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15 Oct 2017 - 19th Sunday After Pentecost. Proper 23 Musical Notes

Offertory Anthem: “I sat down under his shadow”

Sir Edward Bairstow

Today’s anthem was in response to our gospel reading from Matthew. We know the author is Solomon and we believe (although this is a hotly debated text) that this is a dialogue between a bride and a groom. Of course, everyone has an idea about who the bride and bridegroom are historically although there is no real evidence. The text for the anthem comes from the Song of Solomon 2; 3-4. This text is the Authorized King James Version which states:

Song of Solomon 2

3 As the apple tree among the trees of the wood,

so is my beloved among the sons.

I sat down under his shadow with great delight,

and his fruit was sweet to my taste.

4 He brought me to the banqueting house,

and his banner over me was love.

The New International Version gives us the divide between male and female like this:

Song of Songs 2


2 I am a rose[b] of Sharon,

a lily of the valleys.


2 Like a lily among thorns

is my darling among the young women.


3 Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest

is my beloved among the young men.

I delight to sit in his shade,

and his fruit is sweet to my taste.

4 Let him lead me to the banquet hall,

and let his banner over me be love.

Sir Edward Cuthbert Bairstow was born in Huddersfield on 22 Aug 1874 and died in York on 1 May 1946. He was an English organist, composer, and conductor. He studied with John Farmer of Balliol College, Oxford, and was articled to Frederick Bridge at Westminster Abbey, where he received organ tuition from the assistant organist, Walter Alcock. In 1893, Bairstow became organist of All Saints, Norfolk Square, and in 1899, of Wigan parish church. In Wigan, he built up a teaching practice, concentrating particularly on singing, and successfully directed the town’s Philharmonic and other choral societies. On being appointed to Leeds parish church in 1907, he became organist to the Leeds Festival of that year and of 1910 and, later, conductor of the Leeds Philharmonic Society (from 1917 until his death). In 1913, he was appointed organist at York Minster, and from then until 1939, he directed the York Musical Society. His conducting engagements took him further afield; his appearances in London included a notable concert with the Royal Choral Society, in 1927, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first English performance of Bach’s B minor Mass. In 1929, he was appointed professor of music at Durham, then a non-resident post that enabled him to continue his duties at York; he had taken the Doctorate of Music degree at the same university in 1901. He was knighted in 1932, and received honorary degrees of Doctorate of Letters from Leeds in 1936 and Doctorate of Music from Oxford in 1945. An accomplished performer and accompanist, he was also in frequent demand as a lecturer and guest speaker, proving an avid supporter of the competitive festival movement. Above all, he was aware of his own special aptitude as a teacher.

Bairstow’s compositions, published principally by Oxford University Press and Novello, are mainly for the church. Of his 29 anthems, Blessed City (1914), Let all mortal flesh keep silence (1925) and Save us, O Lord (1902) are the most well-known. As with most of his other compositions, they are possessed of a deeply felt sentiment and enduring quality. Both his settings of the Morning, Communion, and Evening services – in D and E♭ – and the late Evening in G are widely used and contrasted in style. Of his 13 organ pieces the Evening Song quickly gained popularity, but his finest is undoubtedly the Sonata in E♭ (1937), a late Romantic work displaying consummate craftsmanship and inspiration. Equally inspired are the Variations on an Original Theme for two pianos (1908) and the unjustly neglected Six Variations on an Original Theme for violin and piano (1916). The choral works The Prodigal Son (1939) and Five Poems of the Spirit, published posthumously in 1954, were composed during his later years.

Francis Jackson. "Bairstow, Sir Edward C.." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 14 Oct. 2017. <>.

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