The service starts with a piece of my own writing, Monody, for violin and organ. According to the dictionary, monody can be defined as, "an ode sung by a single actor in a Greek tragedy." It can also be, "a poem lamenting a person's death." Musically, it normally means a single line of music, usually vocal, sometimes with accompaniment. Why would this be particularly appropriate for our last joyful service before Lent? Why, to say farewell to the alleluias, of course! To that end, Cleamon Downs has composed an introit especially for us this week that sets part of the ancient Latin hymn, Alleluia dulce carmen. This text is inseparably linked with the burial of the alleluias during the Lenten season, and it expresses the eternal hope of faithful people that those things that are cast down for now will eventually be raised up once more.
"Alleluia, song of gladness, voice of joy that cannot die;
alleluia is the anthem ever raised by choirs on high;
in the house of God abiding thus they sing eternally."
- 13th century, Latin
Our hymns this Sunday are replete with alleluias while still managing to focus on the principal theme of the Transfiguration. The sequence hymn states the matter very clearly.
"Manifest on mountain height, shining in resplendent light,
where disciples filled with awe thy transfigured glory saw.
When from there thou leddest them steadfast to Jerusalem,
cross and Easter Day attest God in man made manifest."
- F. Bland Tucker (1895-1984)
The choir anthem at the offertory will be O Light of Light, by Richard Shephard (b. 1949). Based on an ancient text, Shepherd has crafted an optimistic melody that shines with the brightest form of English choral jollity. Take a moment to read the lyrics printed below.
"O Light of light, Love given birth;
Jesus, Redeemer of the earth:
more bright than day your face did show,
your raiment whiter than the snow.
Two prophets, who had faith to see,
with your elect found company,
the heavens above your glory named,
the Father's voice his Son proclaimed;
May all who seek to praise aright
through purer lives show forth your light.
To you, the King of glory, now
all faithful hearts adoring bow."
- 10th century, Latin; tr. Laurence Housman (1865-1959)
Printed as part of our 2016-2017 Music Season series on living composers, you can read about Richard Shephard below. This biography is reprinted from St. James Music Press.
"Richard Shephard was educated at The King's School, Gloucester and Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. He is Chamberlain of Yorkminster, head of their development department, and Honorary Visiting Fellow in the Music Department of the University of York. His compositions include operas, oratorios and orchestral works but it is perhaps for his church music that he is best known. His anthems and service settings are sung widely in the cathedrals and churches of the UK and they have a considerable following in the USA. He holds the Lambeth Doctorate of Music from Oxford University and two Honorary Doctorates from the University of the South (Sewanee, TN) and the University of York (York, UK)."
Finally, remember that Ash Wednesday is March 1st. We have two opportunities here at Christ Church to worship together and receive ashes this coming Wednesday, and both services will feature unique musical offerings. Please join us at noon with cantor and organ or at 5:30 p.m. with choir and organ. Then, be sure to mark your calendars for our Lenten Music at Noon concert series that runs every Wednesday from March 8th through April 5th. You can find more information about all of our musical events on our website, in your Music Season booklet, or in recent issues of The Messenger.