Sunday, March 04, 2012

First Baptist Church in Washington celebrates 210th Anniversary with special hymn, info on new organ; more on Dallas composers

Today, Sunday March 4, 2012, the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC observed its 210th anniversary.

The communion service featured a special hymn with music composed in 2002 by Lawrence P. Schreiber, with words by the then pastor James Sommerville (now a pastor in Richmond), “In a City Just Beginning”.

The words refer to Washington DC as it was in 1802 when FBC was founded, but curiously the verses sound parallel to the history of Jerusalem after the time of David (because Israel would also know civil war). The hymn has four verses, with all but the third in G Major, harmonized with lots of tense dissonances and passing tones and an excursion into the mediant B Major. The third verse is in the parallel G Minor and seems to have simpler harmony. Inexperienced singers would not be able to handle the dissonances when singing parts. It would make good training music for a high school mixed chorus because it would demand more concentration and help students develop their ears for more sophisticated harmony.

Also, Deborah Miller, soprano, sang the spiritual “Great Day!” with a great deal of vibrato.

There was a dinner, with a presentation of the status of the new pipe organ, due in late 2012. There was a video/power point demo (above) that showed how an organ is disassembled and a new one is built in place in a church.  It's a good question to wonder how the music will be delivered during the mean time.  Maybe by recordings.

I thought I would mention a couple other composers. When I lived in Dallas in the 1980s, I knew Danny Ray, who lived in the same condo complex for a time, and some of his hymns appear in denominational hymnals.

I also remember Dallas composer Jane Marshall, and her famous hymn “My Eternal King”, sung by the Pacific Union College Chorale shown here.  There's a touch of Mahler 8th in this music.

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