Throughout the Middle ages, Renaissance and Baroque periods, churches were the primary means of support for composers. The support structure diversified somewhat through the Classical period, as an emerging audience for secular concert and opera music began to emerge. But churches remained an important component in the flowering of art and culture. One of the primary ways they served this role is through the commissioning of new works of sacred music.
Georgetown Presbyterian Church has been a part of this flowering of the arts by commissioning many pieces of music through the years. On Sunday, we will experience the latest of these commissions in a fresh new piece of choral music commissioned by this congregation and completed about one month ago. Back in the Fall, when planning the music that would accompany the “Born. United. Sent.” series, I contacted a young composer named Zachary Wadsworth. I’d become aware of his works while editing a choral recording a couple of years ago. I liked the style of his music, incorporating elements of the old and the new. He was wonderful to work with and accepted the challenge of writing a piece on the scripture of the day for April 7.
The resulting piece is titled “The First Lord’s Supper” and it sets a text from Matthew 26:26-30, when Jesus first points to the passover meal as symbols of his body and blood, soon to be shed for the salvation of humankind. Zachary’s music is contemporary but accessible, and incorporates a melody and text called “Adoro te devote” from Gregorian plainchant by Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274). It will be a privilege to experience this music for the first time on Sunday as the distribution anthem for the last service in our “Born. United. Sent.” series.