The Triduum begins with a two-part service this Maundy Thursday: the commemoration of the Lord's Supper leading into the Office of the Tenebrae (Latin for darkness).
"Le Banquet celéste" (the celestial banquet) is an impressionistic work by Olivier Messiaen based on the words of John 6.56: "He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood dwelleth in me and I in him." Composed in 1928, it was Messiaen's first published piece and was meant to connote the sense of eternity present in the Eucharist, reflecting his devout Catholic faith. "Choral dorien" by Jehan Alain closes the service as a musical meditation: serene, mysterious, and hopeful. The Chancel Choir will offer a setting of "Ubi Caritas" (where charity and love are, God is there), the traditional antiphon for Maundy Thursday used at the washing of the feet rite. A beautiful setting of "O vos omnes" by Spanish Renaissance composer and priest Tomás Luis de Victoria will be sung by the Chamber Choir near service's end. Based on Lamentations 1.12, this text is commonly used for Holy Week rites and specifically as part of the Holy Saturday Tenebrae Responsories.
On Easter Sunday we will be joined by the Plymouth Brass in joyful hymns, Handel's infamous "Hallelujah Chorus" and an exceptional Chancel Choir anthem by Joel Martinson, "Three Days Had Passed." The Chamber Choir will lead us into the Call to Worship with the introit "Whom Do You Seek" by Roy Stewart. The Plymouth Ringers will also be on hand as we celebrate the Resurrection with Easter hymns during communion. The organ works will be decidedly French with the monumental "Chorale No. 3 in A Minor" by César Franck opening the service. It is a fifteen minute work that could be interpreted as two themes, Life and Death, dancing around each in battle with the chorale theme (Life) winning in the end. This was Franck's last organ work, completed in the year of his death in 1890. The service concludes with the majestic and wonderfully dissonant "Acclamations" from Jean Langlais' "Suite Médiévale". It is based on a two-note chant melody with the text, Christus Vincit (Christ Victorious).
At the 6pm service, we'll have a Dixieland Easter!
On this Palm Sunday marking the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem, organ works of solemn procession will be heard. The "Cortege et Litanie" by Marcel Dupre opens the morning services. A cortege is a solemn procession, usually one involving the casket of the deceased. The musical theme depicting this action is followed by the litany motive. Coupled together, this work is often used by organists on Palm Sunday, Robert Hughes' grand Recessional send us out into the world. The Chancel Choir reminds us of the passion narrative commonly associated with Palm Sunday in Handel's "Surely He Hath Borne Our Griefs," a famous chorus from the seminal work Messiah.
In this week's reading, Jesus foretells his death.
Music to reflect the gravitas of this revelation to his followers can be found in Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings, in an arrangement for organ by William Strickland. Upon the Cross Extended by Camil van Hulse continues the solemn affect as we near Holy Week. The Chancel Choir offers "Trust the Seeds" by Elizabeth Alexander, set to her original poem about nurturing the seeds of faith, entrusting their growth to God.
The Threshold Choir will also join the morning services. They are part of a national movement to offer solace and comfort to those on the threshold of life through song. Their songs of peace and tranquility will be a welcome offering to all of us this Sunday morning.
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.