Music for the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, July 18, 2021

The Lord is my Shepherd – John Rutter (b. 1945)

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John Rutter’s Requiem was written in 1985 and first performed in October of that year. Following the precedent established by Brahms and Fauré, among others, it is not strictly a setting of the Requiem Mass as laid down in the liturgy, but instead is made up of a personal selection of texts, some taken from the Requiem Mass and some from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. The seven sections of the work form an arch-like meditation on the themes of life and death: the first and last movements are prayers on behalf of all humanity, movements 2 and 6 are psalms, 3 and 5 are personal prayers to Christ, and the central Sanctus is an affirmation of divine glory. Psalm 23, the sixth movement of the work and our psalm for this Sunday, is the one heard here. The accompaniment to the Requiem exists in three versions: one for medium-sized orchestra another for organ with six instruments, and a third for organ with optional oboe. The orchestral version is the one recorded here. The St James choir were slated to sing this setting of Psalm 23 on Lent 4, 2020, but were silenced by the pandemic. We look forward to offering it at Mass again.


Psalm-Prelude, Op. 32, No. 3 – Herbert Howells (1892-1983)

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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 for organ 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. 3, is Howells’ musical depiction of Psalm 23:4, in its evocation of both the despair and the profound hope evident in this psalm. The piece opens bleakly and quietly in the brooding key of C minor, growing to an immense central climax in bright C major, and finally returning to a peaceful close.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil;

for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff comfort me.

Gerald Harder