Our present day calendars are ten days ahead of the Old Style calendars of Bach's era, making Bach's date of birth March 31 in comparison. And so this Sunday, I'll take the opportunity to pay tribute to this master composer and his influence on generations after him.
Composers such as Franz Liszt and Max Reger offered works in honor of Bach by 'signing' his name into their music using the pitches B, A, C, and H (German indication for B flat). We'll hear Robert Schumann's Fugue No. 3 in G Minor on the Name of BACH and Alice Jordan's Largo on BACH this Sunday morning as two fine entries utilizing this compositional device. Bach's own well-known "Little" Fugue in G Minor, BWV 578 will close the services.
Music and text have been inexorably linked for thousands of years. The desire to humanize our music-making always leads back to the expressiveness of the original musical instrument: the human voice. Compositions are sometimes named after vocal terms, such as as cantabile, Italian for 'singable'.
This Sunday morning's focus will be on the sustaining power of words and poetry.
The music will follow suit with organ works named after and embodying literary terms such as "Soliloquy," "Poem," and "Epilogue." Hymns and the choir anthem will express poetic texts by 17th century Anglican priest George Herbert and noted contributor to our New Century Hymnal, Shirley Erena Murray.
The power of words, through music.
This Sunday is indeed the Second Sunday of Lent but also the Feast of Saint Patrick. And it is to the latter that the musical selections this week take their primary cue.
Plaintive organ settings on ancient Gaelic tunes such as Bunessan ("Morning Has Broken") and St. Columba ("The KIng of Love My Shepherd Is") will be heard. For the Postlude, an excerpt from the final movement of Irish composer Charles Villiers Stanford's "Sonata Celtica" will be offered. The entire movement is based on the 19th century hymn tune St. Patrick's Breastplate, which was set to text translated from a 5th century prayer of protection attributed to St. Patrick himself. Composed in 1918, the sonata is characteristic of organ works of this period: dramatic, virtuosic, and occasionally sentimental, a vestige of the 19th century.
At the 11:00 a.m. service, the Chancel Choir will sing a benediction, an "Irish Blessing" by Bob Chilcott. The well-known text, "May the road rise to meet you..." is a loose translation of an ancient Gaelic prayer. Chilcott's intimate setting has become a staple in our choir's repertoire. Finally, a few traditional Irish slip jigs will find their way into the service as well, courtesy of Harmony Tucker and her fiddle.
At 6:00 p.m., join fiddler Abigail Steidley, guitarist Scott Steidley, bassist Peter Strening, Blair and Bobby as they lead you in ancient Celtic songs and present lively jigs and reels. Afterwards, join us all for a well-deserved pint or two at McClellan's.
The Adagio from Organ Symphony No. 3 in F Sharp Minor (1911) by Louis Vierne sets the tone this first Sunday morning in the Lenten season.
The affect is solemn as well as beatific as we begin our Lenten journeys. At the 11:00 a.m. service, the Chancel Choir presents the Kyrie from Maurice Duruflé's Requiem, a choral masterwork of the 20th century. Composed first for organ and chorus in 1948, two later versions included chamber orchestra and full orchestra, both also with organ accompaniment. The entire work is based on Gregorian chant with each movement employing the appropriate chant in highly creative ways, often using techniques harkening back to the Renaissance and Baroque eras. The Kyrie will be conducted by Bryan Kettlewell, director of choirs at Thompson Valley High School. Also at 11:00, the Youth Bells will ring A Simple Dance arranged by Michael Glasgow, based on the Shaker tune Simple Gifts. To close the services, a setting of the Charles Villiers Stanford hymn tune Engelberg will be offered. Commonly set to the text When in Our Music God Is Glorified, it will be a fitting conclusion to this very musical and artistic start to the Lenten season, especially with the art installation present led by our guest preacher, Linda Privatera.
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.