Savior of the Nations, Come The HYMN OF THE DAY (332) is one of the most significant hymns in the history of the Church. The roots of the hymn are the Latin Veni, Redemptor Gentium by St. Ambrose (340-397), bishop of Milan.
The history of Western Christian hymns begins with Ambrose. He wrote catholic hymnody in opposition to Arian heresy (the belief that the Son was not equal to and eternal with the Father). Ambrose’s simple and beautiful hymns set forth the true faith with dignity, directness, and evangelical fervor.
Martin Luther (1483-1546) translated Veni, Redemptor Gentium into German as Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland. Luther prepared this hymn for Advent 1523, and it was included in two of the earliest Lutheran hymnals Eyn Enchiridion (Erfurt) and Geystliche Gesangk Büchleyn (Wittenberg). The tune was modified by Luther, based on the original plainsong chant tune.
The PRELUDE is one of the many settings of this tune by J.S. Bach (1685-1750). Today’s setting (BWV 661) features the melody in the pedal. This chorale prelude is from Bach’s Great Eighteen Chorale Preludes in Leipzig during the final decade of his service as kantor. They are one of the collections representing the pinnacle of Bach’s solo organ works.
Lift Up Your Heads, O You Gates The CHORAL VOLUNTARY is by Samuel Scheidt (1587-1654), one of the leading Lutheran musicians of the seventeenth century. His entire career was spent in the city of Halle, a leading cultural and commercial center with international contacts. His ancestors and their acquaintances were known for music, art, and organ building. He became organist at one of the town’s three churches at age 17. He studied with prominent Dutch musician Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck for two years in Amsterdam. In 1620, he became the Hofkapellmeister (“High Choirmaster”), which put him in charge of a skilled group of singers and instrumentalists.
In addition to an extensive collection of organ music, Scheidt composed a large number of choral works, largely in three categories:
- large concertos for multiple choirs;
- concertatos for a small number of voices or instruments.
The Thirty Years War (1618-1648) led to Scheidt’s compositions for smaller groups, as the war caused nobility to eliminate payment for musicians, and as plague and famine decimated the population, including four of the Scheidt’s seven children.
Scheidt is known as the “Father of German organ music” and is an influential musician in the transition from old to new, from the Renaissance to the Baroque periods.