Music Notes for May 8, 2022

Hymn of the Day: “You, Lord, are Both Lamb and Shepherd” ACS 954
Text: Sylvia G. Dunstan, 1955–1993
Music: PICARDY, French folk tune, 17th cent.

The author of this poignant text, Sylvia Dunstan, was an ordained minister in the Anglican Church of Canada who died at a young age after a battle with cancer. The hymn, originally titled “Christus Paradox,” presents images of Christ that are seemingly contradictory. Consider, for example, an “everlasting instant.” At the crux of these paradoxes stand death and resurrection with the cross at the center of it all. This particular paradox is the heart of the Christian faith. The text is paired with a familiar tune, PICARDY, which many will recognize from singing “Let all mortal flesh keep silence” (ELW 490).

PICARDY is a French carol dating from the seventeenth century, and taken from the song book Chansons Populaires des Provinces de France, published in 1860 – four years before the hymn was first published in Britain in 1864.

Opening Voluntary: Christ lag in Todesbanden J. S. Bach (1685-1750)

The Easter chorale tune drawn from the Easter hymn “Christ ist Erstaden,” was published in Germany in 1529. In this chorale prelude setting Bach demonstrates how to clearly harmonize a tune with a vigorously active and ornamented accompaniment both dramatic and triumphant in nature, emphasized by its minor key setting.

Choir Anthem: The King of Love, Robert Lee (1951)

Robert Lee is an Alabama native and has been a church organist since age 16. With a BMusEd in organ performance from Samford University and a MEd in history from Mississippi College, Mr. Lee has worked as a choral director and history teacher for 25 years. He has been active with college and professional musical theater groups and is currently the assistant organist at St. Francis in the Fields Episcopal Church in Louisville, KY.

Today two pieces of music focus on Psalm 23. The choir anthem, “The King of Love,” is a new, tender setting of this much loved paraphrase text of Psalm 23, while the Closing Organ Voluntary is a setting of the Irish tune, St Columba which is long associated with this text.

The King of love my Shepherd is,
Whose goodness faileth never,
I nothing lack if I am His
And He is mine forever.

Where streams of living water flow
My ransomed soul He leadeth,
And where the verdant pastures grow,
With food celestial feedeth.

Perverse and foolish oft I strayed,
But yet in love He sought me,
And on His shoulder gently laid,
And home, rejoicing, brought me.

And so through all the length of days
Thy goodness faileth never;
Good Shepherd, may I sing Thy praise
Within Thy house forever.

Closing Voluntary: Fantasy on St. Columba, Kenneth Leighton (1929-1988)

Paired with the text The King of Love My Shepherd Is, Fantasy on Columba is based on the Irish tune St Columba. In this setting a decorated version of the tune is heard in canon, beginning calmly before growing in intensity. Remarkably, this simple, flowing melody is surrounded and almost swallowed up in intense, tortured harmonies, arriving at the end with a sense of resolution rather reassuring in our current circumstances.

As a treble chorister from 1938, many of Kenneth Leighton’s formative musical experiences were accompanied by the 1905 Abbott and Smith organ of Wakefield Cathedral, in the West Yorkshire city where he was born and educated. Leighton repeatedly praised the importance of his time in the choir stalls throughout his life, stating ‘My whole background is choral church music. I think one’s early background is terribly important’ and ‘[...] my career as a Cathedral chorister left some of the most vivid impressions in my mind of that time of life [...] what a marvelous musical training.’ Given this musical upbringing that left such a mark, it was perhaps inevitable that Leighton would go on to write a great deal of choral music, mostly liturgical, as well as works for the organ. Although initially, the organ was not an instrument for which Leighton felt particularly compelled to write, or even with which he felt particularly comfortable, turning to it only in his mid-thirties. He was most concerned overall with the instrument’s architectural possibilities, at various times lamenting how the lack of clarity in the organ bothered him. As late as 1979 in a published interview, Leighton stated how he ‘[...] found the organ frustrating, there’s very little good music to play on it anyway apart from Bach’. While it seemed to present a significant challenge for him to overcome, however, his solo organ music constitutes a significant part of his output as a whole. Indeed in the same 1979 article he also goes on to say how ‘[...] I’ve found writing for the organ very exciting recently and I’ve kept on at it’. I’m glad he did!