Friends of the Rockbridge Choral Society
  Vol. 17                                           ONLINE  ONLINE  ONLINE                             November 2016    
Providing financial support   since 1999 for The Rockbridge Choral Society and The Rockbridge Youth Chorale 

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Francois Couperin        11/10/1668 
Fanny Mendelssohn        11/14/1805
Aaron Copland        11/14/1900
RCS 2016/2017 Concert Season -  
Mark Your Calendars!

December 3, 2016 - Holiday Concert with the Rockbridge
Youth Chorale
Lexington Presbyterian Church, Caroling begins at 7:15 PM

January 22, 2017 - Vivaldi: Gloria; Charpentier:
Messe de Minuit
Presbyterian Church,
3 PM

April 2, 2017 - Rachmaninoff: Vespers, aka, All-Night Vigil
Presbyterian Church,
7 PM

      A raucous election season is thankfully behind us and Thanksgiving is around the corner.  Sadly, peoples across the planet war on.  A photograph recently posted by one of our singers on his Facebook feed and the death of a dear friend's father, a Navy veteran, prompted reflection on another November holiday - Veteran's Day - and a tune, often referred to as the Navy hymn. Do you know how this lovely tune came to be? Click here.

    The words to the hymn, "Eternal Father, Strong to Save" are traditionally associated with seafarers, particularly in the maritime armed services.  Written in 1860, the hymn's author, William Whiting, was an Anglican churchman from Winchester, Great Britain, who had grown up and lived most of his youth near the ocean on the coasts of England.  When Whiting was 35, he experienced a violent storm at sea and believed that his life was spared by God.  Some years later, when he was headmaster of the Winchester College Choristers' School, he was approached by a student about to travel to the United States.  The student confided his overwhelming fear of the ocean voyage to come.  Whiting shared his experience with his own voyage and his firm belief that God would quiet the power and fury of the seas.  It is said that Whiting was inspired by the dangers of the sea described in Psalm 107.
    The first verse refers to God the Father's forbidding the waters to flood the earth as described in Psalm 104. The second verse refers to Jesus' miracles of stilling a storm and walking on the waters of the Sea of Galilee. The third verse references the Holy Spirit's role in the creation of the earth in the Book of Genesis, while the final verse is a reference to Psalm 107.

Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd'st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

O Christ! Whose voice the waters heard
And hushed their raging at Thy word,
Who walkedst on the foaming deep,
And calm amidst its rage didst sleep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

Most Holy Spirit! Who didst brood
Upon the chaos dark and rude,
And bid its angry tumult cease,
And give, for wild confusion, peace;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

O Trinity of love and power!
Our brethren shield in danger's hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect them wheresoe'er they go;
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.

         John B. Dykes, an Anglican clergyman, composed the tune "Melita" to accompany the hymn text in 1861.  Dykes was a well-known composer of nearly three hundred hymn tunes, many of which are still in use today. "Melita" is an archaic term for Malta, an ancient seafaring nation which had been a colony of the British Empire. It was the site of a shipwreck, mentioned in Acts of the Apostles (chapters 27-28), involving the Apostle Paul.

    "Eternal Father Strong to Save" endures today as a popular service hymn in churches all over the world.  Since it was adopted by the Royal Navy and the United States Navy in the late 19th century variations of it are still in use by many branches of the armed services in the United Kingdom and the United States. 
Best Sellers
        As Christmas approaches, we thought we'd look around and see what's popular for choruses in 2016.  We found some of the usual suspects and a couple of surprises.  According to, a purveyor of sheet music for all sorts of disciplines, the top selling holiday sheet music for choruses this year is "Mary Did You Know?" words and music by Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene.  A surprise making  the list in the
Leonard Cohen
number 2 and 11 spots was Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah", a composition which has been covered, according to most news outlets, more than 300 times in the popular music genre alone.  Cohen died on November 7 at the age of 82.  His recent death and the song's presence in the popular music catalog since the 1980's may explain this tune's rise on the list of top ten sellers late in 2016.  The Pentatonix version may also explain the song's prominent position on the list.  This a cappella group, a 3rd season winner on The Voice, has included it on one of their recent Christmas CDs.  It doesn't seem like a typical holiday offering, but you can be the judge.   Click here

    We'll leave you to surf Kate McKinnon's most recent Saturday Night Live offering on your own.  We did a bit of deeper surfing ourselves and found in Rolling Stone a concise explanation for Cohen's inspirations in composing this song, excerpted from Alan Light's 2012 book, The Holy or the Broken.  The lyrics are more intriguing, and more holy, than you might suppose.  Read it here.

Here is the rest of the top ten selling sheet music list
as of 11/14/2016.

3.    Silent Night
4.    The Little Drummer Boy
5.    Joy to the World
6.    Mary Did You Know 
       (SATB Choir and Piano)
7.    O Holy Night
8.    White Winter Hymnal
9.     Carol of the Bells (SATB Choir and Piano)
10.   Carol of the Bells (SATB A Cappella Choir)

Friends of the Rockbridge Choral Society
Rockbridge Choral Society
PO Box 965
Lexington, VA 24450