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Reflections from the Gloria Dei Choir

Zion hears the watchmen’s voices,

With gladness all her heart rejoices,

She eager waits to greet the day.

See, her Lord from heaven descending

With grace and truth and power unending,

Her daystar dawns with brightest ray.

O come, thou blessed One,

 

Lord Jesu, God’s own Son,

Hosanna! We follow there

Thy feast to share,

And taste the joy beyond compare.

 

Glory now to God we render,

Who reigns on high in heavenly splendour;

Let every toungue in praise unite.

Lo, we enter heaven’s bright portal

To join the song of saints immortal

With angels round thy throne of light.

No mortal joy can e’er

With heaven’s true bliss compare;

Alleluia! Rejoice below, io, io!

Sing out in dulci jubilo!

 

Our first reading today exclaims, “Shout for Joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel!” Our Psalm echoes, “Shout with exultation, O city of Zion!” Hence, the first anthem the choir presents this morning is “Zion hört die Wächter singen” or “Zion hears the watchmen’s voices,” from the great “Wachet auf, ruft uns die stimme” Cantata 150 by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). The literal translation of the first words of the name of the cantata in the original German are, “Wake up!” – A good message for Advent as we prepare for the coming of Christ at Christmas. The lyrical melody played by the organ at the beginning of the piece is instantly recognizable as one of Bach’s most famous and beautiful melodic passages, and when the choir comes in, it is unison, playing a supportive role to the organ and not the other way around. The final movement, “Gloria sei dir gesungen” (“Glory be sung to you”) is the full Bach chorale, expanding the melody into four-part harmonies, and is also the finale of the full Cantata.

Our second anthem also employs the organ as melodic instrument in a solo that begins an arrangement of “The King Shall Come When Morning Dawns” by David N. Johnson (1922-1987), who was an American organist, composer, and educator. A familiar hymn, the text goes from the anticipation of Christ coming as a child through his death and resurrection, and in this arrangement, the choir begins very quiet and sings in unison, then adds harmonies in the background without words, and finally builds to forte when we describe the resurrection. When we return to the original text, “The King shall come,” it is triumphant with the confidence of knowing that our Savior did come, that our Savior is Lord, and that He is King of Kings. We then return to the calm and peaceful sound of the solo melody on the organ.

 

-- Lorraine Joy Welling

Director, Gloria Dei Choir

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