Singing God’s Praises
I have been working on and off for the past two weeks to draft a list of hymns for the rest of the Church year for our music director to review and make suggestions about. I begin my work with the lectionary, and in particular with the gospel lesson for a given Sunday. The most useful reference work I have, in addition to the lists of what we sang on a given Sunday in recent years, is A Liturgical Index to The Hymnal 1982 by Marion J. Hatchett. The most useful tool is the “find” function of the software program. It makes it easy to check to see if we’ve sung a given hymn since the beginning of the year.
Picking hymns by the Church seasons makes the most sense. Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter and principal feasts are the easiest to do. The Lectionary doesn’t change from year to year for some feasts. On Christmas Eve, the gospel is always going to be Luke’s narrative of the birth of Jesus and on Christmas Eve, we are always going to sing “O come, all ye faithful” and “Silent night” at some point during the liturgy. On All Saints’ Day the hymn at the preparation is going to be “For all the saints;” on Immaculate Conception it’s going be “Ye who own the faith of Jesus.”
This year I have been trying to draft a list for the rest of the Church year at the beginning of the Season after Pentecost because that is the best way to do it. When I haven’t had time to pick seven months’s hymns at one time I regret it later. Inevitably I will end up using a hymn on one Sunday that really works best on another one. The best way to avoid this is to deal with the whole season at one time.
In addition to the Gloria and Sanctus, we sing one hymn every Sunday at the 10:00 AM Mass at the preparation of the gifts. There are always visitors at this Mass and I pick hymns with the idea that it can be intimidating to sing in a church building that holds five hundred with only fifty people at Mass. We sing well known and hymns at 10:00 AM.
At 11:00 AM and at other Solemn Masses, it is different. Usually we sing three hymns, one at the preparation, one following communion and one during the recession of the ministers of the assembly. Each of these three hymns serves a liturgical and devotional purpose. The text and tune needs to be appropriate for its use.
We have a pretty good though unforgivably confusing hymnal – giving service music “S” numbers in the new hymnal truly is unforgivable. Most of the textual editing is very good and often excellent, but there are any number of irritating and intellectually indefensible changes for the sake of so-called inclusion. (And I confess I make use of previous editions from time to time when changes really drive me crazy.)
What is most remarkable perhaps is the range of hymnody sung at Saint Mary’s over the course of the year. There are only a handful of hymns that are sung more than once at Solemn Mass, and in the current year, not one of these “doubles” will become a “triple.” There is only one Solemn Mass during the year when you and I will sing what is arguably the greatest pairing of text and tune of the twentieth century, “For all the saints” to Ralph Vaughan Williams’s tune Sine Nomine.
Behind the work Robert McCormick and I do on the hymn list – and not to mention the skill and gift both Robert and associate organist Robert McDermitt have as hymn players – is a shared conviction that the eucharistic rite is for the proclamation of the Word of the Gospel and the celebration of the Sacrament of the Gospel. In other words, the Mass is always about Jesus Christ. It is he who is here to calls us to faith and to service. It is he who calls us to growth and to witness. Here we come together as his sisters and brothers to remember who we are and to know who we are to be in this world. We cannot help but give thanks for God’s gifts to us. And anyone who has heard and sung the hymn “Lo! he comes, with clouds descending” (to the tune, Helmsley, of course!) in this place knows that the Lord is with us. S.G.
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Peter, Charles, Judy, Mary, Tom, Kara, Mark, Steve, Gilbert, Matthew, Robert, Gloria, Margaret, Jason, Harold, Bart, Hugh, Margaret, Marion, Rick, Charles, priest; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Brenden, Jonathan, Jeffrey, Ned, Timothy, Patrick, Kevin, Christopher, Andrew, Joseph, Marc, Timothy, David, Colin, Christina, David, Nestor, Freddie, Matthew and Bennett . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . June 22: 1958 Rachel Reed Todd, 1967 Edith Kellock Brown; June 24: 1993 William Ray Kirby.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . Psalm 63:1-8, Zechariah 12:8-10, Galatians 3:23-29, Luke 9:18-24 . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, June 19 by Father Gerth . . . On Sunday, June 20, the Rector will be the celebrant and preacher for the 10:00 AM Mass and the 11:00 AM Solemn Mass… Father Beddingfield will be the celebrant and preacher at the 9:00 AM Mass and the 5:20 PM Mass.
I PUBLISH THE BANNS OF MARRIAGE between Geoffrey Dunstan Williams of Princeton, New Jersey and Emilie Suzanne Ball of Brooklyn, New York. If any of you know just cause why they many not be joined together in Holy Matrimony, you are bidden to declare it. This is the first time of asking. J.B.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Reminder: Friday, June 18, is the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. There will be a Sung Mass at 6:00 PM . . . Peter Trent was hospitalized overnight for treatment at Saint Vincent’s Medical Center. We are thankful he is already up and about . . . We were sorry to learn that the Presiding Bishop’s schedule has meant that he can’t be with us this Sunday, June 20. We are working with his staff to get another date on his calendar . . . Thursday, June 24, is the Feast of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist. There will be a Sung Mass at 6:00 PM. The Reverend Ian Bruce Montgomery will be celebrant and preacher . . . Tuesday, June 29, is the Feast of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Apostles. There will be a Sung Mass at 6:00 PM . . . Look for a new exhibition from the Visual Arts Program in Saint Joseph’s Hall. Opening June 27: Patricia Miranda . . . Clare Nesmith joins us for the summer. Flowers are needed for the last two Sundays in July. If you are interested in giving them, please contact Sandra Schubert at email@example.com . . . The Board of Trustees will meet on Monday, June 21, at 7:00 PM in Saint Benedict’s Study . . . Attendance last Sunday 260.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . Corpus Christi was the final Sunday of our choir season. On most Sundays during the summer a cantor from our choir sings the Gregorian chant propers of the Mass and a piece for solo voice during the ministration of Holy Communion. The congregation sings the Mass ordinary . . . On Sunday, July 4, a small ensemble from the choir of Trinity College, Cambridge, England will sing at the Solemn Mass. Plan to come on this holiday weekend to hear this superb group (from a choir internationally famous for its wonderful recordings) . . . Our professional choir sings on Sunday, August 15, the Assumption of Our Lady . . . This Sunday at the Solemn Mass, the prelude is Psalm-Prelude, Opus 32/1 by Herbert Howells (1892-1983). It is based upon Psalm 34:6, “Lo, the poor man crieth, and the Lord heareth him; yea, and saveth him out of all his troubles.” Listen for the dynamic (volume) contrasts throughout the piece; it begins and ends quietly, with a robust and loud section in the middle, giving listeners Howells’ impression of the text. Mr. Geoffrey Williams, countertenor and baritone, is our soloist. Mr. Williams is an alumnus of Westminster Choir College, Princeton, a regular member of our choir and of other noted professional New York choirs, including Early Music New York and Vox Vocal Ensemble. The aria sung during Communion is Esurientes from Magnificat, BWV 243 by J. S. Bach (1685-1750). The postlude is Präludium und Fuge C-dur, BWV 547 by Bach. Robert McCormick
LOOKING FOR SOME SUMMER READING? . . . Why not rediscover or begin to read the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins? For three Wednesday nights in September, our parishioner Rebecca Weiner will lead us in a study and discussion of the poetry and life of Hopkins. Rebecca is a professor of literature at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, City University of New York. A good place to begin is with the Dover Thrift Edition (1995), God’s Grandeur and Other Poems.
MEMBERSHIP NOTES . . . Please welcome our newest church members. We have recently received a letter of transfer for Geoffrey Williams sings in our choir and went to Westminster Choir College while Robert McCormick was there. He and Emilie Ball will be married at Saint Mary’s on June 26. Geoffrey is a gifted baritone and countertenor, as can be heard this Sunday at church . . . We also received the baptismal information for Shannon Harris who works in the neighborhood and attends some during the week and on Sundays. Before she began her current work, Shannon completed a master’s thesis on a series of church wall paintings in Norfolk, England on the life of Saint Katherine of Alexandria. We will try to have her share some of her work with the parish at some point in the future. J.B.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Third Sunday after Pentecost
Tuesday Alban, martyr
Eve of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist 6:00 PM
Thursday The Nativity of Saint John the Baptist
Friday Weekday Abstinence
Saturday Of Our Lady
The Parish Clergy
The Reverend Stephen Gerth, rector,
The Reverend John Beddingfield, curate,
The Reverend Ian Bruce Montgomery, The Reverend Rosemari Sullivan, assisting priests,
The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus.