Music Notes | Sixth Sunday of Easter

Eric Mellenbruch Associate
Director of Music and Organist

‘O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises…’
Thus the Church prays Sunday as it prepares to celebrate the Ascension of Our Lord (mentioned in the Epistle) and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (prefigured in the Gospel), the fulfillment of Christ’s promises to abide in the Church and the hearts of the faithful. The hymn ‘Blessed Jesus, at thy word’ echoes these petitions: ‘let our hearts and souls be stirred now to seek and love and fear thee… drawn from earth to love thee solely’. We ask – quoting the language of the Creed – ‘Light of Light, from God proceeding, open thou our ears and heart; help us by thy Spirit’s pleading.’ 
The German original of this hymn is much beloved, no doubt aided by the simple yet effective melody which underscores the ababcc rhyme scheme but also achieves its own memorable shape through an ababcb phrase structure. Of the many arrangements of this hymn, this week we hear settings for organ by J.S. Bach (who briefly served in the same parish in Mühlhausen where the tune’s composer had earlier worked) and Bach’s cousin J.G. Walther.
‘Like the murmur of the dove’s song’ is an invocation of the Spirit by Episcopal priest-poet Carl Daw. Each stanza describes the Spirit by building strongly upon a series of parallel constructions: like… (a list of similes); to… (a set of recipients); with… (a list of attributes and activities); each ends with a refrain, and the refreshing tune closely follows the shape of the text, the second phrase building sequentially upon the first to a climax that is resolved melodically, harmonically, and rhythmically in the refrain.

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