Another French composer, more Bach, and a powerful Stewardship anthem. Interested? Read on. . .
One of Westminster’s own–gifted trumpeter Jack Walker–brings us some gems of the trumpet literature at 11:00 worship. Even if you have never heard the name Jean-Joseph Mouret, you have almost certainly heard the famous Rondeau from his first Suite de symphonies, adopted as the signature tune of the PBS program Masterpiece Theater and still a popular choice at many weddings. It is a brilliant piece, at once sunny and stately. Mouret (1682-1738) was a French composer whose genial character strongly assisted him in securing the patronage of Anne, Duchess of Maine, whose salon at Sceaux was a center of courtly society in the declining years of Louis XIV. If you remember the description of ill-tempered French composer Louis Marchand (September 25 notes), Mouret represents the opposite side of the personality coin. His charming nature, paired with a formidable musical talent, assured Mouret great popularity and opened doors wherever he went. His father was a prosperous silk merchant of Avignon and an amateur violinist who recognized his son’s precocious musical abilities and provided him with a fine education. Not only was Mouret appointed court surintendant de la musique at Sceaux, he was a theater composer at the New Italian Theater (1717-37), orchestra director of the Paris Opera (1714-18), sang in the King’s chamber beginning in 1720, and became artistic director of the Concert Spirituel (1728-34). In addition, he composed nine operas and ballets as well as more than 400 divertissements for plays. His controversial opéra ballet, Les fêtes ou Le triomphe de Thalie (1714) was among the first to use comedy. Other works included choral motets, cantatas, and numerous instrumental works. In spite of his previous great success, Mouret suffered a series of dramatic career setbacks beginning in 1728 from which he never recovered. His spirit was progressively broken and, in 1737, he began to go mad. Just after his 50th birthday, he was placed in the care of the Fathers of Charity at Charenton and died in that institution just eight months later.
Jack’s postlude, Marche Joyeuse by John H. Head, is a delightful 20th-century counterpart to the style of Mouret’s Rondeau and Fanfares. Head actively composes and arranges music in addition to his work as principal trumpet for the Atlanta Symphony. His Marche Joyeuse was intended to be used as a festive recessional for weddings and other joyous occasions.
This year’s Stewardship theme, The Fruit of the Spirit, offers so many opportunities and avenues for reflection. Our Chancel Choir is delighted to contribute a musical reflection on this theme by sharing Jane Marshall’s beautiful anthem, Love, Joy, and Peace (originally dedicated to the 1989 Confirmation Class of Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas). Marshall (b. 1924) has consistently and purposely selected meaningful texts for her many compositions, and this is one perfect example. In its call to share God’s gifts of love, joy, and peace, the thoughtful text by the great English hymn writer Fred Pratt Green (1903-2000) counteracts the quest on the part of many to get rather than to give. We hope the congregation enjoys singing with us: "We go in peace, but made aware that in a needy world like this, our clearest purpose is to share love, joy, and peace." Jane Marshall graduated from Southern Methodist University. She served in a number of United Methodist churches in Texas and taught in both public schools and at Southern Methodist. A strong advocate of congregational song, she has written a number of hymn tunes (some in our hymnal) as well as served on the editorial committees of several hymnbooks. Many of Marshall’s beloved choral compositions are now considered classics of the genre. Generations have thrilled to her beautiful anthem, My Eternal King (still a staple of our choir’s repertoire), and her wonderfully versatile settings of Psalm texts for antiphonal singing, Psalms Together (Keep me as the apple of the eye. . .etc.) are at once practical and magical in their appeal.
Bach’s beautiful Kyrie, Gott Vater in Ewigkeit completes the cycle of three large organ Kyries played in worship recently. Though I did not play them in order, each stands on its own as a foundational work in organ literature regardless of context. This Kyrie is actually the first in the Trinitarian set, addressing God the Eternal Father. Here, the Kyrie melody is presented in the soprano line, representing God the Father as the head of the Trinity. The Kyrie addressing Christ (played on September 11th), places the melody in the tenor-the most internal-line, & the Kyrie addressing the Holy Spirit (played on September 18th) has the pedals-bass line-playing the powerful melody, on which everything else rests. None of this is accidental or random; rather, symbolism played a huge role in Bach’s writing, and this placement of Trinitarian themes is only the tip of the iceberg. Perhaps the true genius of Bach’s music is that one does not need to know a thing about his use of symbolism or structure or any other technicality to enjoy the music itself. Bach’s work represents a spiritual synthesis of technique, emotion, and an ineffable creative power that defies definition.
One of the most well-known of German chorales, Vater unser im Himmelreich (Our Father in Heaven Above) was the musical setting of the Lord’s Prayer used in all German Lutheran services during the centuries surrounding Bach. First adapted by Martin Luther for his versification of the Lord’s Prayer in 1539, it is one of the iconic symbols of Lutheranism, and has appeared in English-language hymnals as a setting for the Lord’s Prayer since 1560 (in our hymnal, see Hymn 590). The tune, also known as Old 112th in non-Lutheran settings, was a favorite of John Wesley’s. Its strong, stately character has drawn many composers to use it as the basis for choral and organ works. Today’s postludes offer two such examples, one by Bach, and one by Bach’s pupil, Johann Schneider (1702-1788), a German organist, violinist, and composer who became organist at the Nikolaikirche in Leipzig in 1729. Of his playing, a contemporary wrote: "His preludes on the organ are of such good taste that in this field, except for Mr. Bach, whose pupil he has been, there is nothing better to be heard in Leipzig."