Music Notes – August 19, 2018

August 19, 2018 Service

“Songwriter, spiritual feminist, and social activist” Carolyn McDade, composer of our opening hymn “Come, Sing a Song with Me,” is a “lover of language and sound … committed to the power of the human voice singing and speaking truth to move society to just and liberating transformation.” Two other compositions of hers appear in our hymnal Singing the Living Tradition: “We’ll Build a Land” and “Spirit of Life.”

Our meditation hymn is based on an excerpt from the poem “The Divine Image” (1789) by William Blake. The tune (also used for hymn 22) was composed by Nikolaus Herman (1480-1561), cantor (chief musician) at the Latin School of Joachimstal, Bohemia, and a personal friend of Martin Luther. Bach used the tune, in the version we sing today, as the closing chorale in his Cantata 151, “Süsser Trost, mein Jesus kommt” of 1740.

Michael Whalen (b. 1965), composer of the selection played as offertory today, is a two-time Emmy Award–winning composer with extensive experience in advertising, television, and film (and video games!). Among his best-known commercial works are the themes for “Good Morning America” and “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” He is also a performer and music producer and has collaborated with such artists as Stephen Sondheim, Jim Brickman, and Chris Botti.

Prelude and postlude: The two arabesques of Claude Debussy, composed between 1881 and 1891, are among the composer’s earliest works and bridge the two stylistic periods of Romanticism and Impressionism, hinting at the more fully Impressionistic pieces that define Debussy’s mature compositions. The pieces, it has been suggested, are evocative of the beauty and lines of Islamic architecture. The first of the two pieces, played as the prelude, is notable for its use of polyrhythms: following the opening measures, the left hand maintains a steady duple rhythm (twos), while the right hand executes cascades of triplets.