Musically, we have much diversity of style this week. The most prominent voice, however, comes from the Russian school of church music. You may feel that the anthems are quite chant like, but there will be something different about them. They won’t sound like Anglican or Gregorian chant. This particular chordal, straightforward, vertical approach to chant is a hallmark of the Russian school, and has roots stretching far back into the Russian Orthodox Church. Purposefully, 19th century Russian composers sought to retain their own style of composing that was different from the styles of Europe. This was not something unique to Russia during the Romantic Period in music. Many countries encouraged nationalist music as a matter of pride and tradition. On paper, the old Russian nationalist music is not as sophisticated as other music of the time, but it transmits a unique sound found nowhere else, and so I think they achieved their goal. These sounds, drawn from the heart of the Orthodox church, have an aura of mystery and holiness that will hopefully aid your meditations and prayers this week in a new way.
The introit, composed by our choir director (my wife), Katie Powell, is composed in a style that is reminiscent of the Russian Orthodox style, although it features a much more prominent, Gregorian-influenced chant melody. The lyrics are of my own writing, and seek to serve as a reflection of the Beatitudes. My first thoughts in writing them had to do with how the blessings expressed in the Beatitudes could be seen in our daily interactions. I sought to express the “saintliness” of the small victories of love over hate, kindness over hostility, and hope over despair. The last line is not meant to negate that there is a reward in heaven, but rather, to assert the idea that our interactions can bring heaven into the present. The lyrics are printed below.
“Blessed are you who bring heaven here to dwell with us now.
Blessed are you who see the brightness of God beyond the darkness of pain.
Blessed are you who bless each other with small joys.
Your reward is here, living in the truth of your witness.”
- C. W. Powell (2017)