Sunday, October 27, 2013

Melody Reserved for Special Occasions

Last Sunday we sang a familiar hymn in church--that is, the words are familiar.  The tune, however, was not.  When questioned about it, the organist James Kennerley, explained that the most familiar tune was reserved for the once-a-year special service from which it could be said to get its identity, at least from which it derives its primary meaning.

How nice to hear that argument voiced so simply.

My musical life was considerably affected by hearing Fenner Douglass play a Bach chorale prelude on a melody I had never previously heard.  It turned out to be Schmuecke dich, O meine Seele.  It turned out to be one of those once-a-year chorales associated, in fact, with the same special service as today's hymn.  As I was not brought up within a tradition of ritual finesse, the power of such scarcity was a revelation.