Composer Spotlight Palm Sunday: Josquin Desprez

April 7, 2017 Comments Off on Composer Spotlight Palm Sunday: Josquin Desprez

The choral music scheduled at St. Luke’s for the Palm Sunday (April 9th) will be:

  • Orlando Gibbons – Hosanna to the Son of David
  • Tomás Luis de Victoria – Pueri Hebraeorum
  • Plainsong – The Passion according to Matthew
  • G.P. da Palestrina – Improperium expectavit
  • Josquin Desprez – Sanctus de Passione
  • G.P. da Palestrina – Stabat Mater

– Blog Editor

 Orlando Gibbons was born at Oxford in 1583. As a young man, he sang in the choir of King’s College, Cambridge, during his brother Edward’s tenure as Master of the Choristers. In 1605, he won for himself a place in the Chapel Royal choir, and by 1615 was sharing the duties of or-ganist there. In 1623, he became organist of Westminster Abbey. He died an untimely death at the age of 42. His exuberant setting of Hosanna to the Son of David, the opening anthem of the Palm Sunday liturgy, is one of his finest compositions.

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina is thought to have been born in Palestrina, a town in the Sabine hills near Rome, in 1525, and he died in Rome the 2nd of February in 1594. His first musical training seems to have been in Rome at S Maria Maggiore, where he was listed as a choirboy in October 1537. In October 1544, he was appointed as organist at the cathedral of S Agapito in Palestrina, where he remained until his appointment in 1551 as maestro of the Cappella Giulia at St. Peter’s in Rome. In 1554, Palestrina published his first book of masses, dedicated to Pope Julius III. In January 1551, he was admitted to the Cappella Sistina, the Pope’s official chapel, on orders of the Pope without examination and despite being married. Three months later Julius died and was succeeded by Marcellus II, who in turn died within about three weeks. The next pope, Paul VI, insisted on full compliance with the chapel’s rule on celibacy, and Palestrina was dismissed in September of 1555. In the following month, Palestrina was appointedmaestro di cappella at St. John Lateran, where he stayed until he left in 1560 following a dispute with the chapter over the financing of the musicians. His next known employment was again at S Maria Maggiore, where he passed the next 5 years combining this post with work for Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este and teaching at the Seminario Romano. In April of 1571 he took up his last appointment and returned to the post of maestro of the Cappella Giulia, where he remained to his death.

The Stabat Mater dolorosa is a hymn, describing and commenting on the sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the cross, which originated in the Middle Ages and which was subsequently prescribed as a sequence for the Feasts of the Seven Sorrows of the BVM. The “sequence” originated as a form of chant, usually fairly extensive in length as well as range, which was interpolated into the liturgy of the mass after the Gradual and Alleluia. By Palestrina’s time, it had become traditional to sing a setting of the Stabat Mater during communion at High Mass on Palm Sunday in the Sistine Chapel. Palestrina set the proper offertory text for Palm Sunday, Improperium expectavit for five voices.

Josquin Desprez was arguably the greatest composer of the high Renaissance. His works – including 18 completed masses, nearly 100 motets, and dozens of secular pieces – represent a synthesis and summation of polyphonic art of the late 15th and early 16th century. The object of admiration from both literary and musical figures of the day, Josquin was a favorite composer of Martin Luther, whose famous quote praises him as “master of the notes…while other composers must do what the notes dictate.”

From 1489 to 1495, Josquin was a member of the papal choir, first under Pope Innocent VIII, and later under the Borgia pope Alexander VI. He may have gone there as part of a singer exchange with Gaspar van Weerbeke, who went back to Milan at the same time. While there, he may have been the one who carved his name into the wall of the Sistine Chapel; a “JOSQUINJ” was recently revealed by workers restoring the chapel. Since it was traditional for singers to carve their names into the walls, and hundreds of names were inscribed there during the period from the 15th to the 18th centuries, it is considered highly likely that the graffiti is by Josquin – and if so, it would be his only surviving autograph

Josquin’s Sanctus de Passione was intended to be sung at masses during Passiontide. The setting is extra-ordinarily restrained, with one of the simplest settings of the words “Hosanna in excelsis”.

Composer Spotlight: Josquin Desprez
Here is a link to his Missa Pange lingua – based on the hymn we sing on Maundy Thursday during the procession to the altar of repose.

And for his setting of Psalm 51, Miserere mei, Deus. We use Allegri’s setting on Ash Wednesday. But in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries it would have been sung at the conclusion of the Tenebrae service.

– David Shuler, Director of Music

Composer Spotlight Lent III: Frei Manuel Cardoso

March 17, 2017 Comments Off on Composer Spotlight Lent III: Frei Manuel Cardoso

The choral music scheduled at St. Luke’s for the Third Sunday in Lent (March 19th) will be:

  • Constanzo Porta – Oculi mei
  • Manuel Cardoso – Aquam quam ego dabo
  • G.P. da Palestrina – Sicut cervus/Sitivit anima

– Blog Editor


The Portuguese monk and composer Frei Manuel Cardoso (1566-1650) was renowned not only for his musical skill, but also for his humility, a fact the more noticeable on account of the close connections he maintained with the royal house of Braganza.  He was praised by Philip IV of Spain as well as the Duke of Braganza, the future John IV of Portugal (whose setting of Crux fidelis is sung each year at St. Luke’s on Good Friday), who may have been his student.  Aquam quam ego dabit is from a series of motets for various feasts preceding Easter, culminating in a series of responsories for Holy Week, found in the Livro de vários motetes, published in Lisbon by Craesbeeck in 1649, which the composer described as a “child of my old age”.  The text will be found in Sunday’s Gospel reading.

For more information about Cardoso and his style here:

Here is a link to his Requiem, unbelievably beautiful:

And his Lamentations:

– David Shuler, Director of Music

Composer Spotlight Lent II: Orlande de Lassus and Heinrich Schütz

March 11, 2017 Comments Off on Composer Spotlight Lent II: Orlande de Lassus and Heinrich Schütz

The choral music scheduled at St. Luke’s for the Second Sunday in Lent (March 12th) will be:

  • Plainsong – Reminiscere miserationem (Introit)
  • Orlande de Lassus – Missa In die tribulationis
  • Heinrich Schütz – Sicut Moses serpentem in deserto exaltavit

– Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt

– Blog Editor


Orlande de Lassus (1532-1594) was born at Mons (in present-day Belgium) but spent his formative years in Italy.  His parents had eventually allowed him to leave home at the age of twelve, to join the household of Ferdinando Gonzaga, Viceroy of Sicily, as a boy treble.  In 1553 he was appointed maestro di cappella at the Lateran Basilica in Rome, but left after six months to return to his dying parents in Flanders.  In 1556 he was engaged by the Duke of Bavaria as a singer and joined the Court Chapel in Munich where Ludwig Daser wasKapellmeister.  In about 1563 Lassus was promoted to the latter post, which he occupied until his death.

He achieved enormous success as a composer of both sacred and secular music which appeared throughout Europe in more than 500 different contemporary publications.  He was granted a patent of nobility and coat of arms in 1570 by Maximilian, and created a Knight of the Golden Spur by Pope Gregory XIII in 1574.  He was capable of writing in any and every genre current in his lifetime (although he wrote little purely instrumental music) from villanellae at one extreme to massive polychoral motets at the other.  His output was prodigious, his technique impeccable, the level of inspiration consistently high, and he was in charge of the largest musical establishment of the late 16thCentury which totaled over 70 singers and players at its peak.

Lassus’s Missa In die tribulationis is a parody mass based on a motet by Jacquet de Mantua (1483-1559), a French composer active in Italy and one of the leading composers of sacred polyphony between Josquin and Palestrina.

Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672) was the Electoral Saxon Kapellmeister at the court of Dresden from 1617 until his death.  He can be regarded as an honorary Italian in today’s company, having studied both with Giovanni Gabrieli and Claudio Monteverdi in Venice.  Their influence on Schütz is unmistakable.  Sicut Moses serpentem is found in a collection entitled Cantiones Sacrae published in 1625.  The 35 Latin motets of the Cantiones Sacrae display an extraordinary intensity of feeling in response to the words.  At the beginning of Sicut Moses, the words “serpentem in deserto exaltavit” (“lifted the serpent in the desert”) is set to an arresting rising scale passage of over an octave.

Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt (‘For God so love the world’), SWV 380, is from the 1648 collection entitled Geistliche Chormusik. is is the briefest of all the motets in the collection, and is mostly homophonic and more in the character of a hymn than the complex counterpoint of the other pieces.  It is almost as if Schütz wanted to treat this iconic cornerstone text as a congregational creed of faith rather than as a commentary.

For listening, I’d suggest Lassus’s Lamentations (for Tenebrae services):

and the motetMedia vita (‘In the midst of life we are in death…’)


For Schütz, Selig sind die Toten (‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord’)

– David Shuler, Director of Music

Composer Spotlight Lent I: Cristobal de Morales

March 3, 2017 Comments Off on Composer Spotlight Lent I: Cristobal de Morales

The choral music scheduled at St. Luke’s for the First Sunday in Lent (March 5th) will be:

  • The Great Litany in Procession
  • Cristobal de Morales – Missa Si bona suscepimus (Kyrie)
  • Manuel Cardoso – Angelis suis
  • Cristobal de Morales – Parce mihi

We will be using this space in Lent to highlight a composer from the upcoming Sunday’s schedule of choral music. This week’s composer spotlight is Cristobal de Morales.

-Blog Editor

‘No Spanish composer of the sixteenth century was more lauded during his lifetime and for two hundred years after his death than Morales.’

So writes the leading modern expert on the subject – a remarkable claim when one considers the talent and number of Spanish composers in the High Renaissance, not least Victoria. For someone as culturally Spanish as Morales, writing music meant more than just borrowing from the prevailing Franco-Flemish or Italian styles. Morales, like Victoria, never lost that mystical intensity of expression which found its roots in Spanish Catholicism.

Cristóbal de Morales (c.1500-1553) spent the beginning and end of his career in Spain, with a crucial ten years in the middle singing with the Sistine Chapel Choir in Rome. He was appointed to the Papal Choir on 1 September 1535 by Pope Paul III, the same day that the Pope commissioned Michelangelo to paint The Last Judgment. Since Morales did not return to Spain until 1545, and Michelangelo finished his great work in 1541, the composer would have had the privilege of watching The Last Judgment come into existence, more or less day by day. In fact there was little chance of his being influenced by Michelangelo’s almost- baroque Italian style: Morales was sufficiently proud of his origins, especially of Seville where he was born, to follow his own muse.

Although his Missa Si bona suscepimus was almost certainly written in Rome, and shows something of the consummate smoothness of the international polyphonic idiom Rome hosted during the papacy of Paul III (1534-1549), it is not an Italianate work.

A sign of the seriousness with which Morales approached the composition of his six-voice Missa Si bona suscepimus is the way it is introduced in the source – the Missarum Liber Primus, published in Rome in 1544 under his direct supervision. Before the first stave of music is a woodcut of the Prophet Job naked, with the motto spread around him ‘The Lord has given, the Lord has taken away’. This is a quotation from Job (1:21) which Verdelot included in his motet Si bona suscepimus, which Morales in turn very deliberately chose as his parody model. Verdelot’s text continues from Job in this despairing state of mind, including the remark (Job 2:10): ‘If we have received blessings from the hand of the Lord, why then should we not endure misfortune?’ Obviously something in these challenging words and in Verdelot’s sparse setting of them appealed strongly to Morales, who anyway considered Mass composition to be the most important aspect of all his work. With this material as his starting-point he produced his most substantial and arguably his most heart-felt composition.

Parce mihi is the first lesson in Morales’s setting of the Officium defunctorum, The Office for the Dead. The motet acquired some notoriety when it was included in the album Officium, released in 1994 by Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek and the early music vocal group The Hilliard Ensemble. The album sold more than 1.5 million copies.


You will see from the note that the Morales Parce mihi was on a recording that was an unexpected hit. There are three versions on the recording, one voices a cappella and two with a saxophone improvisation on top of the choral music.

Voices alone:

With saxophone (this is pretty cool…):

This is good introduction to his choral music:

This is the Sanctus from the mass for Sunday.

– David Shuler, Director of Music

Composer Spotlight Lent I: Thomas Tallis

February 11, 2016 Comments Off on Composer Spotlight Lent I: Thomas Tallis

The choral music scheduled at St. Luke’s for the First Sunday in Lent (February 14th) will be:

  • The Great Litany in Procession
  • Cristóbal de Morales – Missa Mille regretz (Kyrie)
  • Cristóbal de Morales – Inter vestibulum et altare
  • Thomas Tallis – Absterge Domine

We will be using this space in Lent to highlight a composer from the upcoming Sunday’s schedule of choral music. This week’s composer spotlight is Thomas Tallis.

-Blog Editor


‘Tallis is dead, and music dies’: the conclusion of the lament on Tallis’s death set by William Byrd, his devoted pupil. Music died not simply because Tallis was perhaps the greatest English composer of his generation. He was a man of rare integrity, who had weathered the shifting religious and musical currents of the Reformation period and was a living link with the old, settled Catholic orthodoxy which that period had toppled. By the end of his long life he had become a kind of father-figure to church musicians, and his passing seemed to mark the end of an age, like the passing of an Elizabeth or a Victoria.

Tallis was born in about 1505, and we hear of him first in 1532 as organist of Dover Priory. Thereafter he served at St Mary-at-Hill in London, Waltham Abbey in Essex, and Canterbury Cathedral, before being appointed a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal in about 1543, a post that he held until his death in 1585. His life encompassed the reigns of four monarchs, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I, a time of unparalleled change in both the style and the function of English church music. Composers gradually abandoned the extended and brilliantly florid but emotionally detached style of the early Tudor period, and, towards the and of Henry’s reign, they adopted in its place features that had been established earlier on the Continent such as the use of imitation as a structural rather than a merely decorative device, homophony (chordal writing) and a more subjective and expressive response to texts. (These differences can be clearly heard between the earlier Videte miraculum and the later O nata lux and Absterge Domine.)

Early in Tallis’s career, the Votive Antiphon, an extended composition often with a devotional text in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, was the major musical form outside the Eucharist or mass.  With its decline in Henry’s later years, a new kind of composition began to take its place as. Responds, or Responsories, were sung to plainchant as part of the daily Office. Formally, they are all built round the alternation of sections chanted by soloist(s) and by full choir. The main section, the Respond proper, is begun by soloists and continued by full choir: the soloists then sing a Verse, and the choir responds with a shortened repeat of what it sang before; in the more important examples, the soloists then sing the first half of the Gloria Patti to essentially the same music as the Verse, and there is a final choral reprise of the Respond, which is sometimes further shortened: an ABA, BA form.

Taverner almost certainly invented a new type of Responsory form with his settings of Dum transisset sabbatuum. In these the solo sections which are left in plainchant while the sections assigned to full choir are adorned with polyphony, the chant remaining clearly audible as an equal-note cantus firmus, usually in the tenor. The progressively shorter repeats of the Respond are exploited to give a new kind of formal coherence. This distinctively English style of setting was popular towards the end of Henry’s reign but was also presumably revived under Mary. Tallis, in his Responsory settings of this type, such as Videte miraculum, creates a fundamentally syllabic style by extensive word-repetition, and shows great skill in presenting his ideas in imitation against the cantus firmus. The texture of all these settings is very sonorous, with an atmosphere of solemnity and restraint which is characteristic of most of Tallis’s music. (Tallis at some stage revised one of his own Dum transisset sabbatum settings to work in a compliment to Taverner, taking the means briefly above the trebles in the Alleluia section to sing a short but instantly recognizable quote from one of the older master’s settings.)

The enchantingly simple O nata lux is a setting of two verses from the hymn at Lauds on the Feast of the Transfiguration, but was obviously not designed for the liturgy: it makes no use of the chant, sets only the first two verses, and has an unliturgical repeat of the last two lines. Taking his earlier hymns as its starting point, it is homophonic throughout and perfect in its subtle harmonic and melodic touches and the repeat of the final section is in the manner of Tallis’s English anthems.

Absterge Domine was one of Tallis’s most popular settings appearing in four contrafacta sources as well as the 1575 Cantiones Sacrae. Deeply penitential in character, it falls into a number of short sections some of which are repeated for dramatic effect. Tallis’s sure hand for drama is obvious throughout, allowing the motet to rise and fall, using minor and major modes to heighten and release the dramatic flow.

– David Shuler, Director of Music

Hymn of the Week Reflection: Two Hymns Making the Way of Social Justice

March 20, 2015 § 2 Comments

This past Sunday, March 15, I was seating in the pews –a rare situation, since most of the time I am serving as an acolyte. I was so very moved when I saw in the bulletin that we were about to sing a hymn from the LEVAS hymnal (Lift Every Voice and Sing). This in itself was relevant to me for two reasons: the first one is that having LEVAS available in the pews says “everyone is welcome” in a very powerful way, particularly at a time when the political climate in our society is filled with events that diminish the lives of our black brothers and sisters. I marched last December chanting “black lives matter!” I take this issue very seriously. The second reason that made this relevant had to do with what we sang, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, which is one of my many favorite Christian hymns.

The next congregational hymn we sang was #603 from the Hymnal 1982. This hymn reminds us that “where generation, class, or race divide us to our shame, [Jesus] sees not labels…” instead He sees us as who we are, each of us, uniquely made and He knows us by our name. These words echoed the hope brought by the anthem “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing:” Jesus sought me when a stranger… He, to rescue me from danger, interposed His precious blood.

In this liturgical time, we go deep into the darkness of the wilderness, and, in this historical time, we are in as much trouble as Jesus and his followers were in Jerusalem, where political, social and religious oppression were at their peak. Social inequity, health disparities, and abuse of power are some of the signs of a corrupt society, thus the sense of abandonment and despair grows constantly in those who are being oppressed. Yet, in spite of all darkness, all fears and all troubles, we find our way to Jesus, our redeemer; and though we are in a penitential season, we find ways in which our hearts want to be tuned to “sing Thy grace.” God’s grace is the only constant assurance in times of trouble because “Thou is fount of every blessing” and it is only by God’s grace that we turn and tune our hearts “to sing Thy grace.”

Here are the lyrics of both hymns as discussed above:

Hymn from LEVAS:

1. Come Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.

2. Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Hither by Thy help I’m come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.

3. O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for thy courts above.

# 603 from Hymnal 1982

1 When Christ was lifted from the earth,
his arms stretched out above 
through every culture, every birth,
to draw an answering love.

2 Still east and west his love extends
and always, near or far,
he calls and claims us as his friends
and loves us as we are.

3 Where generation, class, or race 
divide us to our shame,
he sees not labels but a face,
a person, and a name.

4 Thus freely loved, though fully known,
may I in Christ be free
to welcome and accept his own
as Christ accepted me.

– Anahi Galante

Hymn of the Week: What Wondrous Love Is This?

March 13, 2015 § 2 Comments

For me, this is the most essential Lenten hymn. This tune was paired with this text for the first time in the Second edition of Southern Harmony in 1840. “What Wondrous love is this” combines a moving statement of faith with a haunting melody. I can’t sing this hymn without being immediately transported to the Sundays I spent sitting between my grandparents in their little country Methodist Church in Lewisville, North Carolina. One verse in and I am transported home. I can smell the damp red earth on the verge of spring and hear the passionate singing of this farming community. My extended family has been part of this congregation since its founding in the 1780s. Every Holy Week, my grandparents (often accompanied by various grandchildren) would clean and put flowers on the graves of all of our relatives. Wherever I go, I carry these memories with me always.

This hymn is a staple of the Southern Harmony and Sacred Harp canons and an ingrained part of Southern folk tradition. Southern Harmony is a collection of shape note hymns and tunes used for congregational worship that has remained basically unchanged since 1854. Rooted in the American colonial traditions, shape note singing relies on the use of shapes to distinguish pitch. Most hymns are in three part harmony. Historically, during a sing or worship service, a congregation would sit in a square by voice part. The hymn would be sung first in solfege ( do, la, so, fa, etc) and then with words. The goal is not performance but participation. The singing is unaccompanied, lusty, unrefined and powerful. Here is the hymn sung by a group of Sacred Harp singers in Texas.

And here is the hymn as recorded by Chanticleer.

Since its creation, it has been published in 188 hymnals. Despite its widespread reproduction, the text has remained basically unchanged. It ends with this immortal message. The hope of our ancestors handed down to us…

And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;

And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on.

And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be;

And through eternity, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;

And through eternity, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on.

– Rev. Emily Lloyd

Hymn of the Week: #455 – O Love of God, how strong and true

March 5, 2015 Comments Off on Hymn of the Week: #455 – O Love of God, how strong and true

The text of this hymn, which we’ll sing this Sunday at the 11:15 (and at the 9:15, to a different tune), was written in the nineteenth century by a Scottish Free Church clergyman named Horatius Bonar. It’s written in Long Meter (four lines of eight syllables each) in pairs of rhyming couplets. When the text is read aloud without music, it seems almost trite, but lifted into melody it has a pleasing symmetry and rhythm that make the text easy to remember. It is a hymn of praise to the Love of God, and even more, to the wonder of that Love’s revelation to God’s creatures. In creation, and especially in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, we are able to “read” the scope and breadth and depth of that Love, as if we were reading text from a page.

At 11:15, the tune is Dunedin, written by the late contemporary New Zealand composer, Vernon Griffiths. I confess that though I like Dunedin, I prefer to sing the text to Calvin Hampton’s de Tar, as we will do at the 9:15. It’s always interesting to me how we become attached to particular tunes with particular texts because we are familiar with them or have internalized them in some way. In my case, we sang Hampton’s tune often at General Seminary. Calvin Hampton served as Organist and Choirmaster at Calvary Church here in Manhattan for twenty years from 1963 to 1983. In the early 80s, he was diagnosed with AIDS and died of complications from the disease in 1984. As I sing these words, I think of Calvin Hampton, and quietly remember and mourn him and all those who were lost to the epidemic, as well as those who still live and die with it all over the world to this day.

“We read thy power to bless and save e’en in the darkness of the grave;

Still more in resurrection light we read the fullness of thy might.”

– The Rev. Gabriel Lamazares

Hymn of the Week: Precious Lord, Take My Hand

February 27, 2015 Comments Off on Hymn of the Week: Precious Lord, Take My Hand

121757“Take My Hand Precious Lord” is au courant after Beyonce’s performance at the Oscars, and Ledisi’s moving version in Selma. Recalling its meaning for Dr. King is a beautiful way to close Black History Month. Thomas A. Dorsey, famous for incorporating the rhythms and spirit of the blues into gospel music, wrote this hymn in his grief after his wife died in childbirth. So many insightful things have been written about it that it’s slightly intimidating to take up. For example, in her recent NPR piece, Ann Powers notes how earlier hymns that helped people survive by envisioning a transcendent future Promised Land “lacked earthiness, literal earthiness — the acknowledgment that we don’t live ‘over there,’ even when we want to.” In contrast to the transcendent escape we long for, especially in suffering, “‘Precious Lord’ requires a singer to stay within her body while reaching heavenward, calling to God as a bereft blueswoman calls to a straying lover.”

In the spirituality of the cross, the totality of God’s decision to be with us, within our world and the darkness of our struggles, within human embodiment and all of the vulnerability and humiliation that goes with it, I feel like I am always a learner, drawing from others’ wisdom. I spent most of my life feeling that I was floating above my body, and struggling to connect with other people in it.

But when I heard “Precious Lord” this week, and suddenly felt it for the first time, the word that especially struck me is home. The images that came to mind were all of doors. The dark doorway that I pictured as a kid when going “into my heart room” to be with Jesus, while praying Teresa Donze’s classic meditations for children. The “doorway that belongs / to you and me” in Mary Oliver’s poem, “Coming Home“. The kind of home that the doorway represents, the home of memory and imagination, is inherently shared. I think that’s what makes home a painful thing to think about sometimes. It reminds us of the people we’ve lost, as Dorsey had lost his wife. It can remind some of us (and especially LGBT people) of awkward holidays, of family who have rejected us or with whom we aren’t able to share our full selves. Exactly because coming home sounds like such a warm thing, it can bring out the thin sliver of grief in even our happy relationships — the realization that nothing lasts forever, that children grow up and parents age, that lovers change and friends move away. Home hurts most when we are lonely, when we are feeling the lack of loving relationships in our life.

The Precious Lord in this hymn isn’t pointing ahead to otherwordly bliss, or even to the specifics of what practical restoration of relationships, of health, of whatever is lost, will look like. He is already there in the dark, close enough to touch and hold on to. He isn’t offering a map. He invites trust. He doesn’t wait for us to find and follow him. He grabs onto us and pulls us with him.

 – Aaron Miner

Hymn of the Week: #147 – Now let us all with one accord

February 20, 2015 Comments Off on Hymn of the Week: #147 – Now let us all with one accord

This Sunday, we will sing hymn #147, Now let us all with one accord, set to the tune Bourbon. It’s one of my favorite Lenten hymns and singing it marks the beginnings of Lent for me as surely as ashes. The text, a paraphrase of a text attributed to St. Gregory the Great,  is perfect: “Now let us all with one accord,/in company with ages past,/keep vigil with our heavenly Lord/ in his temptation and his fast.” I always find the fourth verse particularly moving: “Remember, Lord, though frail we be,/ in your own image were we made; help us, lest in anxiety/, we cause your Name to be betrayed.” How very often the temptation to sin is rooted in fear and anxiety, the fear that we are not enough, that God is not enough, that this world is not enough. Yet creation is very good, and we are made in God’s image, and God stands ready to help us in our need.

I must admit, though, that I especially adore the tune. Bourbon is an example of the Sacred Harp folk melodic tradition in the United States, ideally made to be sung in unison, a capella, full-throated. Like many folk tunes, it is pentatonic, that is, it only uses five pitches. The tune is included in many shape-note hymn-books published in the 19th century. I’m a huge fan of singing without accompaniment in church, on occasion. There is something terribly beautiful about human voices lifted together, listening and tuning to one another, seeking a common rhythm. It is an apt and beautiful metaphor for community.

– The Rev. Gabriel Lamazares

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