FROM DR. DAVID HURD: A RICH OFFERING OF MUSICAL GIFTS
The Association of Anglican Musicians (AAM) was born out of a gathering of three prominent American cathedral musicians in 1965 who founded the American Cathedral Organists and Choirmasters Association (ACOCA), modeled on the existing Association of English Cathedral Organists. By 1973 it had become apparent that an American association of Anglican musicians, not limited to musicians serving in cathedrals, was desirable. The new name (AAM) was officially adopted the following year. The AAM Annual Conference in 1978 was hosted at the headquarters of the Royal School of Church Music, Addington Palace, Croydon, England. Since that time the Association has held annual conferences throughout North America and returned to the UK for a conference every ten years.
From its inception, an informal relationship existed between the Association (AAM) and the General Convention–appointed commissions on church music and liturgy of the national church, currently merged into the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM). Membership in the AAM was available to Anglican clergy and professional church musicians. As such, all four orders of ministry–lay persons, bishops, priests and deacons, as defined by the Book of Common Prayer–were represented in the AAM, and the Association was designed to champion the musicianship of clergy and the ministry of the church’s musicians in creative collaboration. Understandably, the relationship between the AAM and the related commissions of the national church intensified as the revisions of both the Book of Common Prayer and The Hymnal progressed to their present respective 1979 and 1982 editions. I became a member of the AAM in 1979 while serving on the Standing Commission on Church Music. At that time, I was also Assistant Professor of Church Music at The General Theological Seminary. Accordingly, for me and for others, membership in the Association helped to fuel connections among various constituencies of the church at a time when its liturgical life was in re-formation.
The AAM continues to host annual conferences that normally have a theme developed by members of the locale in which it is to take place. The conferences include daily worship supplemented by lectures, concerts, interactive workshop sessions and business meetings.
The 2019 conference was held in Boston from June 20 to July 5 with the broad theme “O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come.” There were 302 persons registered for the 2019 conference. With the Boston Park Plaza Hotel as base of operations, many church venues were walkable, and others were conveniently accessed by the “T.” Prior to the official opening of the conference, I attended the Sunday morning Solemn Mass at the Church of the Advent which was richly enhanced by choral music by William Byrd, Charles Wood, and Herbert Howells. Following the liturgy, the congregation of the Advent provided generous hospitality to the many AAM visitors. The conference officially opened that evening with Eucharist at Trinity Church, Copley Square. The opening hymn was Charles Wesley’s ever popular “Love divine, all loves excelling” sung to the fine Welsh tune Blaenwern. The roof was raised. The sermon was preached by the Reverend Rita Powell, recently named Episcopal chaplain at Harvard. Choral music included Vaughan Williams, Edward Bairstow, and an anthem by Richard Webster, director of music at Trinity. Following a reception, Compline was sung in the church, now illuminated entirely by candles. The simple plainsong service was beautifully punctuated with choral offerings by Charles Wood and Ēriks Ešenvalds.
Monday began with Morning Prayer and Great Litany at King’s Chapel. The service was rendered according to the distinctive use of King’s Chapel, a mix of Anglican form and Unitarian theology. Music by New England composers William Selby, Daniel Pinkham, James Woodman and Carson Cooman was heard, and much oddly pointed Anglican chant was sung. Later that day Solemn Evensong was presented at The Church of the Advent with choral music by Palestrina, Byrd, Kenneth Leighton and Paul Halley. The Bishop of Massachusetts, the Right Reverend Alan Gates, preached.
On Tuesday, following morning sessions at Trinity, the noon office was sung quite simply at Christ Church, Cambridge. In the afternoon, the conference convened at Harvard Memorial Church to hear a very fine organ concert presented jointly by past AAM Hancock Fellows, Adam Detzner, George Fergus, and Thomas Heidenreich, on the Harvard Church’s impressive Skinner and Fisk organs. We then took the “T” to All Saints, Ashmont, for Solemn Evensong sung jointly by the Men and Boys of All Saints and of Saint Paul’s Church, Harvard Square. The canticles were the E Major service by Horatio Parker, another notable New England composer. The Reverend Peter Thompson, associate rector of Saint Bartholomew’s, Manhattan, preached a stunning and powerful sermon springing from the commemoration of Saint Moses the Black (330–405), in which he put contemporary discussions of racism, sexism, and homophobia into the context of the church’s long history of selective remembrance and white-washing difficult subjects. The assembly uncharacteristically broke into extended applause at the end of the sermon. (Editor’s note: Peter, now Father Thompson, was our parish intern in 2011–2012 during his senior year at Columbia University.) The day ended with a delightful concert by the Boston Camerata at All Saints. It featured sacred and secular music of eighteenth-century New England.
Wednesday morning began with Lutheran Matins at First Lutheran Church, skillfully illuminated by Jonathan Wessler’s playing of the strikingly alive Richards Fowkes organ. Later at Saint Paul’s Cathedral, the Lorelei Ensemble, a nine-woman vocal collaboration, sang an electrifying concert of varied ancient and modern repertoire. Their musicianship and choreography combined splendidly with the cathedral’s open space and live acoustics.
On Thursday morning the conference became the choir for a Shape-Note Morning Prayer service. The hymns, psalms, and canticles were all rendered in shape-note settings, of mostly pre-twentieth-century New England origin, under the spirited direction of Adam Jacob Simon. The closing Eucharist, in the afternoon, was at Church of the Redeemer, Chestnut Hill, at which the installation of AAM officers occurred. Choral music included Vaughan Williams’ massive Lord, thou hast been our refuge and Stuart Forster’s Set me as a seal. The Reverend Erika Takacs, rector of the Church of the Atonement in Edgewater, Chicago, and an accomplished musician, preached inspiringly with incisive wit. The conference ended with a banquet at the Hyatt Regency, Cambridge, from which we watched the brilliant Fourth of July Fireworks over the Charles River.
The 2019 AAM conference was a rich offering of musical and liturgical gifts by persons and communities in the Boston-Cambridge orbit. However, no one conference can meet all possible expectations. While sermons and presentations at AAM 2019 noted the desirability that music in the liturgy include works of frequently under-represented constituencies, the conference’s worship events were heavily weighted with well-known music by deceased English composers. Music by Americans and by living composers was in short supply, and music of women composers was entirely absent. Hopefully, future conferences will continue to be intentional in balancing familiar historic resources with music that is unique to a dynamic present, necessary to animate a living tradition. — David Hurd
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Jormen, Sharon, Rita, Jennifer, Heidi, Jonathan, Bryan, Dianna, Beulah, Cyrisse, Wendell, May, Willard, Alexandra, Karen, Susan, Carolyn, Ivy, Marilouise, Takeem, Carmen, José, Michael, Robert, and Barbara; for all those working on the renovation of the church building; for Horace, Clayton, Gaylord, Louis, and Edgar, priests; for Melissa and James, bishops; for all the benefactors and friends of this parish; and for the repose of the soul of Melissa Dorssom . . . GRANT THEM PEACE: July 21: 1892 Leonard Cooke; 1898 George Lawrence Murrell; 1914 Mary Bell; 1959 William Copper Dickey; 1963 Frederick Webb Ross.
IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . Melissa Dorssom, the sister of parishioner John Conner, died on July 25, 2018. Her ashes were later interred in the vault here at Saint Mary’s. Please keep John, and Melissa’s daughters and grandchildren in your prayers, as they mark her year’s mind.
THE ORDINARY FRIDAYS OF THE YEAR are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Sunday, July 21, The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, Summer Worship Schedule: Morning Prayer 8:30 AM; Mass 9:00 & 10:00 AM; Solemn Mass 11:00 AM; Evening Prayer 5:00 PM . . . Monday, July 22, Saint Mary Magdalene, Morning Prayer 8:30 AM, Noonday Prayer 12:00 PM, Mass 12:10 PM, Evening Prayer 6:00 PM, Mass 6:20 PM . . . Wednesday, July 24, Sung Mass 12:10 PM; Ministry to the Homeless: Grab and Go, 2:00–3:00 PM, Narthex . . . Thursday, July 25, Saint James the Apostle, Morning Prayer 8:30 AM, Noonday Prayer 12:00 PM, Mass and Healing Service 12:10 PM, Evening Prayer 6:00 PM, Mass and Healing Service 6:20 PM . . . Friday, July 19, Centering Prayer Group, 6:30 PM in the Atrium in the Parish House, Second Floor.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Visitors, members, and guests: A mother and daughter from the Netherlands have been joining us this week for the Daily Office. They visit New York every summer and stay at a hotel on Forty-fourth Street. They begin each day of their vacation by joining us for Morning Prayer. It is good to see them again . . . A young man who works at a local jewelry manufacturing business has also been joining us for Morning Prayer in recent weeks. He tells us that he hopes to “make a habit” of this . . . Zihui Gong, who was baptized here this year at the Easter Vigil, usually joins us for Morning Prayer one day each week. He works four or five days per week upstate, including Sundays, but he likes to come back to his parish when he can . . . One of the men who is working on the big TSX Broadway construction project at Forty-seventh Street and Seventh Avenue has been joining us for Mass at noon. The project is to be completed in 2021. He tells us that we will be “seeing a lot of him.” . . . Father Ron Culmer, the rector of Saint Clare’s Church, Pleasanton, California, along with his wife and sister, joined us for Evening Prayer on Wednesday. He and his sister are, they tell us, fifth-generation Episcopalians—“at least.” They knew their way around the Prayer Book . . . We keep all of our many visitors in our prayers, and we keep all of you, our members and friends, near and far, in our prayers as well . . . Thinking about baptism or confirmation? The Bishop of New York will be with us for the Solemn Mass on the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, this year on Monday, December 9, and at that Mass we will be celebrating the rites of initiation, baptism, confirmation, and reception. If you have been thinking and praying about taking such a step, please speak to a member of the clergy. We would be glad to be of help . . . Father Gerth is away on vacation until the evening of Monday, July 22. He returns to the office on Tuesday, July 23. Dr. David Hurd will be away from the parish on the weekend of July 20–21. He returns to the office on Monday, July 22 . . . Father Jay Smith will be away on vacation between Tuesday, July 23, and Tuesday, August 6. He returns to the office on Wednesday, August 7 . . . . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 143.
THE BUILDING: A WORK IN PROGRESS . . . The contractors lost a couple of days last week because parking was forbidden on Forty-sixth Street because a movie was being shot in Times Square. The scaffolding now reaches nearly to the top of the building. Asbestos abatement on the parish house and clergy house roofs should begin on Wednesday, July 24, and will last for about ten days.
FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . The organist at the Solemn Mass on Sunday will be Clark Anderson, and the cantor will be tenor Daniel Castellanos, who is a member of the Choir of Saint Mary’s. During the ministration of Communion at the Solemn Mass, Daniel will sing “A Simple Song” from Mass by Leonard Bernstein (1918–1990). Bernstein, a giant of American twentieth-century musical life, called the piece “Hymn and Psalm: A Simple Song.” The text consists of verses taken from a number of psalms, which have been adapted and woven together by the composer.
The Mass ordinary, to be sung by the entire assembly, is New Plainsong, composed in 1978 by David Hurd, organist and music director at Saint Mary’s. This setting joins the contemporary English Mass texts of the Book of Common Prayer with simple melody reminiscent of ancient syllabic liturgical chant.
René Vierne is less well known than his older brother Louis, in part because his life was tragically cut short in World War I. Pushed by his parents to become a priest, he instead felt a calling to music, studying first with his brother and then entering the Paris Conservatoire to work with Alexandre Guilmant. Awarded first prize for organ and improvisation in 1906, he had by that time already been named organiste titulaire at Notre-Dame-des-Champs in Paris. Vierne’s compositions are few. Sunday’s voluntaries come from 10 Pièces de différents styles (“10 Pieces in Different Styles”), published in 1915. Written for either pipe organ or harmonium (a reed organ popular at the time), these short works are both accomplished and charming. Prière (“Prayer”) is straightforwardly melodic, a lovely meditation. Sortie (“Recessional”) is full of life, sending us out with a little bounce in our step.
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Our next Drop-in Day will take place on Wednesday, August 21, from 2:00 to 4:00 PM, in the Mission House basement. On those Wednesdays when a Drop-in Day does not take place, we continue to offer our Grab-and-Go days—from 2:00 to 3:00 PM—in the former Gift Shop off the church Narthex. On those days, basic, even emergency, items can normally be provided—socks, underwear, toiletry articles, and, in the winter months, cold-weather clothing. Please contact Brother Damien if you would like to donate cash, clothing, or toiletry articles, or to volunteer for this important ministry . . . We continue to receive donations of canned goods and other nonperishable food items for the Saint Clement’s Food Pantry. Donations may be placed in the basket next to the Ushers’ Table at the Forty-sixth Street entrance to the church.