The service begins with a chant from the 14th century, Beata nobis gaudia, with words attributed to Hilary of Poitiers, who lived in the 4th century. You can read about Bishop Hilary here. From this ancient beginning, we move through the service to the offertory anthem, Draw Us In the Spirit’s Tether, by Harold Friedell (1905-1958). Friedell was a well-known church musician and composer within The Episcopal Church and the musical life of mid-20th century New York City.
An alum of The Juilliard School, Friedell eventually taught there and at Union Theological Seminary, simultaneously serving prominently in the American Guild of Organists. As an organist, he received a Fellowship certificate from the A. G. O. - the guild’s highest level of professional certification, as well as the highest level diploma offered at Trinity College in London. Having previously served Calvary Church, New York, Friedell was eventually appointed Organist and Master of the Choir at St. Batholonew’s Church in New York City (“St. Bart’s”). The history of that particular church is interesting, as an aside. You can read about it here. Friedell died of a heart attack on his way to catch a train in 1958, aged 52, but his music lives on in churches across the country. This Sunday’s anthem is certainly at the top of the list of his most performed compositions. In fact, it was one of the pieces sung by our Diocesan Choir for the consecration service of Bishop Kendrick in 2015. If you are the type to desire truly in depth biographical information, you can read a great article about Harold Friedell, by Neal Campbell, here.
From the offertory, we move through the Eucharistic prayer to the communion music. Sunday’s communion anthem is the famous setting of Veni Sancte Spiritus by Jacques Berthier (1923-1994). I have written before about the music of the Taizé Community, so we can leave a retelling for another time. Although many people think of Berthier’s setting when referencing the Veni Sancte Spiritus prayer, the actually hymn dates from the 12th century, when it was used as the sequence chant for the feast of Pentecost. Many Roman and Anglo-Catholic churches still use a certain form of this chant before the Gospel reading on Pentecost. In our congregational tradition, however, we have become accustomed to a hymn always taking place during the sequence (the space before the Gospel reading), so we will have an iteration of this prayer during communion, instead. You can hear the original Gregorian chant rendition here. Gradually, music during the Gospel sequence caught the imagination of composers, and they began composing sequence music so elaborate and lengthy that the Roman Catholic Church banned it! That is a topic for another article.
In short, Sunday’s celebration of Pentecost will draw from centuries worth of music and texts - something that accurately reflects the depth and breadth of our traditions. Come join us! Next Sunday is the final event of the 2017-2018 Cathedral Music Season - after next week, the choir will cease rehearsing until the next season. So, come next week for the feast of the Holy Trinity, and be a part of our last “dressed up” service this season.