Music for the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost — July 12, 2020

Thou visitest the earth – Maurice Greene (1695-1755)


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Maurice Greene succeeded to every major musical post in England including Organist of St. Paul’s Cathedral, Master of the King’s Musick and organist and composer of the Chapel Royal. This delightful English motet, for tenor solo, SATB choir and organ in the late-Baroque Georgian style, is excerpted from Greene’s larger verse anthem, Thou, O God, Art Praised in Sion. The text is drawn from verses 9 and 12 of Psalm 65, our Psalm for this Sunday.

Thou visitest the earth and blessest it:

Thou crownest the year with thy goodness.



Blessed Jesus, at your word – Text: Tobias Clausnitzer (1619-1684); translated by Catherine Winkworth (1827-1878). Music: Melody Johann Rudolph Ahle (1625-1673), harm. J. S. Bach (1685-1750)


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This hymn, found in our blue hymn book (Common Praise) at 559, is a prayer for illumination by the Holy Spirit as the Christian community gathers around the Lord’s word. As such, it ties in to themes heard this Sunday in the Epistle and Gospel lessons. It is a pre-sermon hymn by the Lutheran pastor Tobias Clausnitzer, translated by Catherine Winkworth, well-known for her English translations of German hymns, which were polished and yet remained close to the original. Educated initially by her mother, Winkworth lived with relatives in Dresden for a time, where she acquired her knowledge of German and interest in German hymnody.

The German chorale tune LIEBSTER JESU (also called DESSAU) was composed by Johann Ahle for an Advent hymn and first published by him in 1664. In its original form, the tune was florid and soloistic in nature, but it was revised for congregational singing and paired with Clausnitzer’s text in the late seventeenth century. The tune was named after this text. (The opening line of the German is “Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier.”)  The harmonization of the tune, as sung in this recording, is by Johann Sebastian Bach.

Blessed Jesus, at your word
we are gathered all to hear you.
Let our hearts and minds be stirred
now to seek and love and fear you.
By your teachings true and holy,
teach us, Lord, to love you solely.

All our knowledge, sense, and sight
lie in deepest darkness shrouded,
till your Spirit breaks our night
with your beams of truth unclouded.
You alone to God can win us;
you must work all good within us.

Glorious Lord, yourself impart;
Light of light, from God proceeding,
open now each mind and heart;
help us by your Spirit’s leading.
Hear the cry your church now raises;
Lord, accept our prayers and praises.


Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier (BWV 731) – J. S. Bach (1685-1750)


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The tune for the hymn Blessed Jesus, at your word (above) appears several times in the vocal and organ works of Bach. Of the chorale preludes for organ based on this tune, BWV 731 is probably the most familiar. An early work for two keyboards and pedal, it has no direct source or precise dating. The highly embellished melody is reminiscent of a slow concerto movement, such as the Andante from the Concerto nach Italienischen Gusto, BWV 971. Below the melody, Bach weaves a simple yet effective three-part accompaniment, in which the alto and tenor continually pass the musical movement back and forth.


Gerald Harder