Our parish choirs are preparing to move into a brand-new Music Suite next week. For much of the last choir season and a few weeks now in the new season, Wednesday rehearsals have been farmed out in various spaces throughout the building.
By this time next week, our choirs will have their very own spaces again. Artwork will not yet be on the walls, and the music will not be perfectly filed, but we will have large rooms, pianos, and chairs. And all will have been blessed by the Bishop.
Church of the Holy Communion's and St. Mary's Episcopal School's massive joint construction project has been a lesson in the old and the new. As we will continue to worship in old space (the parish hall, with its temporary, distressed concrete floor), we will begin to live into our new spaces for weekly rehearsals.
The concrete floor has given the Parish Choir a unique opportunity to hear each other better, try some new choral configurations in rehearsals, and learn some new music. Indeed, Episcopal choirs love their standard favorites (I suppose any choral ensemble does), but we all need to keep growing by acquiring new tunes beneath our belts.
This Sunday (Sept. 8) the choir will sing one of their staple favorites, the Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986) Ubi caritas. This text is from the proper liturgy for Maundy Thursday but speaks of charity, love, and community as, in this Sunday's reading from Philemon, the imprisoned Paul sends Onesimus back to the fold. Paul even says, “I would rather appeal to you on the basis of love” rather than "command you to do your duty."
Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.
Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor.
Exsultemus et in ipso jucundemur.
Timeamus et amemus Deum vivium.
Et ex corde diligamus nos sincero.
Where there is charity and love, God is there.
The love of Christ has gathered us together.
Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Let us revere and love the living God.
And from a sincere heart let us love one another.
(Antiphon for Maundy Thursday, French 10th c.)
Branching out from our staple favorites, especially as we begin rehearsing in a beautiful new space this week, the Parish Choir has begun learning a couple of new-to-us anthems, the Malcom Archer (b. 1952) “Judge eternal, throned in splendor.” With its mixed-meter treatment, alternating between 7/8, 4/4, and 6/8 time signatures, the anthem is a brilliant setting of a significant text but is rhythmically tricky in spots.
And who doesn't love the word “throne” when used as a verb!
Not necessarily rhythmically tricky, but challenging because of its lush interior harmonies, is the Charles Beaudrot (b. 1951) Jubilate Deo (“O be joyful in the Lord all ye lands”), also a new-to-us anthem. For the texts “We are his people and the sheep of his pasture” and “Be thankful unto him, and speak good of his name,” Beaudrot weaves together independent, lyric choral lines, the former marked dolce (“sweetly”) and the latter cantabile (“in a smooth singing style”).
With old and new music, we enter our newly constructed Music Suite with new commitment.
"Therefore, every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old." Matthew 13:52