Sunday, March 25 2018
Palm-Passion Sunday Mark 14:1-15:47
by Paul Stott
VU 126 – Ride On, Ride On, the Time Is Right (1988)
Text and tune are by John Bell, from Enemy of Apathy (1988), the second volume of Wild Goose Songs, published by the Iona Community. With stark, powerful imagery, Bell forces us to confront the reality behind the celebration of the palms and to reflect on how this reality continues to be with us today. Bell is a frequent visitor to Canada, leading workshops at churches and seminaries. His books The Singing Thing (2000) and The Singing Thing too (2007) share insights culled from over 20 years in which he and his colleagues in the Wild Goose Resource and Worship Groups have taught new songs in venues as diverse as old people’s homes with half a dozen hearing-aid users to the Greenbelt Festival with over 10,000 gathered for worship. John has a passion for congregational song.
VU 128 – Sanna, Sannanina (trad)
This example of South African service music comes to us from from Story Song (1993), a British volume of contemporary religious music. The text is a Swahili version of “Hosanna.”
A Cheering, Chanting, Dizzy Crowd (1985)
This text by Tom Troeger moves the liturgy from the exultation of a palm procession to contemplation of the passion to come. The transition in the third stanza from the celebration of the palm procession is enhanced by the alliteration in the first line “When day dimmed down to deepening dark.” Troeger is Professor of Christian communication at the Yale Divinity School in New Haven, Connecticut. Ordained in the Presbyterian Church in 1970 and in the Episcopal Church in 1999, he is dually aligned with both traditions. He is a prolific author, respected preacher, and accomplished flautist.
The setting, CHRISTIAN LOVE is by Paul Benoit (1893-1979), who was a priest at the Benedictine Abbey of St. Maurice and St. Maur, at Clervaux in Luxembourg. It was composed at the request of Omer Westendorf to set his text “Where Charity and Love Prevail.”
VU 950 – Stay With Me, Remain Here with Me (1982)
This Taizé text, our prayer response, was originally sung in German, but as with many Taizé chants, was soon translated into other languages, including English. The text is based on the request of Christ to his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, found in Mark 14:34, 38 reminding us of an ongoing call to be alert and faithful.
VU 146 – When Jesus Wept (1770)
Although Voices United attributes the text as well as the tune to William Billings, more recent research identifies Perez Morton (1751-1837) as the author. It was first published in Billings’ The New England Psalm Singer (Boston, 1770). “Jesus Wept” John 11:35 KJV is the shortest verse in the new Testament. John 11:38 KJV mentions “groaning.” The last two lines of the text may relate more closely to Luke 19:41-44, Jesus weeping over Jerusalem. In his biographical sketch of Billings, Carl Daw states
Billings (October 7, 1746–September 26, 1800) was born and died in Boston, which he left only in order to teach singing schools in nearby towns. His formal education was limited, but he read and studied widely on his own. His basic musical education came from the singing schools common throughout New England during the latter half of the 18th century. He added to his musical knowledge by studying published psalmody collections, such as William Tans’ur’s The Royal Melody Compleat (London, 1755) and Aaron Williams’s The Universal Psalmodist (London, 1762). Having been apprenticed to a tanner, Billings continued in that trade and operated a tannery for a number of years, but by 1769 he was also leading singing schools in Boston and the surrounding towns. During the 1760s he began composing hymn tunes and anthems following examples he found in the tune books of British psalmodists, but his abilities soon
allowed him to surpass his models. He became the informal leader of a large group of largely self-taught New England composers who dominated American sacred music between about 1780 and 1810. During the 1770s and early 1780s Billings was financially successful, but his fortunes declined sharply, so that from the late 1780s until his death he lived in near poverty.
The tune, WHEN JESUS WEPT, may sound strange to our modern ears, but was less strange in late eighteenth century America, where such disjunct and angular tunes were more common. Notable in this four part canon is the extreme range of an octave and a fourth in the modal melody.