The introit will be my own setting of The Lamb, a poem by William Blake. You have most likely read this poem before. It begins, "Little lamb, who made thee? Dost thou know who made thee?" I have included an analysis of this iconic poem from interestingliterature.com.
"It’s almost like a riddle, crossed with a nursery rhyme, crossed with a religious catechism. The poem has a simplicity to it, with its rhyming couplets and tetrameter rhythm. ‘The Lamb’ can be read and enjoyed by children: few words are likely to be unfamiliar, with only a couple (‘meads’ for meadows, ‘vales’ for valleys) being of a more ‘poetical’ stripe. ‘The Lamb’ reads like one of William Blake’s most accessible and straightforward poems, but closer analysis reveals hidden meanings and symbolism. The solution to this riddle is: ‘The Lamb made the lamb.’ Christ, known as the ‘Lamb of God’, created all living creatures, including the little lamb - for Christ is not only the son of God but God the Creator.
As he reveals in the poem’s second stanza, the speaker of ‘The Lamb’ is a child, in keeping with the childlike innocence found in much of Blake’s Songs of Innocence. This young speaker addresses the lamb, asking if it knows who made it, who gave it life and its woolly coat, and its pleasing bleating ‘voice’ that seems to make the surrounding valleys a happier place.
In summary, the lamb doesn’t answer. Of course it doesn’t. But the speaker answers his own question: ‘I know who made you.’ It was the Lord God, Jesus Christ, who also - funnily enough - calls himself by the name of ‘Lamb’, i.e. Agnus Dei or ‘Lamb of God’. At several points in the New Testament, Jesus is called a lamb: in John 1:29, John the Baptist, upon seeing Jesus, proclaims, ‘Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.’ The Jesus-as-lamb metaphor returns in Revelation, the final book of the New Testament.
Jesus is associated with the lamb for several reasons: because Jesus’ sacrifice echoed the Jewish concept of the ‘scapegoat’, because of the use of lambs in animal sacrifices, and because of the image of ‘gentle Jesus, meek and mild’ which the New Testament goes some way towards promoting (to counter the smiting and vengeful God, Yahweh, from the Old Testament). This Christian symbolism is integral to a full analysis and understanding of ‘The Lamb’.
But if both the literal lamb addressed in the poem and the ‘Lamb of God’ that is Jesus Christ are associated with each other in the poem, then the poem’s speaker - in being a child - is linked to both: a child is a young person just as a lamb is a young sheep. They are also connected by their innocence. But the word ‘meek’ in the second stanza recalls Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount: ‘Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the Earth’ (Matthew 5:5). The child is exactly the sort of ‘meek’ Christian who might be viewed as an inheritor of the Earth. Speaker, lamb, and Christ are all linked by their innocence - making ‘The Lamb’, among all of Blake’s Songs of Innocence, one of the most innocent of all."
Other musical portions of the service include Antonín Dvořák's Bagatelles. Below, I've included some program notes on these pieces from the St. Lawrence String Quartet's 2014 season. Of course, I will play the harmonium part on our pipe organ (a harmonium is a kind of reed organ - think large accordion). Join us for some interesting and varied music this week at the cathedral!
“I am now writing some small bagatelles for two violins and viola-just imagine! This work gives me as much pleasure as if I were composing a great symphony,” Antonín Dvorˇák wrote to his publisher in the spring of 1878. The Czech composer, impoverished until now, was on a roll. A testimonial from Brahms had begun to make the cash registers ring for both composer and publisher. Later that year, a favorable review in Berlin for his Slavonic Dances led to what the writer of that review described as “a positive assault on the sheet music shops in the course of a day”-this at a time when the publication of printed music functioned much as a CD release in our own time. Within months, the Slavonic Rhapsodies would be on Dvorˇák’s drawing board, Vienna would be asking for a new symphony and string quartet, and he would be writing a concerto for Joachim, one of the great violinists of the day. In the midst of preparing existing works for publication, Dvorˇák spent the first 12 days of May 1878 writing five short bagatelles (malicˇkosti) for two violins, cello, and harmonium. The harmonium, a little foot-pedaled reed organ, had been invented when Dvorˇák was born and adds a gentle, complementary resonance to the sound of the string instruments. Dvorˇák’s target audience was the amateur musician, but his violin writing in particular calls for a skilled player. The first of the five bagatelles includes the Czech folk tune “Hralydudy” (“The Pipes Are Playing”), and references to it add to the unity of these charming miniatures."