Sunday’s offertory anthem, Rejoice, the Lord is King, by Malcolm Archer (b. 1952) is a festive, fast, and bright piece of music. Archer was formerly the Organist and Choir Master at Saint Paul’s Cathedral in London before becoming the Director of Chapel Music at Winchester College in Winchester, England. In addition to being a composer, Archer is a concert organist and a renowned pedagogue. The catchy melody and driving rhythm found in Sunday’s anthem illustrate why his music is so popular around the world.
During communion, we will experience an antiphon and psalm once again. You are all invited to join the choir in singing the refrain. The appointed psalm, Psalm 145, is very appropriate choice for Christ the King Sunday. “I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever.” This text also ties in well with our communion hymn, Lord, enthroned in heavenly splendor. This hymn brings compelling depictions of Christ as victor and ruler. The lyrics for verse one are as follows: ”Lord, enthroned in heavenly splendor, first begotten from the dead. Thou alone, our strong defender, liftest up they people’s head. Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Jesus, true and living bread!” Finally, we will process out singing, All hail the power of Jesus’ name!
The organ prelude this Sunday consists of two rather extroverted and picturesque movements from Suite Gothique by Léon Boëllmann (1862-1897). Boëllmann, a gifted musician and composer, was organist of the Church of Saint Vincent de Paul in Paris. Sadly, we can only wonder what he could have produced had he lived longer. He died at the age of 35. I chose to play the Introduction and Minuet from Suite Gothique on Sunday because of its triumphant sonority so evocative of grandeur. Boëllmann’s piece depicts the vast and intricate construction of great Gothic churches. Many of these great buildings were constructed to be “Bibles in stone” and monuments to the power and splendor of God. How appropriate that we should have music on such a Gothic scale for the feast of Christ the King. The Introduction is similar to a regal hymn and employs the darker reeds of the organ while the Minuet, in contrast, has a sparkling and detailed character. Together, these two pieces achieve a balance of symmetry.
Our music this week is intended to uplift our hearts as we place our trust in Christ. We rejoice that death is conquered, and we pray that our lives may be governed by the teachings of Christ, our ruler. While some of the imagery used may be warlike, it serves to bid us to awaken from doubt and oppression, regret, guilt, or darkness. Our triumphant songs lift us up to envision what life in the image of God can be!
Christopher W. Powell
Organist and Choir Master