Preludes & Offering – All from Vesper Voluntaries by Edward Elgar
- Preludes: Introduction (adagio) D minor, MVT 1 (andante) D major, MVT 2 (allegro) D minor, MVT 3 (andantino) in F major
- Offering music MVT 4 (allegretto piacevole) in B major
About Edward Elgar ……
He came into contact with the organ at an early age through his father’s duties as organist at St George’s Catholic Church, Worcester, and in his typically thorough way he taught himself to play from the tutors of Rinck and Best. In 1885 he succeeded his father in the post and it was probably during this time that he began to sketch the Vesper Voluntaries. In their final form they were one of the first fruits of his, in the event ill-fated, move to London from his beloved Worcestershire.
In the autumn of 1889 he and his new and adored bride Alice moved into a house in Norwood, near the Crystal Palace. Here he could hear orchestral concerts more or less daily, an important feature in the process of his growth as a composer. It was a difficult period in his development; the eventual master of the symphony, concerto and the oratorio was just beginning to emerge from the provincial writer of salon pieces and light orchestral scores.
His first major choral work, The Black Knight, was already sketched out and gently simmering inside his head, while the overture Froissart had been commissioned by the Three Choirs Festival for performance in September 1890. However, in spite of a few successes, he failed to make much headway and in 1891 the Elgars moved to Malvern, where he at last found the contentment that enabled him to blossom into the composer of the ‘Enigma Variations’ and all that was to follow.
Early in January 1890, shortly after the move to London, Elgar sold the Vesper Voluntaries to the publishers Orsborn & Tuckwood for five guineas – hardly great riches but rather more generous than the terms offered by Novello & Co. at the start of their relationship with the composer – and they appeared as Book 26 of The Vesper Voluntaries for the Organ, Harmonium, or American Organ. They are designed to be played on a two manual instrument without pedals but Elgar provided indications where they could be used if available. The latent grandness of many of the ideas makes them eminently suitable for expansion onto a larger canvas. The set comprises eight voluntaries with an introduction, an interlude between the fourth and fifth numbers and a coda; although designed to be played separately the pieces make a thoroughly satisfying continuous sequence, full of characteristic melodic and harmonic touches. The use of the same theme in the introduction, interlude and coda binds the work together and Elgar already adopts the quasi-orchestral approach to organ writing which was to be such a feature of his magnificent Sonata in G major a few years later.
Recessional music: Choral Song – Wesley
Samuel Sebastian Wesley (1810–1876), the outstanding church musician of Victorian England, was successively organist at the cathedrals of Hereford, Exeter, Winchester and Gloucester, and he spent seven years at Leeds Parish Church between the second and third of these appointments.
The whole work of Choral Song and Fugue, written at Exeter, is the third of his first set of Three Pieces for Chamber Organ, both sets having been written for the organ at Killerton House, Broadclyst, Exeter, the home of Wesley’s pupil Lady Acland, to whom they are dedicated.
It comprises a cheerful, tuneful first movement (played today) followed by a fugue in which all textbook notions of this daunting form are quickly swept aside: its headlong progress is eventually checked by the arrival of the remote key of C sharp major, and at this point Wesley engineers a return to the home key of C major which has an almost Beethovenian audacity.
Choir Introit – The peace of the earth be with you
This short song is found at CH4 number 798. It’s words and music are from a Guatemalan folk song. There is a scripture reference to John 14:27 – Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.
There is also a link to our Harvest Thanksgiving last week, as we remember the creation in the Heaven’s, the Rivers and the Oceans. It is in four part unaccompanied harmony.
Choir Anthem – Jesus, is the Name we honour
Our Anthem today is also from CH4. It’s a newer worship song that we’ve sang as a hymn at least once – during the summer of this year. It was written in 2005 both words and music by Phil Lawson-Johnston. He is one of the most sensitive worship composers in Britain, and has always stood slightly outside the mainstream of worship musicians who’ve come to prominence in the British church over the past two decades. Known principally through his work with classically-influenced worship group Cloud who took their spirit-filled and intimate worship style out from their base at Holy Trinity, Brompton to churches up and down Britain in the 70s and 80s and, as the author of songs like “We Will Magnify”, “Jesus Is King” and “Give Me A Hearing Heart”, after 15 years in the worship ministry Johnston remains his own man.
The hymn reminds us of our Life in Christ, the coming again of Christ; and our adoration and our worship of Jesus and His Name. There are many scripture references, Acts 4:12; Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 13:15; John 3:35; Matthew 1:21; Revelation 1:7; Revelation 17:14; and Revelation 19:16. I want to think on John 3: 35 – The Father loves the Son and has placed all things in his hands. “The Father loves the Son”. But what is the meaning of this reason? Does he regard all others with hatred? The answer is easy, that he does not speak of the common love with which God regards men whom he has created, or his other works, but of that peculiar love which, beginning with the Son, flows from him to all the creatures. For that love with which, embracing the Son, he embraces us also in him, leads him to communicate all his benefits to us by his hand.
He has indeed placed all things in His hands, but God has placed the care of His creation in our hands so it is appropriate that we thank God though His Son for our glory of creation, our physical nourishment and sustenance.
The music is lively and catchy! Verses are in unison followed by a straightforward SATB harmony. I’m sure you will be tapping your foot as we sing it!
Alan Mathew, Organist