Alice Parker anthems for Holy Week (Steeple 2015.04)
It’s unusual for Easter to be the next Sunday we’re thinking about upon getting our newsletters in hand. At the time you’re reading this, we’re probably right in between two anthems from contemporary American composer Alice Parker, one each on Palm Sunday and Easter. The text for “Ride On, King Jesus” comes from an African-American spiritual, used as a reminder to focus on Christ in times of struggle, believing that “no man can hinder” us. It uses image of Jesus’ baptism and ministry, as well as our evangelism of the Gospel message. “Hark, I Hear the Harps Eternal”, meanwhile, comes to us as an arrangement of a white spiritual from the shape note volume Olive Leaf of 1878. It is more simplistic in its message: “Hallelujah to the great I AM.” Alice Parker is one of the most active 89-year olds you could imagine. Following a full-enough career working as an arranging partner with the great Robert Shaw, she has continued this legacy from her home in western Massachusetts, where she maintains a schedule of choral performance with the group “Melodious Accord” and writing choral music, often based on folk and spiritual melodies.