Music Notes for June 5, 2022

Hymn of the Day: “O Living Breath of God” ELW 407
Text: Osvaldo Catena (1920-1986), tr. Gerard M. Cartford (1923)
Tune: VARVINDAR FRISKA, Swedish folk tune

This Pentecost hymn by Osvaldo Catena was first published in Camcionero Abierto, vol. 4 (1979). Gerhard M. Cartford translated it for Libro de Liturgia y Cántico (1998), through which it comes to Evangelical Lutheran Worship.

Osvaldo Catena was a Roman Catholic priest who dedicated his life to living and working among the people of the slum areas of Santa Fe, Argentina. He was a gifted musician and wrote many of the songs that have renewed Latin American liturgy. When Catena was appointed a liturgical adviser for the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), he had already begun using Argentine folk music in worship. He said, “I realized the music I used was like a strange language I spoke. People did not understand me. So I thought Liturgy could be a way to understanding, since it is the expression of the community praying as it sings. That is how I began composing my first songs for the Mass. We organized a choir…and in that group a process of reflection took place, for the vocation of a musician is not just something intimate and personal, but also the voice of the whole community. Music became the accompaniment of life.”

Gerhard Cartford was born in Madagascar, the son of missionary parents. He spent the years 1950-1951 doing research on Ludvig Lindeman and folk music in Oslo, Norway. That played into his doctoral dissertation ten years later, Music in the Norwegian Lutheran Church: A Study of Its Development in Norway and Its Transfer to America, 1825-1917. Dr. Cartford says this very popular "Swedish folk tune" VARVINDAR FRISKA may be Norwegian or may best be described as Scandinavian. In the Norwegian Norsk Salmebok in a slightly different version it is referenced as a Swedish folk tune. Pablo Sosa says it was probably taken by Catena from a collection of songs in Spanish by the Austrian musicologist Kurt Pahlen, where it is given as a "Norwegian children's song.

Choir Anthem: Unless you Lead Me, Love/Thomas Keesecker

Keesecker's setting of poetry by 13th cent. mystic Mechtild of Magdeburg invites us to dance and sing with the love that created the world. The music is not simplistic in its message or writing, and this anthem is a wonderful combination of metaphor, poetry, and beautiful melodic writing.

Mechthild of Magdeburg’s ideas are inspiring in their own right, but are all the more amazing considering the era she lived in (1207-1282) – a time from which women’s voices are mostly lost in the mists of time. What seems today as a literary jewel, was a “stone of offence” back then, because a FEMALE Beguine composed writings with a theological content in vernacular German and not in Latin, and she referred to a divine authorization for her mission. Her criticism of church dignitaries, religious laxity and claims to theological insight aroused so much opposition that some called for the burning of her writings. How fortunate we are that her words survive so we can bask in her reflected light.

Thomas Keesecker has served as a musician in Lutheran and Roman Catholic parishes in Virginia, Montana, and Maryland. His award-winning choral music has been published by several publishers. His studies at the Berklee College of Music in Boston and the Catholic University School of Music in Washington, D.C. prepared him for a career in which he has mixed classical technique and jazz improvisation. During the last decade, he has explored the nexus of creativity and healing and its implication for liturgical musicians.

I cannot dance, Lord,
unless you lead me.
If you want me to leap with abandon,
You must intone the song.
Then I shall leap into love,
From love into knowledge,
From knowledge into enjoyment,
And from enjoyment
beyond all human sensations.
There I want to remain,
yet want also to circle higher still.

Organ Voluntaries: March Upon Handel’s “Lift Up Your Heads,” Alexandre Guilmant (1837-1911)

Félix-Alexandre Guilmant was a French organist and composer. He was a student of his father, then of Jacques-Nicolas Lemmens, he became an organist and teacher in his place of birth. In 1871 he was appointed as organist of la Trinité church in Paris, a position that he held for 25 years. From then on he followed a career as a virtuoso; he gave concerts in Europe as well as in the USA. Guilmant created the Schola Cantorum in 1894 with Charles Bordes and Vincent d'Indy. In 1896 he succeeded Charles-Marie Widor as organ teacher of Conservatoire de Paris. With André Pirro, he published a collection of scores, Archives des Maîtres de l'Orgue (archives of the masters of the organ), a compilation of the compositions of numerous classical French composers in ten volumes, from 1898 to 1914. He proceeded in the same manner for foreign masters of the organ, publishing l'Ecole classique de l'Orgue (Classical School of the Organ),

Guilmant was an accomplished composer, particularly for his own instrument, the organ. His organ repertoire includes his 18 collections of Pièces dans différents styles (Pieces in Differing Styles), of which today’s Voluntary is a part.