On this Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend, I felt inspired to choose several justice and peace themed chorale settings by contemporary American organ composers that would also be relevant in our present troubled times. Jesus Calls Us; O'er the Tumult beckons us into the sanctuary, a place of refuge and peace. William Bolcom composed this jazz-tinged setting included in Book 3 of his four volume set of Gospel Preludes. In Christ There Is No East or West, originally an Irish tune adapted by African American slaves, is also given a jazz treatment by organist James Biery during the 9:00 a.m. communion. Lastly, a regal setting of the tune Duke Street, commonly paired with the text Jesus shall reign where'er the sun, by Charles Callahan will send you out into the world on a joyful note.
The Chancel Choir sings a modern translation and setting of Psalm 34.1 in Oh, I Will Praise the Lord by Michael Burkhardt at the 11:00 a.m. "choral" service. The setting is based on a canon by Baroque composer Georg Philipp Telemann, whose output of over 3000 works makes him one of the most prolific composers of all time.
Cantor Blair Carpenter and guitarist Alan Skowron work with Bobby at this MLK weekend's 6:00 p.m. service. Come join us for this evening prayer service as we celebrate the virtues of justice and peace in our world.
Two prominent contemporary American organ composers will be presented during this week's morning services. Gerre Hancock was known as a master improviser of all the classic forms including fugues, trios, and even entire organ symphonies. This ingenuity is very present in his choral and organ output as well. The atmospheric and tonally adventurous setting of the well known hymn Beautiful Savior opens the services. Ned Rorem left an indelible mark on contemporary organ repertoire as well as the vocal, choral, and operatic genres and in literature as a diarist. At 95 years of age, Mr. Rorem has retired from composing but enjoys his works performed regularly throughout the world. Fanfare from OrganBook III and "...No darkness at all..." from A Quaker Reader will be offered.
The Chancel Choir will present a setting of the familiar Isaiah 9:2-6 text prophesying the advent of the Light to the world in Arise and Shine! by John Paradowski.
Come later to the 6:00 p.m. service for a Celtic evening of jigs, reels, and beautifully haunting tones from the British Isles. Violinist Abigail Steidley and guitarist Scott Steidley joins Bobby and Blair for this exciting worship experience.
The Feast of the Epiphany falls on Sunday this liturgical year, a day sometimes referred to as Three Kings Day. Christians around the world have commemorated the visitation of the Magi to the Christ Child on January 6 for centuries. But the Epiphany season is much more than this. It is the season of light, the Light of Christ revealed to the world, at first, via a guiding star. Throughout this portion of the liturgical year, ending on the Transfiguration on March 3, we will hear many references to light through the organ and choral works and hymnody.
This Sunday morning, two 20th century settings of German Baroque chorales by Helmut Walcha will be offered: Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern (O Morning Star, how clear and bright) and O Jesu Christe, wahres Licht (O Christ, our true and only light). Walcha was a blind organist who composed in what can be a called a "Neo-Baroque" style: employing common Baroque composition techniques such as counterpoint and exposing the chorale melody in the texture (a cantus firmus) with contemporary harmonies and a modern aesthetic. A noted scholar on the works of J.S. Bach, Walcha recorded the master's complete catalogue twice: once in mono, followed by a recording in stereo. It is fitting then to also present Bach's setting of In dir ist Freude (In Thee Is Gladness), a hymn of hope for the new year, declaring Jesus as the "sunshine of my heart."
At the 11:00 service, the Chancel Choir will sing Paul Halley's arrangement of Infinite Light, an Epiphany anthem based on a traditional English text and melody.
At 6:00, Bobby and cantor Blair Carpenter will continue our Epiphany observance with beautiful musical offerings of light and love.
The final composer in this month's Advent Baroque composer series will be Jean-Adam Guilain (c. 1680 -1739). Guilain was born in Germany but spent the majority of his life in France. Not much is known of him but his surviving musical output demonstrates an embracement of the French Classique tradition over the North German organ composition ethos. This Sunday morning, we'll hear excerpts from his singular collection of organ works entitled Pièces d'orgue pour le Magnificat sur les huit tons différents de l'église published in 1706. Each of the eight suites is based on the Gregorian Chant melody of the Magnificat in all eight church modes. The suites were intended to be sung in alternation with the chanted verses of the Magnificat and will be treated as such this Sunday morning with cantor Blair Carpenter, utilizing tone two.
Two other Marian works will be represented this Sunday morning as well. At 9:00 a.m., Blair Carpenter will sing Hugo Wolf's art song Nun, wandre Maria during the communion time. At the 11:00 a.m.service, the Chancel Choir will offer Ave, Ave, the Angel Sang, by prolific contemporary composer Robert Lau.
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) will be the organ music focus this Sunday morning as part of the Advent Baroque composer series. The four Advent works of the Orgelbüchlein ("Little Organ Book") will be offered. Composed mostly in Bach's Weimar period from 1708-1717, the collection contains 46 works representing the major feast days of the liturgical year, a small number completed of the 146 planned works. Bach describes the purpose of this collection in his foreword: "In which a beginning organist receives given instruction as to performing a chorale in a multitude of ways while achieving mastery in the study of the pedal, since in the chorales contained herein the pedal is treated entirely obbligato. In honour [sic] of our Lord alone. That my fellow man his skill may hone." The Orgelbüchlein was a pedagogical guide, study in compositional techniques and a religious statement. The four Advent works, BWV 599-602, are Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland (Come now Saviour of heathens), Gottes Sohn ist kommen (The Son of God is come), Herr Christ, der einge Gottes-Sohn (Lord Christ, the only Son of God), and Lob sei dem allmächtigen Gott (Praise be to God Almighty).
At the 11:00 a.m. service, the Chancel Choir will sing composer Robert Hobby's setting of the Charles Wesley Advent hymn, Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus. The text is set to the tune JEFFERSON from the 1835 early American shape note and song book, Southern Harmony. Amy Welsh will conduct.
At 6:00 p.m. the annual Longest Night service will include harpist Alaina Bongers, flutist Rebecca Quillen, the Plymouth Ringers, and our newest ensemble, the Chamber Choir. Advent selections include an arrangement of the 16th century plainsong chant Divinum Mysterium by Alaina Bongers and the Anglican choral classic A Spotless Rose by Herbert Howells.
For each Sunday in the remainder of Advent, the seasonal chorale-based output of a Baroque composer will be focused upon from the organ.
This week, it will be German composer Georg Böhm (1661-1733). He is known as the father of the chorale partita, a composition which offers a succession of creative variations on a chorale tune. Excerpts from Freu dich sehr, o meine Seele (Rejoice greatly, O my soul) will be heard at the morning prelude and postlude and during the 9:00 a.m. service communion. The chorale melody is known to us as the Advent hymn Comfort, Comfort O My People, a tune compiled in the 16th century Genevan Psalter. The Chancel Choir will offer Felix Mendelssohn's How Lovely are the Messengers from the 1836 oratorio St. Paul. A paraphrase of Romans 10.15 & 18, the chorus praises the harbingers of peace on earth and the coming new kingdom of God on earth.
At 6:00 p.m., Bobby, cantor Blair Carpenter, and bassist Peter Strening will lead us in song as we continue our Advent journey.
Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) was an Italian composer, virtuoso violinist, instructor, and priest whose influence on composers was widespread even in his day. At this Sunday's morning services, we will hear his Concerto in D Minor for Two Violins, Op. 3, No. 11 with violinists Harmony Tucker and Katrina Nelson. The work is one of twelve concertos published in 1711 originally entitled L'estro armonico (the harmonic inspiration). The D minor concerto was highly revered by contemporary J.S. Bach and transcribed for organ as Organ Concerto in D Minor, BWV 596. Bach transcribed several other Vivaldi works as well. At the 11:00 a.m. service, I will play a transcription of the final movement of Vivaldi's Winter from The Four Seasons as we anticipate the cold days ahead.
At 6:00 p.m. Bobby and vocalist Hannah Walters will offer a contemplative jazz-inflected musical experience on this First Sunday of Advent. Hannah is organist and Administrator of Music and Education at Peace With Christ Lutheran Church here in Fort Collins.
This Sunday morning, you will hear three settings of the classic hymn Now Thank We All Our God from three very different perspectives. The Prelude is a brief fanfare rendition of the 17th century tune by composer Charles Callahan, complete with jazz harmonies. During communion at 9:00 a.m., a chorale prelude by a contemporary of J.S. Bach, Georg Friedrich Kauffmann, will be offered and composed only a few decades after the original tune's creation. And finally at the Postlude, a tour de force arrangement by late Romantic/early 20th century German composer Sigfrid Karg-Elert.
The Chancel Choir will sing Mozart's sublime Laudate Dominum, the fifth movement from Vesperae solennes de confessore ("Solemn Vespers for a Confessor") of 1780 at 11:00 a.m. The soloist is soprano Blair Carpenter, who will also join Bobby Brannock as cantor for the 6:00 p.m. service.
Czech composer Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904) will be the focus of the instrumental music this Sunday morning. His compositional style has been described as "the fullest recreation of a national idiom with that of the symphonic tradition, absorbing folk influences and finding effective ways of using them." The first two movements from Dvořák's Violin Sonatina, Opus 100 will be offered by violinist Harmony Tucker. The work was primarily composed in New York City in 1893, the last chamber work composed during his trip abroad. The Sonatina was catered to the ears of youth. He wrote, "It is intended for youths (dedicated to my two children), but even grown-ups, adults, should be able to converse with it..." Movement one, Allegro risoluto, exhibits a clear classical form with additional inspiration derived from Indian music and African-American spirituals, a characteristic of his chamber works. The second movement, Larghetto, was composed quickly from notes written on his shirt sleeve while in Minneapolis. This slow movement hearkens back to a longing for Dvořák's homeland. The composer was also an organist and did write a few works for the instrument. The Fughetta in D Major will conclude our morning services.
At 11:00, the Chancel Choir will offer an excerpt from Handel's timeless oratorio Messiah in But Thanks Be to God.
At 6:00, Bobby and cantor Blair Carpenter, bassist Peter Strening, flutist Doti Strening, and guitarist Alan Skowron will lead you in song and worship.
The imaginative and often quirky organ works of Daniel Pinkham will be represented this Sunday morning. He studied composition with such notables as Arthur Honegger, Samuel Barber and Nadia Boulanger. From the late 1950's until his death in 2006, Pinkham taught at the New England Conservatory of Music and was organist for King's Chapel in Boston His music tends to be formal in design but with a distinct harmonic language that can be dissonant yet remain tethered to tonality. A partIta on the hymn tune SLANE opens the services. SLANE was originally an old Irish folk tune and was set to the text "Be Thou My Vision" in 1927, as found in our hymnals. The Partita on SLANE is a set of six short variations on the tune with the melody displaced in the texture and also used as the basis for a gigue and aria. The work is from Pinkham's collection Music for a Quiet Sunday, commissioned in 1998 and debuted by concert organist James David Christie on the modest Stoneham organ. The final piece of the collection, Festive March, modeled after a French sortie, will close our services. At 11:00 a.m. the Chancel Choir offers Mark Hayes' In the Morning, Joy, an anthem expressing the hope and optimism of a new day.
At the 6:00 p.m. service, Bobby will be joined by cantor Blair Carpenter, bassist Peter Strening, and resident ukulele guru Stuart Yoshida to lead you in worship and song.
Each week, Director of Music Mark Heiskanen writes a Music Minute previewing the upcoming Sunday's musical offerings and occasionally opines on other music-related topics.
We are blessed by an engaging music program at Plymouth!
Mark Heiskanen has been Plymouth's Director of Music since September 2017. Originally from Northeast Ohio, Mark has experience and great interest in a diverse range of musical styles including jazz, rock, musical theatre, and gospel. He is thrilled to serve a congregation and staff that values diversity and inclusion in all facets of life.