Music Notes for June 20, 2021
In addition to honoring the liturgy of the day, the music for this Sunday (the fourth Sunday after Pentecost), celebrates three different anniversaries. First is Juneteenth (a portmanteau of June and nineteenth), also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day, and Emancipation Day. Juneteenth celebrates the emancipation of those who had been enslaved in the United States. To honor this, in our prelude and offertory, we'll have two versions of one of the most popular songs of the Underground Railroad: "Swing low, sweet chariot." The text clearly has a secondary meaning relevant to those who were trying to escape slavery and persecution, especially in the third verse: “If you get there before I do, Tell all my friends I'm coming too.” The prelude is an arrangement by contemporary American composer Joe Utterback (b. 1944). The offertory is the famous arrangement by Harry T. Burleigh of this spiritual. In contrast to the upbeat version of the prelude, Burleigh sets it as a slow and reflective piece, concentrating on the angelic vision that will carry us to heaven: “I looked over Jordan, and what did I see, a band of angels coming after me, coming for to carry me home.”
Sunday is also Father’s Day. We celebrate this with two hymns: first, “Faith of our fathers,” which reflects upon the faith we inherit, and whose theology is summed up in the refrain: “Faith of our fathers, holy faith, we will be true to thee till death.” Second, “Eternal father, strong to save,” which casts God in a paternal role and relates to the Gospel of the Day which sees Jesus quell a terrible storm, saving the faithful disciples.
Finally, Sunday is also midsummer day – the longest day of the year. To celebrate this we sing a hymn normally only sung in the evening since its opening line is “The day thou gavest, Lord, is ended.” It is included because, read in its entirety, it speaks of the eternal sequence of day and night and how prayer and praise continue on every continent and island throughout the world, uniting Christians everywhere. The postlude, by English composer Alec Rowley, is a meditation on the text and tune presented in a gentle but colorful and chromatic setting.
1 The day thou gavest, Lord, is ended,
the darkness falls at thy behest;
to thee our morning hymns ascended,
thy praise shall sanctify our rest.
2 We thank thee that thy church unsleeping
while earth rolls onward into light,
through all the world her watch is keeping,
and rests not now by day or night.
3 As o’er each continent and island
the dawn leads on another day,
the voice of prayer is never silent,
nor dies the strain of praise away.
4 So be it, Lord; thy throne shall never,
like earth’s proud empires, pass away:
thy kingdom stands, and grows forever,
till all thy creatures own thy sway.
Music is an integral part of worship at St. Paul's. During our virtual worship, music selections draw from a diverse range of styles within the Anglican / Episcopal tradition. Preludes include a noteworthy or unusual piece and the offertory switches between pieces by the St. Paul's music team and those by others, offering a range of styles, genres, composers, text writers, and performers. When we worship in the Sanctuary, our 10 a.m. Rite II Holy Eucharist service features the St. Paul's Choir, singing service music, hymns, and anthems of old and new, accompanied by our three-manual, 67-rank, 46-stop Rodgers organ.