Music for Sunday, 18th March: Lent 5 (Passion Sunday), Year B

Passiontide already!

The readings for this Sunday are:

Jeremiah 31:31-34
Psalm 51:1-13 OR Psalm 119:9-16
Hebrews 5:5-10
John 12:20-33

Jeremiah — foretelling a new covenant, one in which the law is written on people’s hearts, and in which people know the Lord by his forgiveness of sins
Psalm 51 — Miserere mei. I have sinned; cleanse me from my sin, create within me a clean heart and a right spirit
Psalm 119 — Teach me your ways, Lord; delighting in the statues of God
Hebrews — the high priesthood of Christ, and eternal salvation through Him
John — Some Greeks want to see Jesus, and Jesus is alluding to his death.

One possible piece for this Sunday would be “A New Heart” by Melissa Dunphy.
The text, from Ezekiel 36:26 (“A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh”) is particularly suitable if you are using or wish to allude to Psalm 51. The setting is for SAB and piano, and easy to sing and play. I love the directness and sparse simplicity of this piece; there’s nothing extraneous or distracting. It’s available to purchase from MorningStar Music Publishers and a pdf perusal score and mp3 are available.

Music for Sunday, 11th March: Lent 4 (Mothering Sunday), Year B

There’s a choice of two lots of lectionary readings in Common Worship this Sunday, depending on where you want your focus to be; but if you’re in England it’s pretty likely that mothers or mothering will be the theme in some way or other.

This is a theme that’s not easy for everyone, and which can bring out strong feelings. These are not neatly or easily sidestepped, but it can help, I think, to focus on mothering more than on mothers, and on the mothering qualities of God.

‘Mothering God, You Gave Me Birth’ is an ideal hymn text for this, and the setting of it by Carolyn Jennings is both simple enough to be used as a congregational hymn in some contexts, and lyrical enough to stand as a simple choir anthem in others. The words, by Jean Janzen, are an adaptation of words by Julian of Norwich, so this is really a collaboration between three women.

Listen on YouTube.

The hymn is in the following hymnals, according to
Evangelical Lutheran Worship #735
Glory to God: the Presbyterian Hymnal #7
With One Voice #769

If you don’t have any of those, though, it’s available to buy (in an arrangement by Zebulon Highben) from JW Pepper.

Many thanks to Jo Kershaw for pointing this one out.

New music this week: Sheena Phillips

This week I’ve added four pieces by Sheena Phillips to the Easter page. The site already had some of her work, but it’s good to be able to add some more, and fill out what was a rather sparse-looking Easter page. They’re very definitely on the “special occasions” side of things, involving not only organ but also brass.

A word to the wise: if you’re going to have some brass join you for Easter Day, and you want them to play at the same time as the organ, do check your organ is at A440 first. The one I used to play at St Andrew’s Leytonstone isn’t, it’s about 18 cents sharp, and it would have sounded absolutely dreadful to add an instrument tuned to standard pitch.

Music for Sunday 4th March: Lent 3, Year B

The readings for this Sunday are:

Exodus 20:1-17
Psalm 19
1 Corinthians 1:18-25
John 2:13-22

The reading from Exodus is the Ten Commandments.

The Psalm is about the glory of God, as displayed both by the heavens and by God’s law.

The reading from 1 Corinthians is asking some questions about wisdom, and noting that to those called, Christ is both the power and wisdom of God, rather than the foolishness it might seem to others.

The Gospel reading is Jesus driving the money-changers out of the Temple — and his disciples recognising his actions as prophesied by Scripture. He then claims that he will raise the Temple (meaning his body, this time) in three days, and his disciples remember that, later.

If you’re up for a challenge, there’s Hilary Campbell’s SATB setting of “The spacious firmament on high”, Joseph Addison’s paraphrase of Psalm 19, titled “The Hand That Made Us Is Divine” and available from Jeremy Dibb music. I sang this myself in around 2009, I think — I was still studying at Trinity College of Music at the time, so it must have been around then. The piece has extensive divisi and plenty of challenging rhythms. And yes, that’s the same Hilary Campbell who is the director of the Blossom Street chamber choir, whose album crowdfunder I posted about previously; there are four days left so do support them if you’re going to!

I promised another Ave Regina caelorum, and Carlotta Ferrari’s setting of the Ave Regina caelorum for SSA fits the bill.

New music added: Windella, by Dorothea Baker

I’m — slowly — working through my data entry backlog, and finally at a point where I can start adding music to the site again.

Today I added a hymn with words and music written by Dorothea Baker. The words are based loosely on the Nunc dimittis, making it suitable for Evensong, Compline or Candlemas; I’ve added it to the Evensong category on the site, because I figure that’s where people will be looking for Candlemas stuff anyway.

Here’s an mp3 recording, which you can download if the embedded player isn’t working:

And here’s a .pdf to download:
PDF of ‘Windella’ by Dorothea Baker

I am fond of the serene simplicity of this hymn, and it shouldn’t be hard for a congregation to pick up. Though it’s scored for SATB, it might be prudent to sing it in unison unless you have basses who can sing a bottom E comfortably.

I would really love to include more hymns on this site in general: congregations may grumble a bit about new hymns, but once people have become accustomed to the idea of not always using the same hymnal it can be a great way to introduce new music. Some of this, of course, will come down to me buying a few of the newer hymnals and making some recommendations; but if you know of hymns with music by women that you’d like to see included on this site, then please use the music submission form to let me know about them.

Music for Sunday 25th February: Lent 2, Year B

The readings for this Sunday are:

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16
Psalm 22:23-31
Romans 4:13-25
Mark 8:31-38

In the reading from Genesis, Abram and Sarai get their new names of Abraham and Sarah, as a sign of God’s covenant. God’s end of the covenant, as it happens, is to make Abraham and Sarah the ancestors of many nations.

Psalm 22:23-31 is what I think of as the “cheerful” section of Psalm 22 (verse one, for contrast, begins “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). This psalm mentions the offspring of Jacob and Israel, who of course are themselves descendants of Abraham; and it goes further, saying all the nations, all the ends of the earth, will worship the Lord. But the idea of a covenant spanning generations is still there, too: future generations will be told about the Lord, and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn.

In this portion of the letter to the Romans, St Paul makes the point that the inheritance of Abraham did not come through the law but through faith, and that we all, through faith, are heirs.

In the Gospel reading, Jesus foretells his death and resurrection, Peter tries to tell him off and Jesus rebukes him for thinking of human rather than divine priorities. Then Jesus calls the crowd to follow him, and he doesn’t sugarcoat the costs of this, or the importance of it.

An anthem that might work well for this Sunday is Thus Far Did I Come by Helen Williams, with words by John Bunyan. It’s the point in the Pilgrim’s Progress where, on seeing the Cross, the burden falls from Christian’s back.

It being Lent, it might also be appropriate to sing the Ave Regina caelorum, particularly late in the day as it’s the concluding antiphon to the daily office from Candlemas to Holy Week. The Choral Public Domain Library has a version by Isabella Leonarda for ATTB with optional basso continuo, which you can also hear at Youtube:

There are other settings of the Ave Regina caelorum available, too, which I’ll include in coming weeks.

Music for Lent 1

In haste, still, as Past Me is writing this before going away — please forgive the lack of lectionary — some music for Lent 1.

One way or another the theme for Sunday is going to be about Jesus being driven out into the wilderness to be tempted.

In my own, urban/semi-suburban existence, the idea of going out into nature and getting away from it all sometimes seems rather appealing; but that’s mostly because I can come back to a safe, warm house. I’m not sleeping outside; I’m not fending off wild beasts at night, and desperately thirsty during the day.

Real engagement with wilderness can leave us wrung out and exhausted, and longing for support and reassurance, and most of all, the comfort of God’s presence with us.

Stephanie Martin’s setting of Sicut cervus — lines from Psalm 42 — would be one way of expressing this longing for God.

[Listen to Sicut cervus by Stephanie Martin on Soundcloud]
[Buy the sheet music for Sicut cervus by Stephanie Martin]

Music for Ash Wednesday

I’m not ready for Lent. I’m also not really ready for the trip to Jerusalem I’ll be making tomorrow morning. But the thing about Lent, and wilderness in general, is that it doesn’t wait until we’re good and ready; it doesn’t work according to our earthly timelines and conveniences and purposes.

So, in some haste, as I schedule various posts to go up while I’m away, set my e-mail auto-reply and so on —

— Ally Barrett wrote a hymn text for Ash Wednesday, which I set in 2016.

1. Dust to dust, we mark our repentance,
entering a guilty plea,
Ash to ash, we face our sentence,
Sin writ large for all to see:
Bearing signs of all our falls from grace,
Yearning for your strong embrace.

2. Dust of earth once shaped and moulded,
human form from Godly hand,
Male and female both enfolded,
part of all that you had planned.
Now O Lord reshape our damaged form,
Hold us till our hearts grow warm.

3. Dust that fuels the lights of heaven,
Stars and planets passing by,
Atoms of creation’s splendour,
Earth to earth and sky to sky,
Now our dust, redeemed, may sing along
with that universal song.

You can download the sheet music from CPDL.

11th February 2018: Sunday Next before Lent, Year B

The readings for this Sunday are:

2 Kings 2:1-12
Psalm 50:1-6
2 Corinthians 4:3-6
Mark 9:2-9

2 Kings 2:1-12 is the ascension of Elijah into heaven, with poor Elisha following him around and then eventually left behind.

Psalm 50:1-6 is God calling to the heavens and earth to gather the faithful together.

2 Corinthians 4:3-6 is about how it is that some people seem to see the light of the Gospel and others don’t; about the way in which Christians should not “proclaim ourselves” but rather proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord.

Mark 9:2-9 is the Transfiguration.

One of my own pieces, a setting of a poem by Marnanel Thurman, would be appropriate for this Sunday. It’s for flexible choir, it can be sung unison with or without solos or up to SAB. The music is available from CPDL and there is a demo recording on Youtube.

What’s seen is seen, and cannot be unknown;
and so he turned my soul, and turns it still.
We’d walked a while, just him and us alone;
we’d wandered up some ordinary hill.
The air was cold. The conversation died.
I wondered if I’d left the stove alight.
The curtains of the world were torn aside,
and naked glory overwhelmed my sight;
and oh, the voice, that called to him by name,
so comforting, so terrible to hear:
that man I knew, the same, yet not the same,
touches my arm, and tells me not to fear;
but as I raise my eyes, the light is gone,
and life, and something more, must carry on.

If you’re after something more traditional, any setting of O Nata Lux would be good. I don’t currently have one in the database, though, so if you know of one composed by a woman, do use the submit music form to let me know about it.

Some non-Cecilia’s List deadlines and a winter bug slowed me right down, and I ended up skipping Candlemas (2nd February) and the Sunday afterward (4th February) here, both of which I actually have some good recommendations for. I’m trying to get caught up this week before going away so that I don’t get further behind and end up feeling even more overwhelmed. So far I’m about halfway through the easy part of my data entry backlog. And I do have music of my own for Ash Wednesday, at least.

Signal Boost: This Day — Blossom Street Singers

In 1918, women (or some of them, anyway) in Britain got the right to vote.

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of this, Blossom Street Singers are recording an album with Naxos which will consist entirely of music composed by women, and sung by upper voices. There will be several pieces, old and new, that have never been recorded before. Composers include Elizabeth Maconchy, Judith Weir, Elizabeth Poston, Judith Bingham, Kerry Andrew, Roxanna Panufnik, Cecilia McDowall and many more.

Blossom Street Singers was founded by Hilary Campbell whilst studying at the University of York, and later relocated to London. The choir is excellent and I am sure the CD will be as well.

You can read more about the CD, and sponsor the recording project, at the crowdfunding page for This Day.