Music Highlights for the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Our Sunday Music 

Except for the coronavirus pandemic, the Schola Cantorum would have concluded its season at last Sunday's Feast of Corpus Christi, June 14. Ordinarily, we also would suspend the Choral Highlights feature of our social media presence for the Summer hiatus and resume in the Fall. Instead, we thought you might enjoy an insight into the hymns that have been chosen for these first few Sundays of summer Ordinary Time, beginning with those for the 12th Sunday

We hope these Music Highlights will help to illuminate the themes of our Sunday prayers and scripture readings and nourish our sense of oneness in Christ 

Opening Hymn ~ Father, Lord of All Creation

The Text

In the wake of the church reforms of the early 1960’s Stewart Cross, while an Anglican layman serving at an inner-city parish in Manchester, England, penned this text for use at a Church Unity Week whose aim was to bring together the Anglican and Methodist communities of the area. The Trinitarian text is very much a product of its day, using in the second verse the phrase “Christ, the Man for Others,” attributed in part to Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s notion that Christ came to all humanity, but especially the poor and the oppressed. The verses find echo in today’s first reading from the prophet Jeremiah that ends ”Sing to the Lord, praise the Lord, for he has rescued the life of the poor from the power of the wicked.” The third verse contains the idea that connects the meaning of today’s Gospel that encourages us to not be afraid to proclaim Christ’s message from the housetop with the  the very real needs of oppressed people in our own lands and throughout the world. “May your love unite our action, Nevermore to speak alone: God, in us abolish faction; God, through us your love make known.”   Stewart Cross was later ordained and served as Bishop of Doncaster from 1976 – 1982 and then shepherded the Diocese of Blackburn until 1989.

The Tune

The tune GENEVA to which the text is paired in our hymnal was written in 1940 by George Day (1883-1966) while he was organist and choirmaster at Trinity Church in Geneva, NY, on the northernmost part of Seneca Lake. Originally it was paired with “Not alone for mighty empire” and published in the 1940 Hymnal of the Episcopal Church. It has the curious distinction of being in two different keys; beginning in F minor, then moving to F major.

Click below to hear a version of that original pairing.

Preparation of the Gifts ~ Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing

The scripture readings for this Sunday have many resonances with this hymn, known popularly as the Black National anthem. It also invites us all to join with our African American sisters and brothers whose struggles did not end with the Emancipation Proclamation, Civil Rights legislation, or the Fair Housing laws.

The author of the poem was an extraordinary man of protean talents. James Weldon Johnson 1871-1938 was the first African American to pass the bar in the State of Florida and later became an American consul in Venezuela and Nicaragua. He also was a songwriter, teacher and anthologist, and civil rights activist. He wrote the poem for his students while teaching at Stanton (segregated) elementary school in 1900 for a school celebration marking Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.

In 1905, Johnson’s brother J. Rosamond Johnson wrote the music to accompany the text. Although James never intended to publish the poem, its popularity spread throughout the South and by 1919 it was adopted as the “Negro National anthem” by the NAACP. Washington native, mezzo soprano Denyce Graves, sang the hymn at the conclusion of the opening ceremony of the National Museum of African American History in September of 2016.

To hear a version, click below.

Communion Hymn ~ You Satisfy the Hungry Heart/Gift of Finest Wheat

Forty-four years ago, on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the founding of our country, the 41st International Eucharistic Congress was held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the birthplace of our democratic republic. Robert Kreutz and Omer Westendorf  jointly entered a hymn competition for this event, whose theme was “The hungers of the human family.” It won first place out of 200 submissions. As a nod to the venue and the significance of the anniversary, its tune name is BICENTENNIAL, and the original introduction of the hymn included the opening musical phrase of Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America.”

To hear a version, click below.

Recessional Hymn ~ How Firm a Foundation

Jesus’ admonition, “be not afraid,” in today’s Gospel is reinforced in the second verse of today’s recessional hymn. “Fear not, I am with you, O be not dismayed; for I am your God and will still give you aid. I’ll strengthen you, help you, and cause you to stand, upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.”

While the author of the text of this well-loved hymn is in dispute, it did first appear in 1787 in a collection of hymns published by John Rippon, pastor of Carter Lane Baptist Church in London. The text was popularly sung to several different tunes in this country in both the North and the South before the Civil War. But the pairing of text and tune that we sing today was first published in the Sacred Harp in 1844, a collection of Shape-note hymns that were sung without accompaniment and with extreme gusto and vigor. The roots of this singing tradition were found in late 18th century New England but the singing style spread and flourished in southern states throughout the 19th century.

To hear a version, click below.