The music of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) will be celebrated at all three services this Consecration Sunday and 501st year since the Reformation. Bach is not only one of the greatest composers who has ever lived but was a devout man of faith whose music exudes spirituality and his dedication to expressing the Divine. The oft-penned signature of Bach's works with the phrase Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God alone) made his compositional intentions even more clear.
There will be an extended prelude of approximately ten to fifteen minutes before each service representing Bach's output in chamber, vocal, and organ music. The morning program will begin with the organ chorale prelude Wir glauben all' an einen Gott, BWV 680 (We all believe in one God) from the Clavier-Übung III published in 1739. The opening fugue subject is based on the first line of the 1524 Martin Luther hymn, a paraphrase of the Nicene Creed. The intricate fugal writing for manuals is interspersed with a bold ascending and descending pedal line often interpreted as representing faith in God. This similar approach is taken in later Credo movements as well, such as in Bach's Mass in B Minor (1749). An excerpt from Johannes-Passion, the aria Ich folge dir gleichfalls (I follow you likewise with happy steps) will be offered by soprano Blair Carpenter, cellist Lisa Eakins, flutist Aaron McGrew and myself on continuo. Lastly, cellist Lisa Eakins and I will play the Adagio and Allegro moderato movements (I and IV respectively) from Sonata No. 1 in G Major, BWV 1027. The work is one of three sonata settings originally scored for viola de gamba and harpsichord dating to the late 1730's or early 1740's during Bach's tenure at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig. At the 11:00 a.m. service, the Chancel Choir will sing two excerpts from Cantata No. 147 Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben (Heart and mouth and deed and life) of 1723 employing the familiar chorale tune often translated as Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring. I will be joined by cellist Lisa Eakins in the basso continuo accompaniment. And for the Postlude, I will offer Bach's Prelude in A Minor, BWV 543 (a virtuosic and slightly 'sinister' piece...very apropos for the days before Halloween!). The Prelude is an early work, composed around the time of his tenure as court organist to the Duke of Saxe-Weimar from 1708–1717. It bears the mark of stylus phantasticus, the North German organ composition style characterized by a free, rhapsodic, and dramatic approach, owing a great deal of inspiration to Bach's mentor, Dietrich Buxtehude.
The Bach celebration continues at 6:00 p.m. with soprano Blair Carpenter, harpist Alaina Borgers, guitarist Alan Skowron, and flutist Rebecca Quillen joining. During the Prelude, a setting of Arioso for harp and flute, based on the well-known opening Sinfonia of Bach's 1729 cantata, will be presented as well as excerpts from Suite in C Minor. BWV 997, originally composed for lute and harpsichord. Selections for organ and chamber music will be reprised from the morning services as well.
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.