This Sunday’s Music for Meditation is a colorful setting of the famous Epiphany hymn, “We Three Kings of Orient Are,” by June Nixon. One of Australia’s best-known organists, choir directors and composers, June Nixon served from 1973-2013 as Organist and Director of Music at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Melbourne. Her setting of “The Holly and the Ivy,” for choir and organ, was included in the Nine Lessons and Carols services from King’s College, Cambridge in 2010 and 2017.

The offertory selection for this week is a delightful setting of the famous Lutheran hymn “How Brightly Shines the Morning Star.” The composer, Paul Manz (1919-2009), is quite possibly the most famous American Lutheran church musician of the 20th century; he served as Organist and Director of Music for Mt. Olive Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, MN for many years. His well-known choral motet “E’en So, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come” is a staple of the Advent choral repertory.

For the postlude this Sunday, we hear a setting of the Lutheran hymn “In Thee is Gladness” (“In dir ist Freude”) by Johann Sebastian Bach. This piece is part of a collection called Orgelb├╝chlein (Little Organ Book), which consists of 45 organ chorale settings arranged according to the liturgical year. “In dir ist Freude” is one of two chorales in the collection that are traditionally sung on the first Sunday of the New Year; it is very festive, with a repeating fanfare-like motive in the pedals throughout.

As many readers of this blog know, in addition to my being Organist here First Baptist, I am also Artist in Residence for Christ Church (Episcopal) in Greenville. In that role, I play for a series of Sunday afternoon special services during the year, as well as for the church’s 10:30 p.m. Festival Eucharist on Christmas Eve. During 2023-24, Christ Church’s Sunday afternoon services (which begin at 5 p.m. and are about an hour in length) are Choral Evensong (sung Evening Prayer, on the first Sundays of February, March and May) and Lessons and Carols (for Epiphany, this coming Sunday, January 7th, and for Easter, on Sunday, April 7th). Evensong and Lessons and Carols are two of the most famous Anglican/Episcopal liturgies (Lessons and Carols in particular is widely known, due to the King’s College, Cambridge Lessons and Carols service broadcast worldwide on Christmas Eve). Both services are very accessible and colorful, and feature scripture readings, congregational hymns, choir anthems and canticles, and organ music. Here is a link to this coming Sunday’s Service of Lessons and Carols for Epiphany (below); FBG members are cordially invited to attend!

– Charles

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