The origins of The Southern Harmony, and Musical Companion were in early American melodies cultivated in colonial era singing schools. These institutions sought to improve choral singing, particularly for application in a church service. Published in 1835 by William Walker, this compilation has remained unchanged since 1854 and contains tunes that have become staples of the Christian songbook, such as Wondrous Love and New Britain. Contemporary American composer Ronald Perera will be represented this Sunday morning with his "Five Meditations on Wondrous Love," a set of creative variations on the hymn tune, some serene, quirky, ethereal, and stately. The Chancel Choir will offer a setting of New Britain ("Amazing Grace") by Bruce Stevenson. For the early service communion, a setting on the tune Jefferson (from the 1818 compilation Tennessee Harmony) by Dale Wood will be heard.
At 6:00 p.m., join Bobby, Blair and banjo player Josh Beard for Americana-inspired service offerings.
What's in a name?
This Sunday morning's organ selections were composed for a purpose and simply entitled as such. For the prelude, Edward Shippen Barne's "Prelude" begins the services. Opening modestly, the work evolves into complex harmonies reminiscent of the French 19th and 20th century organ composers, no doubt influenced by his study with Louis Vierne. Vierne was the titular organist at the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris from 1900 to his death in 1937. His ethereal composition Communion will be heard during the 9:00 a.m. service communion time. Postlude by Welsh organist and composer William Mathias ends the services in an elegantly jubilant spirit.
The Chancel Choir presents a setting of the 1847 Shaker hymn "Followers of the Lamb" by Robert Wetzler. The text, altered slightly to suit contemporary Christian sensibilities, speaks to obedience and the delight in following the way of the Spirit.
Organ works by early Baroque composer Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1707) will pervade this Sunday's morning services. He spent the majority of his career at Marienkirche (St. Mary's Church) in Lübeck, attaining the post in 1668 and holding it until his death. Retirement was desired but a new music director would have needed to marry Buxtehude's daughter as part of the position requirements, a condition never fulfilled by any would-be job seeker. Buxtehude became very well known in Germany for his organ performance prowess and vocal and instrumental compositions, drawing contemporaries J.S. Bach and G.F. Handel to Lübeck to meet the master.
The sectional free work Prelude, Fugue, and Chaconne in C Major will serve as the prelude. It offers a representative glimpse into Buxtehude's compositional style that would influence the entire North German school of organ composition to follow. During the 9:00 a.m. communion, the composer's setting of the 1607 Lutheran chorale Auf meinen lieben Gott ("In my beloved God") will be played. The original text speaks to finding solace and strength in following God. Also a sectional work, the chorale variations are based on traditional dance movements of the time, such as the courante, sarabande, and gigue. Closing the services is the "Jig" Fugue in C Major, also utilizing the triplet dance rhythms of the gigue.
At the 11:00 a.m. choral service, the Chancel Choir will sing "O God, You Speak Your Beauty Every Hour" by respected sacred music composer Howard Helvey. Conceived in 2015, the work is written in the idiom of high Anglican church music and speaks to our mission of bringing Light and Love to all corners of the earth. Organist Jake Schick will accompany the choir in this beautiful offering.
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.