Showing posts from March, 2018

Easter Day

Easter Day
April 1, 2018

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

This morning's offertory anthem - "Easter Chorale" by Samuel Barber - was composed for the dedication of the bell tower at Washington National Cathedral in 1964. Barber was intrigued by images of God in creation, and his setting of Pack Browning's poem captures the energy of new life brought forth by our "Source and Spring."

This 20th century masterpiece is one of my favorite Easter choral compositions. If you visit my office, you'll see this poem hanging on my wall, framed with a photograph of Nebraska's sandhill cranes.

May your life be filled with light and renewal this Easter!

The morning light renews the sky. Across the air the birds ignite
Like sparks to take this blaze of day
Through all the precincts of the night.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
The fires of dawn refresh our eyes.
We watch the world grow wide and bright
And praise our newly risen Light.
The winter land receives the year.
Her smallest creatures rouse…

Palms and Passion

Sunday, March 25, 2018
The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday

Today marks the beginning of Holy Week. In this morning's liturgy, we literally step into the story of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. We wave palm branches and sing "Hosanna to the Son of David." Trumpet fanfares sound, and the mighty organ soars.

The mood then quickly shifts as we join in a dramatic reading of the Passion Gospel. We remember Jesus' final days on earth and his betrayal by his friends. We walk with Jesus to Golgotha and watch him die on the cross.
Episcopalians sing what we believe. Today's Holy Week hymns have lasted for centuries because of their ability to communicate the greatest story ever told in ways that move us beyond words. For many of us, these texts and tunes are deeply embedded in our memory:
All glory, laud, and honor to thee, Redeemer, King! to whom the lips of children their sweet hosannas ring.

Ah, holy foes derided, by thine own rejected, O most afflic…

The Wondrous Cross

The Fifth Sunday in Lent
March 18, 2018

As the season of Lent progresses, our liturgy and music increasingly sharpen our focus on Jesus' suffering and death on the cross. Today, we will sing one of the great English hymns on this theme - "When I survey the wondrous cross" by Isaac Watts (1674-1748).

When Watts was born in England, most "hymns" were metrical paraphrases of psalms. Watts moved beyond merely paraphrasing the Bible to creating original poetry. His hymns are considered to be some of the greatest in the English language, and they helped to establish the importance of hymn singing in the Anglican tradition.

While using vocabulary immediately accessible to the singer, Watts' hymns make artful use of poetic devices. His hymns often begin with a powerful opening line designed to grab the singer's attention and set the stage for all that follows. His use of imagery draws singers into the scene: "See from his head, his hands, his feet, sorrow and …

Laetare Sunday

The Fourth Sunday in Lent
March 11, 2018

Today is the Fourth Sunday in Lent, Laetare Sunday. The name comes from the traditional Latin introit to the Mass, "Laetare Jerusalem" (Rejoice, O Jerusalem). It marks the hopeful halfway point on our Lenten journey to Easter Day, and it is set apart from the other Sundays in Lent through the use of rose vestments. In England, it is referred to as "Mothering Sunday," originally a time when people returned to their "mother church" (the church where they were baptized). Servants were given the day off to return to their home churches; this was often the only time that families could celebrate together, since time off was rarely granted on other holidays. Children often gathered flowers along the way, placing them in the church or giving them to their mothers. Special pastries, especially a light fruitcake called "simnel cake," were served. (View a recipe here: Simnel Cake.) In the UK and Ireland, this day now…

Lead Me, Lord

The Third Sunday in Lent
March 4, 2018

Today's anthem is an Anglican classic: "Lead Me, Lord" by Samuel Sebastian Wesley. Born in London in 1810, Samuel was the grandson of Charles Wesley, an Anglican priest, leader of the Methodist movement, and author of over 6000 hymns.

Have you been (binge) watching Victoria?
Samuel Sebastian Wesley was composing church music during that same era. He was well known as a leading organist and choirmaster of his time, composing most of his music for use in the Church of England. Wesley served several English cathedrals, and he is credited as a co-inventor of the concave pedalboard seen on many modern pipe organs. Several of his hymn tunes appear in The Hymnal 1982, including Aurelia ("The Church's one foundation").

The elegant simplicity of this anthem is well suited to the season of Lent. The text is based on verses from the Psalms. Each section of the short prayer is stated clearly, first by the sopranos, then by the entire c…