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Music for Ascension Day

Up Through Endless Ranks of Angels   The PRELUDE is a setting of this modern Ascension hymn text (491) by Jaroslav Vajda (1919-2008) and tune by Henry V. Gerike (b. 1948).  The setting is a six-movement partita by Robert Hobby (b. 1962), who serves as director of music at Trinity English Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne.

  1. Theme
  2. Ground Bass: Pedal repeats a motif based on the opening phrase of the hymn throughout while the manuals softly play the hymn tune.
  3. Bicinium: (“two parts”) Melody alternates between right and left hand while the other hand plays a counter melody.
  4. Sicilienne: slow movement in 6/8 time with lilting rhythms.
  5. Canon: This movement has the melody in a round between the right hand and the pedal two measures later. This interesting movement begins with the melody in the pedal beginning a fifth higher (on an A).
  6. Toccata: Quick moving patterns on the manuals while the melody is played in long notes in the pedal.

In like manner this same Jesus shall so come.   The setting of the INTROIT is by Lucas Lossius (1508-1582).  While a student in Wittenberg, Lossius met Martin Luther and Philipp Melanchthon.  After completing his studies, he became a teacher and rector at the school in Lüneberg, where he served for almost fifty years until his death.  He was the cantor responsible for liturgical music in the church and school.

Among his publications contributing to theological and musical scholarship in the Lutheran church was his Psalmodia hoc est Cantica sacra veleris ecclesiae selecta.  With a preface by Melanchthon, the work has four parts: 1- Latin texts and plainsong (Gregorian chant) of the antiphons, responsories, hymns, and sequences for Sundays and festivals; 2- the same for minor feasts; 3- chant settings for the Divine Service and funerals; 4- Psalms and canticles with antiphons according to the eight Gregorian tones.  It was published in Nuremberg in 1553, with subsequent revisions.

The Psalmodia… is a combination of two genres of medieval liturgical chant books: the Gradual (musical items for the Mass) and the Antiphonale (musical items for the Divine Office).  Lossius’ work is significant because it prepared the ancient Gregorian chant for use in the Evangelical-Lutheran Church, free from medieval theological error and true to the style of the church catholic.

 

By Our Mighty Lord’s Ascension, We by faith behold our own.   The HYMN OF THE DAY, “See, the Lord Ascends in Triumph” (494) brings together various Old Testament types of Christ: Enoch, Aaron, Joshua, and Elijah.  John Julian, editor of A Dictionary of Hymnology, writes: “The amount of Holy Scripture compressed into these forty lines is wonderful.  Prophesy, types, historical facts, doctrinal teaching, ecstatic praise, all are here; and the result is one grand rush of holy song.”

Author Christopher Wordsworth (1807-1885) was a priest and bishop in the Church of England, and nephew of poet laureate William Wordsworth.  Gifted in writing, he wrote The Holy Year, a collection of hymns for seasons and Sundays of the liturgical year. He said that it should be “the first duty of a hymn-writer to teach sound doctrine, and thus to save souls.”  He strove to write hymns that were grounded in the Holy Scriptures, in the writings of Christian antiquity, and in the poetry of the ancient church.  He wrote around 125 hymns.

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