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Music at Eventide
Evensong for The Feast of the Ascension, Thursday, May 9th, 8:00 o'clock
Music by Bach, Batten, and Bullard
Reception following in St. Francis Hall
As we approach the Feast of the Ascension, the choir is preparing to offer evensong on Thursday, May 9th. This is the last of our Music at Eventide events for the year and I hope sincerely that you will join us for this 8 o’clock service.
Our Thursday evensong, as well as the Sunday morning services following, will include several hymns recounting and commenting on the ascension of Jesus. One, happily in our current hymnal, is the powerful combination of the text by Albert F. Bayly (1901-1984), “Rejoice, the Lord of life ascends,” with the tune PARKER by Horatio Parker (1864-1919). It may be found as #222 in The Hymnal 1982.
Parker’s tune originally was written for the venerable text “The royal banners forward go” by Venantius Honorius Fortunatus (540?-600?). It would worth your time to read and study that text, as well, which can be found as #162. Both texts work well with Parker’s tune in character, as well as structurally since they follow the same syllabic meter.
During his lifetime, Parker came to be regarded as the best composer in the United States. He served as organist at Trinity Church, New York City and Trinity Church, Boston. For the last 25 years of his life, he taught theory at Yale University and was appointed Dean of Music there in 1904, a position he retained until his death.
Although somewhat forgotten in the sweep of musical changes of the 20th century, Parker deserves his rightful place as one of our most important educators and composers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He himself was a student of the masterful Josef Rheinberger (1839-1901) in Munich and later the teacher of Charles Ives (1874-1954) at Yale. That alone is a bridge of no small importance.
Admirably, Parker dared to challenge the sentimentality and vulgarity of music that had crept into church music of the Victorian age, especially as found in the evangelical churches in America. In an address of 1900 on this subject, he pointedly commented:
So is evil music as harmful to our sense of beauty, to our aesthetic sensitiveness, as these things are for our physical body.... People ask for bread and we give them sponge cake; for fish, and they are lucky if they get eels – sometimes real snakes, loathsome, wriggling, slimy moody and snakey snakes [a jab at the Rev’d Dwight Moody and Ira Sankey, “The Sweet Singer of Methodism”] – vulgar with the vulgarity of the streets and the music hall. If sentimentality is evil – and I think no one here will care to deny it – what shall we say of vulgarity?.... Let the stuff be confined to the mission, where it may do good. Among people of any appreciable degree of refinement and culture it can only do harm.
— Gary Davison, Organist and Choirmaster