This Week’s Music

Prelude: Voluntary # 4 in G Minor – William Boyce (1711-1779)
Mr. Boyce was a Choirboy at St. Paul’s London, and eventually became Master of the King’s Music. He wrote lots of really fine choir music, and in his old age edited Cathedral Music, a collection of English church music that is still in wide use today. His success meant that he ate and drank a little too well, and he thus died of gout.
Offertory: Hymn 145 “Now quit your care” Quittez Pasteurs
If you attended the Ash Wednesday service, you heard this hymn once already. René, the music director at Trinity Lutheran in Chelmsford is the singer.  She and I collaborated on this and hope to work together again on a couple of Easter hymns. This tune is actually a French Noel, with Lenten text by the most excellent English Socialist priest Percy Dearmer (1867-1936), that exhorts us to focus on that which is truly important, rather than outward signs of repentance – a sort of “rend your hearts and not your garments” type message. Dearmer is perhaps best known for editing the English Hymnal with Ralph Vaughan Williams, but also for writing The Parson’s Handbook, a manual for clergy.
Variations on a Bass – Henry Coleman (1888-1965)
We had a technical glitch this past Sunday, so I’m repeating this piece as the postlude this week. It took 4 or 5 hours to get it polished and to achieve a good recording, and it’s worth hearing every note. It is a passacaglia (or one could call it a ground bass, or a chaconne, or a “canon” – as in the mislabeled “Pachelbel canon”) by English composer R. Henry Coleman. The ground bass, repeated over and over throughout the piece, is a descending G-Minor scale. The bass is stated all alone in the pedal at the outset, and each variation adds a little something more. At the halfway point the volume is throttled back and chromatic passing tones are added to the bass line for three variations. Another build-up then carries us to the end, with the bass line stated for the final time in the left hand on the “solo tuba”.  J. S. Bach’s Passacaglia in C Minor, with its 33 variations (signifying the life of Christ of course) is the supreme example of the form. I have a priest friend who listens to one of the many available YouTube recordings of the Bach Passacaglia every single night just before he goes to bed.
Musically yours,