At 9:00, the hopeful message of freedom and perseverance is heard in Paul McCartney's "Blackbird" as we gather. Advent carols bring this season to a close with bassist Peter Strening, staff singer Blair Carpenter, and guitarist Alan Skowron joining.
At 11:00, Marian expressions are heard through a setting of "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming" by Johannes Brahms, the Marian antiphon "How Fair and How Pleasant Art Thou" by Marcel Dupré, and a setting of the "Magnificat" by David Ashley White offered by the Chancel Choir.
And please join us at 6:00 p.m. for the annual Longest Night Service with beautiful musical offerings of this fleeting Advent season by harpist Alaina Bongers, flutist Rebecca Quillen, and a vocal quartet including Blair Carpenter, Janet Hanlon, Lucas Jackson, and Aaron McGrew.
Songs of expectation, longing, and joy this Third Sunday of Advent
At 9:00 a.m., eclectic sounds from the folk, country, and jazz idioms and a moment from the organ round out the morning's musical offerings. Bassist Peter Strening, Resident Ukulelist Stuart Yoshida, and cantor Lucas Jackson join us.
At 11:00 a.m., the Plymouth Ringers offer the classic Advent carol "Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus" to the early American tune "Jefferson" from Southern Harmony (1835). A riveting and contemporary toccata on the hymn tune "Helmsley," associated with the Advent text "Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending," closes the service with a joyful musical exclamation point.
The Chancel Choir sings the gentle "A Carol for Advent" by well-known hymn writer and composer Carl Schalk. The message of patient waiting in this fleeting season is beautifully expressed with a text by Rae E. Whitney. Violinist Harmony Tucker plays the accompanying descant.
A service of eclectic musical offerings at 9:00 with a jazzy take on the Gregorian Chant melody "Rorate caeli" (also referred to as the Advent Prose), a renaissance romp on "Psalm 42" from the Genevan psalter, and a dash of the Baroque from a Handel violin sonata. Violinist Harmony Tucker, bassist Peter Strening and cantor Blair Carpenter join us.
From the organ at 11:00, select variations from the chorale partita "Freu dich sehr, o meine Seele" (Rejoice Greatly, O My Soul) by German Baroque composer Georg Böhm will be offered. The tune (also called "Psalm 42" in Reformed traditions) is commonly associated with the Advent hymn "Comfort, Comfort Ye My People." Böhm was influential in the development of the chorale partita of which this work is a fine example.
Also at 11:00, the Chancel Choir offers the Advent carol "People Look East" in a delightful setting by notable American composer Craig Phillips.
On this First Sunday of Advent, letters of hope and promised returns from this day and days of old will be shared through the medium of music.
Cantor and cellist Lucas Jackson joins me in an intimate offering of Advent carols for the 9:00 a.m. service. We reprise our setting of the ancient tune "Veni Emmanuel" at the 11:00 a.m. service as well.
The organ speaks at the 11:00 a.m. service with the closing voluntary on the tune "Morning Song." Most closely associated with the Advent text "The King Shall Come When Morning Dawns," this majestic imagining of the tune resonates with the assured triumphal return of Jesus' reign on earth.
The Chancel Choir brings us yet another "Advent Message." Written by British composer Martin How, this work implores the heavens for Jesus to live in our hearts featuring John the Baptist's cries in the desert presented by Plymouth's Staff Singer Blair Carpenter.
Songs of Mary
Marcel Dupre's Opus 18 contains fifteen improvised interludes based on vesper psalms and antiphons. Two Marian selections will be heard this Sunday: "How Fair and How Pleasant Art Thou" and the fifth movement from his six part "Magnificat," an ethereal depiction of the Magnificat text, "As he promised to our forefathers, Abraham, and his seed for ever."
Soprano Blair Carpenter sings "Christmas Lullaby" by Jason Robert Brown, a musical theater-inspired offering from the perspective of a modern-day Mary.
On December 23, we offer the annual Longest Night service in lieu of Vespers, with harpist Alaina Bongers and flutist Rebecca Quillen.
Songs of Expectation and New Life
"Rorate caeli" (Drop down, ye heavens) are the opening words of Isaiah 45.8 in the Vulgate bible, the late 4th century Latin translation of scripture. By the seventeenth century, this text was fused with other selected passages to form the Advent Prose and subsequently applied to liturgies and choral anthems for the Advent season. The Gregorian Chant melody ascribed to "Rorate caeli" is set beautifully in a tranquil setting by Jeanne Demessieux from her 12 Chorale Preludes on Gregorian Chant Themes, Op. 8 from 1950.
Two carols of the Advent season follow: my minimalist setting of the chorale "Savior of the Nations, Come" played by members of the Plymouth Ringers and a voluntary on the tune "Morning Song" by Richard Proulx, often paired with the text "The King Shall Come When Morning Dawns."
Next week's Vespers offers a Celtic Advent theme with bassist Peter Strening joining us..
Songs of Advent from the ages: two chorale preludes and a chant. Come, Jesus, Come.
J.S. Bach intended his Orgelbüchlein (little organ book) to be a source of pedagogy for aspiring organists and also contain works covering the entire liturgical year. While never fully completed, two works from the Advent section will be heard this Sunday: "Gottes Sohn ist kommen" (Once He Came in Blessing) and "Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland" (Savior of the Nations, Come.)
Simple works, yet ever artful. The 14th century tune "Veni Emmanuel" (O Come, O Come Emmanuel) is given a minimalistic treatment in my setting for the Plymouth Ringers.
At our next 7:00 p.m. Midweek Vespers on December 9, an Advent Taizé service will be offered with violinist Harmony Tucker.
We welcome the Advent season with variations on "Freu dich sehr, o meine Seele" (Rejoice greatly, O my soul) by Baroque composer Georg Bõhm. This tune from the 1551 Genevan Psalter is most associated with the Advent text by 18th century hymn writer Johannes Olearius, "Comfort, Comfort Ye My People."
A gentle reprieve is offered at service midpoint by violinist Harmony Tucker in the "Adagio" from G.F. Handel's "Violin Sonata in F Major, HWV 370."
For Vespers this December 2, a service of Advent hymn and carols in the folk tradition with guitarist Bill Demarco.
On this Fourth Sunday of Advent, the Vision and Light of Christmas grows nearer illuminating the receding and darkening days of wintertime.
In the morning, the birth of one to be known as "Immanuel" (God with us) is foretold. A prayerful and jazz-laced setting of "Veni Emmanuel" begins the services and opens our hearts to the coming of Christ. At the early communion service, two Marian songs will be offered by soprano Blair Carpenter: "A Slumber Song of the Madonna" by Samuel Barber and "The Stable" by Royal Brantley. "How Fair and How Pleasant Art Thou" by Marcel Dupré began as a series of improvisations based on Vespers Antiphons for the Assumption of Mary. So well-received was this music that he was compelled to notate them for publication. Dupré's antiphons have been described by Pipedreams host Michael Barone as "grave yet rapturous."
Gustav Holst was a pioneer of the now common hymn-anthem for church choirs. His setting of the Marian-themed communion hymn "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence" will be offered at the 11:00 a.m. choral service.
The annual 6:00 p.m. Longest Night Service celebrates the hope of Advent while acknowledging the Winter Solstice (December 21) and the inevitable colder days and longer nights ahead. Accompanied by harp, flute, cello, organ and piano, songs and musical expressions of solace, hope, and ice will be offered in this richly contemplative service.
The Chamber Choir will sing Bob Chilcott's setting of the ancient text "Nova! nova!" (News! news!) reminding us that even in darkness, the Good News of the Birth of Light in Christ will soon be upon us.
At all three services this weekend, we experience a taste of the Anglican Advent Carol Service through lessons of prophecy and carols from this season of Advent.
From the organ this Sunday morning, Brahms' adored setting of "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming" brings us to a time of centering silence. An inventive setting in irregular meters of "Savior of the Nations, Come" by Kevin Hildebrand accompanies the early service communion. From the Advent portion of Bach's Orgelbüchlein, "Lord Christ, the Only Son of God" brings the services to a majestic close.
At the 11:00 a.m. Choral Service, two traditional responses for an Anglican Advent Carol Service will be sung by a quartet: Palestrina's Matin and Vesper Responsories. The Chancel Choir will offer Libby Larsen's "Lord, Before This Fleeting Season," a setting of a poem by Mary Ann Jindra widely circulated this time of the year. Be inspired and enlightened by these words in this busy season:
Lord, before this fleeting season is upon us, Let me remember to walk slowly.
Lord, bless my heart with love and with quiet.
Give my heart a leaning to hear carols.
Grace our family with contentment,
And the peace that comes only from You.
Lord, help us to do less this busy season;
Go less; stay closer to home; kneel more.
May our hearts be Your heart
May we simply, peacefully, celebrate You.