Lenten Evensong

 by Dereck E. Nickels, Director of Music

On Sunday, March 16th at 5:00 p.m., the choir will lead our traditional Lenten Evensong, a musical offering that nurtures our Lenten journey.  The choir will be singing the Great Organ Mass by Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809), one of 14 masses written by the prolific Viennese composer born 275 ago this March 31.  Born in a small Austrian village of Rohrau in relative poverty, Haydn later emerged to become one of the great pillars of music, composing 82 string quartets, 104 symphonies, numerous concerti for piano, violin, horn, trumpet, flute, and cello, 35 piano trios, 14 masses, several masterful oratorios including the famous The Creation and The Seasons, and 19 operas.  His parents noticed his musical gifts and abilities and knew that staying the little town of Rohrau would not offer any possibilities for their son. 

At the age of 5, Franz Joseph left his parents' home to live and apprentice with Johann Matthias Franck, a distant cousin and schoolmaster/choirmaster in the neighboring town of Hainburg.  Haydn was able to learn both harpsichord and violin in addition to singing in the church choir.  His impressive singing caught the attention of Georg von Reutter, the choirmaster at St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna. For the next nine years, Franz Joseph was a professional choirboy at Vienna's St. Stephen's Cathedral, beginning his long association with that musical city. After his voice changed, he struggled to make ends meet by working as a valet, and accompanist to the Italian composer Nicola Porpora (1686-1768).

In 1757, Haydn landed his first important position of Kapellmeister (Director of Music) for Count Karl von Morzin.  Unfortunately, his fortunes were short-lived when Count Morzin lost his wealth and had to dismiss his musical establishment.  Luckily, Haydn was offered the position of assistant Kapellmeister to the Esterházy family, one of the most important and wealthiest families in the Austrian Empire. He was offered the position of Kapellmeister in 1766 and remained until 1790 when Prince Nicholas Esterházy died.

Haydn lived his last years off of his pension from the Esterházy estate and traveled to London where he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Oxford University in 1791.  He died on May 31, 1809 at the age of 77.  His funeral was a state occasion attended by all of the nobility of Vienna.  The music was a setting of the Requiem by a brilliant young composer who had sought Haydn's masterful advice several years earlier and later became Haydn's favorite composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

While all of our Evensongs are presented in the greater glory of God, this particular Evensong will be unique since we will be presenting a setting of a Mass.  This will be an opportunity to remember our loved ones who have gone before us.  Please feel free to contact me with a list of names of your loved ones so we can include them in the Evensong bulletin.