It is a Sunday of "musical reunions" as we enter this stewardship season.
The organ returns! As the result of patience and due diligence, we have the privilege to hear this instrument roar and purr in the sanctuary once again.
A lively and eccentric "Scherzo" by British composer Alan Ridout gets us started. The playful yet austere "Praeludium" by German composer Hermann Schroeder closes the service with a Neo-Baroque flair.
Members of the Plymouth Ringers once again grace the sanctuary with my minimalist arrangement of the "Prayer of St. Francis", also known as "Make Me a Channel of Your Peace." While some of our beasts will be blessed following the service, let us be blessed by the presence of these folks and their musical offering.
Improvisation for some musicians is fear incarnate. It is a language to learn but also a leap to take. Jazz musicians live for the opportunity to "compose in the moment" while classical players can sometimes cease to be without a music score. In these times, improvisation in a general sense is essential for all of us. For some days, you don't know what is next!
This Sunday, we will hear a sketch, perhaps an impromptu or two. But as with any improvisation, there is always that central idea to refer back to. An oasis in the midst of uncertainty. The trusty Gaelic tune "St. Columba" will be that glue
including a setting by Matt Riley with violinist Harmony Tucker.
Amid all the ambiguity, we hope to see you this Sunday at 10:00 a.m.
During this Sunday morning's pre-recorded service, we will see the debut of Plymouth's Virtual Choir!
Utilizing the popular Acapella app, we're able to record up to 9 singers and musicians in sound and vision. The anthem in question is an old chestnut with the Chancel Choir, Natalie Sleeth's "Hymn of Promise." The tune can also be found in The New Century Hymnal as "In the Bulb There Is a Flower," hymn number 433.
This will be the beginning of regular virtual offerings among this choir and other ensembles including the Chamber Choir and Plymouth Ringers. There are also collaborations among the congregation that will surface as time goes on.
It has been a slog, to be honest. But our volunteers and friends of Plymouth have enjoyed the process of bringing this music to you. Much more to come as we persevere in these tough and confusing times. We can't be together quite just yet but the church and music program is certainly still open.
An American and a Welshman.
"Those Americans" is an abstract work from the respectable Five Dances for Organ by Calvin Hampton. While not exactly a dance in a conventional sense, the constant motion of triplet figures conveys a steady movement, a busyness. Perhaps emulating the stereotypical American in the eyes of the world as one who overworks and overachieves, losing sight of the beauty around them?
Calvin Hampton left us with many works for the church including several innovative hymns. Tenor Lucas Jackson sings "O Love of God, How Strong and True," an 1861 text by Horatius Bonar set to Hampton's DeTar, named after organist and retired Julliard professor Vernon DeTar. The scalar melody and syncopated accompaniment make for a truly unique congregational hymn.
What's in a name? Welsh organist and composer William Mathias's "Postlude" closes the service on a note of jollity and mirth. Cheerio!
Even in my peak physical condition in days of yore, I have never enjoyed sports. Can't be bothered! But these days, the skillset of hitting a mean curveball out of the park is a frequent occurrence, figuratively speaking. I believe I'm getting used to it as we all likely have during these strange times.
You may have noticed that the piano has been used quite often in our streaming services. Of late, it's a result of the organ being a bit under the weather... though soon to be remedied! I have always enjoyed using the piano in worship despite the organ's traditional role as music leader in corporate worship:. My degree training notwithstanding. I consider it an enclosed giant organ stop: another color!
Improvisation is in the air as plans are dashed for new ones. As is the courageous flexibility of our guest musicians who have sometimes stepped in at a moment's notice. Thank you!
So what of this Sunday's music program? I'm not sure! Surely the conclusion of the worst Music Minute ever written in this space. I can tell you flutist Rebecca Quillen will swoop back into town and we'll offer several selections from a lovely sonata or similar. To honor our trusty Yamaha grand piano, I'll play a selection from the 1993 film The Piano entitled "The Promise" by Michael Nyman. It only seems right.
So hope to "see" you all out there in streaming land this Sunday as we worship together. Stay tuned.
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.