This coming Sunday, as well any other I hope, demonstrates how music contributes to the rich variety of worship that is possible in a liturgical setting. When I planned the music this past summer for what I guessed would be a gray, cold November day, I didn’t really think about wanting to show two ends of a beautiful music spectrum. But I’m glad it does, because I’d like to think it represents not only who I am, but what this place and the Episcopal Church are all about.
I had the good fortune to visit Argentina this past August and experienced some of the musical traditions that make not only tango such a potent part of that country’s culture, but also the older, indigenous folk traditions that inform the music of Ariel Ramirez, composer of Misa Criolla, which will be sung during the 9:15 service at St. Alban’s. It’s one of the first mass settings not written in Latin, composed shortly after the reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the early 1960’s, and incorporates the rhythms and instruments from different regions of Argentina.
More recent news, and much older music, is involved when celebrating the 2006 inclusion of 16th and early 17th century composers William Byrd, Thomas Tallis and John Merbecke on the Episcopal Church’s liturgical calendar with a commemoration on November 21 of these three rock stars in the Anglican musical tradition. Their music will be sung during the 11:15 service at St. Alban’s this Sunday. All three composed in a world that veered between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism and back again. These were treacherous times and it is as much a testament to their political savvy as to their creativity that they were able to flourish as composers for the Church of England.
With both Misa Criolla and the traditional Anglican music of Byrd, Tallis and Merbecke we are immediately connected to other times and places. All of this music has its own kind of beauty, and all of it ultimately reminds us that the joy of connecting with other times and places is really the joy of connecting with God.
I have been carrying with me since last Friday’s attacks on Paris a poignant memory from this past July, when a choir from St. Alban’s went to France. During a dinner in Paris one evening, musicians were entertaining us with show tunes while choir members sang along. We then requested two songs which we wanted to sing for them – America the Beautiful and La Marseillaise. A surprising number of choir members knew the French words and it was an emotional moment for everyone in the restaurant that night. Vive la France. Long live our connections to other times and places and people.
A Collect for November 21
O God most glorious, whose praises are sung night and day by your saints and angels in heaven: We give you thanks for William Byrd, John Merbecke and Thomas Tallis [and Ariel Ramirez] whose music has enriched the praise that your Church offers you here on earth. Grant, we pray, to all who are touched by the power of music such glimpses of eternity that we may be made ready to join your saints in heaven and behold your glory unveiled for evermore; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.