Sunday, April 7, 2024

Music for Gathering: “Lift Your Voice Rejoicing, Mary” – setting by Wilbur Held (1914-2015)

The American church musician and composer Wilbur Held, who died at the age of 100 in 2015, wrote this organ setting of a lovely Easter hymn that deserves to be more widely known. The tune for this hymn was composed by Thomas Foster, the long-time Director of Music at All Saints Episcopal Church in Beverly Hills, CA. Foster named the tune “Fisk of Gloucester” in honor of the eminent American organbuilder Charles B. Fisk; the Fisk firm built the Hartness Organ at Furman University’s Daniel Chapel.

The complete text of the hymn is as follows:

Lift your voice rejoicing, Mary, Christ has risen from the tomb;
on the cross a suffering victim, now as victor he is come.
Whom your tears in death were mourning, welcome with your smiles returning.
Let your alleluias rise!

Raise your weary eyelids, Mary, see him living evermore;
see his countenance, how gracious, see the wounds for you he bore.
All the glory of the morning pales before those wounds redeeming.
Let your alleluias rise!

Life is yours forever, Mary, for your light is come once more
and the strength of death is broken; now your songs of joy outpour.
Ended now the night of sorrow, love has brought the blessed morrow.
Let your alleluias rise!
-Latin, tr. Elizabeth Charles (1828-1896)

Offertory: Meditation on “O filii et filiae” (“O Sons and Daughters”) – setting by Dénis Bedard (b. 1950)

The Gospel lesson for the Sunday after Easter is traditionally the story of Jesus’ first appearance to the disciples, and of how Thomas overcame his doubts about Christ’s resurrection and proclaimed him “my Lord and my God!” The hymn “O Sons and Daughters of the King,” attributed to the French author Jean Tisserand (15th century), is a narrative poem which begins with the Resurrection itself, and continues in subsequent verses to Jesus’ appearing to the disciples and Thomas’s acknowledgement of him. The melody associated with this hymn text comes from a French collection of the seventeenth century. The French-Canadian organist and composer Dénis Bedard wrote this quiet, meditative setting that utilizes portions of the O filii et filiae melody.

-Charles Tompkins

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