Music for the Third Sunday in Lent — March 7, 2021

Jezus és kufárok (Jesus and the traders) – Zoltan Kodály (1882-1967)

view video here

In this Sunday’s Gospel lesson, Jesus throws both traders and animals out of the temple precincts, insisting that commercial activities – especially shady ones – have no place there. It’s a challenging story, one which the Hungarian composer Zoltan Kodály has set as a challenging choral work, particularly from the perspective of the singer. Jesus and the traders is a pillar of 20th-century a cappella choral music, and in addition to the harmonic complexity of the work, there is an extremely intricate fugue as well as passages of rapid close canon, all of which the choir must sort out by itself. The jaggedness of the fugue section is particularly evocative of the fierceness of Jesus’ actions. The performance of this difficult work by the Danish National Radio Choir is brilliant.

Elközelge húsvet és felméne Jézus

Jeruzálembe a templomba

És ott találá ökrök, juhok, galambok árusait,

És ott terpeszkedtek a pénzváltók.

És kötélböl ostort fonván kihajtá öket a templomból,

Mind az ökröket, mind a juhokat, mind kihajtá

Kavarog a barom, szalad a sok juh,

Szalad a sok árus, kavarog a barom.

És a pénzváltók pénzét szerteszórá,

És asztalaikat feldönté.

És a pénzváltók sok pénzét szerteszórá,

És kötélböl ostort fonván kihajtá öket a templomból,

És a galambok árusinak mondá:

Vigyétek el ezeket innét!

Ne tegyétek atyám házát kereskedés házává!

Amazoknak mondá:

Írva vagyon: az én házam imádságnak háza

Minden népek közt.

Ti pedig mivé tettétek?

Rablók barlangjává!

Hallván ezt a föpapok és irástudók

El akarák öt veszteni, el akarák öt veszteni,

El akarák öt veszteni, mert féltek vala töle,

Mivelhogy az egész nép úgy hallgatá Öt.

Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves,

and the money changers seated at their tables.

Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple,

both the sheep and the cattle.

He also poured out the coins of the money changers

and overturned their tables.
He told those who were selling the doves,

“Take these things out of here!

Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!”
His disciples remembered that it was written,

“Zeal for your house will consume me.”
The Jews then said to him,

“What sign can you show us for doing this?”
Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years,

and will you raise it up in three days?”
But he was speaking of the temple of his body.
After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this;

and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.


Ave verum corpus – Edward Elgar (1857-1934)

view video here

Elgar’s Ave verum was originally written in 1887 (with Ave Maria and Ave Maris Stella) while Elgar was organist at St. George’s Church in Worcester as a setting of the Pie Jesu, in memory of William Allen, Worcester attorney for whom Elgar worked as a fifteen-year-old. Elgar arranged and orchestrated it as a setting of Ave verum corpus for publication in 1902. For SATB choir and organ, it is a simply set, winning, small scale melody, led by the sopranos, each verse being repeated by the full choir. There is a short coda, with antiphonal effects between sopranos/tenors and altos/basses. The composer modestly described it as “too sugary, I think, but it is nice and harmless & quite easy.” Beloved of choirs, this work was last sung at St. James’ in October 2018.

Ave, verum corpus, natum
Ex Maria Virgine:
Vere passum, immolatum
In cruce pro homine,

Cuius latus perforatum
Vero fluxit et sanguine:
Esto nobis praegustatum
Mortis in examine.
O clemens, O dulcis Jesu, Fili Mariae

Hail true body that was born
of the Virgin Mary,
That truly suffered
and was sacrificed on the Cross for mankind,

From whose pierced side
flowed water and blood;
Be for us a foretaste
of death and judgement.
O sweet and gentle Jesus, son of Mary.


What wondrous love is this – Text: General Selection of the Newest and Most Admired Hymns and Spiritual Songs Now in Use, 1811 / Music: Melody William Walker (1809-1875), appendix to The Southern Harmony, New Haven, 1840 ed., arr. Robert Scholz

view video here

This hymn, with a text by an anonymous 19th-century American writer and a tune finding its roots in the southern United States, is a beautiful example of American folk hymnody. In its early history, the folk hymn existed solely in oral tradition. Although our blue Common Praise hymn book, where this hymn is found at number 400, attributes the melody to William Walker, it is more likely that Walker was simply the editor of the collection in which it was found. He himself described it as “a very popular old Southern tune.” The text expresses a simple but poignant awe at the love of God; the fourth verse, omitted in the linked rendition, is reminiscent of Charles Wesley:

I’LL praise my Maker while I’ve breath,
And when my voice is lost in death,
Praise shall employ my nobler powers;
My days of praise shall ne’er be past,
While life, and thought, and being last,
Or immortality endures.

Robert Scholz’s arrangement of this haunting song is presented here beautifully, with clear articulation and great feeling, by the choir of Minnesota’s St. Olaf College.

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul!

When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down,
when I was sinking down, sinking down,
when I was sinking down beneath God’s righteous frown,
Christ laid aside his crown for my soul, for my soul,
Christ laid aside his crown for my soul.

To God and to the Lamb I will sing, I will sing;
to God and to the Lamb I will sing;
to God and to the Lamb, who is the great I AM
while millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing,
while millions join the theme, I will sing.

And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
and when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on.
And when from death I’m free I’ll sing and joyful be,
and through eternity I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
and through eternity I’ll sing on.

Gerald Harder