Music Notes for March 24, 2024

Hymn of the Day: My Song Is Love Unknown ELW #343
Text: Samuel Crossman (1624-1683)
Tune: LOVE UNKNOWN, John Ireland (1879-1962)

John Ireland composed LOVE UNKNOWN in 1918 for the text "My song is love unknown"; the tune was first published in The Public School Hymn Book of 1919. A letter in the London Daily Telegraph of April 5, 1950, claims that Ireland wrote LOVE UNKNOWN within fifteen minutes on a scrap of paper upon receiving the request to compose it from Geoffrey Shaw, one of the editors of that 1919 hymnal. LOVE UNKNOWN has since appeared in many hymnals as a setting for a number of different texts.

Trained at the Royal College of Music, Ireland served as organist at St. Luke's, Chelsea (1904-1926), and taught at the Royal College of Music from 1923 to 1939. He became known as one of the best composers and teachers of his era, but his personal life was often troubled. Although his piano works, chamber music, and smaller orchestral works remain popular, Ireland is mainly remembered for his song cycles of poetry by Shakespeare, Blake, Hardy, and other English poets. His songs often have carefully wrought accompaniments—as is certainly the case for LOVE UNKNOWN.

Offertory: “Surely He Has Borne Our Griefs” Brian Cockburn (1963)

Thoughts from the composer: “Despite the current interpretation, “Hosanna” originally meant “save us” or “deliver us”. The people outside of Jerusalem shouting “Hosanna, in the highest heaven” were excited that God, at long last had sent a King to deliver them. Jesus, the one coming "in the name of the Lord", knew that this deliverance would not be the expected triumphant liberation, but one of pain, isolation, and death. This work reframes the “Hosannas" of Palm Sunday within the redemptive drama of the crucifixion, bringing them together in a unique way.”

Brian Cockburn dabbles in all things musical and particularly vocal. In addition to conducting choirs in Texas, New York, Arizona, Virginia, and Austria, his compositions have been performed throughout the U.S. and in Europe. As a tenor and countertenor, he has sung professionally with Arizona Opera, O.P.E.R.A., Young Audiences Programs, Austin Lyric and concerts around the U.S. His directorial debut was in 1987 with Arizona Opera’s production of Puccini’s Manon Lescaut and continued with a recent production at the Shenandoah Bach Festival directing and conducting The Village Singer by Stephen Paulus. He teaches courses in Vocal Arranging, Instrumental Arranging, Graduate Research, Graduate Choral Lit., Intro to Music Technology, Arts 101, and Jesus and Music as well as creating and administering JMU’s New Music for Young Musicians Composition Competition.

Surely the Lord hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.
Hosanna in excelsis.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

Closing Voluntary: Chorale Prelude on O Holy Jesus, Sigfrid Karg-Elert (1877-1933)

Sigfrid Karg-Elert was a German composer who enjoyed considerable fame in the early 20th century. He is best known for his compositions for organ and harmonium.

The chromaticism in Karg-Elert’s compositions displays his profound knowledge of music theory which allowed him to stretch the limits of traditional harmony without losing tonal coherence. Listen for the intricate 3-part imitation of the tune, beginning with the first note in the pedal and continuing in the uppermost and finally middle voices.

Notable composers who influenced Karg-Elert’s work include Johann Sebastian Bach, Edvard Grieg (a personal friend and mentor), Claude Debussy, Alexander Scriabin and Arnold Schoenberg.