During Communion you will hear the Agnus Dei from the Coronation Mass by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791). Although perhaps not heard as often as his Ave Verum, Alleluia, or Laudate Dominum, this piece is exquisite! There is a certain quality to Mozart's music that is nearly universally agreed upon; it refreshes the soul. While some Agnus Dei settings are dark or disquieting, Mozart takes a different approach. The text translates as, "Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us." The prayer ends with the words, "grant us peace." Instead of an angst-filled imploration or wallowing, Mozart's music soars above guilty penitence as though it has already been purified through the act of asking for mercy. This is music of innocence and optimism. In a way, it transmits to us, the listeners, the very thing for which it asks at the end, peace. Whether Mozart achieved this effect intentionally is not clear, but the message is loud and clear, regardless.
In a departure from our Viennese themes, the offertory music was composed by Eric Thiman (1900-1975), an English composer, conductor, and organist. Sunday's offertory piece, Meditation No. 2, comes from his collection, Three Meditations, published in 1961. Every time I play this piece, I am moved by its beauty. Starting with a simple theme, Thiman builds and swells the music (alla Herbert Howells) until, after a few powerful chords, it falls back into the original theme, ending in a hushed whisper. The postlude, Praise to the Lord, by Garth Edmundson (1892-1971), is from a similar era as the Thiman piece (copyrighted 1954), but is quite obviously hymn based - this makes it a lot of fun to play and hear. What attracted me to it was the "running" pedal line through much of the piece as the hymn tune is played in large, staccato (very short) chords by the hands. It is one of those pieces that some refer to as a "pipe duster." Come join us on Sunday for what promises to be a really beautiful service.