Music Notes for January 29, 2023

Hymn of the Day: “Let Streams of Living Justice” ELW 710
Text: William Whitla (1934)
Tune: THAXTED, Gustav Holst (1874-1934)

William Whitla (b. 1934) wrote this hymn in 1989. It was published in Sing Justice! Do Justice! (1998), a collection of hymns that "grew out of a formal search for hymns on justice sponsored by the organizations Alternative for Simple Living and The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada. It had four stanzas.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship, not the only hymnal to do so, prints three of the four by omitting the second. Whitla is "not very keen" on this move, which he views as "cutting out both the too incarnational and the too feminine images." Here is what he says about the hymn:

I wrote the hymn in 1989 just after the events in Tiananmen Square, and when the Mothers of the Disappeared in Argentina were bringing their campaign to the conscience of the world. At the same time, the religious and racial disputes in Ireland, Israel-Palestine, the Congo and other parts of Africa, and in Canada and many other countries over First Nation or Aboriginal rights all seemed impossible to solve. Unfortunately, similar events are still replayed, and only too-similar images in the Near East, Irag, Afghanistan, and now Somalia- not to mention the school shootings at home-recur and are now extended well beyond those earlier sad happenings. So I used some images from those events, especially in verse two, seen through echoes of the holocaust, to tell of the bad news before the Good News of verses three and four. Subsequent events only sharpened those images, alas. To me all of these parts are needed for a full expression of the biblical promises of hope and justice so long awaited, including the too-common images of both the child with the gun and the old ones dreaming for peace.

Here is stanza 2:

The dreaded disappearance of family and friend;
the torture and the silence- the fear that knows no end;
the mother with her candle, the child who holds a gun,
the old one nursing hatred- all seek release to come.
Each candle burns for freedom; each lights a tyrant's fall;
each flower placed for martyrs gives tongue to silenced call.

The tune, THAXTED, was originally set to the text "I vow to thee, my country" and then used for others. That it is a splendid melody is clear. Whether it is a congregational one is less clear. Like Parry's JERUSALEM (#711-for which Whitla has written "O dream of peace,") is the melody more orchestral than congregational, with problems of length, range and Anglophilia?

Offertory Anthem: “Create a Pure Heart in Me,” Susan Matsui

Susan Matsui began composing as a child. She plays fiddle, French horn, piano, and organ, and many medieval and folk instruments, both string and wind. She studied composition at Williams College with Dan Gutwein and at the Salzburg Mozarteum with Cesar Bresgan. She is the organist and music director at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in East Longmeadow, Massachusetts, and a member of the American Guild of Organists. She is also a public school music teacher and a member of Woodbinde Medieval Band. She is continually composing and arranging music, often for use in her church, for both the adult and junior choirs. Her music is influenced by her nearly twenty years in Japan, as well as by medieval music, and by her formative years in an Episcopal church with an outstanding music program (Grace Episcopal Church in Nyack, NY). She has published 39 children’s books in Japan, among which are three songbooks, as well as scores of children's songs for children's magazines. She continues to write and publish for the Japanese children's book market.

The text is a paraphrase of Psalm 51.

Create a pure heart in me, O Lord.
Grant me a new and steadfast spirit.
Do not drive me away from thy presence,
or take thy Spirit from me.

Revive in me the joy of deliverance,
Grant me a steady soul to uphold me.
Open thou my lips, everlasting Lord,
that my mouth may sing thy praises.

Thou takest no delight in sacrifice,
nor hast thou any wish for whole offering.
My sacrifice, Lord, is a broken soul,
my offering, a contrite heart.

Opening Voluntary: “THAXTED” (Let Streams of Living Justice), Robert Buckley Farlee (1950)

As was noted above, “Thaxted” is a hymn tune by the English composer Gustav Holst, based on the stately theme from the middle section of the Jupiter movement of his orchestral suite The Planets. It was named after Thaxted, the English village where he lived much of his life. He adapted the theme in 1921 to fit the patriotic poem "I Vow to Thee, My Country" by Cecil Spring Rice but that was as a song with orchestra. It did not appear as a hymn-tune called "Thaxted" until his friend Ralph Vaughan Williams included it in Songs of Praise in 1926.

Robert Buckley Farlee is a graduate of Christ Seminary-Seminex, St. Louis, Missouri. He also serves on the worship editorial staff at Augsburg Fortress Publishers, and was deeply involved in the recent publication of Evangelical Lutheran Worship.

Closing Voluntary: “Now”, Michael Helman (1956)

Michael Helman is currently Director of Music/Organist at Faith Presbyterian Church in Cape Coral, Florida. He is an active composer of handbell, organ, and choral music with numerous pieces pieces in print.

Today’s Closing Voluntary uses the hymn tune, “Now” by Carl F. Schalk (1929 - 2021) He was professor of music at Concordia University, River Forest, Illinois, where he taught church music since 1965. Honored as a Fellow of the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada in 1992, Schalk was editor of the Church Music journal (1966-1980), a member of the committee that prepared the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), and a widely published composer of church music.