Our offertory anthem is a modern work by Ronald A. Nelson (b. 1929). Whoever Would Be Great Among You directly comments on Sunday’s Gospel reading. Nelson sets the text almost like a round or canon. The baritones, altos, and sopranos each have their own melody and lyrics that expand upon each other. First, you will hear the baritones enter with the first sentence, the altos with the second, and finally the sopranos with the third, making the story complete. Perhaps you can use this piece to help you reflect on Christ’s powerful message in the Gospel this week.
At Communion time, you will again hear an “organ plus” composition. This time, you will hear my very own work, Melody, for violin and organ. Designed as an interlude between the two Communion hymns, this piece features a thoughtful melody for the violin pared with a somewhat static accompaniment for the organ. Designed to be played rather slowly, the piece aims to allow time for reflection, much like musical interludes during plays or readings. Kaleidoscopic tone colors in the harmonies complete the experience.
Finally, the organ postlude will be a vintage work, Postlude in D, by Emma Louise Ashford (1850-1930). In classical music, documented female composers are rare, and female organ composers are rarer still! Unfortunately, while we know that many women composed sacred and secular music throughout history, their works were usually undervalued and not preserved. Ashford was born in Newark, Delaware to a family of English descent and was, from what I can tell, something of a child prodigy. She held her first organist position, in an Episcopal church for that matter, at the age of twelve. Later in life, Ashford went on to compose around 600 works for organ, voice, and other instruments. Rare for the time, she even traveled around the country performing and conducting her pieces. Her postlude for Sunday is idiomatic of church music of her generation. You’ll hear big, loud enthusiasm as you go out into the world (or into the Chapter House).