Music Notes | Sixth Sunday After Pentecost

Eric Mellenbruch
Associate Director of Music
and Organist

The Biblical Canticles – Psalm-like texts from books other than the Book of Psalms – have long formed a part of Morning and Evening Prayer. At the Reformation the Church of England eliminated a series of canticles used in rotation at Morning Prayer in the Roman Rite, but the current Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church includes a wider selection of canticles than earlier Anglican Prayer Books. The Hymnal 1982 includes a number of metrical-strophic paraphrases of these canticles for singing to hymn-tunes, among which is Hymn 678/9, ‘Surely it is God who saves me’, a paraphrase of Isaiah 12.2–6, called the ‘First Song of Isaiah’ (BCP 86). The second tune, at 679, is straightforward, lively, and folk-like, with a low and limited range making it accessible to most singers. Melody and bass-line both exhibit a careful balance of stepwise and disjunct shapes, and the two parts often mirror one another in contrary motion, making for a well-crafted and satisfying piece of music. The tune is particularly well suited to use with piano, guitar, and other instruments.

St David’s own Mark Wischkaemper has contributed Sunday’s anthem, about whose text he writes:

The parable of the sower can be challenging. However, when I read it I tend to pull at the following thread: Christ is reminding us where to focus our energy. The thorns, the path, the rocky soil – all of these are distractions from the good, rich, healthy soil that is Christ in our lives. We must put Christ in the most important place in our lives – first and foremost, because without that, we yield nothing. The 17th-century Anglican vicar and poet Robert Herrick reminds us of this with his poem ‘Christ’s Part’: ‘the best of all’s the heart.’

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