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.
Jubilee Sunday is a time for new beginnings. When we as a church break from our summer routines and enter the new program year with hope and optimism. Sure, it will look very different this time around. And be a little quieter in the church halls. But engaged we will be nonetheless! Happy Jubilee Sunday.
Antonin Dvořák composed his Sonatina in G Major for violin and piano, opus 100 in just a two week period during his trip to America in 1893. With the purpose of furthering the musical abilities of his children, he writes, "It is intended for youths (dedicated to my two children), but even adults, grownups, should be able to converse with it." And so we will. Violinist Harmony Tucker presents the rousing fourth and final movement, "Allegro."
The 8th century Irish text "Christ Be Beside Me" is an excerpt from the prayer St. Patrick's Breastplate, originally attributed to St. Patrick himself. It is a prayer of protection and the affirmation of Christ's omnipresence. We will hear it paired with the Gaelic tune Bunessan in a setting evoking Celtic and jazz tonalities intertwined with the Irish tune St. Columba. Cantor Lucas Jackson sings this lovely work during the Musical Offering.
Jacques-Nicolas Lemmens was a prominent organist and music teacher in 19th century Belgium. He was known for his virtuosic pedal playing due to his extensive study of the organ works of J.S. Bach. This Sunday though, we'll hear a work originally set for the manuals only. The "Fanfare" is a flashy brilliant piece taken from his 1862 organ method book, "Ecole d'orgue" (school of organ.)
"How to approach the holy?" This is a question asked by each soul in his or her own way, knowingly or unknowingly, over the millennia. The providence of God revealed, loudly, in the blast of horns. It's the Jubilee! To Leviticus we go this Sunday morning.
"Soliloquy" by David Conte has become an oft-performed work in the organ repertoire since its publication in 1997. It is dedicated to Walter "Chick" Holtkamp, Jr., and was premiered at the Cleveland Museum of Art in 1996 as part of "ChickFest," a festival celebrating his forty years of organ building. In Conte's words, this wistful work is "in simple ABA form. The principal idea is an angular, lyrical melody, at once both proud and shy, first stated in the solo flute and accompanied by a gently pulsing ostinato. The central section becomes more animated and rises to a declamatory climax. The character of the opening music returns in the final section.".
The beautiful concept of God as caretaker of all creation is perhaps expressed most clearly in the traditional spiritual "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands." Soprano Andrea Weidemann offers a flowing setting of the song by Moses Hogan. Known for his ambitious and thrilling choral arrangements of traditional spirituals, this solo work takes on a very different air: calm dignity barely concealing a brimming joyful conviction.
The trumpet shall sound with David Johnson's jaunty "Trumpet Voluntary in E Flat Major" at the Postlude. Composed in homage to the Baroque trumpet voluntary, the form is clear and concise. The solo trumpet theme alternates with a response on the Great Organ. A minor key 'B' section briefly interrupts the festivities before inviting the return of the main theme, its final reiteration on Full Organ. Classic.
I’ve heard an Organ talk, sometimes
In a Cathedral Aisle,
And understood no word it said
Yet held my breath, the while
And risen up and gone away,
A more Berdardine Girl
Yet know not what was done to me
In that old Hallowed Aisle.
- Emily Dickinson
To be transformed by an unforeseen source is all the more a mystery. A foreign culture. An arcane instrument. Weird music.
From Aaron Copland's 1950 song cycle Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson we hear number ten, "I've Heard an Organ Talk Sometimes", sung by soprano Blair Carpenter. Copland creates a sacred space of sound as the character of Dickinson's poem enters a cathedral and encounters the mysterious sanctuary pipe organ. A stranger in a strange land, brave yet altered, much like Ruth and Naomi crossing the border in the scripture reading this Sunday morning.
And indeed we too will hear the organ speak! Two selections from esteemed American composer and organist Emma Lou Diemer will be offered. First, her setting on the beloved hymn "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee": a playful and eccentric arrangement culminating in an ecstatically dissonant final verse. Second, the "Toccata for a Joyful Day": a flashy ode to joy and burst of optimism for the day ahead.
We will broadcast the UCC Rocky Mountain Conference worship service this Sunday morning, August 2, in lieu of our regular streaming worship time. As such, our sanctuary will be quite devoid of music to speak of in this weekly space! So I thought I would muse a bit about our Midweek Vespers Services streamed on Wednesdays at 7:00 p.m.
So what is Vespers and why are we offering it? Vespers is an ancient service, the penultimate service of the seven canonical hours within the monastic Daily Offices. Vesper in Latin literally means "evening." In this time of pandemic, we thought we would offer a midweek prayerful service for rejuvenation and healing as the day draws to a close. A service of comfort and hope. A reminder of the eternal Light in the darkness.
Vespers at Plymouth is quite diverse. Chants or hymns are sung interspersed with prayers, poems, and scripture. Musically, one can expect a broad range of contemplative styles drawing from the Celtic, Ionian, Anglican, and Taizé traditions with touches of jazz, folk, and minimalist influences. Those who have attended the 6:00 p.m. services will often find many similarities, including the regular use of the sung "Prayer of Jesus" by John Philip Newell.
So consider joining us in this Quiet Place next week. The archives on our website offer the opportunity to view past services as well at your convenience.
In Quiet Joy.
A lovely breakfast on a hazy Sunday morn: sunny-side up...gratitude to God.
The well-known hymn "Beautiful Savior" undergoes a contemporary reading via an arrangement by organ virtuoso Gerre Hancock. Beginning with ethereal lush harmonies, the tune emerges quietly from the texture evolving to a wonderfully dissonant musical tapestry before settling into the gentle conclusion.
The hymn tune "Deo Gracias" (Thanks to God) closes the service in a grand British-style setting by Healey Willan.
Violinist Amy Welsh offers an excerpt from movement 1 of Edvard Grieg's "Sonata No. 1 in F Major." Composed in 1865, Norwegian composer Gerhard Schjelderup described the sonata as "the work of a youth who has seen only the sunny side of life."
This Sunday bears the informal distinction of being the "6:00 p.m. at 10:00 a.m." service where the spiritual dimensions of "Saturday night music and Sunday morning music" (the sacred and seemingly secular) are experienced and explored. Guitarist Alan Skowron and bassist Peter Strening join cantor Blair Carpenter and I for this joyful worship time together.
The Beatles' "All You Need Is Love" was composed by John Lennon and Paul McCartney for the 1967 "One World" live international satellite telecast, the first of its kind. The lyrics were intentionally simplistic to appeal to the international audience of over 400 million from 25 countries. "Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back" - George Herbert
We sing a selection from the Compassion Camp catalogue, "Come to the Table." Accompanied by a Latin groove, this message of hope and acceptance greets us all...even a long-lost prodigal son! "Come to the table...we are all welcome...come, celebrate with us." - Amanda Meisenheimer
We "Take Five" for the Musical Offering with the classic jazz standard by Paul Desmond of the Dave Brubeck Quartet.
David Bowie's "Heroes," the title track from his 1977 album, resurfaced as an anthem in 2001 following the September 11 attack. Likewise in this time of pandemic, the song has been used to honor front line medical workers around the world. "We can be heroes, just for one day." - David Bowie
Trust the seeds, although they lie in darkness,
Stirring beyond your watchful eye.
Though they may not flower as you dreamed they would,
When the planting's over you must trust the seeds.
- from "Trust the Seeds" by Elizabeth Alexander
A lively and spirited arrangement of the hymn "Almighty God, Your Word Is Cast" by Stephen Johnson begins morning worship. Set in the asymmetrical meter of 5/8 (1-2-3-1-2, 1-2-3-1-2), the setting joyfully dances through imaginative maneuvers before ending definitively on two long chords: "Almighty God, your Word is cast like seed into the ground; Now let the dew of heaven descend and righteous fruits abound."
A stately rendering of "Christ Is Made the Sure Foundation" by Paul Manz closes the service on a note of grandeur. Set to the tune Westminster Abbey, composed by 17th century English composer Henry Purcell, the ancient Latin text speaks to Christ as the seed of righteousness in our souls: "Christ is made the sure foundation, Christ the head and cornerstone..."
A few jigs and a reel. Traditional Celtic tunes from the pastoral vistas of the British Isles. Violinist Harmony Tucker joins us for the Musical Offering.
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.