Archive for May, 2018

Our Royal Wedding

Tyler-Rebekah Wedding

Rebekah and Tyler with the Compline Choir, St. Mark’s Cathedral

On the eve of the latest royal wedding, and with June right around the corner, I was reminded of another wonderful occasion – the marriage of Rebekah Gilmore and Tyler Morse, celebrated at St. Mark’s Cathedral on October 7, 2017. Tyler, who sings Alto I in the Compline Choir, and Rebekah, the Associate Musician and Choir School Director at St. Mark’s, created a wonderful service, which involved four choirs and other instrumentalists.

At the time of the wedding, St. Mark’s was still undergoing renovation, so that all the walls except the west were shrouded in white plastic, which provided a festive background (it was like being inside of a wedding cake!). As you watch the video of the service you will no doubt hear the noise from the outside, since at the time all the windows had been removed, awaiting new ones (to see what a new window looks like now, see Katherine Crosier’s blog “Mysticism and the Sense of the Sacred,” from February 2018).

Here’s a link to the wonderful processional hymn, “O God beyond all praising,” sung to the tune Thaxted , which was arranged and conducted by Canon Musician Emeritus Dr. J. Melvin Butler. This hymn, to the words “I Vow to Thee, My Country,” is often sung at British royal occasions. The second stanza of Michael Perry’s text (1982) is often omitted in hymnals, but with its themes of the transitory life and resurrection, was so appropriate to have sung by the Compline Choir alone:

O God beyond all praising,
we worship you today
and sing the love amazing
that songs cannot repay;
for we can only wonder
at every gift you send,
at blessings without number
and mercies without end:
we lift our hearts before you
and wait upon your word,
we honor and adore you,
our great and mighty Lord.

The flower of earthly splendor
in time must surely die,
its fragile bloom surrender
to you the Lord most high;
but hidden from all nature
the eternal seed is sown –
though small in mortal stature,
to heaven’s garden grown:
for Christ the Man from heaven
from death has set us free,
and we through him are given
the final victory!

Then hear, O gracious Savior,
accept the love we bring,
that we who know your favor
may serve you as our king;
and whether our tomorrows
be filled with good or ill,
we’ll triumph through our sorrows
and rise to bless you still:
to marvel at your beauty
and glory in your ways,
and make a joyful duty
our sacrifice of praise.

The video on YouTube comes complete with links to other wonderful music from the wedding. It was truly a royal occasion!

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Easter Splendor

Easter Day was on the first of April this year, and with the Compline choir roster at its greatest number ever (about 23), and the acoustics at St. Mark’s Cathedral restored to new splendor, I must say that the anthems for the season have risen to new heights – so I had to share three of them with you.

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Christ the Savior

Moscow, Cathedral of Christ the Savior, where Chesnokov directed the choir. destroyed by Stalin  in 1931, but rebuilt in the 1990s.

On Easter Day, the choir sang something for the first time in its 60-plus history – an anthem from the Russian repertoire in Church Slavonic – the famous “Salvation is Created” written in 1912 by Pavel Chesnokov (1877-1944), from his Ten Communion Hymns, Op. 25. It was a successful venture for the choir into the rich four-part close harmonic texture that is the hallmark of the Russian style. And we could not have done this piece without some good “Russian” low basses – fortunately, we are blessed with some.

Spaséniye sodélal yesí posredé ziemlí, Bózhe. Allilúiya.
Salvation is made in the midst of the earth, O God. Alleluia.

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melk abbey

The Benedictine Abbey of Melk, in Lower Austria

Several weeks later, the choir sang “Christus Surrexit,” by Jacob Handl (1550-1591). This is a lovely 6-part setting of the chorale whose German version is “Christ ist erstanden.” Both this chorale and “Christ lag in Totesbanden” (Christ lay in the bonds of death) are melodic variants of the 11th-century chant Victimae paschali laudes (see the example in my book, Prayer as Night Falls: Experiencing Compline). Jacob Handl worked mainly in Austria, at places like Melk Abbey and the Viennese court chapel. He ended his life working in Prague.

Christ is risen; he has covered our evil
and those whom he loved he has carried up to heaven.
Kyrie eleison.

And if he had not risen, the whole world would have perished.
Kyrie eleison.

Alleluia! Let us praise him, chanting a hymn of joy,
Let us praise him with a song of joy.
Kyrie eleison.

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St Mark's Venice

St. Mark’s Cathedral, Venice

On April 29, the Fifth Sunday of Easter, we celebrated the Feast of St. Mark the Evangelist (April 25), by singing the 10-part motet “Deus, qui beatam Marcam” by Giovanni Gabrieli (c. 1554-1612). It was written for the Cathedral of San Marco in Venice, famous for its lavish polychoral anthems and acoustical splendor. In an early draft for my book, I rhapsodized about singing at St. Mark’s, Seattle, with its many comparisons to Venice – a rich maritime life, a school of glass-blowing – even a train station tower copied after the Campanile in the Piazza – and a cathedral of the same name known for its acoustics and “school” of composers – so I was in seventh heaven to be singing this anthem. Jason Anderson coached us to sing the “Alleluias” at the end with the kind of attack that conjured up the instruments that no doubt were used when this was performed in early 17th century Venice.

O God, who graced your evangelist Mark with the gift of proclaiming the Gospel, grant, we pray, that our ears be opened to his words, and our minds transformed by his teaching, and that we may be defended by his prayer. Alleluia.

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