MUSIC IN WORSHIP
Tom Berryman, R&S Chair for Music in Worship R&S
Our reading session during the July 2013 Massachusetts ACDA Summer Conference in Amherst featured choral music for the church year. Here is the annotated list for your consideration.
Kol Nidre-Samuel Adler
SATB, soloist with solo cello and organ
Transcontinental Music Publishers
Samuel Adler’s beautiful setting of this traditional Yom Kippur text requires a fine cellist and strong soprano or tenor soloist. The choir functions in a responding role to the soloist. The writing includes unison, imitative and hymn-like textures. What an effective and satisfying piece to learn, perform and hear!
One Thing More-Jane Marshall
SATB, a cappella
The George Herbert text, “Thou that hast giv’n so much to me, give one thing more, a grateful heart,” honors a stewardship or thanksgiving theme. Jane Marshall provides a simple, tonal style that requires secure, independent four part singing.
This Is the Record of John-David Ashley White
SATB with organ
David Ashley White writes with varied choral textures and an independent organ part to portray the dramatic interaction between the priests and Levites and John the Baptist. The Advent text, from John 1:19-23, begins with “Who art thou?” and concludes with the famous quote from Isaiah, “I am the voice of him that crieth in the wilderness…” Singers will enjoy the dialog and the engaging, effective choral writing.
Two-part with keyboard
European American Music
This is an early Stephen Paulus composition with the traditional text “Down in a valley…Mary had a baby…What did she name Him…Named Him Jesus.” More than half of the work is sung in unison over a, repeating keyboard part. The writing is simple but sophisticated. Care is needed for musical expression and for providing focused unison singing. I’ve done this with a guitar playing the keyboard part. Handbells could also replace the keyboard.
Lo, How a Rose/The Rose-arr. Craig Hella Johnson
SATB with piano
The Austin, Texas professional singing group, Conspirare, has a reputation for effectively juxtaposing secular and sacred texts and music in their concert programming. “Lo, How a Rose/The Rose’ is one such arrangement that works especially well. If your church frowns on secular texts, probably “The Rose” will not suit. The Praetorius hymn phrases, sung in unison by the choir, or sections of the choir, overlap with the phrases of Amanda McBroom’s famous pop song, sung by a soloist. The piano plays a supporting, pop-style accompaniment. The effect is remarkable and well worth considering.
All This Night-Eleanor Daley
SATB with organ, also available as SSA with organ
Alliance Music Publications
The stunning text by English Renaissance poet William Austin perfectly suits Christmas Eve. Canadian composer, Eleanor Daley provides engaging choral writing supported by an active organ part. The choir often sings in unison or in a simple chorale style. The third and final stanza is crowned by a fine descant and concludes with simple three-part men and three-part women divisi. Because the William Austin text has been altered in this setting, I plan to replace the printed text with the original.
Lord Jesus Think on Me-Derek Healey
SA(T)B with organ
Derek Healey’s “Lenten Anthem in Shape-note Style” offers fine musical qualities and options for performance. Its sturdy mixolydian mode melody serves as the basis for satisfying counterpoint. The harmony avoids chromatics and the phrases close with third-less chords. The tenor often doubles the alto or bass and is optional. The organ part provides a supporting ostinato figure and sometimes doubling choral lines. As an experiment, in our reading session we successfully omitted the organ part, a testimony to the shape-note inspiration of the music.
Ubi Caritas-Ola Gjeilo
SATB, a cappella
The Gregorian heritage of the famous Durufle setting of the “ubi caritas” text comes to mind in Gjeilo’s 2001 composition. Singers enjoy the melodic and rhythmic unisons. Only the “amen” in the final measures has any part independence. The parallel motion and harmonic writing satisfy the performer and listener and allow the text to be clearly set and understood. Mainly in F# minor, Gjeilo introduces chromatic harmonies in the later sections of the piece. “Ubi caritas” is particularly appropriate for Maundy Thursday.
Who Is at My Window, Who-Welford Russell
SATB, a cappella
Think of English, renaissance madrigals when rehearsing and performing “Who Is at My Window, Who.” The text-based rhythm and chordal style recall the late 16th century, but the harmonies surprise in a refreshing way. The non-liturgical Lenten text places Christ within the house and in conversation with the sinner, placed outside. Singers find this music as satisfying to learn and perform as they might music by Thomas Morley or Orlando Gibbons.
Eastertide Rounds-Daniel Pinkham
Three-part mixed voices, a cappella
Daniel Pinkham’s Eastertide Rounds is based five on biblical, traditional and original texts. The clear sense of tonality, minimal chromatics, lively rhythms and brief texts allow the music to be approachable. The short rounds are useful as non- liturgical openers, responses, or closers.
Seasons and Times
O for a Shout of Sacred Joy
from AN EASTER REJOICING-Alice Parker
SATB, harp/piano, organ and percussion
Alice Parker Music
Alice Parker’s cantata, AN EASTER REJOICING, features settings of outstanding poets in thirteen short movements. Published by EC Schirmer in 1972, the work is now available through Alice Parker Music as separate movements. Movement six, “Seasons and Times” is scored for STB, percussion and harp/piano. The dorian mode melody, sung by the basses in the first verse, provides all of the musical material for the succeeding verses and for the imitative entrances of the tenors and sopranos in stretto. The choral parts are supported by ostinato figures in the harp/piano and percussion. Movement ten, “O for a Shout of Sacred Joy” uses a nineteenth century doxology tune as the basis for an exuberant setting of an Isaac Watts text. As with “Seasons and Times,” the tune provides all of the needed musical material. Both of these excerpts are truly “for the singers.” They feature sturdy melodies that inspire a simple harmonic structure, satisfying part-writing, and supportive independent instrumental accompaniment.
If Ye Love Me-David Ashley White
SAB, a cappella
Suitable for Pentecost Sunday or for general purposes, this short anthem offers satisfying, sophisticated writing for three voices. The economical texture contrasts unison rhythms with imitative counterpoint. Look for the Thomas Tallis quotes!
Sure Foundation-Mark Hayes
SATB with keyboard/brass and percussion and optional congregational singing
Mark Hayes first introduces an original, exuberant choral countermelody and text and then invites the congregation to sing the well-known 18th century tune from Rippon’s Selection of Hymns. Unison, two-part and four-part writing provide contrast for the five verses. An independent instrumental part may be played on the piano or organ or by a brass ensemble with percussion.