Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Blessed Jesus, At Thy Word

This Sunday, you'll get to hear several variations on the hymn "Blessed Jesus, At Thy Word."  This is one of the great early German chorales that was in the LBW but unfortunately omitted from the ELW.  Thankfully, we have the Bethany Hymnal as a supplement!  The original tune was composed by Johann Ahle, a 17th century predecessor to J.S. Bach, who adapted several of Ahle's tunes as chorale preludes.

The meditative prelude will be a modern arrangement by George Thalben-Ball.  The dissonance will create a very different sound and mood, but the melody will still be clear.  By contrast, during communion and the offering (at second service), I will play Bach's highly ornamented arrangement and Flor Peeters classical sounding version, though he lived from 1903 to 1986.  In addition, we'll be singing "Blessed Jesus, At Thy Word" as the hymn of the day.  Hearing the same tune in such a range of settings can help hear the nuances and illuminate the text.  In this case, the text lines up perfectly with that goal (quoting from the LBW version): "Let our thoughts and hearts be stirred...Jesus, send yhour blessed light; Help our hearing, speaking, heeding, That our prayers and songs may please you, As with grateful hearts we praise you.

For the choir anthem, we'll be reaching back to the 16th century for a setting of an adaptation of Psalm 118 by Lodovico Viadana.  The music is rhythmically interesting, opening with a lilting waltz, followed by a joyful march-like section, then a polyphonic fugue where each section of the choir takes its turn in leading the melody, and finally returning to the original waltz.  Listen for the meter changes and how the composer uses them to change the mood.

The text continues our fall theme of Make Joyful Noise:
Hear the sound of joy over all the earth.
God has triumphed.
God is the mighty Lord.
Songs of joy sing to God the Lord.
The foe is conquered; glory be to God.

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