Category Archives: Music

Music of the Reformation

 

Who trusts in God, a strong abode in heaven and earth possesses;
Who looks in love to Christ above, no fear his heart oppresses.
In thee alone, dear Lord, we own sweet hope and consolation;
Our shield from foes, our balm for woes, our great and sure salvation.
Tho’ Satan’s wrath beset our path, and worldly scorn assail us,
While thou art near we will not fear, thy strength shall never fail us:
Thy rod and staff shall keep us safe, and guide our steps forever;
Nor shades of death, nor hell beneath, our souls from thee shall sever.
In all the strife of mortal life our feet shall stand securely;
Temptation’s hour shall lose its pow’r, for thou shalt guard us surely.
O God, renew, with heav’nly dew, our body, soul, and spirit,
Until we stand at thy right hand, thro’ Jesus’ saving merit.
Written by Joachim Magdeburg in 1572, I discovered this hymn today in my 1935 Pilgrim Hymnal.    The CD set from which the above performance comes looks like something I would like to own, especially after reading this review:
“Heirs of the Reformation is nothing if not ambitious. Over forty chorales (dating from the time of Luther to German high Orthodoxy) are set by an encyclopedic list of cantors spanning the centuries, from Praetorius and Scheidt to Robert Buckley Farlee and Kevin Hildebrand. The dedicated vocal performances are backed by a kaleidoscopic variety of instrumentation, ranging from organ, brass and woodwinds to the period ensemble Musik Ekklesia. Kudos go to recording consultants Henry Gerike, Peter Reske, and Philip Spray; they and all the performers involved have produced not only a fine reference work, but a richly devotional listening experience.”
—GraceNotes (June/July 2009)
You can sample each of the hymns here.

Haydn: Joy Begats Joy

On this day in 1809 Franz Josef Haydn died, at the age of 77.  In The Imaginative Conservative Robert Reilly writes why he enjoys Haydn’s music:

While listening to Haydn, I feel gratitude, which is hardly strange, as it is gratitude that his work expresses. In the April 2009 Gramophone, Geraint Lewis wrote, “When he was berated late in life for the cheerful tone of his religious music, Haydn simply said that every time he thought of God his heart leapt for joy.” My heart leaps for joy when I hear him. Joy begets joy. As a result, I never tire of his music. I am always refreshed by it.

This effect exactly fits Haydn’s intention. Here is how he saw the purpose of his life’s labor, as expressed in 1802:

Often, when struggling against obstacles of every sort which oppose my labors: often, when the powers of mind and body weakened, and it was difficult to continue the course I had entered on; — a secret voice whispered to me: “there are so few happy and contented peoples here below; grief and sorrow are always their lot; perhaps your labors will once be a source from which the care-worn, or the man burdened with affairs, can derive a few moments rest and refreshment.” This was indeed a powerful motive to press onwards, and this is why I now look back with cheerful satisfaction on the labors expended on this art, to which I have devoted so many long years of uninterrupted effort and exertion.

And here is a pleasant interlude for today from Haydn.  The art is pleasing as well.

It has only been a couple of years since I first heard Haydn’s Creation.  Like so many things, experiencing it for the first time can’t be repeated, but the joy can.  Here it is in English.

Now That the Daylight Fills the Sky

A Latin hymn from the 7th or 8th Century, it has gone through several translations.  This one comes from the 1986 New English Hymnal.

Now that day light fills the sky,
We lift our hearts to God on high,
That He, in all we do or say,
Would keep us free from harm today;
Would guard our hearts and tongues from strife;
From anger’s din would shield our life;
From all ill sights would turn our eyes;
Would close our ears to vanities;
Would keep our inmost conscience pure;
Our souls from folly would secure;
Would bid us check the pride of sense
With due and holy abstinence.
So we, when this new day is gone,
And night in turn is drawing on,
With conscience by the world unstained
Shall praise His name for victory gained.
O God the Father, unto thee
Let everlasting glory be;
And glory to thine only Son,
With God the Spirit, ever one.

Ascension Day

Yesterday the Christian Church celebrated Ascension Day, forty days after Easter, the day our Lord ascended to Heaven.

Salute the last, and everlasting day,
Joy at the uprising of this Sun, and Son,
Ye whose true tears, or tribulation
Have purely wash’d, or burnt your drossy clay.
Behold, the Highest, parting hence away,
Lightens the dark clouds, which He treads upon;
Nor doth he by ascending show alone,
But first He, and He first enters the way.
O strong Ram, which hast batter’d heaven for me!
Mild lamb, which with Thy Blood hast mark’d the path!
Bright Torch, which shinest, that I the way may see!
O, with Thy own Blood quench Thy own just wrath;
And if Thy Holy Spirit my Muse did raise,
Deign at my hands this crown of prayer and praise.

                                                         John Donne

Latin.png Latin text

Coelos ascendit hodie
Jesus Christus Rex Gloriae:
Sedet ad Patris dexteram,
Gubernat coelum et terram.
Iam finem habent omnia
Patris Davidis carmina.
Iam Dominus cum Domino
Sedet in Dei solio:
In hoc triumpho maximo
Benedicamus Domino.
Laudetur Sancta Trinitas,
Deo dicamus gratias,
Alleluia. Amen.

English.png English translation

Today into the heavens has ascended
Jesus Christ, the King of Glory, Alleluia!
He sits at the Father’s right hand,
and rules heaven and earth, Alleluia!
Now have been fulfilled all of
Father David’s songs,
Now God is with God, Alleluia!
He sits upon the royal throne of God,
in this his greatest triumph, Alleluia!
Let us bless the Lord:
Let the Holy Trinity be praised,
let us give thanks to the Lord,
Alleluia! Amen.

The Melancholy Mississippi

I’ve been reading Early Days on the Western Slope of Colorado and came across this reference to the Mississippi River, which reminded me of a new Alison Krauss recording, River in the Rain, also about the Mississippi.

From the book:

…[E]ventually, we reached that broad expanse at the outlet of the Ohio and were rocking on the broad bosom of the Father of Waters, the Mississippi.  Melancholy has marked the Mississippi for her own.  Visit its shores anywhere and a weird mournful atmosphere mellows the scene.  One thinks of the myriads of mound builders and Indians who are dead, and of the many white people who ought to be.  For scores and scores of miles the unending low shores, just mere nothing covered with willows.  Soft maples so thick that none ever becomes a tree make monotonous mounds of foliage behind the willows.

I’ve seen the Mississippi and it is impressive, powerful, and almost epic in our American lore.  At the very least, Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn come to mind, as well as gay steamboats, and loggers.  Although I wouldn’t have thought to portray the river that way, I agree, one does get a sense of melancholy when experiencing it, or at least I have.

Early Days On The Western Slope of Colorado (1913), is a first person account of the experiences of Sidney Jocknick between 1870 and 1883 when he migrated from Washington D.C. to Colorado.  It is the kind of history I like to read.