Music Special to the Cathedral

A Rich Tradition

Christ Church Cathedral has two kinds of special music — that commissioned for milestones or particular moments in its history, and those pieces written for its services by the Cathedral’s own.

Among the music written for high points in the church’s story are the pieces composed specially for the consecration of Dean James Milton Richardson as Fifth Bishop of Texas on February 10, 1965. Jack Ossewaarde, the previous organist-choirmaster at the Cathedral, wrote a Processional for organ and brass; William Barnard, the incumbent organist-choirmaster, wrote a fanfare Te Deum in C; Hugh Hodgson, the organist-choirmaster at St. Luke’s Church, Atlanta, where Milton Richardson had been rector before coming to Houston, wrote a gradual on the first three verses of Psalm 112; and David McK. Williams wrote an introit, “Arise, O Lord, into thy resting-place.”

Earlier, Jack Ossewaarde wrote the anthem “Behold, O God our defender” for the consecration, in 1955, of Frederick Percy Goddard as Suffragan Bishop of Texas.

Earlier still, for the centennial of Christ Church in 1939, Everett Titcomb wrote the anthem “Behold now, praise the Lord,” which he dedicated to Edward B. Gammons, the organist-choirmaster of Christ Church at the time. The text, taken from the first two verses of Psalm 134, was chosen by the rector, Dr. James DeWolfe. This well-known anthem is still frequently performed at the Cathedral.

For the Cathedral’s sesquicentennial celebration in 1989, Sandra and Dan Person commissioned David Ashley White, Director of the Moores School of Music, University of Houston, to write an anthem on verses from Psalm 99. “The Lord is King” was first performed at the opening service of the 140th Diocesan Council of the Diocese of Texas on February 2; it was inaugurated at the Cathedral the following Sunday.

For the initial Diocesan Choral Festivals, Jack Ossewaarde commissioned two anthems. One of them, “As many as are led by the Spirit” by David McK. Williams, was published by the H. W. Gray Company in 1956. The other was written by Leo Sowerby and based on Psalm 97.

Following Bill Barnard’s canonization and retirement in 1985, Alec Wyton wrote a setting for the canticle “Christ, our Passover” and dedicated it to “Annette and William Barnard with admiration and affection.” Friends of long standing, Alec and Bill had done a number of Diocesan Choral Festivals together.

A prayer written by The Rev. Catherine Nichols McKelvey (a former canon of the cathedral) for The Rev. Paul David Fromberg, on the occasion of his ordination to the diaconate, June 16, 1990, was set to music by David Lewis Crosby and performed at Paul’s ordination.

There is another anthem whose text was written by a member of the Cathedral clergy. “Ring the broken pail,” a poem by The Very Rev. J. Pittman McGehee that was set to music by David Ashley White, was both the subject of Dean McGehee’s sermon and the offertory anthem on Palm Sunday, 1988. It was performed again on June 2, 1991—Pittman’s last Sunday at the Cathedral as dean.

While Jack Ossewaarde was in Houston, he wrote a Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis in C, and “Hosanna to the Son of David.” His popular “Draw us in the Spirit’s tether,” published during his tenure at the Cathedral, was actually written while he was still at Calvary Church, New York City.

Bill Barnard, during his years at the Cathedral, wrote a setting of “Christ our Passover” and also a “Benedictus in C.” The latter was published by the H. W. Gray Company in 1964. The descants he wrote for the hymns “Jesus Christ is ris’n today” and “‘Welcome, happy morning!’ age to age shall say” are classics and part of every Easter at Christ Church.

Two members of the Cathedral choir have contributed original compositions to the music library within current memory. Baritone Robert Moon wrote an a cappella setting of the George Herbert poem “Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life” in 1974 that has been sung at several confirmation services over the years. A Kyrie that he wrote at Bill Barnard’s request was used for a period of time at the nine-fifteen service in 1980. His most recently performed composition is “Lord, I am not worthy” (Matthew 8:8), a gradual written in 1975.

While he was a member of the Cathedral Choir, Carlyle Sharpe, Associate Professor of Music in Composition and Theory at Drury University, wrote the anthem “This is my Son, my Chosen,” using Luke 9:28-36 as his text. It was sung at the eleven o’clock service on February 5, 1989.

David Ashley White provided the cathedral community many more compositions from his pen. Among David’s hymns we find a dedication to Dean Walter Taylor in the hymn “Heal me, hands of Jesus.” For the rededication of the cathedral nave on September 17, 1995, David wrote “Our holy tribute, this.” The anthem “Wherefore, O Maker” was written for The Rev. Ronald Pogue on the occasion of his ordination to the priesthood on June 6, 1998. A 2004 celebration of The Rev. John A. Logan, Jr.’s fiftieth anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood included a commission from Dr. White, “Praise the Lord, who reigns above.”

This is only a partial listing of the music that is special to Christ Church Cathedral. It is ample proof, though, that the cathedral has indeed been dowered with gifts, musical gifts.

— Bruce Power; Printed in Cathedral News, Vol. 4, No. 1, October 1991; revised 2007