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Ordo musicae: Quinquagesima

March 5, 2011

Prelude:  Kenneth Leighton:  Rockingham

Hymn:  Soul of Jesus, Make Me Whole (Anima Christi)

Asperges (chant)

Propers from the Graduale Romanum

Hassler Missa Secunda

Credo I

Communion motet:  Byrd:  Ave Verum Corpus

Closing Hymn:  Immortal Love (Bishopthorpe)

Postlude:  J.S. Bach:  O Mensch, bewein dein’ Suende gross

 

During Lent, which begins next week, the organ is silenced.  Technically it can be used to support the singing, but with a good choir this is unnecessary and undesirable, in my opinion.  In any case, solo organ cannot be used, with the exception of Laetare Sunday—the Fourth Sunday of Lent.  Yet there is a great treasure chest of organ music for Lent which should not go unheard, and not all of it fits the lightened mood of Laetare Sunday.  The best solution, it seems to me, is to play some Lenten-themed music the week before, when we have already assumed something of a penitential posture anyhow.

I have included Kenneth Leighton’s setting of Rockingham (the tune most often associated with “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”) and J.S. Bach’s O Mensch, bewein dein’ Suende gross (O Man, bewail thy Great Sin).  Leighton was mentioned on these pages earlier in the week, but Rockingham is not quite as crunchy as the other pieces I discussed.  Its lilting rhythm and close harmonies create a fittingly anxious mood for the subject of the hymn melody.  Bach’s O Mensch is one of the most beloved pieces of the organ repertoire.  The solo voice features what is known as a coloratura, i.e., a florid elaboration on a melody.  Here you can hear the chorus from a performance of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion sing the melody, unadorned.   Notice how much the opening line resembles the beginning of the famous tune Lasst uns erfreuen (“All Creature of Our God and King”).  Now that you’re familiar with the basic melody, listen to the organ piece and see if you can figure out the rationale for the coloratura melody.  Don’t be afraid to use your imagination; the more of that, the better.  This particular chorale is most fitting, it seems, for Ash Wednesday, so we got it within four days, which isn’t too bad.

 

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Paul Goings permalink
    March 11, 2011 12:04 pm

    Technically it can be used to support the singing, but with a good choir this is unnecessary and undesirable, in my opinion.

    Sigh…

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