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Anglican Tidbit: Music of the Episcopal Church

Word WST-9001-LP (1958)

There was a time when the “music of the Episcopal Church” was a very definite quantity with a very distinct sound. As the sleeve notes point out:

“The Anglican Communion (which includes the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America) draws its music from many sources including the great medieval plainsong hymns, the chorales of the Lutheran Church, and the hymns of Wesley and Methodism. This record, however, is concerned only with music which is peculiar to the Anglican Communion from the time of the English Reformation onwards. It represents an almost unbroken evolution in musical style from the Tudor composers to the present day and if the 18th and 19th centuries seem to be sparsely represented, it is because at the Cathedral the emphasis is upon 16th and 17th century music and 20th century music, with the occasional use of what is felt to be best in the centuries in between.”

So what we have here is a slice of that sound. It reminds one of the afternoon performances that high churches would put on outside of the liturgy, it’s almost more of a specialty classical music concert than a church event. Some of the music is performed a capella, others with the accompaniment of the organ. The Gloria Patri gets a workout in this production, although that’s true of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer worship in general. I would be less than honest to admit that it’s not my favourite, but in the genre it is very well done.

Note on the record label: it’s put out by Word, the Gospel music label from Waco, Texas, complete with the “Bible and sword” logo. I suppose that, once the Episcopal snobs figured out what that was all about, they made some changes, for although the Cathedral’s 1964 “Once in Royal David’s City” album was put out by Word, no evidence of that is on the cover!

The songs:

  1. O Lux Beata Trinitas Composed By – Robert Fayrfax
    1. Praise Ye The Lord Ye Children Composed By – Christopher Tye
    2. Nunc Dimittis From The ‘Short Service’ Composed By – William Byrd
    3. Fauxbourdons To The Magnificat Composed By – Thomas Morley
    4. Thou Knowest, Lord, The Secrets Of Our Hearts Composed By – Henry Purcell
    5. The Sacrifice Of God Is A Troubled Spirit Composed By – Maurice Greene
    6. (2) Psalm 23 Composed By – John Goss
    7. Nunc Dimittis From The Service In B Flat Composed By – Charles Villiers Stanford
    8. Oculi Omnium Composed By – Charles Wood
    9. (4) Oh How Amiable Are Thy Dwellings Composed By – Ralph Vaughan Williams
    10. Sanctus and Benedictus From The ‘Missa Cantauriensis’ Composed By – Edmund Rubbra
    11. The Nicene Creed Composed By – Alec Wyton
    12. Benedictus Es Domine In B Flat Composed By – Leo Sowerby

The sleeve notes describe the performers:

“Alec Wyton has been organist and master of the choristers at the Cathedral and headmaster of the Choir School since 1954. He studied in England at the Royal Academy of Music and at Exeter College, Oxford, and became organist of St. Matthew’s Church, Northampton, England after which he was appointed to Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis immediately preceding his appointment to New York. He is a member of the faculty of Union Theological Seminary in New York and the National Executive and Examination Committees of the American Guild of Organists.

The choir consist of 40 boys and 18 men. The boys live in the resident Cathedral Choir School on the Close of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine where they are educated on a scholarship basis in return for their singing. They sing the Daily Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer, with a Eucharist on Saints’ Days and Sundays, on every day of the week excepting Monday. Their repertoire includes every school of composition used in the Church from plainsong to the music of contemporary composers.”


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