Music Notes for January 15, 2023

Hymn of the Day: “Hail to the Lord’s Anointed” ELW 311

This is James Montgomery's best psalm rendering. It is based on Psalm 72 and was written in eight stanzas for, and included in, a Christmas Ode which was sung at one of the Moravian settlements in the United Kingdom, Christmas, 1821. It was published in the following year in the Evangelical Magazine and entitled "Imitation of the 72d psalm (Tune: Culmstock)."

Psalm 72 is a well-known prophecy of the coming Messiah – foretelling the reign of the King and what the Kingdom of that Messiah will be like. But perhaps more than a prophecy, Psalm 72 is a prayer. In these verses the psalmist calls upon God to give justice and righteousness to the King, perhaps the newly crowned earthly king of Israel, but also the heavenly king. It is a cry for the deliverance of a broken people, for the realization of peace and light. James Montgomery’s hymn text from 1821 beautifully captures the essence of that prayer. Albert Bailey says, “His poem is more prayer than prophecy, or shall we say it is prophecy in large part unfulfilled but still capable of inspiring the Church to work for its fulfillment!” (Bailey, Gospel in Hymns). As we sing this beautiful hymn, we both declare our hope and our longing for the Kingdom of God, and for the coming of the one who will turn darkness to light, and whose “name to us is Love.”

Offertory Anthem: “Never Night Again,” Samuel Walter (1916-1987)

American organist and composer Samuel Walter studied at Boston University, Union Theological Seminary with Seth Bingham, and in France with Nadia Boulanger. He was music director at Episcopal Church of the Resurrection in New York City and taught on the faculty of Douglas College-Rutgers University, Boston University, and Union Theological Seminary.

The soft light from a stable door
Lies on the midnight lands.
The wiseman’s star burns ever more
Over all desert sands.

Unto all peoples of the earth
A little Child brought light,
And never in the darkest place
Can it be utter night.

No flickering torch, nor wavering fire,
But Light, the Life of all.
What ever clouds may veil the sky,
Never is night again.

Opening Voluntary: “Repton” (He Comes to Us), Robert J. Powell (1932)

Robert J. Powell is a prolific composer of organ and choral music, a celebrated church organist, and an accomplished choir director who used Parry’s hymn tune, Repton, in this organ prelude setting. Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry (1848-1918) is well known for the choral song, “Jerusalem.” Parry originally wrote the music for what became Repton as a contralto aria, 'Long since in Egypt's plenteous land' from his oratorio Judith. In 1924 George Gilbert Stocks, director of music at Repton School, set it to the text 'Dear Lord and Father of mankind' in a supplement of tunes for use in the school chapel. In the Lutheran hymnal we find this tune paired with the text “He Comes to Us as One Unknown” written by Timothy Dudley-Smith (1926), an English hymn writer and retired bishop of the Church of England.

Closing Voluntary: “Helft Min Gott’s Gute Preisen” (Come, let Us All with Fervor) J. S. Bach (1685-1750)

Bach’s Chorale Prelude “Helft Min Gott’s Gute Preisen” is cast in the atmosphere of joyous praise with a suggestion here and there of the sadness caused by the passing of the old year. The latter is marked by the use of chromatic color. The melody soars over all while we hear the other voices taking turns imitating the opening notes of the choral melody.