In Matthew’s Gospel read this morning, the Pharisees challenge Jesus and ask him which is the greatest commandment. Jesus’ response surprises them: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart . . . soul . . . mind.” This great biblical mandate is taken from the book of Deuteronomy and in Hebrew is called the V’ahavta. It is directly preceded by the Sh’ma, “Hear, O Israel. The Lord our God, the Lord is One.” Both of these portions form an integral part of the Jewish Sabbath liturgy. At the 9 am, these ancient texts will be sung in a setting by the Israeli composer Yehezkiel Braun, forming a musical link between the Old Testament and Gospel readings. Braun was brought up in Palestine and was in close contact with Jewish-East Mediterranean folk music, an influence clearly felt in his music.

At 11 am, St. Bartholomew’s Choir will sing Monteverdi’s motet “Beatus vir,” a setting of Psalm 112, which stresses that “Happy are those who take delight in the Lord’s commandments.”

Monteverdi was the music director of San Marco in Venice, which had a rich musical history, having been served by Giovanni Gabrieli and Giovanni Croce. Monteverdi’s music is regarded as revolutionary, since it contains elements from the Renaissance such as refined polyphony as well as innovations from the emerging Baroque period, such as the use of recitative and basso continuo, a new form of accompanying voices or instruments with only the bass part given to a keyboard player. The player is given numbers above the bass part denoting which chords to play.

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