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Reflections from the Gloria Dei Choir

May 24, 2018

High and blessed Trinity,

May you be forever adored by us.

Glorious Trinity, marvelous unity,

You are savory manna

At all times desired.

Give to us, O eternal majesty,

Sempiternal (everlasting) deity,

The city that is supernal (celestial),

Clearly illuminated.

We believe, without fail,

Firmly, with hope,

Three persons, one substance,

By the saints venerated.

 

On this feast day of the Most Holy Trinity, we celebrate with “Alta Trinita beata,” sung in both the original Italian and an English translation. The original melody is from the 13th century and was harmonized within the next hundred years. The composers of both this melody and its harmonization are anonymous, which was a common occurrence in that era, especially in the church. Those who wrote sacred music in the early church felt the inspiration came from God and they were unworthy to claim it as their own creation. This particular arrangement came from the Florence Laudario, a collection of ninety-seven medieval Italian lauda melodies, or songs of praise. As this song is from the medieval era, we are using instruments that are close to those used in the original time it was performed, including a penny-whistle flute, played by choir member Jilana Rose-Silverberg, and the hand drum.

The second anthem sung by the choir this morning is a grand and rousing arrangement of “The Old Hundredth Psalm Tune” by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958), composed for the Coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. The text is based on Psalm 100 – hence the title “Old Hundredth” – and the original hymn, written by puritan William Keith during the reign of Mary Tudor in the 1500s and set to a tune by Louis Bourgeois, has been popular since it was first written. This is a song of praise that celebrates the trinity (ending with “To Father Son and Holy Ghost”), and the blessings we praise the Lord for throughout the song are echoed in the first reading today. In particular, the fourth verse, which borrows its harmonization from Renaissance lutenist and composer John Dowland, parallels the text from Deuteronomy. The verse says: “For why the Lord our God is good: His mercy is forever sure; His truth at all times firmly stood, and shall from age to age endure,” and the words of Moses in the first reading seem to answer, “This is why you must now know, and fix in your heart that the Lord is God in the heavens above and on earth below, and that there is no other.”

 

-- Lorraine Joy Welling

Interim Director, Gloria Dei Choir

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