Today’s Music …
The music you will hear today from the choir and the ‘incidental’ music as you gather, at the offering and at the recessional starts a theme which will continue for the next four weeks.
The theme is ‘Love’
Love has many different facets, from the love we have for one and other as members of a Christian family, the love we have for our own families, the love we have for our partner and the love we have in our hearts for God our Father.
I was inspired by ‘The Theme of Love’ when I selected the choir Anthem ‘Love Divine’ by Howard Goodall, which the choir will sing in a few weeks’ time. It was from here that I had the idea to find some other music on that same theme that myself and the choir could use – and there you go ‘the Theme of Love’ it is for September and the start of October.
Music as you gather
The organ preludes aren’t specifically from a ‘love’ theme, but are written by a French composer, and they do say that France is the land of love? These preludes are from a collection called ‘Vade-mecum de L’Organiste’, roughly translated as ‘a useful collection for the organist’, a suite of 10 movements for various sections of a church service.
The composer is Louis James Alfred Lefebure-Wely, born and died in France (1817-1869), who as well as being a composer was also an organist. His compositions were often considered less substantial than those of say Franck, and have not held such a prominent place in repertoire.
This little ‘verset’ arrangement is by Noel Rawsthorne, on the hymn tune ‘Love Divine’ by Stainer – the same as today’s choir anthem. The melody is contained as a solo line in the inner harmonies of the arrangement, a little like in the ‘tenor line’ position of four part harmony. It is played by a louder stop than the rest of the harmony, on the great organ.
Now, this may seem an ‘odd’ selection for a Sunday morning service, but it does continue the love theme. The ‘Wedding March’ from Mendelssohn’s Mid-Summer Nights Dream is instantly recognisable from its opening trumpet fanfare. This transports many back to the day they took their vows and started married life, or people who celebrated with family at that joyous occasion.
Many people don’t know the ‘middle section’ as they have normally left the church by that point, but please do stay and listen to the quieter section which has a dance like feel to it, in contrast to the familiar marching first and last sections.
The choir’s introits will continue to start our services, and the theme of love brought me to CH4 and the song ‘I love you Lord, and I lift my voice’. It reminds us that our love for God is an integral part of our worship, that we do rejoice in that love and that it is indeed a sweet, sweet thing indeed. The song is by Laurie Klein and was written in 1978. We sing this for three weeks, each time in a different way. This week accompanied and in full 4- part harmony. It’s gentle and relaxing. You can look it up at hymn 770.
The hymn ‘Love Divine’ was written by Charles Wesley who was part of that great dynasty of Wesley’s. The words are considered by many to be among his best texts. A verse from John Dryden’s poem “Fairest isle, all isles excelling” used by Henry Purcell’s opera King Arthur were undeniably Wesley’s inspiration. In fact, it was set to a Purcell tune in John and Charles Wesley’s Sacred Melody (1761).
Many of us will remember it from school, church and of course weddings. There are many tunes that it can be sung to. In our own hymn book it can be sung to the great welsh tunes of Hyfrydol and Blaenwern, but John Stainer also wrote a tune for the text and that tune is simply called ‘Love Divine’. It is that tune that the choir sing today.
We use the full range of voices in the arrangement today, from accompanied SATB harmony, men in unison, unaccompanied SATB harmony, sopranos singing the melody with the inner parts themselves providing the accompaniment, and at the very end full unison singing against a varied organ accompaniment.
We spent a lot of time whilst practising this and the other ‘Love’ anthems looking at how we sing and say words differently. Hopefully, that hard work as paid off and you hear the words clearly and hear their true meaning. In singing words a particular way you need to support them with stronger breathing, and by projecting your voice this in turn adds to a more rounded and warmer sound which is typical of this type of singing.