Some churches observe “Remembrance Sunday” on the closest Sunday to November 11. Over the years, musically speaking, I have preferred these Sundays to emphasize more a vision of Peace. Quite often I have chosen Requiem Masses, with strings and organ accompaniment. eg. in 2019 we presented the Fauré Requiem this way. These masses were chosen not so much as “memorials,” but rather toward the themes of peace and resurrection.
This year being the 150th anniversary of his birth, we continue to honour the music of Ralph Vaughan Williams, with parts of his Mass in G minor, and Lord,Thou Hast Been Our Refuge - his setting of Psalm 90.
The Opening Hymn “O God, our Help in Ages Past” is also a setting of Psalm 90, sung to the well known William Croft tune:
St Anne, with a paraphrase text by Isaac Watts.
In the Vaughan Williams setting, you will hear this hymn appear very peacefully as background to solo voices. Later on, a trumpet picks up this hymn tune, with a final “rise in glory” ending, not so much as a military instrument, but a symbol of resurrection.
Emphasis on the theme of peace continues with the Sequence Hymn Let there be Light and the Offertory Hymn O Day of Peace.
The Closing Hymn Healing River of the Spirit, with text by American poet Ruth Duck, calls on a “living stream” that can heal the nations and “make us channels of your power.”
The Postlude “Bist du bei mir,” is an arrangement by J.S. Bach that is normally sung, but stands alone beautifully as an instrumental piece. The text is akin to a prayer before falling asleep, and a sacred time of peaceful rest.