Music in Worship
John Weit, Cantor, Trinity Lutheran Church, Worcester, MA
10 March 2012
John Weit serves as Cantor for Trinity Lutheran Church in Worcester and conducts two choirs that meet regularly throughout the year. Trinity is a large urban parish that observes a liturgical worship tradition. Trinity Choir is an all- volunteer mixed choir of adults and high school singers that performs most Sundays and for several festival liturgies during the September to mid-June season. Trinity Choristers is a treble choir beginning at grade three, currently with 10-12 voices, singing in worship once every three weeks and for festival liturgies. For Lutherans, congregational singing serves as a primary means of music making in worship, and our choral groups see their primary role as leaders of assembly singing. In addition, both groups rehearse and sing repertoire that spans the ages, of varying styles and difficulty. Below are several works that he has found especially useful at Trinity.
O Love Divine – David Ashley White
SATB, a cappella
Alliance Music Publishers
This Passiontide text by Charles Wesley has been associated for some time with the mid-19th century hymn tune Selena, by Massachusetts native Isaac Woodbury. David Ashley White captures the original tune with embellishments that enhance the text, yet retaining sensible harmonies and comfortable ranges. The subtle and sudden dynamics keep the interest of the hearer. The closing phrase on the text “My Lord, my love, is crucified” surprisingly ends on a dominant chord, leaving a musical expectation of the Easter story.
O Paschal Lamp of Radiant Light – Sam Batt Owens
Augsburg Fortress Publishers
This meditative anthem is perfect for an evening service during the Easter season. The introspective and expressive treatment by Sam Batt Owens begins in D minor with hints of the Dorian mode, and builds to a climax at a transition to D major for a coda on three “alleluias,” the first bright and full, then softer until a final pianissimo recalling the meditative beginning.
Maria Walks Amid the Thorn – David Cherwien
Unison voices, organ
David Cherwien sets this Medieval German carol for unison voices, ideal for treble voices or any combination. This selection works well in the season of Advent or for Christmas Eve. The playful accompaniment with a staccato eighth note pattern in the bass is scored for organ, but is also easily adapted and effective on piano.
Holy God – Robert Buckley Farlee
Augsburg Fortress Publishers
This text by Susan Briehl, a Lutheran Pastor from Washington State, was originally composed as a poem in five stanzas for a dying friend. It captures God’s divinity exposed in the humanity of Jesus Christ and the concept that God’s glory and majesty are often hidden under their opposites. In the first stanza, Robert Buckley Farlee states a melody sung by unison voices with step-wise motion building to a climax at the point in each stanza where the “opposite” is revealed. Sopranos and Altos pass the melody around in the second stanza, with the opposite part layering a fitting countermelody. The tenors and basses sing a similar treatment in the fourth stanza. The third stanza is the gem of this piece—a cappella harmonies that subtly highlight the tension of the phrase “you are despised, rejected; scorned, you hold us fast and we behold your beauty.” The final stanza includes a soprano descant over melody sung by the rest of the choir, with the option of including the congregation.
The Lord is My Shepherd – James Biery
Unison treble choir,
SATB, a cappella
MorningStar Music Publishers
Based on an African American spiritual, this setting of Psalm 23 is appropriate for an intergenerational combination of voices. The altos, tenors and basses begin what becomes the accompaniment throughout the work on the text “The Lord is my shepherd and I shall not want.” The treble choir and the sopranos from the mixed choir sing the melody in various combinations throughout as the accompaniment continues, with more open harmony in later stanzas as the piece builds. A soprano soloist could sing the treble choir selections.
Praise, O Praise the Lord – Robert J. Powell
Treble voices, organ
Paraclete Press This setting of Psalm 147:1-7 includes some (optional) divisi at the high points, but overall has a moderate range for treble voices. “Praise, O Praise the Lord” has a bright melody in the beginning section, followed by a calmer middle section enhanced with a series of triplets, moving back to a concluding reprise of the opening theme. This short work is a wonderful addition to worship, as well as a good teaching tool for rhythm and intervals.