2017-05-14 Notes from the Bench

 

Festival Prelude on “This Joyful Eastertide” by Jan Bender 

 

A commentary on this week’s music by Dr. James T. Gerber, Music Associate

 

Text: George Ratcliffe Woodward

This joyful Eastertide, away with sin and sorrow.
My Love, the Crucified, hath sprung to life this morrow.
 
Had Christ, that once was slain, ne’er burst his three-day prison,
Our faith had been in vain: but now hath Christ arisen.
 
My flesh in hope shall rest, and for a season slumber:
Till trump from east to west shall wake the dead in number.
 
Death’s flood hath lost his chill, since Jesus crossed the river:
Lover of souls, from ill my passing soul deliver.

 

“This Joyful Eastertide” is a carol for the Easter season written by the Anglican poet George Ratcliffe Woodward (1848-1934). Woodward’s text was originally published in 1894 in the collection, “Carols for Easter and Ascensiontide” and in the 1902 publication, “The Cowley Carol Book.” The melody often associated with this hymn text, Vruechten, (which means ‘fruits’) is a seventeenth-century Dutch folk song that was published as a hymn tune in “David’s Psalmen” by Joachim Oudaen in 1685. The English composer Charles Wood composed the harmonization of this melody as found in The Hymnal 1982 (#192). Numerous other composers have written choral anthem arrangements of this hymn while others have composed new melodies to sing this hymn to.

 

In addition to the various choral arrangements that have been composed, a number of organ settings of the melody “Vruechten” have been written. Today’s postlude is a setting of this melody written by the Dutch composer, Jan Bender (1909-1994). Born in Holland, Bender moved to Lübeck, Germany with his family when he was 13 where they attended the famous Marienkirche. He was immediately drawn to the organ and began studying the instrument with the church’s organist, Karl Lichtward and later his successor, Walter Kraft. After completing his high school exams, he went to study with Karl Straube in Leipzig. With the rise of the National Socialists (Nazis), Bender’s music prospects in Germany declined, and he decided to move to Amsterdam, however being disappointed with the music education opportunities available to him there at that time, he returned to Lübeck and studied composition with Hugo Distler. Bender’s first church job was as the organist for the Church of St. Gertrude in Lübeck and later at the Lambertikirche in Aurich. Bender was conscripted into military service in 1939 for the German Army as World War II broke out; he was sent to France, Denmark, and finally Russia where he was wounded in battle and lost an eye. He was conscripted into the Germany Army a second time in 1944 and sent to France where he led his platoon to surrender to the Allied forces there. Following the war, he returned to Aurich to resume his duties as organist for the Lambertikirche. From 1953 until 1960, he served as Kantor for St. Michael’s Church in Lüneburg. From 1960 until 1976, Bender lived in the United States working the Concordia Teacher’s College in Seward, NE and later as the Professor of Organ and Composition at Wittenberg University in Ohio. Throughout his career, he established himself as a prominent church musician, composer, and organist and wrote over 2,500 compositions, mostly for choir or organ. Bender devoted his life to promoting the art of church music, connecting the music of the past with that of the present day, demonstrating that church music continues to grow and develop and is alive and wonderful and is capable of expressing faith, gratitude, love, and joy.

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