Music Notes for Lent III

Martin Luther 1483-1546


For Lent III we shall be singing Psalm 46 to the well-known Anglican chant based on Luther’s Hymn, Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott (A Mighty Fortress is our God), which itself is a paraphrase of Psalm 46. Luther wrote both the words and the music between 1527 and 1529 and the hymn was considered to be the ‘Battle Hymn of the Reformation’ as a result of its success in inciting support for Luther and the Reformers’ objectives.

Joseph Haydn 1732-1809


The Offertory anthem will be Joseph Haydn’s (1732-1809) setting, Insanae et vanae curae (see translation below), a title that has caused mirth among generations of choristers for its mistranslation: ‘Insane and vain curates’. The music was originally part of Haydn’s oratorio Il ritorno di Tobia (The Return of Tobias), work on which began in 1775. Initially set to an Italian libretto, the work received its premier in Vienna the same year and was, by all accounts, a resounding success. Within six years, however, public taste had changed sufficiently to cause the second performance in 1781 to be abandoned. A revised version of the work was performed in 1784 in Vienna and a further performance took place in 1808 after which Haydn further revised the movement we shall be singing and set it to a Latin text by an anonymous author. The motet has survived as part of the English cathedral repertory since the late nineteenth century, when an edition was made by Sir Joseph Barnby (1838-1896).

Insanae et vanae curae invadunt mentes nostras,
saepe furore replent corda, privata spe,
Quid prodest O mortalis conari
pro mundanis,
si coelos negligas,
Sunt fausta tibi cuncta, si Deus est pro te.
Insane and vain cares invade our minds,
Madness often fills the heart, robbed of hope,
O mortal man, what does it profit to endeavour
at worldly things,
If you should neglect the heavens?
If God is for you, all things are favorable for you.


The Communion motet is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s (1756-1791) famous setting of the beautiful Eucharistic hymn, Ave verum corpus. The words of the hymn date from the late-fourteenth century and are attributed to the fifth Avignon Pope, Innocent VI (1282 or 1295-1362). Written for Haydn’s friend, Anton Stoll, in what was to be the last year of Mozart’s life, Ave verum corpus was completed as the opera, Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute), was coming to fruition.

Ave verum corpus, natum
ex Maria Virgine,
vere passum, immolatum
in cruce pro homine
cuius latus perforatum
fluxit aqua et sanguine:
esto nobis praegustatum
in mortis examine.
Hail, true Body, born
of the Virgin Mary,
Who having truly suffered,
Was sacrificed
on the cross for mankind,
Whose pierced side
flowed with water and blood:
May it be for us a foretaste in the trial of death.


Neil Weston

Neil Weston

This weekend, our organ scholar, Grant Wareham is on loan to Christ Church Cathedral where he will be playing for the morning services; as a result, the Parish Choir and I are delighted that Neil Weston will be playing for the 10.30am service at St. Thomas’ in his stead. Neil is an old high school friend of mine: he is organist and director of music at the Roman Catholic Church of St. Stephen Martyr in Washington DC, where he has established and maintains a fine music program. Educated at the universities of Oxford (Worcester College) and London (King’s College), Neil is a formidable musician who was also assistant director of music at Chelmsford cathedral in England prior to immigrating to the USA fifteen years ago. Please take time to welcome Neil and his wife Lisa to St. Thomas’.

Giles Brightwell