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Saturday, November 03, 2007

Missa Sancta Elizabetha

Okay, I'll admit it. I'm pretty excited.

Tomorrow, All Saints' Sunday, is the debut of the Missa Sancta Elizabetha.

It is a special mass setting which was written by David Charles Walker, an Episcopal Priest and composer, two of whose hymns tunes are published in THE HYMNAL 1982.

He wrote this Rite II setting in 1982 for a small parish near San Diego - St. Elizabeth's Chula Vista. It was written with congregational ease and accessibility in mind, and the organ accompaniment adds interest to the simplicity of the voice part.

Of the six fixed parts of the Mass (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei), we will be singing the Kyrie and the Sanctus/Benedictus movements from this work. The choir will sing the Agnus Dei during communion.

David and I have never met in person. In the mystical sweet communion of the saints and the miracle of the Internet, we know each other only in baptism and through the correspondence we have have had mostly through this 'blog'.

He has recently revised the score and dedicated it to The Episcopal Church of St. Paul in thanksgiving for the ministry I am privileged to perform in Christ's most holy name.

I am simply awash with deep, profound gratitude and honor. And, I'll admit to some real excitement to hear it performed tomorrow, All Saints' Sunday.

David is perhaps best known for his work on poet George Herbert's beautiful piece KING OF GLORY, KING OF PEACE. The tune: General Seminary, is David's original work and its soaring, lyrical beauty remains an inspiration to all who sing it or hear it.

I have always loved having been named for St. Elizabeth of Portugal. Queen Elizabeth was named for her great aunt, Queen Elizabeth of Hungry. She was called "Isabel" - which is exactly what my grandmother insisted I be called as a young child.

Isabel was known for her many works among the poor, and for the peacemaking she made between her husband, King Deniz and her son Affonso.

One of the stories my grandmother loved to tell was the story she called "Isabel and the Miracle of Bread and Roses."

Isabel is said to have been forbidden by her unfaithful husband to give to the poor. Having hid bread to give away in her apron, she encountered King Diniz, who asked her what she was carrying.

Not wanting to let on that the contents of her apron were meant for the poor, she responded that they were roses. The bread was transformed into roses, and King Diniz, who could not understand how she could have possession of fresh roses in January, did not punish his wife.

The term "bread and roses" has many associations, particularly with the early Irish resistance, but it originated in a poem published by James Oppenheim in 1911. It is commonly associated with a textile strike by the 'Mill Girls' in Lawrence, MA during the period of January - March, 1912.

I suppose, since my grandmother, mother and aunts were all "Mill Girls" in Fall River, this term and its association with Queen Elizabeth (Isabel) had special meaning for my grandmother.

The words of that Oppenheim poem are as follows:

As we go marching, marching, in the beauty of the day,
A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill lofts gray,
Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses,
For the people hear us singing: Bread and Roses! Bread and Roses!

As we go marching, marching, we battle too for men,
For they are women's children, and we mother them again.
Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;
Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses.

As we go marching, marching, unnumbered women dead
Go crying through our singing their ancient call for bread.
Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew.
Yes, it is bread we fight for, but we fight for roses too.

As we go marching, marching, we bring the greater days,
The rising of the women means the rising of the race.
No more the drudge and idler, ten that toil where one reposes,
But a sharing of life's glories: Bread and roses, bread and roses.

Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;
Hearts starve as well as bodies; bread and roses, bread and roses.

Isabel was buried in Coimbra, the location of the University of Portugal. She was canonized in 1625 by Urban VIII, and her feast day is July 8.

I think both David and I and, perhaps even Queen Isabel and James Oppenheim themselves would be amply honored to leave you with the words of George Herbert as we prepare ourselves for worship on All Saints' Sunday.

Go fetch your Hymnals and find Hymn #382 and see if you don't agree that David Charles Walker has written a beautiful hymn to match the beauty of the words of George Herbert.

Can there be a better way than this hymn to capture the Spirit of All the Anglican Saints who have come before us and hover over us to guide us from glory into glory?

.Indeed, I think this is precisely what James Oppenheim was thinking when he wrote "Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes; Hearts starve as well as bodies; bread and roses, bread and roses."

King of glory, King of peace, I will love thee;
And that love may never cease, I will move thee.
Thou hast granted my request, thou hast heard me;
thou didst note my working breast, thou hast spared me.

Wherefore with my utmost art, I will sing thee;
and the cream of all my heart, I will bring thee.
Though my sins against me cried, thou didst clear me;
and alone, when they replied, thou didst hear me.

Seven whole days, not one in sev'n, I will praise thee,
In my heart, though not in heav'n I can raise thee.
Small it is in this poor sort to enroll thee;
e'en eternity's too short to extol thee.

-George Herbert

3 comments:

David Charles Walker said...

Thank you for your kind words, Elizabeth. I'll be thinking of all of you tomorrow morning... trying to keep in mind both the time zone difference and the time change difference. Can this brain do all that?

It is a real pleasure, with this small gesture, to thank you for all you do for The Church.
- David

Grandmère Mimi said...

How lovely for both of you, Charles and Elizabeth. I pray the performance gives glory to God and is a blessing for all who are present.

Maureen said...

Have you heard the amazing interpretation of the Bread and Roses poem sung by Judy Collins? I've heard it in concert and still remember the chill it sent down my spine. It is worthy of the words!