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Singing Bach’s motet “Lobet den Herrn” BWV 230

April 9, 2012 1 Comment

This Easter, we sang Bach’s Lobet Den Herrn as our offertory anthem. Working on this piece for several months, we found that Bach’s motets encapsulate the essence of his genius as a composer. His command of musical complexity and counterpoint provides an excitement and freshness challenging to both listener and performer. It doesn’t surprise me that Mozart heard the motets and exclaimed “Here is something one can learn from.“

Lobet Den Herrn is the shortest of Bach’s motets. It is unique in several ways: it is in a single movement, it is his only motet composed for four voices, and it does not include a chorale tune. “Lobet den herrn” begins with a fugal rising arpeggio figure and a relentlessly joyful countersubject that continues through the second subject, “un preisit“. After a short reflective middle section “Denn seine Gnade“, “Lobet” culminates with a joyous Alleluia.

We sang this work with colla parte strings and continuo provided by our exceptional organist, Duane Steadman.

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St. Andrew’s Sings Rheinberger Stabat Mater in g-minor Op. 138

April 2, 2012 2 Comments


For the 2012 Palm Sunday Liturgy, we sang the complete Josef Rheinberger Stabat Mater in g-minor Op. 138. I have excerpted some excellent program notes below:

The name of Joseph Gabriel Rheinberger (1839-1901) is not well known to American concert goers, yet his music is so well loved by influential German and Austrian musicians that there now exists a 50-volume critical edition of his complete works in score. One of the editors of that edition gives us a glimpse of Rheinberger’s style by suggesting that rather than regarding the composer as “a lesser Brahms,” we should think of him as “a South German Fauré.”

A child prodigy who began playing organ publicly at the age of seven, Rheinberger began studies at the Munich Conservatory in 1851, eventually mastering counterpoint and fugue, as well as composing over a hundred works by 1859, when he finally deemed one good enough to be published as his Opus 1.

At the end of his studies, he stayed on at the Conservatory, growing into one of its most legendary teachers. Hans von Bülow said “Rheinberger is a truly ideal teacher of composition, unrivalled in the whole of Germany and beyond in skill, refinement and devotion to his subject; in short, one of the worthiest musicians and human beings in the world.” Among Rheinberger’s students were Humperdinck, Wolf-Ferrari, Furtwängler, and the Americans Horatio Parker and George Chadwick.

As a composer, Rheinberger is best known today by organists and Catholic choirmasters. However, his output of secular songs and ballads for solo voices and/or choir is at least as large as his body of work for the church. And for his texts, Rheinberger turned to some of the same German poets whose verse had been set by Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms. The poem Die Nacht by Joseph von Eichendorff (1788-1857) attracted Rheinberger’s attention in 1859, when he set it as a simple strophic song for voice and piano. Twelve years later, the composer revisited that setting, transforming it in nearly every respect: harmonically, formally, and in terms of scoring and overall length. The solo voice became a four-part choir, and the accompaniment was rescored for a chamber ensemble of violin, viola, ‘cello, and piano, whose delicate figurations evoke the hushed sounds of the nocturnal forest. The later version of Die Nacht is also harmonically resourceful: though a composition in D-flat major, it modulates to E major just before the fourth stanza’s reference to the dawn (“the stars rise up and descend, when shalt thou come, morning wind”).

As part of his duties at the Court Church of All Saints in Munich, in 1881 Rheinberger composed eleven motets, including the four which were published as Op. 133. Like many of his Catholic colleagues (Anton Bruckner among them), Rheinberger’s instinct in composing for the church called for the harmonic language of his instrumental and secular vocal works. Nevertheless, from his earliest days inunich he was aware of the Cecilian movement, which advocated reformation of Catholic liturgical music after the “excesses” of the Viennese classical composers. The Palestrina style of 16th-century
counterpoint was held up as an ideal; understandably, creative musicians of the 19th century regarded that model as an artistic straitjacket. So Rheinberger sought a middle ground, remaining mindful of liturgical requirements, while subtly manifesting his stylistic individuality. With the six-voice motets of Op. 133, Rheinberger clearly had the Palestrina model in mind (perhaps most notably in the second motet, Meditabor), yet each motet is–as wrote Theodor Kroyer–“a paragon of six-voice composition, nurtured in utmost freedom.”

The Stabat Mater Op. 138 originated in a detail of Rheinberger’s generally poor health throughout most of his adult life. For many years, he suffered a disability of his right hand, making composition increasingly difficult. His hand broke out with an open ulcer in the first half of 1884. Then in the summer he received therapy at the Wildbad Kreuth, greatly easing the pain in his hand. Rheinberger revealed to his wife that he had made a vow to the Mother of God that if his health improved, he would compose a Stabat Mater (his second). Of this setting, Sebastian Hammelsbeck has written that the second setting is essentially a liturgical work, which does not draw undue attention to itself either by excessive length or by highly decorative features. Instead of the virtuosic combination of modern and ancient musical styles it is in a purified sacred idiom which has incorporated elements of all these styles, and which only the harmony of the day kept distantly in touch with the events outside the church….

Perhaps with a glance over his shoulder toward the Cecilians, Rheinberger composed an entirely unsentimental devotional work, which by its very restraint conveys an expression of the utmost reverence.

John Shepard
Head of the Jean Gray Hargrove Music Library – University of California, Berkeley

Music List at St. Andrew’s for January 2012

January 13, 2012

1-15-12 Epiphany 2 7 477 Offertory: Verleih uns Frieden by Mendelssohn

Communion: These are They Which Follow the Lamb by Goss 439, 497 371

1-22-12 Epiphany 3 535 661 Offertory: Cantate Domino by Pitoni

Communion: If Ye Love Me by Tallis 653 321 537

1-29-12 Epiphany 4 440 533 Offertory: Deus Misereatur by Amy Beach

Communion: Psalm 23 by Bobby McFerrin 448, 544 380

2-5-12 Epiphany 5 135 493 Offertory: There is a Balm in Gilead by Dawson

Communion: Let Us Break Bread Together 567, 411 432

2-12-12 Epiphany 6 616 546 Offertory: God So Loved the World by Stainer

Communion: Be Thou My Vision by Chilcott 552, 658 410

2-19-12 Transfiguration 460 135 Offertory: The Lord is My Light by Noon;

Communion: Cantique de Jean Racine by Faure 339, 366

Christmas Music from Midnight Mass 2011

December 25, 2011

Seraphim - Petites Heures de Jean de Berry

Two thoughts about programming for music in the middle of the night: 1) Plan something easy. I have never made so many mistakes as when I planned overly ambitious music so late in the evening. 2) The Sewanee Composers Project is a great sacred music resource!

The SJMP is also an interesting business model. By purchasing an annual license, you have access to their entire library online including unlimited reproduction rights. Many of the pieces have sample recordings, too.

From their website:

A new way to think about church anthems
Since 1992 St. James Music Press has been publishing some of the finest church anthems being written today. THE FINEST! And we’re not just bragging. Anthems from SJMP have been heard on national broadcasts, performed at cathedrals and churches throughout the world, and premiered at major music conferences throughout the country. Our catalog does not contain praise-songs, choruses or renewal music. It is, however, filled with new traditional anthems and fresh arrangements of varying difficulty which have been tried and tested by many fine church choirs.
We want you to photocopy our music!
Unlike many publishers, we are committed to each and every anthem that we publish. You won’t like or use them all and that’s fine. We all have different tastes. But if your choir sings traditional anthems on a regular basis, you won’t find a better resource than St. James Music Press. And now – our entire catalog is on-line and searchable. Need an anthem for the third Sunday after Epiphany when your entire alto section has decided to go on a “spiritual makeover” weekend hosted by Noylene Fabergé, the Christian Beautician? No problem. It’s only a couple of mouse-clicks away.
Find the Sunday in our Liturgical calendar, look for the voicing you need, listen to a few, and print out some that you like. Or print them all. Then photocopy enough for your choir (permission granted!) and they’ll sound like a waffle-house full of angels with Gabriel serving pancakes!
Eight thousand churches can’t be wrong. Join the St. James Music Press family.
Anthems by some of the the finest composers and musicians in the business. Cantatas, Psalm settings for congregation, masses and service music, childrens’ choir music (our award-winning Viva Voce! program), organ music, handbell music, music for brass and organ, organ solo, musicals, anthems for small choirs (our Ten Panicked Singers series), descants and harmonizations, evening services, introits, benedictions…the list goes on and on. And NEW pieces being added each and every month. We’ll send you a monthly email alerting you to new offerings as well as suggesting some pieces you may have forgotten about. All instrumental parts included, of course!
Listen to everything. Download whatever you want.
Or download everything! MP3s for making choir CDs, PDFs for printing, ZIP files containing the congregational files you’ll need for your bulletins.
Wow! Want to give it a look?
It’s free… No, we’re not kidding.
Okay, you can’t print anything out, but you can look at and listen to everything in the catalog. Not just a couple of pages…the whole thing! Our recordings are, in many cases, live recordings from church services and performed by church choirs (large and small) across the country. Most are not professional, but they’ll give you a very good idea as to how the anthem sounds.

Jehan Alain: A Centennary Tribute

November 15, 2011

PD: "Copyright : domaine public."

For the feast of All Saints, and in collaboration with the St. Andrew’s Choir and organist Duane Steadman, we presented music by the composer Jehan Alain.

A composer and performer of immense and precocious talent, Alain’s life was cut short in the line of duty during the Second World War. His sister, the eminent organist Marie-Claire Alain has tirelessly kept her brother’s music alive through her own performances and editing and publishing his music. I am proud to have helped, in our own small way, to introduce the music of Jehan Alain to a wider audience.

Le Jardin Suspendu composed in 1934, creates an exotic soundworld within the ancient chaconne form. The chant theme of Lucis Creator appears in the pedal, while the manuals sound grand chords. Finally, the theme is presented fugally, building to a climax with that theme triumphantly stated in the pedals.
One can clearly hear the impressionistic influence of composers
Fantasie for choir with closed-like Debussy and Messaien in this mouths.

Kyrie from Alain’s Messe de Requiem was composed in 1938 for a November service in the church of Saint-Nicholas de Maisons-Lafitte, where he was the church organist. Alain set to music only three of the Requiem texts – the Kyrie, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei.
The music is serene and suffused with the rhythmic and melodic essence of Gregorian chant.

Variations on Sacris Solemnis. Written for SSATB choir and organ, this motet is an ingenious set of variations on the Gregorian Hymn “Sacris Solemnis”. Each variation uses a different mensural note value while the basic tempo remains constant.

The Agnus Dei from Alain’s Messe de Requiem is the third section of the
Ordinary set to music by Alain. Alain eschews the tradtional setting of the sequence or even the models by
Brahms or Faure. This movement contains the only reference to the mass of the dead with its “Dona eis requiem” “Grant them peace”.

Alain’s Fantasia for humming choir is an evocative and introspective work. I chose it for a post-communion meditation because of one of Alain’s quotes:

“How deeply I wish that, in my music, each and every person found his or her own thoughts, and not mine.” During a time when we celebrate the communion of saints and remember all who have gone before us, I find that the humanity of choral music minus the semantics of text to be appropriate.

For Alain, prayer was “a blast of wind that sweeps all before it”. Three weeks after writing the organ piece Litanies, his sister Marie-Odile died in a climbing accident. Alain added the dedication: “When Christian souls run out of words to implore the mercy of God, fired by faith, they repeat over and over the same invocation”.

St. Andrew’s Music List for November, 2011

November 8, 2011


November 6- All Saints’

Kyrie- Requiem by Alain
Offertory- Variations on Sacris Solemnis by Alain
Communion- Agnus Dei from Requiem by Alain
Post-Communion- Fantasie by Alain

November 13

Offertory- If We Believe that Jesus Died- Dakers
Communion- Fantasie for Choir by Alain

Kirkin’ the Tartan Evensong

Stanford Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis in C
William Byrd Preces and Responses
Luminaria Magna– by Hillary Tann

November 20 Christ the King

Offertory- Let All the World in Every Corner Sing- Vaughn Williams

Communion- Brother James’ Air- Easy Anthems

Thanksgiving-

Offertory- A Clare Benediction- by John Rutter

Communion- Gaelic Blessing by John Rutter- Dakers

Kyrie from the Messe Cum Jubilo by Durufle

October 28, 2011

Maurice Durufle (1902-1986)

From Wikipedia:

    Duruflé was born in Louviers, Eure.
    In 1912, he became chorister at the Rouen Cathedral Choir School, where he studied piano and organ with Jules Haelling. At age 17, upon moving to Paris, he took private organ lessons with Charles Tournemire, whom he assisted at Basilique Ste-Clotilde, Paris until 1927. In 1920 Duruflé entered the Conservatoire de Paris, eventually graduating with first prizes in organ, harmony, piano accompaniment, and composition. His harmony professor was Jean Gallon.
    In 1927, Louis Vierne nominated him as his assistant at Notre-Dame. Duruflé became titular organist of St-Étienne-du-Mont in Paris in 1929, a position he held for the rest of his life. In 1936, he won the Prix Blumenthal.[1] In 1939, he premiered Francis Poulenc’s Organ Concerto (the Concerto for Organ, Strings and Timpani in G minor); he had advised Poulenc on the registrations of the organ part. In 1943 he became Professor of Harmony at the Conservatoire de Paris, where he worked until 1970. In 1947, Duruflé wrote what is probably the most famous of his few pieces: the Requiem op. 9, for soloists, choir, organ, and orchestra. The same year, Marie-Madeleine Chevalier became his assistant at St-Étienne-du-Mont. They married on 15 September 1953.[2] (Duruflé’s first marriage to Lucette Bousquet, contracted in 1932, ended in civil divorce in 1947 and was declared null by the Vatican on 23 June 1953.) The couple became a famous and popular organ duo, going on tour together several times throughout the sixties and early seventies.
    Duruflé suffered severe injuries in a car accident on 29 May 1975,[2] and as a result he gave up performing; indeed he was largely confined to his apartment, leaving the service at St-Étienne-du-Mont to his wife Marie-Madeleine (who was also injured in the accident). He died in Louveciennes (near Paris) in 1986, aged 84.

The Messe ‘Cum jubilo’, a setting of the Latin Mass without Credo, was composed in 1966. The vocal part is for solo baritone or unison male chorus. It is based on the plainchant Missa Cum Jubilo. The organ part is replete with a variety of textures and elaborate figures, mirroring its origins in orchestration. The music goes beyond the limits of tonal and modal harmonies with some notable dissonances.

A Preview of All Saints’ Day and the Centennary of Jehan Alain (1911-1940)

October 17, 2011

Jehan Alain 1938

    All Saints’ Day is coming soon. We will celebrate it on the first Sunday of November with the music of Jehan Alain (1911-1940). Our marvellous organist, Duane Steadman, will play a prelude and postlude by Alain, and the choir will sing the Requiem, a set of choral variations on the Gregorian chant Sacris Solemnis, and a wordless choral piece as a post-communion meditation. This also happens to be the centennial year of Alain’s birth.

A Biographical sketch of Jehan Alain, (1911-1940) edited from Wikipedia.

Alain was born in Saint-Germain-en-Laye in the western suburbs of Paris, into a family of musicians. His father, Albert Alain was an enthusiastic organist, composer and organ-builder who had studied with Alexandre Guilmant and Louis Vierne.
His younger brother was the composer, organist and pianist Olivier Alain (1918–1994), his youngest sister the organist Marie-Claire Alain (b. 1926).

Jehan received his initial training in the piano from Augustin Pierson, the organist of Saint-Louis at Versailles, and in the organ from his father, who had built a four-manual instrument in the family sitting room.

By the age of 11, Jehan was substituting at St. Germain-en-Laye.
Between 1927 and 1939, he attended the Paris Conservatoire and achieved First Prize in Harmony and First Prize in Fugue.
He studied the organ with Marcel Dupré, under whose direction he took first prize for Organ and Improvisation in 1939.

His short career as a composer began in 1929, when Alain was 18, and lasted 10 years. His output was influenced by Claude Debussy, Olivier Messiaen, and an interest in the music, dance and philosophies of the far east.
Alain is best known for his organ music.
Interested in mechanics, Alain was a skilled motorcyclist and became a dispatch rider in the Eighth Motorised Armour Division of the French Army.
On 20 June 1940, he was assigned to reconnoitre the German advance on the eastern side of Saumur, and encountered a group of German soldiers. Coming around a curve, he dropped his motorcycle and engaged the enemy troops with his carbine, killing 16 of them before being killed himself.

He was posthumously awarded the Croix de Guerre for his bravery, and according to Nicolas Slonimsky, was buried, by the Germans, with full military honors.

St. Andrew’s Anthem for 10-10-11

October 10, 2011

From the notes by Drew Collins on his score:

    The conversion of England from the Roman Catholic church to the Church of England by King Henry VIII (and later Queen Elizabeth I) forced those who wished to practice Catholicism to do so covertly, as penalties included fines, scrutiny, torture or death. All vestiges of the “old religion” were summarily prohibited, including the use of Latin (only English was permitted).

    In this highly volatile and oppressive atmosphere, Byrd played a dangerous game. Refusing to conform to the new religion, he composed music for use in Catholic services (held secretly in private residences), more often than not in Latin. He managed this rebellion without loss of life or livelihood, due in part both to his exemplary musical skill and by frequently dedicating publications to the Queen.

    It is widely accepted that Byrd intended his Latin motets for use either in these underground Masses, or for publication in books for use in homes, much like madrigals. Either way, the music was most likely performed 1 or 2 singers/players per part, and with female sopranos

Music List at St. Andrew’s for October

October 7, 2011

    October 2, 2011

    Offertory: Sicut Cervus by Palestrina

    Communion: If Ye Love Me by Thomas Tallis

    October 9th, 2011

    Offertory: And I Saw a New Heaven by Malcolm Archer

    Communion: Ave Verum Corpus by William Byrd

    October 16th, 2011

    Offertory: Cantate Domino by Pitoni

    Communion: Ave Verum Corpus by Elgar

    October 23rd, 2011

    Offertory: Lobe den Herren Den mächtigen König der Ehren (Praise to the Lord) by Hugo Distler

    Communion: Ave Verum Corpus by W. A. Mozart

    October 30th, 2011

    Offertory: Just As I Am by Bob Chilcott

    Communion: The Lord Bless You and Keep You by John Rutter

Looking Ahead:

Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis by Halsey Stevens for Choir and Trumpet

Psalm 136 Luminaria Magna by Hilary Tann

All Saints: Messe de Requiem by Jehan Alain

Advent IV: Magnificat by Arvo Part