18 August 2022
Praying with USPG and the music of
Vaughan Williams: Thursday 18 August 2022
I am back in Stony Stratford this morning (18 August 2022) after my consultation in Sheffield Hospital as a follow-up to my stroke five months ago (18 March 2022). Hopefully this is preparing the way for a surgical procedure within the next few weeks.
Before this day gets busy, I am taking some time this morning for reading, prayer and reflection.
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, whose music is celebrated throughout this year’s Proms season. In my prayer diary for these weeks I am reflecting in these ways:
1, One of the readings for the morning;
2, Reflecting on a hymn or another piece of music by Vaughan Williams, often drawing, admittedly, on previous postings on the composer;
3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary, ‘Pray with the World Church.’
The Gospel reading at the Eucharist this morning in the Lectionary as adapted by the Church of Ireland is:
Matthew 22: 1-14 (NRSVA):
1 Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: 2 ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other slaves, saying, “Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.” 5 But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his slaves, maltreated them, and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his slaves, “The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.” 10 Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.
11 ‘But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12 and he said to him, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?” And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.’
Today’s reflection: ‘Oh, when I was in love with you’
Ralph Vaughan Williams was the composer of symphonies, chamber music, opera, choral music, and film scores, a collector of English folk music and song. With Percy Dearmer, he co-edited the English Hymnal, in which he included many folk song arrangements as hymn tunes, and several of his own original compositions.
Throughout this week, I am listening to On Wenlock Edge, a setting by Vaughan Williams of six poems from AE Housman’s Shropshire Lad.
This morning [18 August 2022], I am listening to ‘Oh, when I was in love with you,’ the fourth of the six settings by Vaughan Williams of these poems by AE Housman (1859-1936), published in 1896.
In reacting to the Boer War, in which his brother Herbert was killed, Housman powerfully anticipated the horror and futility of World War I, and his poems would find fresh relevance of with the outbreak of World War I.
His landscape is a mythical, idealised Shropshire, similar to the Wessex of the novels of Thomas Hardy. His dominant themes are love, and a post-industrial pastoral nostalgia, infused with expressions of disillusionment at the sacrifice of the young soldiers going to war, never to return.
Vaughan Williams composed On Wenlock Edge – a cycle of six songs for tenor, piano and string quartet – in 1909, a year after he had spent three months in Paris studying under Maurice Ravel, a composer three years younger than him. The first performance took place in the Aeolian Hall, London, later that year.
In the 1920s, Vaughan Williams made an arrangement of On Wenlock Edge for full orchestra that was first performed on 24 January 1924 by John Booth, with the composer conducting. Vaughan Williams preferred this version to his original.
The fourth of these songs, ‘Oh, when I was in love with you,’ is lighter than the others in tone and is epigrammatic in its brevity.
This song acts as a much-needed respite between Songs 3 and 5, ‘Is my team ploughing,’ and ‘Bredon Hill.’ With its melodic lines and modal harmonies, the melody sounds like an authentic English folksong.
4, Oh, when I was in love with you
Oh, when I was in love with you,
Then I was clean and brave,
And miles around the wonder grew
How well I did behave.
And now the fancy passes by,
And nothing will remain,
And miles around they’ll say that I
Am quite myself again.
Today’s Prayer, Thursday 18 August 2022:
The theme in the USPG prayer diary this week is ‘Human Trafficking in Durgapur.’ This them was introduced on Sunday by Raja Moses, Project Co-ordinator of the Anti-Human Trafficking Project, Diocese of Durgapur, Church of North India.
The USPG Prayer Diary invites us to pray today in these words:
We pray for all those working to prevent human trafficking worldwide.
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org
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