Thursday, November 28, 2013

Washington National Cathedral on Thanksgiving Eucharist offers music by Stanford, Neswick

Today, Thanksgiving Day, I attended the Holy Eucharist at the Washington National Cathedral. 
I had heard the Beethoven Missa Solemnis there in the 1990s, and also heard former president Jimmy Carter speak there.
The music in the service was noteworthy of review.

In the Carillon prelude there was an organ transcription of the St. George’s Windsor hymn “Come, ye thankful people come” by Edward M. Nassor (1957) so softened by impressionism that it was unrecognizable.

The organ voluntary was the Virgil Fox setting of J. S. Bach’s “Now Thank We All Our God” from the Cantata #79.

The Song of Praise was “Glory to God” by Robert Powell.

The featured musical work for the service was performed by the choir and organ during the offertory.  It was the “Te Deum” by Sir Charles Villiers Stanford (better known for his often energetic symphonies -- especially the Fifth -- and Irish Rhapsodies).  The work, in C, is somewhat episodic, and not quite as attention-grabbing as, say, Parry’s “I Was Glad”. Stanford's style is often pensive and majestic, even "Germanic" and follows that or Brahms, and perhaps Elgar. 
The Communion Anthem was “Let the peoples praise you, O God” by Bruce Neswick (1956-).  The work started with a long organ prelude, quiet and impressionistic, and became more dissonant and biting during the choral part.

The postlude was the familiar “Now thank we all our God” by Sigfrid Klag-Elert.
The great organ was installed by Skinners and Sons in 1938.  The organists are Christopher Betts and Benjamin Straley.

The service appeared to have assistance from students at the high school (St. Albans) which often appears (and usually wins) on "It's Academic". 
I decided to embed a performance of the Irish Rhapsody #4 by Stanford, with its well known folk song, and its towering climax in A at the end.  I have a Chandos of this with Handley, and got to know the work in the 90s, when the military gay ban first was being debated.

After the service, I took the elevator to the observation deck, open despite earthquake repairs.  

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