Music at Trinity Parish
(Communion for Palm Sunday, 20 March 2016)
Welcome to a new endeavor for Trinity Parish online! This spring we began recording the entirety of Sunday worship with the express aim of picking up the music that we sing in order to share some of it with our wider community. For technical reasons, including copyright, we are unable to post everything, but our hope is this will give you a taste of what we listen to and participate in week to week.
Our first offering comes from Communion on the Feast of Palm Sunday. The choir motet is by 20th century composer Hugo Distler (1908–1942), from Der Jahrkreis, a collection of works for two or three voices spanning the liturgical year and expressly written for use in church services. The text is a familiar one to Anglicans, having been memorably set by John Stainer in his oratorio The Crucifixion: “God so loved the world”.
Distler is a complicated figure in the eyes of post-World War II history. While he does not seem to have had sympathy with the extreme ideology of Hitler et al., he did join the NSDAP in 1933 in order to be able to continue his work as a professional musician under the new regime. His passion for church music was a source of friction for him in the political environment, and he seems to have struggled a great deal, at least internally. In the midst of the war years, fear of conscription is most commonly cited as Distler’s reason for taking his own life, which he did with “a Bible in hand and a brass cross in the other…”*
The music is simple and direct. Distler worked in the context of the Lutheran church, home to the tremendous musical heritage of J. S. Bach and many others, as well a body of hymn tunes still etched in western classical music. The sombre and heavy melodic lines of this motet, however, are original, and give way in the end to an “Amen” set in the much more hopeful and serene pentatonic mode.
Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt Therefore God so loved the world
Daß er seinen eingebornen Sohn gab, that he gave his only son,
Auf daß alle, die an ihm glauben, that all who believe in him
Nicht verloren gehen, should not perish,
Sondern das ewige Leben haben. but have eternal life.
*Palmer, Larry, Hugo Distler and His Church Music, St. Louis: Concordia Pub. House, 1967, p. 71. This quote and other biographical material found in Pierson, Brad, Hugo Distler (1908–1942): Recontextualizing Distler’s Music for Performance in the Twenty-first Century, University of Washington, 2014.