Hitting the nail on the head, again

Southerners speak in colloquialisms and with repeated phrases and stories, and I am ever-guilty.

“Hitting the nail on the head” has been in my vocabulary for decades. I have heard this saying all my life.

And I use it frequently, as documented in this weekly blog, once a year for the past four years, to be exact. The Microsoft Find feature confirms that I used the phrase in blog entries in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. And now 2019.

 Does four years in a row comprise redundancy or thematic? (No need to answer that.)

So, if hitting the nail on the head when planning liturgy and music describes a musical setting (hymn or anthem) that directly quotes one of the appointed lessons for Sunday, then is quoting and Isaiah reading that Jesus directly quotes in the Gospel of Luke literally hitting the nail on the head once-removed?

Or is it a double-whammy of hitting the nail on the head?

Shall we go for hitting the nail identically twice?

In the Gospel for the Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Jesus “unrolls the scroll and found the place where it was written…”

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,

to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.

This passage that Jesus quotes is, indeed, Isaiah 61:1-2.

If the first five books of the Bible are known as the Torah, Isaiah is from the second main section (called the Nevi’im) of the Hebrew Bible (the Tanakh in its entirety). With Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings being the books of the Former Prophets (Nevi'im Rishonim), Isaiah is one of the Latter Prophets (Nevi'im Aharonim).

An old Anglican cathedral literature choral warhorse, which quotes the Isaiah passage and, therefore, the Luke passage verbatim, is “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me” by Sir Edward Elgar. Yes, that Elgar, the same Sir Edward by whose Pomp and Circumstance march we all processed and graduated.

Sir Edward is probably best known for his multiple Pomp and Circumstance marches written between 1903 and 1930. When Sir Arthur Sullivan died in 1900, many in England considered Elgar to be his successor as “first musician in the land.”

Elgar received numerous honors during his lifetime including being named Master of the King’s Musick in 1924. He held nine honorary doctorates including from Yale University and the University of Pittsburgh.

When the Parish Choir sings this anthem at the 10:30 service this Sunday, listen for Elgar’s treatment of the phrases, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.” He uses the quietest, most sotto voce (“in a quiet voice”) treatments of the entire anthem.

“To preach the acceptable year of the Lord,” a slight variation on the Isaiah passage translation, gets Elgar’s fanfare-like choral treatment, with the full choir singing dotted-rhythms in unison and then landing upon a big chord for “Lord.”

At the end of the piece, Elgar returns to this sotto voce statement of the text, a spellbinding, quiet ending to a significant choral setting.

Dare I say Sir Edward also hit the nail on the head?


Posted by Dr. David Ouzts at 11:36