Thursday, February 7, 2013

First Presbyterian Church, Charlottesville VA February 10, 2013

February 10: Transfiguration Sunday First Presbyterian Church, Charlottesville VA.
First Reading – Psalm 99
Second Reading – Luke 9:28-36
Theme: In the story of the transfiguration of the Lord, there is a lot of communication during the experience. Jesus praying, Jesus talking with Moses and Elijah, Peter, and finally God from the cloud. Only Peter doesn’t know what he is talking about, “not knowing what he said” (9:33). And aren’t we like Peter, not know what to say about our experiences of God? This sermon will affirm that reality and explore the way the church gives us speech about God, (like the Apostles’ Creed) so that we can bring to articulation what is impossible to fully say.
Deo Gracias....(Hymn # 75)……………………..John Dunstable, arr. E. Power Biggs
Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow........Johann Gottfried Walther
Prelude..................................................................Jean Langlais

The Deo Gracias is the tune for hymn 75 which is a Transfiguration Sunday Hymn. 
Originally called the Agincourt Carol, it dates from the early 15th Century.  The original is located in the Wren Library of Trinity College, Cambridge.  It has been attributed to John Dunstable (1370-1453).  The arrangement for organ by E Power Biggs (1906-1977) became the basis for the harmonization in many hymnals.  The original carol was for two voices.  Everything else was added by Biggs in the late 1940’s in his “Treasury of Early Organ Music” published by Mercury Press. 

The “Doxology” tune “Old Hundredth” had its origin in the German chorale Nun' lob' mein' seel' den Herren which is the setting used here.  It was set by a number of Baroque composers including Buxtehude, Bach, and Johann Gottfried Walther (1684-1748), J. S. Bach’s cousin and contemporary.  The opening phrases of the chorale melody form the basis for the opening counterpoint.  The melody is carried by the pedal throughout, and the manuals move from chorale-related counterpoint to free fantasia. 

Prelude from “Organ Book” (1956)  by Jean Langlais (1907-1991) is a short work in a post-impressionistic style.  I chose to include it here because the chord changes echo, in a slightly slanted way, the changes in “Old Hundredth.”  This piece would have been “new” when First Presbyterian Church’s building on this site was dedicated.  It uses “fonds de 8 pieds” on the Positif (Principal 8) and the Recit (Diapason 8, Gamba) in contrast, anchored by the Pedal Bourdon 16.  

Also notice that the composers’ names all start with J.  That was unintended, but does remind us of I John, II John, and III John, which is a good thing. 

Opening Hymn: # 460  Holy God We Praise Your Name  (Grosser Gott air Loben Dich) 
Congregational Response to Forgiveness: #63, v. 4  (As with Gladdness Men of Old)
Anthem: How Lovely Are the Messengers – Mendelssohn 
How lovely are the messengers that preach us the gospel of peace.
To all the nations is gone forth the sound of their words, throughout all the lands their glad tidings.
Hymn: # 426  “Lord Speak to Me that I may Speak”  (Canonbury)

Offertory:    How Brightly Shines the Morning Star…. Georg Philip Telemann (1681-1767)
This is the most typical of all Epiphany hymns and is particularly appropriate for Transfiguration Sunday, as it speaks of bright shining.  Telemann’s sprightly, bouncy little organ setting is in two voices, with the chorale melody up top and the counterpoint on the left hand.  The melody is on Positif 8’ Bourdon,  2 Nazard, and 1 Tierce.   The counterpoint is on the Recit (with box almost closed) 16’ Trompette,  4’ Principal, 2’ Octavin.   The counterpoint reminds me of “Sailor’s Hornpipe” which was from another age and another country.  The choice of this setting rather than any number of other ones was to parallel the idea of transformation.  
 Doxology : #68, v. 4  “To God the Father, God the Son”  (Puer Nobis Nascitur) 

Closing Hymn: 425  Lord of Light, Your Name Outshining  (Abbot’s Leigh)
Benediction Response: 305, v. 1   Jesus Our Divine Companion (Pleading Savior)
Postlude: Postlude in F Major..  Caleb Simper (1856-1942) 
Simper was an organist in Barnstaple, England.  He was a prolific composer of organ works and anthems.  Over 5 million of his compositions had been sold worldwide by the 1920’s.  This is from Book 4 of “Seventeen Voluntaries” and is in simple ABA form.  It features the Trompette Royal against the full organ. 

Alternate hymn harmoinzations used in this service include ones by Charles Callahan, Noel Rawsthorne, Michael Burkhart, V. Earle Copes, and T. Tertius Noble. 

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