Music Notes | Fifth Sunday in Lent

Eric Mellenbruch
Associate Director of Music and Organist

On the Seventh Sunday of Easter last year, ‘Hail, thou once despisèd Jesus’ was sung because of the reference in its climactic third stanza to Christ’s enthronement in heaven (the Sunday in question being the Sunday after Ascension Day). We sing it again this week because of its many connections to the appointed selection from the Epistle to the Hebrews, which highlights Our Lord’s priestly role as intercessor, and his attitude of submission to suffering, all for our benefit.

‘My faith looks up to thee’ was written in 1830 when its author, the poet and later Congregational minister Ray Palmer, was 21. Like many or most hymns cast in the first person singular, it was never intended for congregational singing, but rather is a statement of personal faith in Christ. The third stanza, not sung this week, is in particular a prayer for help in following Our Lord’s instruction in Sunday’s Gospel: ‘Whoever serves me must follow me’:

While life’s dark maze I tread,
and griefs around me spread,
be thou my guide;
bid darkness turn to day;
wipe sorrow’s tears away,
nor let me ever stray
from thee aside.

We welcome back to our Sunday service soprano and violinist Joan Carlson, who ordinarily sings in St David’s Compline Choir. With David Stevens, Director of Music, she will sing a setting of Psalm 51.2 (part of Sunday’s appointed Psalm) by Handel. This aria is taken from a multi-movement anthem, part of the collection for small vocal and instrumental ensemble known as the ‘Chandos Anthems’ after the title of the English duke for whose chapel Handel wrote them as composer-in-residence.

Joan will also play two movements of a sonata by Arcangelo Corelli, a composer of the middle Baroque who played a central role in cementing the system of tonal harmony and some of the genres (sonatas and concertos) that go along with it, and establishing the violin as a preeminent solo instrument.

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