Music for The Ascension of our Lord — Sunday, May 16, 2021
Eternal Monarch, King Most High – Text: Latin (Aeterne Rex altissime, 10th cent.?); tr. John Mason Neale (1818-1866), and others / Music: Percy Carter Buck (1871-1947)
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Found at 245 in Common Praise and 128 in The New English Hymnal, our blue and green hymnals, respectively, the text of this hymn has been so altered at various times that the true original and the origin of its various forms are most difficult to determine. Nevertheless, we do know that it has its origins as a Latin hymn at some time between the 5th and 10th centuries. The translation in both of our hymn books is largely the work of John Mason Neale.
Neale’s life is a study in contrasts: born into an evangelical home, he had sympathies toward Rome; in perpetual ill health, he was incredibly productive; of scholarly temperament, he devoted much time to improving social conditions in his area; often ignored or despised by his contemporaries, he is lauded today for his contributions to the church and hymnody. Neale contributed to church music by writing original hymns, including two volumes of Hymns for Children (1842, 1846), but especially by translating Greek and Latin hymns into English. Because a number of Neale’s translations were judged unsingable, editors usually amended his work, as evident already in the 1861 edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern. Neale claimed no rights to his texts and was pleased that his translations could contribute to hymnody as the “common property of Christendom.”
Percy Buck’s tune Gonfalon Royal was originally written for the Latin hymn Vexilla regis prodeunt (The royal banners forward go), a Passiontide hymn found in both of our hymn books. The metres of both hymns are the same, and the tune works to the same great effect here. Buck studied with Walter Parratt, William Lloyd Webber (father of Andrew) and Hubert Parry at the Royal College of Music. The brief coda is essential to re-establish the tonic at the end of the last stanza; in the New English Hymnal the text here is an “Amen”; in Common Praise it is rendered, perhaps more appropriately to the season, as an “Alleluia.”
Eternal Monarch, King most high,
Whose blood hath brought redemption nigh,
By whom the death of Death was wrought
And conquering grace’s battle fought:
Ascending to the throne of might,
And seated at the Father’s right,
All power in heaven is Jesu’s own,
That here his manhood had not known.
Yea, angels tremble when they see
How changed is our humanity;
That flesh hath purged what flesh had stained,
And God, the flesh of God, hath reigned.
Be thou our joy and strong defence,
Who art our future recompense:
So shall the light that springs from thee
Be ours through all eternity.
O risen Christ, ascended Lord,
All praise to thee let earth accord,
Who art, while endless ages run,
With Father and with Spirit One.
God is Gone Up – William Croft (1678-1727)
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Born in 1678, William Croft was a chorister at the Chapel Royal under John Blow, who exerted a very strong influence over all composers of this period from Purcell forwards; most of them passed through his hands at the Chapel Royal. At the age of twenty-two Croft became Organist of St. Anne’s, Soho, and in the same year became a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal.
A year later he became joint Organist of the Chapel Royal with Jeremiah Clarke, assuming sole responsibility in 1707 on the death of Clarke. In 1708 he succeeded his master, John Blow, as Organist of Westminster Abbey and Master of the Children and Composer to the Chapel Royal, retaining these positions until his death in 1727. He was buried in Westminster Abbey in the north aisle, where his monument can still be seen. Croft is perhaps best remembered today for his church music; several of his hymn tunes are still in use today, especially the tune St Anne, which was written for the hymn O God, Our Help in Ages Past.
God Is Gone Up With A Merry Noise is an anthem for six-part SSAATB choir. It sets verses 5-7 from Psalm 47.
God is gone up with a merry noise: and the Lord with the sound of the trumpet.
O sing praises, sing praises unto our God: O sing praises, sing praises unto our King.
For God is the King of all the earth: sing ye praises with understanding.
There is no YouTube link for this week’s final selections. Instead, be sure to attend the Liturgy at Home on Zoom this Ascension Day, Sunday, May 16 at 10:30am to hear Gerald Harder play the following pieces.
Psalm-Prelude, Op. 32, No. 2 – Herbert Howells (1892-1983)
At the beginning of his career, Herbert Howells was hailed as one of the golden boys of English music, the promising young composer of chamber music, orchestral works and songs. Yet it is the extraordinary outpouring of church music that dominated his output after the Second World War for which we remember him today.
Although Howells’ Op. 32 Psalm-Preludes don’t fit into that time frame, they are an important part of the canon of English church music. Published in two sets of three, each piece is inscribed with a reference to a Psalm. This setting, Set I-No. 2, is Howells’ musical depiction of Psalm 37:11.
But the meek-spirited shall possess the land /
and shall be refreshed in the multitude of peace.
Ascension (from Organ Notebook 4) – David L. McIntyre (b. 1950)
David L. McIntyre is living his childhood dream of being a composer and pianist. Spending most of his life on the Canadian prairies, he was born in Edmonton, educated in Saskatoon and Calgary, and has been based in Regina since 1976. For three years he served as composer-in-residence with the Regina Symphony Orchestra.
A leading composer of music for the piano, he is himself a respected solo pianist and frequent collaborator with many fine singers and instrumentalists. Known equally for his vocal, choral and chamber works David continues to fulfill public and private commissions from many musical organizations, artists, and individuals. Several of his works have now garnered an international reputation. David also serves as an organist at St. Paul’s Anglican Cathedral in Regina. I have been privileged to call David a friend and colleague for several decades.
This playful, witty, and rhythmic piece for organ explores vertical movement with colourful splashes of musical paint, resulting in an exuberant celebration of the Ascension.