18 May, 2015

In this issue:

  • Responses to melancholy musing
  • St. Martin’s Season Finale Concerts: Byrd 4
  • This week at St. Andrew’s

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Thanks to the handful of people who responded to my musing about the melancholy I’ve been feeling lately regarding the meanderings of life’s path compared to one’s passions.  Some responses were brief (“What a bittersweet glimpse into your psyche – thanks for sharing;” and “I read that David Willcocks book, too,” etc.), and others quite long, where thoughts/memories were jogged by close affinity with my ramblings.

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Here’s what I just wrote as the lead article for our upcoming SMCC newsletter.  Some will perhaps argue with my assertion that Byrd felt threatened in his Catholicism, since it is well-known that Queen Elizabeth was aware of it, but turned a blind eye towards it because she valued his talents and contributions to the Chapel Royal.  Still, I think it can be fairly asserted that his being “out of synch” with the religious tenor of Britain at the time was a great pain to him, if not an outright threat to his well-being.

 

Mellifluous Pairing

by Timothy J. Krueger, Artistic Director

I am not alone, I think, in calling the William Byrd Mass for Four Voices the greatest of all Renaissance mass settings.  Written during the reign of Elizabeth I, when Byrd’s illegal (and therefore concealed) Catholicism caused him to write Latin works in secret, his clandestine compositional activity is therefore all the more moving because of the peril involved.  The persecution of non-conformists (including the very real possibility of death) caused Byrd to imbue this work with a sense of urgency and intensity, all the while never compromising on his strict sense of imitative polyphonic voice-leading.  It therefore satisfies both head and heart, being both perfect in construction and passionate in affect.

 

John White’s 8-movement work The Canonical Hours (written for and premiered by SMCC in 2005) is a work that shares certain similarities with the Byrd mass, yet is different enough to provide immense variety.  Using a polyphonic voice-leading that White calls “Neo-Palestrinian,” and therefore redolent of Renaissance techniques yet employing a thoroughly modern harmonic palette, White takes a prayer from each of the eight daily services of the monastic world and weaves a cycle that moves from darkness (Matins, shortly after midnight) to light (the noonday office of Sext is an example) back to darkness (Compline, after sundown).  He illustrates the coming and going of the light in sometimes delicate, sometimes boldly declamatory music.

 

These two major works will each be preceded by a shorter piece.  The stage for The Canonical Hours will be set by the lovely motet Salve mater by Tim Sarsany; and the Byrd will be introduced by a brilliant new work by SMCC alto Donna Wickham, Veni Redemptor.

 

See our 21st Season out with this mellifluous pairing of old and new, all performed with the precision and blend that you’ve come to expect and love with St. Martin’s Chamber Choir.  See you at one of the performances!

 

  • Fri. May 29, 7:30pm – Montview Blvd. Presbyterian Church, Denver
  • Sun. May 31, 3:00pm – St. Gabriel the Archangel Episcopal Church, Cherry Hills Village

 

Tickets available at the door, or www.StMartinsChamberChoir.org and (303) 298-1970.

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Choral Evensong on Thursday (our second-to-last before we take our Summer Break – feed that hunger before it’s too late!!  has a definitely Tudor feel, with the exception of my own Preces & Responses.  Here’s the music:

May 21, 5:45pm; Choral Evensong: John Eliot

Preces & Responses: TJK in A

Canticle of Light: “O Lord, the maker of all things” by William Mundy (d. 1591)

Psalm: (plainchant)

Service: John Hilton (d. 1608) in the Dorian Mode

Anthem: “If ye love me” by Thomas Tallis (c.1505‑1585)

Office Hymn:

I love these mostly Tudor services – simple yet exquisite.

Then Sunday is Pentecost – the most important Feast of the year after Christmas and Easter (one might argue).  Being Memorial Day weekend here in the States, we also move to our summer schedule here at St. Andrew’s (spoken Eucharist [i.e. no music] at 8am; Choral service at 10am; Still Point [Gregorian Chant, candlelight, etc.] still at 5:30pm).  Here’s the music I’ve chosen for this week’s service at 10:00am:

May 24, 2015, Pentecost

Introit: “If ye love me” by Thomas Tallis (c.1505‑1585)

Sequence: Healey Willan (1880-1968)

Anthem: “Lord, who hast made us” (Ps. 148) by Gustav Holst (1874-1934)

Communion motet: “How beauteous are their feet” by Charles V. Stanford (1852-1924)

Hymns: 225 (Salve festa dies), 505 (O heiliger Geist), 511 (Abbot’s Leigh), 516 (Down Ampney)

 

The Holst is a BIG SING – difficult, involved, and the final verse is LOUD!! (tenors and sopranos on a high B flat, fff!!).  Originally orchestrated, I suspect; the organ part, therefore, is probably a beast.  The Stanford, by comparison, is simple and gentle, although there’s one bit (“The Lord makes bare his arm”) that crescendos to a powerful climax (with lots of diminished 7ths).

This is the last Sunday morning of the full choir.  On May 31 we move to “Summer Choir,” where anyone is welcome to sing the 10:00 service, as long as you show up promptly at 9:00am to rehearse.  There is a quartet of staff singers through the summer, so every part is covered; but if you’d like to come along and sing some accessible but satisfying anthems, do come!

Tim

Posted in Musical Weekly.