FEBRUARY 17, 2019: THE SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY
At all three musical liturgies this week, the closing hymn is “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” The popular hymn was penned in 1900 by James Weldon Johnson to mark the birthday of Abraham Lincoln. Johnson, a major figure in the Harlem Renaissance, was an author, educator, lawyer, diplomat, songwriter and civil rights activist. His younger brother, J. Rosamund Johnson, wrote the stirring music, which was first performed by 500 school children on February 12th that year.
J. Rosamund wrote about his experience hearing the children sing it: “I could not keep back the tears, and made no effort to do so.” In short order the hymn became part of daily practice in black schools throughout the country, especially in the South; and by 1920 it had begun to be recognized as “the Black National Anthem” (more than a decade before “The Star Spangled Banner” was adopted by Congress as the National Anthem on March 3, 1931). May this hymn continue stir our souls, motivating us to work toward a more justice, liberty and peace for all of God’s children.
At 11, St. Bartholomew’s Choir sings “Communion Service in A” by Mrs. H.H.A. Beach. Largely self-taught, Amy Beach (1867-1944) was an extraordinary musician even in her youngest years. She began giving piano recitals at the age of seven, and ten years later making her professional concert debut in Boston. She is recognized as the first successful female composer of large-scale art music. She moved to New York, where she became the virtual composer-in-residence here at St. Bart’s.
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