Songs of faith and devotion—moved by a higher love (a new mode)
The tune for "Sweet Hour of Prayer" (1861) was written by William Bradbury, who also composed music for such well-known hymns as "Just As I Am" and "Jesus Loves Me." Based on a text attributed to William Walford, a blind English minister, the hymn expounds on the joy of being with God in prayer. The setting by William Bolcom from Book 4 of his Gospel Preludes serenely projects this moment of sublime communion in a highly chromatic idiom with surprising and interesting harmonic resolutions.
"How Firm a Foundation" is one of Christendom's most enduring and popular hymns of faith. Written by the enigmatic "K." (published in 1787), the text is usually paired with the familiar early American melody "Foundation." The toccata setting based on this tune by Craig Phillips is an exciting flourish of creative sections which keeps the well-known hymn tune ever front and center.
Violinist Amy Welsh offers the opening movement "Caprice" from Arches by American composer Kevin Puts. The entire five movement work alternates between caprices and arias and utilizes a pattern of key centers and arch-like figurations that provide an architectural symmertry to the entire work as a whole — arches.
At the 6:00 p.m. live in-person service, an eclectic blend of songs from the Iona and Taizé comunities will be shared on this Trinity Sunday evening. Violinist Amy Welsh (fresh from Sunday morning:) joins us again with lovely descants and a reprise of "I. Capriccio" from Arches.
Songs of the Spirit for this Pentecost Sunday.
Subtle rhythms reminiscent of a tango gently percolate in Mark Sedio's setting of the hymn tune "Down Ampney" at the Prelude. Ralph Vaughan Williams composed the tune named after the village of his birth to the Pentecost text, "Come Down, O Love Divine." The work easily conforms to the arranger's performance instruction of playing it "Unhurried, with sultry elegance."
Johann Sebastian Bach's concise yet glorious choral prelude on "Komm, Gott Schöpfer, Heiliger Geist" (Come, God Creator, Holy Ghost) closes the service. Based on a 16th century Lutheran hymn with texts supplied by Martin Luther himself, the two-part BWV 667 is from the "Great Eighteen Chorale Preludes," a set of mature works by the composer. The first section has the melody set in the soprano and is also the abbreviated version found in Bach's "Orgelbüchlein" (little organ book.) The second section places the cantus firmus in the pedal while a flurry of notes streaming like the wind flows overhead on the manual.
Members of the Chancel Choir greet Pentecost Sunday with the choral anthem, "Come, Gracious Spirit" by Alfred Fedak. The folk tune "Danby" is treated sensitively in this simple yet artful two-part arrangement. This musical offering also marks the first time in this pandemic that choral music has been recorded live in the sanctuary.
Come join us for the live in-person 6:00 p.m. "eclectic" services beginning this Pentecost Sunday! It is such an appropriate time by chance that we would be able to come together in-person after so many months away on the "birthday" of the Church. Songs of the Spirit will continue as well as songs of hope and healthy change by musical artists Kacey Musgraves, Horace Silver, and David Bowie. "Veteran" 6:00 p.m. bassist Peter Strening joins cantor Blair Carpenter and I for this exciting and blessed opportunity as we near the end of this trying pandemic.
Songs of pilgrimage and discovery—hopeful for enlightened paths ahead.
The anticipation of summertime and nature's complete transformation after the budding spring is the topic of the 16th century German chorale "Herzlich tut mich erfreuen die liebe Sommerzeit" ("My faithful heart rejoices; the summer comes at last"). Johannes Brahms' final work, the Eleven Chorale Preludes of 1896, contains a lovely and passionate setting of this tune. The melody plays clearly above a swirling accompaniment figure gently interrupted by tender fleeting interludes.
"The Road Home" by esteemed composer Stephen Paulus is based on the early American melody "Prospect" with text by notable poet Michael Dennis Browne. Originally a four part choral anthem, soprano Blair Carpenter presents this solo version with the message of a wayward traveler finding the way back to truth—home.
The lively Welsh hymn tune "CWM Rhondda" (pronounced "koom rahn-duh") is given a Handelesque treatment by famed composer of hymn tune settings Paul Manz. The ode- to-the-Baroque opening fanfare appears throughout this chorale prelude between sections of the tune played loudly by the Festival Trumpet stop.
Join us at the 6:00 p.m. service with visiting scholar Wesley Granberg-Michaelson and American/English folk tunes telling the tale of travel on the road. Guitarist Bill DeMarco joins in on this Sunday evening pilgrimage.
"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you."
Welsh hymn tunes form the basis of Three Preludes for Organ (1920) by Ralph Vaughan Williams. This Sunday morning, two of these beloved melodies will be offered.
"Rhosymedre" (sometimes simply entitled "lovely") is named after a village in Wales where the composer Father John David Edwards served as vicar from 1843 until his death in 1885. Williams' tender organ setting of the tune is a staple of the organ repertoire and famously was performed at the funeral of Princess Diana and the wedding of her two sons, Harry and William.
"Hyfrydol" is the tune of one of Christendom's most recognized texts, "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling." The exuberant rendition which closes the Welsh collection employs pleasantly dissonant harmonies displaying grandeur and gravitas with the well-known hymn tune clearly heard above it all.
At the Musical Offering, flutist Aaron McGrew plays the famous "Meditation" from the opera "Thais" by Jules Massenet. Originally scored for violin and orchestra, the work serves as a reflection where upon Thais, at the behest of a concerned monk, ponders the decision to leave her hedonistic life behind and instead follow God.
The 6:00 p.m. service also welcomes flutist Aaron McGrew as we together offer songs of life, love, and light.
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.