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Music Notes, November 11, 2023

This Sunday we will celebrate the feast day of St. Martin of Tours, whom our church is named for. There are many stories about St. Martin that you will hear and they revolve around the themes of sacrifice and Servitude. The music for this service reflects this when we experience the presence of the Holy Spirit, the knowledge of Christ, and our service through God to those around us.


Our Processional hymn will be Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, written by German composer Joachim Neander in 1680. In his most well-known hymn he wrote: O my soul, praise him, for he is thy health and salvation: join the great throng, psaltery, organ, and song, sounding in glad adoration. Hymnologist John Julian declares this to be “a magnificent hymn of praise to God, perhaps the finest production of its author, and of the first rank in its class” (Dictionary of Hymnology). And indeed, this is a hymn that has stood the test of time (over 300 years) to remain one of the most beloved praise hymns in the Church. As we sing these words, we join with the voices, in many languages, of millions who have gone before us, and those across the globe, to sing these great words of thanksgiving and honor to the God who created us, protects us, and befriends us. (hymnary.org)


Our Sequence hymn has prolific words that define the theme of St. Martin’s life. O God of every nation was written by William W. Reid, Jr. in 1958. After graduating from Yale Divinity School, Reid served for more than 50 years as pastor in the Wyoming Conference of Methodist churches. He served during World War II in the Medical Corps and was held prisoner by the Germans for eight months. When Reid submitted this hymn text to a contest with the Dept. of International Affairs of the National Council of Churches, it won first place and was sung at the opening session of the Fifth World Order Study Conference in 1958. This hymn is a beautiful prayer for God’s shalom to reign over the whole world; for truth, love, and justice to preside over human affairs, and for an end to Warfare. The final stanza holds before us the vision of a new heaven and earth in which “Christ shall rule victorious.” (Psalter Hymnal Handbook, 1987, hymnary.org)


St. Martin’s Choir will sing a lovely arrangement of the Spiritual, In my Heart for the offertory. It was arranged by Alan Bullard (b. 1947), who grew up in London and has been writing music all his life. Many of his choral works are published by Oxford University Press and he is the editor of The Oxford Book of Flexible Anthems, which is where this song is found. The lovely melody is a tender arrangement of the children’s song: Lord, help me be a Christian in my heart; Lord, help me be more loving in my heart; Lord, help me be more prayerful in my heart; Lord, help me be like Jesus in my heart. (Oxford University Press 2017)


The Communion hymn is Lord, make us servants of your peace, written by Father James Quinn SJ (1919-2010), a Scottish priest who saw his hymn writing as an extension of his commitment to his Jesuit order. It is often attributed to the “Prayer of St. Francis”., and reflects the ways that we can help to bring about the Kingdom of God. (music.churchofscotland.org.uk)


Our final hymn will be I love to tell the story. It was written by Katherine Hankey (1834-1911) who taught Sunday School as a teenager and later traveled to South Africa as a nurse. While recovering from a serious illness herself in 1866, she wrote a lengthy poem on the life of Christ. In The Story Told, which is part two of the poem “The Old, Old Story” from which this hymn is taken, Hankey briefly summarizes the whole story of the Bible, from the Fall in Genesis 3 to Christ's birth, death, and resurrection to the “scenes of glory” in Revelation. This hymn is a good reminder that the story of God and God’s people throughout the ages is a focus for Christians. When we speak to others about the “good news” of the gospel, we can tell them “the old, old story of Jesus and His love.” (Hymnary.org)

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