Remembering the Armistice

The Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost
November 11, 2018

Today is the 100th anniversary of the Armistice marking the end of World War I - the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. We are joining with churches throughout the country and around the world in tolling our tower bells 21 tunes at 11:00 a.m. as we remember all who died in the "war to end all wars."

In the Church of England, the liturgical calendar designates today as "Remembrance Sunday." Although we have no such designation in the Episcopal Church, we are acknowledging the historical significance of this day through music.

Our communion anthem is "In Remembrance" by Canadian composer, Eleanor Daley (b. 1955).

This anthem is a movement from her Requiem (1993). Like many 20th and 21st century composers, Daley combines the traditional Latin prayers from the mass for the dead with settings of non-liturgical, poetic texts. Daley chose to set this anonymous poem, "Do not stand at my grave and weep." Listen to a recording here: In Remembrance

                                      Ralph Vaughan Williams and Gustav Holst walking in the Malvern Hills. The British Library.

For the prelude and postlude today, we will hear music by two composers who served in World War I. Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958), one of the best known British composers of the twentieth century, volunteered and served in the army. From a private driving ambulance wagons, he eventually rose to the rank of lieutenant in the Royal Artillery. The noise of the guns damaged his hearing, leading to deafness later in life.

The experience of war had a profound emotional impact on Vaughan Williams and caused him to stop composing for an extended period. His set of three preludes on Welsh hymn tunes was one of his first compositions after the war. This morning, we hear the prelude on Hyfrydol from this set. Elegant and restrained, it seems to embody a regained sense of hopefulness. In the years that followed, Vaughan Williams composed some of his greatest works, including the major choral work Dona Nobis Pacem, a cry for peace.

Gustav Holst (1874-1934), another English composer, was a contemporary and lifelong friend of Ralph Vaughan Williams. Holst also volunteered for military service in WWI, but was rejected on medical grounds. He served as a volunteer ambulance driver and continued to compose throughout the war years. One of his most famous works from this period is an orchestral suite, The Planets, which premiered in 1919.

Today's prelude is an arrangement of Holst's hymn tune, Thaxted, by composer Charles Callahan. The tune is from the Jupiter section of The Planets. In England, it is often paired with the patriotic text, "I vow to thee, my country." Holst never intended it to be used as a hymn, but Vaughan Williams recognized its effectiveness and published it in a 1925 hymnal, Songs of Praise. In the United States, it is often paired with the text "O God, beyond all praising," written specifically for this tune in 1982. O God, beyond all praising

Both Holst and Vaughan Williams suffered the loss of friends and colleagues in WWI, including many promising young composers. Their compositions written in the aftermath of war are tinged with a sense of grief and loss of innocence. Yet, their music embodies a sense of determination to move forward in hope. These enduring qualities continue to speak to us in the present age.  

Music for the Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost
November 11, 2018

9            Not here for high and holy things (Morning Song)
490       I want to walk as a child of the light (Houston)
822*     Through north and south (Lasst uns erfreuen)
656       Blest are the pure in heart (Franconia)
594       God of grace and God of glory (Cwm Rhondda)

Service Music
Gloria in excelsis and Sanctus  -William Mathias
Fraction Anthem  -Gerald Near
Psalm 127, A HymnTune Psalter, Carl P. Daw and Kevin R. Hackett

The Beatitudes  -Russian Chant
In Remembrance (from Requiem)  -Eleanor Daley

Organ Music
Prelude on a Theme of Gustav Holst (Thaxted)  -Charles Callahan
Prelude on Hyfrydol  -Ralph Vaughan Williams

*from Wonder, Love and Praise (hymnal supplement)


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