Monday, December 10, 2018

Unparalleled Lessons & Carols resource

In doing background research for the Lessons & Carols service at my daughter’s church, I found a unique resource: a website with a database of various Lessons & Carols services:

spreadsheets - carol service, FAQ

Frequently asked questions about's Carol Service Spreadsheets

Compiled by by Episcopal Church organist David Sinden, the website includes links to Google spreadsheets with
The Scripture lessons for SJC are more specific than for KCC. However, the hymns, anthems and the voluntary (postludes) appear to be complete for both. For example, the SJC Advent service always includes these four congregational carols:
  1. O come, O come, Emmanuel
  2. Come, thou long-expected Jesus
  3. On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry
  4. Lo! he comes clouds descending
Similarly, in the past 20 years, KCC has always performed
  • Once in Royal David’s City
  • (nine lessons and various musical pieces)
  • O Come All ye Faithful
  • Hark! the herald-angels sing
The databases don’t seem to list the tune. Perhaps some of that is redundant: globally, “Lo! he comes” has at least three commonly used tunes,  but I’m guessing the English choirs always use Helmsley (as does their bible, the New English Hymnal). We also know that unlike this side of the Atlantic, the English never use St. Louis when they sing “O Little town of Bethlehem.”

For KCC, it does distinguish how the choir has alternated between the Ord, Ledger, Warlock and (recently) Howard versions of “Adam lay ybounden.” Overall, it provides an extremely valuable resource for anyone planning an Anglican Lessons & Carols service.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

George Bush's Houston Funeral

If Wednesday’s state funeral was a quasi-government event and (consistent with other presidents) a nationally televised spectacle, it appears that today’s invitation-only service for President Bush in Houston was a cross between a traditional funeral service (at a 1500-seat Gothic-style church) and a country music concert.

The service at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church — the largest by membership of any in North America — was officiated by Rev. Dr. Russell Levenson, Jr. The rector of SMEC since 2007, Levenson also officiated the service for Barbara Bush held here on April 21, and gave the homily at President Bush's D.C. funeral yesterday.

The program is posted to the church website and summarized on the ATWNews site. Among other TV stations, the funeral was broadcast live on the website of Houston station CW69 (and also available on C-SPAN).

Funeral Music

While the D.C. funeral was Rite II, today’s Houston funeral was Rite I. Below is a summary of the music by the congregation and the St. Martin’s choir; as with other SMEC service booklets, the full hymns with harmony are included in the appendices. The worship music comprised
  • Preludes
  • Brass voluntary: “America the Beautiful”
  • “O Beautiful for Spacious Skies” (H82: 719)
  • Anthem: “This is my Country” (choir)
  • Lessons: Psalm 23, 1 Cor 12:31-13:13, John 11:21-27
  • Sequence Hymn: “Eternal Father, Strong to Save”: rather than the H40 or H82 version, this is the version from Baptist Hymnal 1991 (“Eternal father, strong to save, Whose arm doth bind the restless wave”)
  • Anthem: “Battle Hymn of the Republic” (choir)
  • Recession Hymn: “Onward, Christian Soldiers” (H82: 562), announced by Fr. Levenson to be one of the late president’s favorites
  • Organ and Brass Voluntary: Widor “Toccata”
I’ve twice attended services at St. Martin’s and even under normal circumstances the choir is impressive as their voices echo through the resonant spaces of the poured-concrete Gothic structure. However, today’s augmented choir (which appeared to more than 50) must have offered an unmatched experience for those attending. I thought the choir’s talents were best demonstrated in the Battle Hymn, with an arrangement that separated the men and women’s choir and included an a capella verse.

While the front of the church was filled with VIPs, it appeared as though in the back rows of the parish were filled with parishioners who opened their 12-page booklets and sang the closing hymn. At least among those in the front rows, nobody crossed themselves during the Apostle’s Creed (in a normal service, my experience was 5-10%).

The Concert

During the middle of the service, there was a country-western music concert by some of the late president’s favorite entertainers. Having been on funeral standby for weeks, The Oak Ridge Boys sang three voices of “Amazing Grace”, as they had for the president’s 1989 inauguration and several other occasions. However, at ages 70,75,75,and 79 (rather than in their 40s), their singing was not what it used to be.

This was followed by Reba McEntire singing a version of the Lord’s Prayer. She paced across the stage chancel while singing.

My daughter and I were surprised to see the scattered applause after the first performance (including by Jeb Bush). The decision by some to applaud seemed to give permission for everyone (including former president Bush-43) to applaud the second performance. The later choir performances were also applauded.

Heading to the Burial

When the service was over, the casket was taken outside and loaded into the hearse while the family and a select group of St. Martin’s clergy participated in the final part of the service.
The military band played the customary flourishes and Hail to the Chief. Then it played Lobe den Herren, the tune for the Lutheran hymn “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!” by Joachim Neander.

The former president was buried at his library at Texas A&M. When the service was ended, the casket was loaded into a hearse to take it to a special Union Pacific train traveling from Houston to College Station.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Remember our last Episcopalian president

Today was the first of two funerals for George H.W. Bush (1924-2018), the 41st president whose term of office ran from 1989-1993. He was the last surviving World War II veteran to serve as president or vice president.

The 26 page service booklet for the funeral was posted by the National Cathedral and is also available here. Their 3:26 video is on YouTube while C-SPAN has a 2:26 video as well. (When the casket is being carried into the cathedral, the US Coast Guard band plays “For all the saints” at 15 minutes into C-SPAN and 1:14 into the cathedral video.) The latter has some interesting preludes (by the head organist of a Dallas Episcopal church) but the military orchestra and chorus spent more than 40 minutes on pieces that (other than America the Beautiful at the very end) I didn’t recognize.

Funeral Hymns

The liturgy was “Burial II” from the 1979 prayer book. The psalm was omitted, while the Scripture readings (from the NRSV) were Isaiah 60:1-5,18-20 and Revelation 20:1-4,6-7,23-25 (read by granddaughters) and Matthew 5:14-16 (read by the cathedral dean). The homily was by Bush's rector, Rev. Russell Levenson, Jr., who officiated the April funeral service in Houston for Barbara Bush.

It’s difficult to characterize a three hour service, so let me list the hymns:
  • "Praise my soul, the King of heaven,” 4 verses sung (in harmony) by the congregation, cathedral choir and Armed Forces Chorus
  • After the first lesson, “The King of love my shepherd is,” 6 verses by cathedral choir
  • Gospel hymn: “O god, our help in ages past,” 6 verses by military choir
  • Lord’s Prayer: the two choirs and Irish tenor Ronan Tynan
  • Before the commendation: “Eternal Father,” (the Navy version) 4 verses by the military choir for Mr. Bush (LTJG, USN, 1942-1945)
  • After the dismissal: “For all the saints,” 8 verses (unison) by all
CCM pop star Michael W. Smith also did a solo (backed by both choirs) of one of his pieces (“Friends”).

The Bush family sat on one side and the former presidents on another. During “Praise my soul,” Pres. Clinton sang the most enthusiastically, Pres. Obama next, and Mrs. Clinton sang portions; the video suggested that neither of the Carters (ages 94, 91) and the Trumps attempted to sing, nor did Mrs. Obama. On the Bush side, almost all of the children and grandchildren seemed to be singing (and some of the in-laws).

Monday's Ceremony

As is normal for a former president, Bush’s casket lay in state at the Capitol Rotunda before the funeral. When watching the ceremony Monday afternoon for the arrival of the casket, I heard three hymns played by the military band:
  • 4:28pm EST: The Navy hymn (while waiting for the casket to arrive)
  • 4:50pm EST: after Hail to the chief, the band alternated between the hymns “Fairest, Lord Jesus” and “A mighty fortress is our God” as the casket was carried up the steps
Since the latter is Martin Luther’s most famous hymn, I tend to associate it with Lutherans but I keep running into other Protestants who admire its statement of the Christian doctrine.

Update (Friday Dec 7): Bush's Pastor Describes His Faith

There were two GetReligion stories on Thursday and Friday by (and a Issues Etc. interview with) former Episcopalian GR editor Terry Mattingly, who quoted two reports on the sermon by Rev. Levenson. The first story points to a report by the New York Times which said
“My hunch is heaven, as perfect as it must be, just got a bit kinder and gentler,” the Rev. Dr. Russell J. Levenson Jr., rector of St. Martin’s, said on Wednesday in his homily. Turning to the coffin, he said: “Mr. President, mission complete. Well done, good and faithful servant. Welcome to your eternal home, where ceiling and visibility are unlimited and life goes on forever.”
When the casket arrived at the Rotunda Monday, I heard Vice President Pence explain that “ceiling and visibility unlimited” was a favorite phrase of the former naval aviator.

The later story quotes a Religion News Service story that says about the late president what any Christian would hope could be said about them
The Rev. Russell Levenson Jr., rector of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, said the elder Bush made Levenson’s job as his pastor for almost a dozen years an easy one because of the late president’s concern more for others than for himself.
“Jesus Christ, for George Bush, was at the heart of his faith, but his was a deep faith, a generous faith, a simple faith in the best sense of the word,” said Levenson in his homily. “He knew and lived Jesus’ two greatest commandments: to love God and to love your neighbor.”

Legacies of the English State Church

This state funeral was unusual in that it was for an Episcopalian at the cathedral church of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington. The National Cathedral also host state funerals for other Christians, as it did with the 2004 funeral for Ronald Reagan (a Presbyterian) — just as Westminster Abbey did a 2013 state funeral for Lady Thatcher (a Methodist).

Bush was the last living Episcopalian president, marking the end of a run of 11 Episcopalian presidents out of the first 41. Three were founding fathers, five were among the 13 presidents from 1841-1885, and Bush was the last of the three in 20th century (that included F.D. Roosevelt and Gerald Ford).

When will the next Episcopalian become president? One proxy is the U.S. senate.

As the DC saying goes, “every senator thinks they should be president” (although in the past century, only Harding, Kennedy and Obama were senators when elected president). In today’s senate, there are only four Episcopalians (all Democrats), outnumbered by Lutherans and Mormons (6), Jews (7), Methodists and Baptists (11), Presbyterians (16) and Catholics (24). According to Wikipedia (and we all know how true it is),  Catholics are 21% of the country and Baptists 15%. The senators most visibly preening for a presidential run in 2020 or 2024 seem to be Baptist or Catholic.

I don’t expect to see another Episcopalian president in the next 30 years, as their influence has fallen dramatically. Some of it is the dilution of the English influence on America with generations of immigration; some is the shift of the American aristocracy from inherited status and wealth to one based on education. Some of it reflects the declining membership of mainline Protestantism, and Christianity more generally.

After G.H.W. Bush, there don’t seem to be a lot of prominent Republican officials who are Episcopalian. His eldest son, George W. (aka “Bush 43”) was raised Episcopalian, fell away from the church and later became a Methodist; second son, former governor and 2016 presidential candidate Jeb Bush converted to Catholicism in 1995.

As for Anglicans, 2016 presidential candidate John Kasich (governor of Ohio from 2011-2019) was raised Catholic, previously Episcopalian, and most recently reported to be attending an ACNA church. However, he would have to be considered a longshot candidate for president unless (like Bush, Ford, Nixon, Johnson, Truman, Coolidge) he was elected vice president first.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Advent Lessons & Carols in Cambridge

The Chapel of St. John’s College at Cambridge University is broadcasting its Advent Lessons & Carols service today at 3pm GMT on the BBC series of Choral Evensong. The 90 minute service was recorded during worship Nov 27 and 28.

Less well known than its sister King’s College Cambridge, the SJC choir dates to 1670 and sings the daily offices every day but Monday in the chapel.

This Year's Service at St. John’s, Cambridge

Here is the program announced on the BBC website (also available as a PDF on the SJC choir website):
Carol: Adam lay ybounden (Ord)†
Processional Hymn: O come, O come, Emmanuel! (Veni Emmanuel) (descant: David Hill)†
Bidding Prayer
Carol: E’en so, Lord Jesus, quickly come (Manz)

I The Message of Advent
Sentence and Collect
Antiphons: O Sapientia and O Adonai
First lesson: Isaiah 11 vv.1-5
Carol: Tomorrow shall be my dancing day (James Burton)†
Second lesson: 1 Thessalonians 5 vv.1-11
Sacred Song: Einklang (Wolf)

II The Word of God
Sentence and Collect
Antiphons: O Radix Jesse and O Clavis David
Aria: Ach, so lass von mir dich finden, TVWV 1:1657a (Telemann)
Third lesson: Micah 4 vv.1-4
Carol: The Linden Tree Carol (Trad, arr. Jacques)†
Fourth lesson: Luke 4 vv.14-21
Hymn: Come, thou long-expected Jesus (Cross of Jesus) (descant: Christopher Robinson)

III The Prophetic Call
Sentence and Collect
Antiphons: O Oriens and O Rex Gentium
Carol: A Prayer to St John the Baptist (Cecilia McDowall)
Fifth lesson: Malachi 3 vv.1-7
Carol: Vox clara ecce intonat (Gabriel Jackson)
Sixth lesson: Matthew 3 vv.1-11
Hymn: On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry (Winchester New) (descant: Christopher Robinson)

IV The God-Bearer 
Sentence and Collect
Antiphon: O Emmanuel
Carol: There is no rose (Elizabeth Maconchy)†
Seventh lesson: Luke 1 vv.39-49
Carol: Bogoroditse Dyevo (Arvo Part)
Carol: A Spotless Rose (Howells)†
Magnificat: Watson in E
Eighth lesson: John 3 vv.1-8
Sentence and Christmas Collect
Carol: Noe, noe (David Bednall)
Hymn: Lo! he comes with clouds descending (Helmsley) (descant: Christopher Robinson)
College Prayer and Blessing
Organ Voluntary: Chorale Prelude on ‘Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland’, BWV 661 (Bach)
As there are Nike and Adidas teams, this is not an Oxford Book of Descants choir — no Cleobury (or even Willcox) descants here. Instead, three of the four descants are by Christopher Robinson, editor of the Novello Book of Descants.

Advent: Not Just a Christmas Prequel

Many music directors and churchgoers know the KCC Christmas Eve service, broadcast annually on the BBC. It list of lessons are codified in the 2007 book on the KCC tradition, and least four other published books.

Instead, SJC is doing its Lessons & Carols on Advent 1. Right now I'm helping support my daughter’s church planning an Advent L&C service, so I'm becoming more aware of the differences, which include:
  • Different lessons: only one lesson overlaps the KCC (Isa 11:1). One could argue that the John the Baptist (Matt 3) is equivalent to one of the OT lessons at KCC, but clearly these lessons downplay the “baby Jesus is coming” and add the “Christ will come again” eschatological sense of Advent.
  • Different music: no baby Jesus songs, lots more Advent songs (4 explicitly about Jesus coming). Of the 14 carols or hymns, only 5 overlap (according to my files) the KCC choices from 1997-2017
IMHO a service on Advent 4 (particularly the evening of Dec 23, as in this year) would be almost indistinguishable from Christmas Eve. For their (our) Advent 3 service, there isn’t baby Jesus — except that (in a nod to the KCC tradition) they are opening with “Once in Royal David’s City.” (I’d argue this choice is more defensible than other Christmast hymns, because this one is clearly in the past tense, while “Hark the Herald Angels” and others are in the present tense.)


William Pearson Edwards, The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols: As Celebrated on Christmas Eve in the Chapel of King's College, Cambridge (Rizzoli International, 2007)

Julian Elloway, ed., The Oxford Book of Descants (Oxford: Oxford, 2012)

Christopher Robinson, ed., The Novello Book of Descants (London: Novello, 2007)

Friday, November 30, 2018

St. Paul's remembers The Fallen

To mark the centenary of WW I, on Nov. 7 St. Paul’s Cathedral broadcast a live evensong service as part the incomparable BBC Radio 3 series of Choral Evensong. As with all broadcasts, it will be available for a month (i.e. until Dec 11) and then never again.

The program included one English composer who died in the Great War:
Introit: When you see the millions of the mouthless dead (Macmillan)
Responses: Radcliffe
Psalm 85 (Hemmings) 
First Lesson: Isaiah 57 vv.15-19
Canticles: William Denis Browne in A
Second Lesson: John 15 vv.9-17
Anthems: Lord, let me know mine end (Parry); For the fallen (Blatchly)
Hymn: O God our help in ages past (St Anne)
Voluntary: Chorale Fantasia on ‘O God our Help' (Parry)
Andrew Carwood (Director of Music)
Simon Johnson (Organist)
These composers (all English except for the Scottish MacMillan):
The service was not from the (1662) Book of Common Prayer, so presumably it was from the contemporary language Common Worship (2000).

The BBC series broadcasts confirm what is customary for a cathedral evensong: the only piece sung by the congregation is the closing hymn. In this case, it was all six verses of  “O God our help in ages past” (1719) by Isaac Watts with an earlier tune believed composed by William Croft.