MusicNotes, by Will Buthod

August 15, 2019


Just a couple notes about the music this Sunday-

We were so blessed last week to have Gus Brathwaite playing some violin for us in worship. I’m going to keep this instrumental momentum going by playing a big piece on the piano before worship. Come a few minutes early (7 minutes, to be exact) if you want to hear some wonderful Bach. J.S. Bach’s Toccata in D Major (BWV 912) was written for harpsichord, but sounds fantastic on the piano. In my opinion, this is one of Bach’s finest keyboard works, however not performed very often. It consists of several sections- free declaratory movements, a fast movement, a slow chromatic fugue, and a peppy jig-fugue. Listen to the seamless transitions and what colors Bach creates with a minimum of notes. There are no extra tones, each written note serves its purpose and nothing is wasted. For me, this is a big part of why Bach’s music is genius.

The hymns, anthem, and service music reflect our focus on faith and discipleship this week. The gospel shows Jesus’ frustration with our mixed-up priorities, and reminds us to focus on God being first in our lives. The epistle points to our faith and obedience being the key to serving God’s kingdom. Listen for these themes in the hymns, especially the two companion communion hymns, My faith looks up to thee, and Just as I am, without one plea. The offertory anthem, sung by the choir, will be the simple classic, Day by Day, composed by Martin How (b. 1931). This pretty piece is based on a text by Richard of Chichester (1197-1253), which outlines our prayer in three directions-

…to see thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, follow thee more nearly…

The title and opening words, day by day, remind us not only to pray this daily, but to focus on the present, as referenced in our gospel- 

You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?

You may also notice some other changes to our service music. As we hit the next segment of Ordinary Time, we’ll explore some other service music. Some of it may be very familiar (Holy, Holy, Holy and Lamb of God), and some may be new to us (Caribbean Hallelujah and Hymn of Praise). Either way, I want to invite you to sing out as our music reflects the changing of seasons. The psalm will be sung again starting this Sunday (just a simple refrain for you all to sing) and there will be a short doxology sung at the presentation (as the gifts are brought forward and the altar prepared).

Next week, I’ll write a little more about psalms and why it’s important for us all to sing them…

See you at church.

August 8, 2019


To break through the summer doldrums, we’ll have something a little different this Sunday. Just a couple of notes-

You will hear a gospel that may remind you of Advent. From Luke, we hear Jesus reminding us to keep our “lamps lit,” to be ready, “for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.” This mood of expectation is echoed in the choir anthem, Keep Your Lamps!, sung during the offertory. If you’ve been listening in the past year, you may recognize this arrangement from our journey through Advent. This simple and rhythmic arrangement of an African-American spiritual keeps its momentum all the way until the end, pointing to our hope of staying ready for God through every trial.

As a special treat, parishioner and choir member, Gus Brathwaite will bless us with some violin music this weekend. Although he may not advertise it, Gus is quite an accomplished violinist. A long-time music teacher, he also has several talented string musicians in his family. I can only imagine the ‘jam sessions’ happening in his musical home growing up! This Sunday he will play J.S. Bach’s Air (from the Orchestral Suite in D) as a prelude to worship. During communion, he will share a classic, César Franck’s Panis angelicus, a dialogue between violin and organ on what was originally a St. Thomas Aquinas hymn. After the final hymn, listen for a charming piece by Joseph-Hector Fiocco, a Belgian composer from the late Baroque period. 

In the spirit of preparation and readiness, don’t forget to sing loudly with us on our closing hymn, Soon and Very Soon. This hit, by Andraé Crouch, has become so popular that it is now included in at least 29 different hymnals. It was also used at the beginning of Michael Jackson’s memorial service at the Staples Center, Los Angeles, in 2009. Here’s a link to a nice page with some interesting history of this song- 

See you at church!

July 29, 2019


This week, I’ll be out of town for a family celebration in Oklahoma. But don’t worry, you’re in great hands! For simplicity’s sake, the choir will not be singing any anthems this week, but instead will help to support the congregational singing. Get ready for some good hymn-singing, please sing boisterously while I’m away! Here’s a list-

594- God of grace and God of glory

529- In Christ there is no East or West

516- Come down, O Love divine

151- One bread, one body

408- Sing praise to God who reigns above

If you can’t find anything there that’s worth singing, then we need to have a talk!

The readings this Sunday remind us that our lives must point to our place in God’s kingdom, that there must not be any other that we serve above Jesus Christ. The authority of our King is part of what unites us with our brothers and sisters and reminds us that our earthly treasures are not stored up for ourselves, but for God’s eternal richness. I love this bit from Sunday’s epistle, from Paul’s letter to the Colossians-

If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

See you next week! 

This Sunday, Dr. John Marsh will be leading the music and playing organ. Before moving to Georgia 12 years ago, he served as Organist and Choirmaster at St. Martin’s in Houston (the largest Episcopal parish in North America) for 19 years. Since moving to the Atlanta area, he worked as Director of Music for Christ the King Lutheran, until his recent retirement, and continues to teach on the Faculty at Kennesaw State University. We are blessed to have him here ‘filling in.’ Please take a moment to say hello and thank him for helping out. We want to make sure that we stay friends with good folks in our musical community!

July 23, 2019


This Sunday we hear Jesus teaching his disciples how to pray. This Gospel passage is what gives us the Lord’s Prayer, and the other readings echo our dialogue with God. The music will center on the importance of prayer.

To set the tone for worship, I will play a setting of the Our Father on the organ, by German Baroque composer, Dieterich Buxtehude (1637-1707). This chorale prelude, of which Buxtehude wrote over 40, is based on Martin Luther’s hymn, Our Father in Heaven, from 1538. Listen for the decorated hymn melody soaring above crawling, sometimes chromatic, harmonies underneath. Buxtehude, by the way, was Johann Sebastian Bach’s musical hero, and a musical model for Handel and Telemann as well. In 1705, Bach even walked from Arnstadt to Lübeck (a distance of over 250 miles) to hear Buxtehude. That should tell you something about his influence!

At the offertory, the choir will sing a very simple version of the Lord’s Prayer by Mark Peterson. You will hear a beautiful refrain that is repeated over and over (called an ostinato), our Father in heaven, hallow’d be your Name, over which the rest of the prayer is sung in lyrical melody.

During communion, we will sing what I call a good old-time hymn, Sweet Hour of Prayer. This song points to prayer as our stronghold during times of trial. We are reminded that the consolation of speaking to God, hearing God’s voice, and simply being in his presence is a constant refreshment in a life of hardships and challenges. Try taking that time after receiving communion to sing with us and allow yourself to enjoy the moment, this “hour of prayer.”

After the end of the service, I will play French composer Jehan Alain’s Litanies. On the theme of prayer, Alain wrote this inscription at the beginning of this piece-

When the Christian soul finds no new words in distress to implore the mercy of God, it constantly repeats the same invocation with vehement faith. Reason reaches its limit.

Only faith follows its ascent.

Alain (1911-1940) was a composer and organist whose musical contribution was cut short when he died in World War II combat. An extremely talented and promising musician in the Parisian scene, he also came from a very musical family. His younger sister, organist Marie-Claire Alain, made it her mission to perform his works with authority after his death. She continued his musical legacy and brought his music to the forefront of organ repertoire. I had the privilege of studying with her a few years before her death in 2013.

See you at church!

July 18, 2019


“Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things…”

This week, we hear about Mary and Martha sitting at the feet of Jesus. Jesus reminds Martha not to be so concerned with the rewards and outcomes of others, but instead to focus on her own service to God. One of my favs…

The music this week will highlight this focus on stillness, on being present and allowing God to work as God works

Listen especially for the offertory anthem, Be Still. This traditional African-American congregational song is really based on a text from Exodus 14:14, which says that the “Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.” A very simple song, feel free to sing/clap along once you get the hang of it. It reminds us that “God will fight our battles,” as we continue to be still, keep praying, keep waiting, keep singing, and be a witness.

At communion, the focus on God’s will for us is reinforced with two hymns- Seek Ye First and It is Well with my Soul. In the first, we are reminded where to put our energy, our attention, our spirits- into the work of the kingdom. In the second, we allow ourselves to be still for a moment and find peace with God, despite the distractions and worries of the world around us.

It is Well with my Soul, as some of you may already know, has a touching story behind it. The author Horatio G. Spafford was having a very difficult season of his life. His young son died in 1871, then he lost his fortune overnight in the Great Chicago Fire that same year. Two years later, his four daughters died when a French ocean liner sank after a collision with another ship. Spafford took the next ship to find his wife, who had survived the incident, and wrote this hymn as he passed over the place where his daughters died. Not only a heart-wrenching story, but a real testament to Spafford’s faith.

Bonus- can you see the connections between our opening hymn this Sunday, Immortal, invisible, God only wise, and the Epistle reading (from Colossians 1:15-28)?

See you at church!

July 11, 2019


I love this Sunday’s Gospel reading. In Luke, we hear Jesus teaching a lawyer about eternal life, first discussing God’s law and then telling a parable about who our neighbor really is. The message is clear that we are responsible to each other at a deep level, charged to love all neighbors with our whole hearts.

You will hear the themes of love and unity popping up throughout this Sunday’s music. In the opening hymn, I come with joy to meet my Lord, notice the third verse-


As Christ breaks bread and bids us share, each proud division ends.

That love that made us makes us one, and strangers now are friends.


At the offertory, the choir will sing the familiar anthem, Draw Us in the Spirit’s Tether. This beautiful anthem, by Harold Friedell, invites us to unite our souls to each other and to God, through the Holy Spirit. It’s a reminder that, “when two or three are met together, Thou art in the midst of them.” As the altar is being prepared on Sunday, you will hear the text shift its focus to the unity of Christ’s communion table and end with our promise to serve God faithfully. The piece is a classic for good reason…

At communion, we will sing two hymns that deal directly with loving service and unity. Jesu, Jesu, based on a Ghanaian folk melody, speaks of serving our neighbors and the symbolic act of washing others’ feet. The second hymn, Where true charity and love dwell, God himself is there. Coming from a very different tradition, this hymn is an adaptation of a Gregorian chant, Ubi caritas. A gorgeous chant, from as early as the fourth century, this hymn was regularly used for Maundy Thursday liturgies. It’s important that we keep these chants alive in the Church. A musical treasure and essential link to our entire sacred music history, chant and ancient hymns are also a big part of our Anglican identity and a form of music that is slowly fading into the background. Different styles of music serve the worship at Holy Trinity, and, as important as it is for us to ‘stretch’ by trying some gospel music or shape-note singing, it is equally enriching to grow together through chant.

Finally, this Sunday is the 14th of July, and without intruding into the liturgical music, I couldn’t resist playing a French organ prelude as a small nod to Bastille Day.

See you on Sunday!


July 3, 2019


Happy Fourth of July! Just a couple of short notes as we prepare for the holiday…

The Gospel on Sunday reminds us that we are to “dust off our feet” and go on our way, spreading the gospel in the kingdom of God. Jesus warns that it may be difficult, but that we are provided exactly what we need to serve God’s in our mission.

The music on Sunday is meant to encourage us along our journey. At the offertory, the choir will sing Go Forth with God!, a well-known British hymn by Martin Shaw. Shaw (1875-1958) was an English conductor and prolific composer. He worked with Percy Dearmer and Ralph Vaughan Williams and had over 300 published works. This piece is a simple anthem setting of this boisterous hymn, a call to action meant to rouse our spirits into the work of the Kingdom. 

The communion hymn, Jesus, keep me near the cross (In the cross), takes a different perspective, turning our attention to the journey to the cross with Jesus. The song reminds me that I have a symbol of eternal life to look towards, that, by staying near the Lord in prayer and in mission, I may walk with Jesus to this promise. Don’t forget- in the mission is also comfort and rest! 

Join us for the great hymn, Come labor on, as known by its tune name, Ora labora. If you have a minute before service, take a closer look at the text for this hymn (found on page 541 of the hymnal). I invite you to listen to the call described in the words, and think about Jesus’ words, “the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” See if you later hear the Gospel reading any differently as a result. This hymn could almost have been written for this passage in particular.

June, 2019

May, 2019

April, 2019

March, 2019

February, 2019

January, 2019

December, 2018

November, 2018

September – October, 2018