Saturday, January 16, 2010

Old winter folk tunes

No, we won't be singing any Woody Guthrie tunes this Sunday. The English and French folk tunes you'll hear are centuries old. The English tune Greensleeves is highly recognizable as the melody of "What Child is This?" It's a popular tune in the hymnal with multiple texts. This week we'll be singing the communion text "What Feast of Love."

The French folk tune is not as well known. "Une jeune pucelle" is the tune of the hymn 'Twas in the Moon of Wintertime. We won't actually be singing the hymn, but the tune is the basis of my prelude this week.

The influence of French music and composers on Lutheran church music has always been less than the German, and to a lesser extent English influence. It's not surprising that the sounds of Luther and Bach are still with us, after all. But it can be a nice change of pace to go outside that traditional musical literature for a different sound.

The prelude is a theme and variation on the traditional tune, composed by Jean-Francois Dandrieu. He was a French composer from the Baroque period, and you can hear the traditional counterpoint of the era in the way the soprano melody interacts with counter-melodies below it. Listen for the folk tune within the more complex music and sing with gusto during communion this week.

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