New Musicians on Staff at Holy C!

Following an extensive search for highly qualified candidates, Church of the Holy Communion is pleased to announce that two well-respected Memphis musicians have joined our staff. I have known both of these excellent musicians as friends and colleagues for 14 years, and I am supremely fortunate to now be able to work with them as colleagues at Holy Communion. I first met Ellen Koziel at the Royal School of Church Music course in St. Louis in 1999 when she was assistant choirmaster of St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, even before I moved to Memphis. And when I arrived in Memphis, cathedral musician Jane Gamble was the first Episcopal musician to welcome me and take me to lunch. I am overjoyed to know that these very fine sacred musicians will serve our parish, and I am personally elated to be able to share music duties with them.

Jane-Gamble-LR

Dr. Jane C. Gamble, FAGO, serves as Assistant Minister of Music (organ/choral). A native Memphian, she is on the adjunct music faculty of Rhodes College, is a professional certification coach with the American Guild of Organists and maintains a private teaching studio. For the past eight years she has been organist and music associate at Christ United Methodist Church and was canon organist and choirmaster of St. Mary’s Cathedral from 2000 until 2008. She also served as organist and choirmaster of Grace-St. Luke’s Church and as interim professor of organ at the University of Memphis. A graduate of Lambuth College, Dr. Gamble holds the M.M. and D.M.A. degrees from the University of Memphis. She also holds the Fellowship certificate of the American Guild of Organists and is a past dean of the Memphis chapter of the AGO. For the past number of years, Dr. Gamble has given summer organ recital tours in England and Scotland as well as on the continent in German, Switzerland, Italy and France, including a recent recital at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris. At CHC, Dr. Gamble accompanies and assists with the Parish Choir, as well as sharing all the organ playing duties for the parish and for St. Mary’s Episcopal School.

Ellen-Koziel-LR

Ellen Koziel, M.M. serves as Assistant Minister of Music (children’s music). She recently retired following a 32-year career as an Orff music specialist in the Memphis City Schools, teaching at Cordova Elementary and previously at Shady Grove Elementary. She was assistant choirmaster of St. Mary’s Cathedral and is formerly the music teacher of Grace-St. Luke’s Episcopal School and assistant organist of Grace-St. Luke’s Church. Mrs. Koziel is a graduate of Radford University and holds the master of music with Orff-Schulwerk certification from the University of Memphis. She holds national board certification and endorsed trainer certification with the American Orff-Schulwerk Association and is presently finishing a Ph.D. in music education at the University of Memphis. She regularly teaches Orff-Schulwerk recertification classes in the summers also at the University of Memphis. At CHC, Mrs. Koziel directs our children’s choir, using the Royal School of Church Music Voice for Life training scheme.

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Walnut Grove: The History of a Hymn (or, “Coming Clean”)

20150423_104552_resized CROPPED EDITED HIGH BRIGHT LOW CONTRASTThis Sunday (Aug. 23) is “that great Episcopal feast day” in our parish known as Rally Day. Indeed, Rally Day is an old term that has probably past its prime; however, we all love Rally Day and its significance to the start-up of our program year. In Episcopal decades of yore, Rally Day was often the first Sunday after Labor Day, when all Episcopalians closed up their beach houses, mountain houses or lake houses and returned home to school and work and church. In this day of school terms beginning earlier in August, our Rally Day has also moved to an earlier date.

Rally Day 2015 at Church of the Holy Communion is a special one, as it is the Sunday when our Bishop of West Tennessee will be with us to formally seat Fr. Sandy Webb as our 6th Rector. The liturgical music for this Sunday will be quite festive, and we will use our newly-composed parish hymn “Come, new heav’n, new earth descending” as the processional hymn. The birth of this beautiful hymn is a great story in itself.

As I do each summer, in June 2014 I attended the Association of Anglican Musicians conference, which was held in Washington, D.C. During the week, the conference attended an Evensong at the historic Christ Church, Alexandria (Va.), the parish church in which George Washington rented a box pew for his family and where Robert E. Lee attended church from age three through adulthood.

For the Evensong, I was seated in a pew at the rear of the nave and beneath the wrap-around balcony; seated behind me happened to be two very good personal friends, Dr. William Bradley Roberts (professor of church music, Virginia Theological Seminary, a.k.a. my longtime friend “Bill”) and the wife of the Bishop of Virginia, also a longtime friend and church music colleague. We rose to sing a glorious new hymn, tune name Christ Church Alexandria and composed by Bill, who is a prolific composer and widely published. When the hymn ended, I turned around and said, “Bill, I want you to write us a parish hymn!” In reply, Bill made fun of my Southern accent (he’s a native Mississippian and has little room to talk), the bishop’s wife snickered at us both, and we quickly sat down as the liturgy continued.

After I returned to Memphis, Fr. Sandy and I began to assemble a committee to plan and design this past spring’s Alleluia Be Our Measure sacred arts festival. We originally had in mind the commissioning of a new choral anthem for this festival. However, when I related the story about how touched I had been by the Christ Church parish hymn, we decided that a hymn was most appropriate for Holy Communion parish in this season of new energy, new growth and new direction.

At this point I should probably mention that Bill was also Fr. Sandy’s liturgy and church music professor in seminary. (Yes, the Episcopal Church world is very, very small.) When Fr. Sandy and I contacted Bill about the hymn project, he suggested to us the writings of Susan Palo Cherwien.  After assembling a list of some 10 hymn texts as finalists, Susan’s text “Come, new heav’n, new earth descending” was the unanimous choice by our committee, in a true God-moment I believe. This text speaks of all things new, has numerous references to visions found in the Revelation to John, and ends with the stanza that begins “Alleluia be our measure,” from which we titled our sacred arts festival. In her presentation at our festival, Susan also pointed out that the first words of each of the five stanzas of her text comprise a sentence: “Come be here now. Alleluia.”

In the end, Bill wrote for us far more than for which we could have asked. He not only wrote the new hymn tune Walnut Grove, but he also wrote a choral stanza for our choir and a hymn concertato setting (organ, brass, timpani) for the festival. Bill also graciously allowed me to suggest the name Walnut Grove, after the beautiful street where our parish is located. We have used the hymn in various occasions in our services, but this Rally Day will be the first time that we have sung the hymn in procession as the entrance rite. I look forward to these verses and voices soaring in praise to God as we enter for worship on this special Sunday.

Above: the illuminated manuscript created by Mel Ahlborn, our third resident artist for Alleluia Be Our Measure, based on Susan Cherwien’s text.

“B” is for Bread

Pan_asturianoAfter the story in the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel, which we read on the last Sunday in July, the Gospel lessons continue a discourse for some five Sundays in which Jesus calls himself “the Bread of life” in various connotations. As we are presently in the middle of Lectionary Year B of the three-year ABC cycle, this is how liturgists and musicians have coined the phrase “B is for Bread.”

Bread and water (or wine) are significant, life-giving symbols from the Old Testament, only to be picked up in the New Testament, specifically in the Gospels. These images culminate in the Eucharistic acts of Jesus at table with the apostles on Maundy Thursday evening.

John 6 seems to be the most thorough record of Jesus’ teachings about his divine identity by using these bread images: “I am the bread of life” (vs. 35), “I am the bread that came down from heaven” (vs. 41), “I am the living bread that came down from heaven” (vs. 51), “My flesh is food indeed and my blood is drink indeed” (vs. 55), “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me and I in them” (vs. 56), “The one who eats this bread will live forever” (vs. 58).

Fortunately, in the Anglican tradition we have a wealth of Eucharistic texts for anthems and hymnody, from the ancient text “Father, we thank thee who has planted” (Greek, ca. 110) to “Humbly I adore thee” (St. Thomas Aquinas, 13th cent.) and to the plethora of Eucharistic hymns written in the late 20th century.

This Sunday (Aug. 16) we are using two contemporary hymn texts from our hymnal supplement Wonder, Love, and Praise, both set to traditional, familiar tunes. “All who hunger gather gladly” was written by Sylvia Dunstan (1955-1993), a minister in the United Church of Canada whose hymn texts were shepherded and influenced by Sr. Miriam Therese Winter, the spiritualist and liturgist and pioneer of introducing the folk music style into the Roman Catholic liturgical tradition. Dunstan served as a minister, prison chaplain and liturgical resource editor. Sadly, she died with liver cancer, but left behind a thriving ministry that combines the needy and distraught with a love for liturgical worship.

Our closing hymn is one that is near and dear to my heart, as it is a text from one of the many published hymn and poetry collections of my liturgical mentor and thesis advisor at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music. Before being consecrated the Suffragan Bishop of Connecticut in 1987, and later serving as Bishop of the American Episcopal Convocation in Europe with the American Cathedral in Paris as the see city, Jeffrey Rowthorn (b. 1934) was professor and chapel minister of the Yale Divinity School and the Berkeley Divinity School, its Episcopal affiliate seminary.

This carefully constructed text sets up its format as a dialogue in each stanza between a statement (“Lord, you make the common holy”) and an actual quotation of Jesus (“This my body, this my blood”), each stanza finishing with the grand refrain, “With the Spirit’s gifts empower us for the work of ministry.” While this text is found in The Hymnal 1982 set to another tune with other optional tunes, this printing in Wonder, Love, and Praise to the tune Abbot’s Leigh is the “correct” tune, at least in Bishop Rowthorn’s mind; he grew up in Wales hearing this grand tune on weekly BBC Evensong broadcasts. As you sing these words, which build each time to the refrain, you will hear how the words fit Abbot’s Leigh like a glove.

Photo credit: “Pan asturiano” by Tamorlan – Photo taken by Tamorlan. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons 

Summer Inspirations: Singing in St. Louis

RSCM St Louis FPC Kirkwood

In addition to spending some time doing the things that fall by the wayside during the regular choir season, the summer months also afford church musicians time to attend continuing education conferences and workshops, opportunities to explore new music literature, gather new ideas, and greet friends old and new from whom we also glean new ideas. Last week I returned from my second continuing education opportunity this summer, the Royal School of Church Music (RSCM) Course in St. Louis, Missouri. The RSCM was founded in England in 1927 to operate a training college for church musicians and an association of affiliated churches who were “committed to maintaining high standards of church music.” The college operated until 1939, when most of its students were called up for military service. However, in 1945 the RSCM was reconstituted by command of HM King George VI. In its first 10 years, RSCM membership rose to 1,300 affiliates worldwide, and by 1952 more than 3,000 churches were affiliated.

In the 1980s, RSCM America formed as a separate organization, with its parent organization remaining the RSCM in England. RSCM America has more than 400 affiliated churches of many denominations and is represented in most states. Like its parent organization, RSCM America sponsors a number of training courses for children and adult singers each summer. This summer, RSCM America sponsored 10 training week-long courses, the St. Louis course being one. Memphis was well-represented in St. Louis this summer, with Kristin Lensch (organist/choirmaster of Calvary Church) serving as Treble Housemaster and Debbie Smith (assistant organist/choirmaster of Grace-St. Luke’s) serving as Adult Housemaster. Having served on the staff for a number of previous years, I was privileged to serve this time as the Adult Proctor (coordinator) in charge of afternoon workshops and adult social gatherings.

For those of us who love church music and love to sing, an RSCM course is a week-long feast of anthems, rehearsals and daily Choral Evensong, culminating in larger services at the end of the week. We arrive on Monday and spend the week perfecting glorious music; the week culminates with a Saturday evening Service of Lessons and Music for the Liturgical Year at First Presbyterian Church, Kirkwood, followed by singing the Sunday morning High Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. The RSCM Choir has sung at the Basilica for many years, and we were heartily welcomed during the liturgy a number times. One of the Auxiliary Bishops of the Archdiocese, our Celebrant for Mass that morning, even led the round of applause for the choir before the final blessing and recessional hymn.

One of the most important offerings to RSCM affiliates is the ability to use the Voice for Life choir training scheme. This scheme begins with training for young child singers and continues through adulthood, outlining the various aspects of service to the local church through its parish choirs. The training highlights music theory, music reading skills, good singing practices, and spiritual aspects of learning the worship traditions of the church and practicing personal discipleship through choir membership. We are reestablishing the Voice for Life training in our children’s music program at Church of the Holy Communion this fall with the hope of some of our own treble choristers attending the RSCM St. Louis Course in an upcoming summer. The benefits for children attending this course are tremendous, and I look forward to making this possible for our own children in the future.

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