It is an age-old observation that most can relate some piece of music to one's lived moments both big and small. Childhood birthday party? Yes, that tune. A traditional wedding? Wagner's contemporarily-entitled "Here Comes the Bride" or the seemingly mandatory inclusion of Pachelbel's "Canon in D" comes to mind. One's involvement in the 1960's civil rights movement? "We Shall Overcome" easily rises to the surface. And so many more distinctly personal selections to one's life soundtrack.
Music can even act as an impetus for dramatic life change. For me, hearing Joseph Jongen's "Sonata Eroica" brilliantly performed in a recording by organist Todd Wilson showed me that a degree path in organ performance could be a worthy and exciting path to undertake way back in 2003. And it still provides reliable inspiration when needed.
In our liturgical year, we mark the events of Jesus' life and that of the universal church in a three year cycle of scriptural readings. For myself, I find this to be a powerful and meaningful tool to program music for worship. My earliest associations with worship in my Lutheran upbringing was the intentional ever-evolving tone throughout the year: introspection and anticipation in Advent and Lent culminating in celebration and joy (both quiet and unbridled!) with Christmastide and the Easter season. Not only does it make for a nuanced beautiful musical tapestry in worship week to week, but more importantly, it brings us closer to the story of Jesus and the witnessing church.
As we approach Totenfest/All Saints Sunday and, soon, the Advent season, perhaps a certain hymn or piece of music enters your mind? An association with the majestic Ralph Vaughan Williams' tune in "For All the Saints" is a common one as we remember those saints who have gone on before. It would be difficult to imagine Advent without the longing strains of "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" to usher us into the season.
The Church has the unique position in this world to mark the occasion of every moment of our lives. It is a blessing to be in such a community and to then share that light with all.
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. Mark's Music Minute can be read here.