We welcome the season of Advent with a serene setting of the carol "Veni Emmanuel" (O Come, O Come, Emmanuel) by Charles Callahan. The Chancel Choir ushers in this season of waiting with "Come, Jesus, Come" by Alfred Fedak. Flutist Aaron McGrew joins us for the latter two offerings as well. The organ presents a hopeful rendering of the Advent carol "Helmsley" (Lo! He Comes With Clouds Descending") in a toccata by James Vivian.
Songs of thankfulness and praise from around the world will be presented at the 9:00 a.m. service. Ukulelist Stuart Yoshida joins us in the chancel.
Songs of gratitude and joy carry over into the 11:00 a.m. service as well on this last Sunday of the liturgical year. At the Prelude, a sprightly selection from the Baroque era by violinist Harmony Tucker is offered in Handel's "Allegro con brio" from Sonata No. 4 in D Major. The Chancel Choir sings a paraphrase of Psalm 98 ("Oh, Sing to the Lord a New Song") in a lilting setting exuding a sense of a 'quiet joy' by John Leavitt. Harmony Tucker and bassist Con Woodall accompany. At the Postlude, Sigfrid Karg-Elert's chorale prelude on "Now Thank We All Our God" closes worship this holiday weekend, a staple of the organ repertoire.
At the 9:00 a.m. "eclectic" service, our core trio of worship musicians cantor Lucas Jackson, bassist Peter Strening, and I offer songs rejoicing in the blessings that God's presence brings. Selections from the American spiritual and jazz songbooks and George Harrison will be presented.
At the 11:00 a.m. traditional service, the Chancel Choir sings of the blessings received in simply being what God created us to be in "Child of God," a gospel-influenced anthem by Mark Miller. From the organ comes two settings of Welsh hymn tunes: "Rhosymedre" (translated as "lovely") by Ralph Vaughan Williams and "CWM Rhondda" (the tune of "God of Grace and God of Glory") by Paul Manz.
Two African-American tunes greet you upon entering the sanctuary on this Installation Sunday. First, a jazz-influenced rendition of "McKee" based on an arrangement by James Biery, followed by the spiritual "Lord, I Want to Be a Christian" in an intimate setting by Bill Ingram presented by the Plymouth Ringers. The Chancel Choir exclaims "I'm Goin' to Sing" in a lively arrangement of the spiritual by Alice Parker and Robert Shaw. From the organ, a joyous festival setting of the opening hymn tune is offered in "Toccata-Improvisation on Lasst uns erfreuen" by Brenda Portman.
Ovella Huddleston and cantor Lucas Jackson contribute the lush ambience of the low strings to the early morning worship service. Arrangements of works by Gustav Holst and Antonio Vivaldi will be offered on this day of remembrance.
At 11:00, the organ consoles those gathered with an "Elegy" by composer and a former Cincinnati colleague of mine Brenda Portman. During communion, the Chancel Choir offers the traditional Irish blessing in a serene setting by Bob Chilcott. The service concludes with an assured and triumphant meditation on the All Saints Sunday hymn "O What Their Joy and Their Glory Must Be."
The works of the revered Lutheran composer Johann Sebastian Bach will be offered in celebration of Reformation Sunday this week. A jazzy take on the well-known "Bourée," based on the 1969 arrangement by rock band Jethro Tull, will be heard at the 9:00 a.m. service. Bassist Con Woodall and guitarist Bill DeMarco join in. From the organ, we hear a jubilant setting of the Martin Luther hymn of faith "Wir glauben all an einen Gott" (We all believe in one true God) and the dramatic masterpiece "Fantasia in G Minor." As an expression of his faithful intent, Bach signed his compositions with the Latin phrase "Soli Deo Gloria" (Glory to God alone). May it be so!
The Chancel Choir sings the beautiful "Where the Light Begins" by Susan Labarr at the 11:00 a.m. service. The text by Jan Richardson speaks to the power of change—of reform—that begins within each of us. She writes:
...though we cannot see or feel or know all the ways that God is radiantly illuminating us, may we open ourselves toward that light. May we open our eyes, our hands, our hearts to meet it. May we lean into the light that begins in the deepest dark, bearing itself into this world for us.
On this Consecration Sunday, Plymouth's music ministry share the fruit of their labors during both morning services.
The services begin with "Echoes of Joy," a duet for organ and flute by Hans-André Stamm. Flutist Aaron McGrew leads this delightful minimalist-inspired work. The Plymouth Ringers offer the festive "Praise with Timbrel and Dance," informed by the words of Psalm 150, by Frederick Chatfield. Kids Will Sing! return to the chancel steps with songs from our youngest members. The Chancel Choir presents a dramatic setting of the early American hymn "How Firm a Foundation" by Dan Forrest. And finally, the organ revisits this tune in a riveting toccata from Craig Phillips to close our Consecration Sunday services.
At 9:00 a.m., jazz harmonies and Celtic hymns come together during the early morning worship hour. Ukulelist Stuart Yoshida, cantor Lucas Jackson, and bassist Peter Strening join us.
At 11:00 a.m., the organ offers two expressions of joy in a chorale prelude on the German hymn tune "Lobe den Herren" (Praise the Lord) by Johann Walther and the thrilling "Toccata for a Joyful Day" by Emma Lou Diemer. The congregation will be invited to join the Chancel Choir in the hymn-anthem "All My Hope on God Is Founded" arranged by Michael Burkhardt.
At the 9:00 a.m. "eclectic" worship hour, songs of service and unity will be sung along with offerings from Peter Gabriel and the musical Godspell. Staff Singer Lucas Jackson and bassist Peter Strening join us.
At the 11:00 a.m. Traditional Service, excerpts from Heinrich Biber's "Sonata Representiva in A" with violinist Harmony Tucker greets you in the sanctuary. This delightful work is a representation of nature and wildlife replete with animal sounds such as the cuckoo, frog, and more. A delightful Baroque ode to God's creatures on this Blessing of the Animals Sunday.
The Chancel Choir sings of an unrelenting faith in Mark Miller's "I Believe." The poignant text is based on an anonymous Jewish poem discovered in the latter days of World War II scrawled on a cellar wall in Germany.
At the Postlude, the organ offers a contemporary "Festive March" by Daniel Pinkham.
On this World Communion Sunday, the familiar strains of the spiritual "Let Us Break Bread Together" welcomes you to worship in a jazz-inspired setting by Charles Callahan. The Chancel Choir offers "One World" during our time in fellowship at the table. This original anthem by Linda Kachelmeier exhibits a South African character with elements of gospel and plenty of percussion. The service concludes with a joyous fantasia influenced by the music of Latin America by Hans-André Stamm.