Old Words, New Settings

The old and the new collide this Sunday, Nov. 9, in the anthem, “As the bridegroom to his chosen,” the text of which is an avalanche of analogies. While many hymn and anthem texts that we sing are quite ancient, this text of German mystic Johannes Tauler (c. 1300-1361) is a very old one as well. Tauler was a Dominican priest, a disciple of German theologian “Meister Eckhart” (c. 1260-c. 1328), and affiliated with a group of clergy and laity called the “Friends of God” (Gottesfreunde). Exiled with the Dominicans and banned from Strasbourg in 1338 by Pope John XXII, Tauler believed that hearts and souls were more affected by a personal relationship with God rather than “outward acts and external practices.” In this belief, Tauler helped lay the groundwork for the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther himself highly valued Tauler’s sermons, even writing numerous notes in his own 1508 Augsburg edition of Tauler’s works. In the string of tangible analogies in today’s anthem text, we can absolutely see Tauler’s belief in this personal relationship with God.

St-Pierre-le-Jeune_protestant-Tauler_(2)

Composed in 1989, and thus not very new, this John Rutter (b. 1945) setting is, however, new to our parish choral library. One of the most prolific English composers of the 20th century, Rutter was music director of his alma mater, Clare College, Cambridge, where he later founded the Cambridge Singers, a professional choir comprised of Cambridge alumni and others.

Photos: above, statue of Johannes Tauler at Saint-Pierre-le-June Protestant Church, Strasbourg, France. Below: composer John Rutter.

John Rutter smiling

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