I’ll come back to the peanut butter in a moment.
First, I just wanted to say how excited I am about the big 275th anniversary service this Sunday at 4pm! The Bishop will be here for Confirmation and Baptism, and we will have more than a dozen guest singers joining us, including former choir members. It’s going to be terrific.
For the service, I’ve chosen 3 anthems that encapsulate St John’s long history. First, we open with Parry’s “I Was Glad”, written for Edward VII’s coronation in 1902. This powerful anthem represents our lineal descent from the Anglican church in England. Following communion, we will sing an arrangement of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” by Harry Simeone, one of the mid-twentieth century’s most performed arrangers, representing our very firm placement within the American Protestant tradition.
So why peanut butter? Well… I always think of the Reese’s commercial from my childhood when I perform Paul Halley’s ebullient setting of “Ubi Caritas”. The story goes that Halley was conducting the Duruflé “Ubi Caritas” (which I very purposely chose for last Sunday’s service) at St John the Divine, when the African drumming group’s music could be heard quite clearly from the rehearsal room. It inspired Halley to combine the original plainchant with an African chant from the Yoruba and Khemitic traditions. The combination of the two styles of music, including piano, percussion and organ, becomes absolutely ecstatic. It is a perfect way to celebrate our place in the worldwide Anglican communion.
So the commercial? One person is walking near a wall with a chocolate bar, when around the corner, invisible to him, is another person with a jar of peanut butter. Inevitably, they collide, and the chocolate goes into the peanut butter. One says, “You got your chocolate on my peanut butter!”, while other exclaims, “You got your peanut butter on my chocolate!” They both try the result, and love it. The tag line? “Two great tastes that taste great together.” That’s how I feel about this piece– two great musical traditions that sound great together…