- Introit: Batten "Lord, we beseech thee"
Preces: Jones Chichester
Psalm 84, Quam dilecta! Chant: Edward John Hopkins
Anthem: Rudoi "Give us light" †
† A new work commissioned by The Anglican Singers for their Summer 2012
Residency at Bristol Cathedral, UK
Today marks the 20th Sunday after Pentecost. As this season (the longest in the Church year) draws to its conclusion and moves steadily toward Advent, the universal Church begins to prepare for the coming of the Savior at Christmastide.
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Director Kevin Jones and the Anglican Singers are pleased to welcome Joseph Ripka as their new organist. Mr. Ripka, whose background in organ studies and performance is extensive, currently serves as organist and choirmaster of Calvary Church in Stonington. The range of the Singers’ offerings this evening is broad, spanning four centuries of sacred music, from English Reformation composer Adrian Batten to three twentieth composers, one British, two American. The musical and poetic motifs are eclectic as well, and include not only the traditional texts of canticles and prayers and responses, but feature, in the anthem, a counterpoint of Hebrew and English prose-poetry united in a delicately crafted musical framework.
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Adrian Batten (1591-1637) wrote in the tradition of his famous contemporaries Thomas Tallis and William Byrd, Orlando Gibbons and Christopher Tye, titans of early Anglican church music. “Lord, we beseech thee,” tonight’s introit, is an example of the spare and (deceptively) simple style mandated by the zealously pro-Reformation Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, and his protégé, the radically Protestant boy-king, Edward VI.
Kevin Jones (b. 1965), who wrote the setting of the Prayers and Responses and Suffrages, needs no introduction; yet note must be made that his distinguished career as an instrumentalist (piano and organ), church musician and choral conductor, teacher and vocal coach have uniquely equipped him to lead the Anglican Singers to ever higher levels of achievement and artistry.
Mr. Jones composed the “Chichester” Preces and Responses for the senior choir of Christ Church, Pelham, New York, when the chorus served as artists-in-residence at Chichester Cathedral in West Sussex, England, in 2005. In Mr. Jones’ sprightly yet controlled setting, the confluence of vivacious music and venerable text joyously fills a space as vast as – Chichester Cathedral.
The psalm appointed for this day is Psalm 84, “O how amiable are thy dwellings” (Quam dilecta), set by Edward John Hopkins (1818- 1901). Hopkins, an English composer who wrote the still-popular hymn tune “Saviour, again to thy dear Name we raise,” also served as a choirmaster and organist for much of his long and distinguished career, and in 1882 was awarded a doctorate of music by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Michael Tippett (1905-1998), though not as internationally well known as his contemporaries Benjamin Britten and Ralph Vaughan Williams, is acknowledged to be one of the most important – and controversial – of the 20th-century British composers. The values he espoused and the causes he held dear profoundly affected him as an artist and flow through all of his music.
Tippett composed in several genres, perhaps the best known and most prolific being his operas. Through them he was empowered to express his humanitarian, environmental, and pacifist convictions, as well as to explore the ramifications of his homosexuality. From early boyhood, Tippett knew that he wanted to write music.
He studied the composition manual of C.V. Stanford, gained admittance to the Royal College of Music, and studied with Charles Wood. He experienced an epiphany of empathy for and solidarity with the poor when he chanced upon scores of malnourished children while on a hiking trip in Northumberland. That experience, along with a developing concern for the environment and, as World War II began, a dedicated pacifism that landed him in jail, influenced how he composed and what he composed, because “somewhere music could have a direct relation also to the compassion that was so deep in my heart.”
The Anglican Singers are performing for the first time Tippett’s Service (Magnificat and Nunc dimittis), written in 1961 to celebrate the 450th anniversary of the founding of St. John’s College, Cambridge University. The Magnificat is feverish, edgy, and jazzy. As opposed to the sonority of a Howells or Stanford or Brewer canticle, its tempestuousness reflects Tippett’s interest in musical experimentation and perhaps the stresses and conflicting demands of his life. The Nunc dimittis, on the other hand, is a hushed, serene, three-part chant, intoned beneath an airy soprano obbligato, as if the composer had at last found respite from the cares besetting him.
The Anglican Singers are honored to premiere this evening a commissioned work, composed by Paul J. Rudoi (b. 1985) for their residency at Bristol Cathedral in England next summer. A graduate of the Hartt School, Paul Rudoi is a former pupil of Kevin Jones, whom the composer credits with encouraging and supporting him as he wrote his first major work, the song cycle Child of the Heartless Wind. In addition to studying with Mr. Jones, Mr. Rudoi served under him as a section leader in the Christ Church Cathedral choir in Hartford.
In undertaking the task of creating the anthem “Give Us Light,” Paul Rudoi planned his composition around the Feast of the Transfiguration (traditionally celebrated the first week of August). In a unique juxtaposition of texts, the first and third “movements” are in Hebrew, taken from the Book of Isaiah, Chapter 60, verses 19-20; the second, in English, is excerpted from a Victorian priest’s sermon, “Night and Day.” The consoling message of the prophet-poet Isaiah (technically Trito-Isaiah) to the returnees of Babylonian exile is complemented by the comforting words of The Reverend Charles Kingsley (1819-1875) to his congregation.
On the metaphoric plane, these texts, arcing twenty-three centuries of separation, are unified by light, in the literal, philosophical and metaphysical sense: sunlit day as the opposite of moonless night; moral light as the gift of attained wisdom; and that source of inextinguishable Light – the Alpha and Omega whose quickening impulse perpetually scatters the Light across eternity. Musically, the opening and conclusion of the piece are meditative and hypnotic; the “Kingsley” center, though initially more con moto, textually suggestive of the cares and burdens of life, gentles as the preacher entreats his flock steadfastly to follow the light of Christ which casts off the shadows of night to bring forth the dawn of everlasting day.
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As The Anglican Singers continue their journey through the 2011-2012 season, one marked by new music and new venues, they wish to express their continuing appreciation to the clergy and parishioners of St. James, their beloved “home” church.
Anne Carr Bingham