Music for the Second Sunday of Easter — April 19, 2020
O fílii et fíliae – text: Latin; attr. Jean Tisserand (15th cent.); tr. John Mason Neale (1818 – 1866) / music: Melody Airs sur les hymnes sacrez, odes et noels, Paris, 1623; arr. Walford Davies (1869 – 1941)
O fílii et fíliae, the “Joyful Canticle” – so called because of the abundant Alleluias which accompany its singing – is a 12-stanza hymn which celebrates various events of the Resurrection: the women at the tomb, the angel’s message, John and Peter running to the tomb, Christ’s appearance to the Apostles, and the doubt and confession of faith of Thomas, the latter two of which are the subject of this mornings Gospel lesson. It is found in our Common Praise (blue) hymnal at 228. In this recording the choir of King’s College Cambridge sing the verses selected by Walford Davies for this arrangement:
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
When the apostles met in fear;
amidst them came their Lord most dear,
and said, “My peace be on all here.”
When Thomas first the tidings heard,
how they had seen the risen Lord,
he doubted the disciples’ word.
“My piercèd side, O Thomas, see;
my hands and feet I show to thee;
“not faithless, but believing be.”
No longer Thomas then denied;
he saw the feet, the hands, the side;
“Thou art my Lord and God,” he cried.
How blest are they who have not seen,
and yet whose faith has constant been,
for they eternal life shall win.
On this most holy day of days,
to God your hearts and voices raise
in laud and jubilee and praise.
Blessed be the God and Father – Samuel Sebastian Wesley (1810 – 1876)
The grandson of Charles Wesley, Samuel Sebastian was famous in his lifetime as one of England’s leading organists and choirmasters. He wrote this anthem for evensong on Easter Day of 1834 at Hereford Cathedral. Only trebles and a single bass voice – the Dean’s butler – were available, which explains the abundance of unison alto, tenor and bass phrases. The text is comprised of the first several verses of our Epistle for today from 1 Peter 1, along with several verses from further along in the chapter:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
which according to his abundant mercy
hath begotten us again unto a lively hope
by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled,
that fadeth not away,
reserved in heaven for you,
Who are kept by the power of God
through faith unto salvation
ready to be revealed at the last time.
But as he which hath called you is holy,
so be ye holy in all manner of conversation.
Pass the time of your sojourning here in fear.
Love one another with a pure heart fervently.
See that ye love one another.
Love one another with a pure heart fervently:
Being born again,
not of corruptible seed,
but of incorruptible,
by the word of God.
For all flesh is as grass,
and all the glory of man
as the flower of grass.
The grass withereth,
and the flower thereof falleth away.
But the word of the Lord endureth for ever.
Toccata on “O fílii et fíliae” – Lynnwood Farnam (1885 – 1930)
Lynnwood Farnam was a Canadian organist who served parishes in Montreal before taking up posts in Boston and then New York City over the course of his relatively brief life. He was the first North American organist to play the entire repertoire of Bach’s organ works; he also had a particular fondness for the music of his French contemporaries, especially Louis Vierne. This toccata based on our “opening” Easter hymn is the only piece he wrote; he used it to test the sonic capabilities of the organs he was to play. Although undertaking the significant portion of his career in the United States, Farnam was proud of his Canadian heritage, and ensured that “Canadian Organist” was placed on programs under his name. I happen to be his musical “great-grandson”, as he taught the American organist Clarence Mader, who was my teacher’s teacher.