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Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Abington crops up in the calendar here and previous years a good bit and that’s because it’s my church, Jackie is the Director of Music, and I volunteer, or am sometimes requested by same Director, to produce music for various services. I am happy when these opportunities arise, as they afford me twin advantages. They provide me with useful labor (one of the grand, unheralded purposes of life), and they provide me with useful education.

There is no school quite like the Thursday night choir rehearsal with 12 or 15 singers who, in spite of having many duties and cares with which to occupy their lives, nevertheless show up week after week to prepare music for the upcoming services. They carry with their various and wide-ranging musical abilities a willingness to perform correctly what is put before them. And they each carry one more item to every rehearsal: an hourglass, through which pour the sands of patience. Some hourglasses are small, some large, and each has a different rate of flow. But they each carry one, and the composer can only hope that if the top empties out, they are in the mood to turn it over.

This is the school that will reveal to you—more quickly and more efficiently than any other—the distance between your actual and your imagined compositional prowess.

We are hosting a brief service Wednesday, January 21st at 7 pm, an ecumenical Vespers in honor of the Year of St. Paul, with a Roman Catholic church from just down the road, Our Lady Help of Christians. After the Vespers will be an airing of the ongoing Lutheran and Catholic dialogue on justification. And after figuring that out, we’ll serve coffee (we are Lutheran, after all) and refreshments.

I’ve written a Magnificat for the Vespers, and again, church music confronts me with the task of composing something that must be grasped, not only in a small portion of one rehearsal by a choir, but immediately, in church, by the congregation. For this to be successful, as much as a composer can calculate success, the effect has to be almost instantaneous and worthwhile, as much as anyone can calculate worth.

Other than the Music Director, the responsibility for bringing this off rests on not one person who performs music for a living. Oh, there are a few singers in the choir who have training (from whence arises the sanguine descant), but everyone has chosen another line of work. The Cantor part will be taken by two girls, 11 and 13. I have been taken to school over and over again in these situations and (usually) enjoy the education. And you might not think so, but I can tell you it’s exciting, watching all those hourglasses.

Here’s a MIDI version, and the score. Took some doing to get it all on one page. Yes, I know about, and am quite fond of, the (double) direct fifths. Mind the repeats!


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