The beginning of a new liturgical year, and so the time of Advent, is upon us this Sunday.
We greet the season in part with two organ selections based on traditional Advent carols. "Once He Came in Blessing" is a 16th century German carol written by a contemporary of Martin Luther, Michael Weiss. The setting by J.S. Bach from his Orgelbüchlein collection will be offered during the prelude. The cantus firmus (or tune) is clearly expressed on a reed stop in the pedal with the manuals gently playing the tune in canon using a three part chorale texture. The tune Morning Song, commonly paired with the Advent text "The King Shall Come When Morning Dawns", closes the services with a boisterous setting by Richard Proulx.
At the 9:00 service, violinist Harmony Tucker plays "Abendlied," from Josef Rheinberger's 6 Pieces, Opus 150, a collection of duets for organ and violin. Abendlied translates as "evening song," a precursor to our darkening days as winter quickly approaches.
The Chancel Choir offers an "Advent Message" by British composer Martin How. Conducted by Amy Welsh, the work provides a synopsis of this fleeting season as we prepare our hearts for the renewed birth of Light and Christ in our hearts.
As we come to the close of another liturgical year, we are reminded of the humble servant-spirit of Christ and the importance of gratitude in our lives.
"Simple Song" is an excerpt from Leonard Bernstein's 1971 MASS: A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players, and Dancers. It extols the virtues of a modest service to God, "the simplest of all." Soprano Blair Carpenter and flutist Aaron McGrew will present the work Sunday morning.
From the organ, the 9:00 prelude will be a set of whimsical variations on the Shaker hymn "Simple Gifts" by James Pethel. Karg-Elert's grand setting of "Now Thank We All Our God" brings the services to a thunderous roar of gratitude.
At 11:00, the Chancel Choir "sings to the Lord a marvelous song" with Allen Potes "Festive Praise" based on the text of Psalm 92.
One service at 11 a.m.
Odes to joy will be shared and sung at this Sunday morning's candidating service.
Two organ works from eminent composer Emma Lou Diemer serve as the prelude and postlude. Her setting of the quintessential song of joy, "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore You," is a capricious work with rapid chord clusters and a hint of bitonality to create a musical landscape of mischievous fun. The "Toccata on a Joyful Day" is an exciting flourish of color exuding the hope and joy of a new day. The Chancel Choir offers "One, Faith, One Hope, One Lord" by Craig Courtney. Based on Ephesians 4.4-6, 13, the text is a hymn of praise and expresses the idea of unity of all people under God.
The organ works of Johann Sebastian Bach can be considered the apex of Baroque composition in their display of masterful counterpoint, virtuosic manual and pedal parts, and genius examples of word painting. But Bach's mentor and acknowledged influence Dietrich Buxtehude offers an illuminating glimpse into what so greatly inspired his wunderkind of a pupil to such great heights. Buxtehude's style was less evolved than Bach's in a sense but did possess a distinct style and passion. We hear three of his works this Sunday morning.
An Invocation to the Spirit begins worship with an ornamented chorale prelude setting of "Nun bitten wir den Heiligen Geist" (We Now Implore the Holy Ghost.) This venerable tune and text are based on several sources: stanza one from a 13th century church song based on the Latin hymn to the Spirit, Veni Creator, and additional stanzas written by Martin Luther in 1524. Buxtehude composed two settings of this hymn, both of which will be offered. At the 9:00 a.m. communion, the eucharistic hymn "Jesus Christus unser Heiland" (Jesus Christ Our Savior) will help create a sacred space of sound as we gather around the table. The composer employs a four-part chorale texture ending on an unresolved dominant chord to express the awe and mystery of this ancient sacrament. Lastly, the "Toccata in F Major" brings worship to a thrilling close in a grand display of dramatic Baroque flourishes.
At the 11:00 a.m. "choral" service, an intimate yet powerful arrangement of "O God Beyond All Praising" by celebrated composer Dan Forrest will be offered. The melody was originally a central motif from the "Jupiter" movement of Gustav Holst's The Planets. Holst adapted the melody as the hymn tune "Thaxted" (named after the English village he lived most of his life in) for "Songs of Praise", a 1925 compilation assembled in part by his friend Ralph Vaughan Williams. As the tune was often paired with a nationalist text, hymn writer Michael Perry wrote the present words as a "...response to a call for alternative words that would be more appropriate for Christian worship.”
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.