Music Notes | Second Sunday After Pentecost

Eric Mellenbruch Associate Director of Music and Organist

As we move into the Season after Pentecost, the Revised Common Lectionary offers two ‘tracks’ of Old Testament Lessons for use at the Eucharist. In the current round of the three-year lectionary cycle (of which we are in Year B, focused on the Gospel of Mark), St David’s is following the Gospel-related track, in which the Old Testament Lesson, and the Psalm appointed with it, are related in some way to the appointed Gospel passage, as in the historic Western Eucharistic lectionary. (The Epistle readings follow their own, unrelated, course.)

Thus this Sunday, part of the account of the Fall from Genesis 3 is appointed to be read, since in the Gospel passage, Jesus (whom the crowds, and even his own family, thought was out of his mind; or, put another way, had a demon) refers to Satan, and to sin and blasphemy. The psalm chosen to accompany this theme is Psalm 130, one of the great psalms of confession and trust in God’s forgiveness; this is reflected in the Introit, Prelude, and Anthem at our online service, the latter two of which are based upon Martin Luther’s paraphrase of this Psalm, a translation of which, by Catherine Winkworth, the great 19th-century translator of German hymns, appears in our Hymnal [151]. This text was historically associated with two quite different tunes. One of them forms the basis of the Prelude, a verset by 17th-century composer Heinrich Scheidemann, with the melody in the lowest voice. The much more evocative tune printed in our Hymnal, possibly the work of Luther himself, portrays the phrase ‘out of the depths’ or ‘from deepest woe’ by means of the descent and ascent with which it opens, and sets a plaintive mood throughout by the use of the ‘phrygian’ mode (which can be formed by playing a scale using only the white notes of the piano, starting on E). This in turn forms the basis of the three settings which together make up our Anthem: two 16th-century contrapuntal ones by Johann Walter and Lupus Hellingck, with the melody in the next-to-lowest voice, and a 17th-century chordal setting by Johann Hermann Schein, with the melody in the highest voice, which is printed in the Hymnal. The Introit is likewise set in the phrygian mode.

At 11:15 am we mark our official return to the celebration of the Eucharist in person and indoors with one of the great Communion hymns, ‘Deck thyself, my soul, with gladness’ [339; see the notes for 2020-10-11]. Both the Prelude at this service, by J.G. Walther (J.S. Bach’s cousin and colleague, not to be confused with the aforementioned Johann Walter), and the Offertory anthem, by G.F. Handel, are based on this fine text by Johann Franck – again, in a translation by Catherine Winkworth – and its associated tune by Johann Crüger. 

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