

Sunday, September 10, 2017
The Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost


Opening Voluntary: “Solemn Processional,” by Robert A. Harris (b. 1938)
Processional Hymn: All creatures of our God and King (“Lasst uns erfreuen”)
Gloria: “Glory to God in the Highest,” by William Mathias (1934-1992)
Gradual: Psalm 119:33-40, setting by Thomas Norris (1741-1790)
Offertory Anthem: “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord,” by William Mathias
Offertory Hymn: When in our music God is glorified, (“Engelberg”)
Sanctus: “Holy, holy, holy,” by William Mathias
Communion Motet: “Ego sum panis vivus,” by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (c. 1525-1594)
Communion Hymn: Lord of all hopefulness (“Slane”)
Postcommunion Hymn: God of grace and God of glory (“Cwm Rhondda”)
Closing Voluntary: “Toccata: St. David’s Day,” by Ralph Vaughan Williams


At St. David’s, the beginning of the program year is marked by a celebration of the Feast of St. David of Wales (transferred). Musically, this is highlighted by including various works relating to Wales. Today, the boisterous and jubilant music of William Mathias is particularly featured. Many of Mathias’ works demonstrate a muscular, rhythmically active style making frequent use of quartal and quintal sonorities, those built on fourths and fifths, with an occasional chromatic twist. This is certainly the case with “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord,” sung as the offertory anthem.

At communion, the choir sings the motet “Ego sum panis vivus” by G.P. da Palestrina. The flowing voice leading and arching lines are emblematic of the composers’ style. At the center of the motet, however, darkness creeps in. The text refers first to Jesus’ statement “I am the bread of life,” before preceding to “Your fathers ate manna in the desert; they have perished.” At this moment, the range descends, and the mode shifts to a minor inflection, before brightness reemerges with lightening octave leaps: “This is the bread come down from heaven.” The sound is sweet, including hints at minor seventh chords in each voice, an unusual arpeggiation in the Renaissance.

Focusing on this music of Roman Catholic origin at the start of the program year is intentional. As we move towards the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, we first hear what the music of the Roman church would have sounded like.


This week’s opening voluntary is by American composer Dr. Robert A. Harris, Professor Emeritus at Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music where he served as Director of Choral Organizations and Assistant Professor of Conducting from 1977 to 2012. A prolific composer, the “Solemn Processional” was his first work for organ. Lush and sumptuous, the gentle harmonic swells seem provide not only a meditative opportunity, but also hint at the pastoral, linking it in tone to some of the music of Ralph Vaughan Williams, whose “Toccata: St. David’s Day” offers a festive close to the opening service of the 2017-2018 Program Year.


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