Two hybrid works of genre and musical era. An ode to flowers: the "poetry of Christ."
The tried-and-true Baroque chorale prelude receives a jazz/gospel veneer in William Bolcom's "Jesus Calls Us; O'er the Tumult" from Gospel Preludes. The melody of this 19th century hymn of invitation soars above the jazz-inflected accompaniment on the hoary Cornet stop combination.
The recognizable toccata form has been in use since the late Renaissance. Italian for "to touch," it is characterized by rapid or continuous motion meant to display the performer's technique. Organist Hans-André Stamm offers a toccata on the 17th century German chorale "Lobe den Herren, meine Seele" (Praise the Lord, My Soul) but with a distinct Latin pulse in the left hand and pedal. A lively and spicy finish to Sunday worship!
Benjamin Britten composed his well known cantata Rejoice in the Lamb in 1943. Culled from the 18th century poem Jubilate Agno by poet Christopher Smart, the texts reveal an unbalanced yet deeply religious man. Written in part while confined in an asylum, Smart relates how the entirety of creation praises God by simply being true to its own nature. Cantor Lucas Jackson offers the tenor solo "For the Flowers Are Great Blessings" from this work during the Musical Offering. A leisurely yet tender tribute to nature's expression of the divine:
For the flowers are great blessings...For there is a language of flowers.
For the flowers are peculiarly the poetry of Christ.
Antonio Lucio Vivaldi (1678-1741) wore many hats in his lifetime: a teacher, virtuoso violinist, a Roman Catholic priest, and a renowned composer admired throughout Europe. He wrote sacred choral music and over forty operas but is best known for his violin concertos, particularly Four Seasons, excerpts of which have been presented on several occasions in our services. Despite his fame and success, Vivaldi died in poverty much as his contemporary and admirer J.S. Bach would several years thereafter. Music still loved and cherished centuries later.
Vivaldi composed a set of six cello sonatas with continuo between 1720 and 1730 and published in 1740 in Paris. This Sunday, excerpts from Sonata No. 3 in A Minor will be offered by cellist Heidi Mausbach.
An unbelievable message from a celestial visitor. So ridiculous, one would laugh. Sarah did. A musical missive — an aria — and two songs of whimsy.
An expressive solo voice on the Cornet registration guides Paul Manz's "Aria" for the organ. Accompanied by lush yet insistent chordal clusters, the work merges into an imitative 'B' section before returning to the opening soprano melody.
Flutist Rebecca Quillen offers "No. 7 in D Major", an excerpt from Twelve Fantasias for Solo Flute by Georg Philipp Telemann. This capricious unaccompanied work is reminiscent of laughter in my view. A frolicking adventure for the ears.
You can't dance to it but the 7/4 meter can stir the soul. A "Toccata in Seven" by famed British composer John Rutter closes the service in a joyful blast, albeit asymmetrically.
Songs of nature and sustenance — and a benediction — greet you at this Sunday morning's 10:00 a.m. livestreamed outdoor service.
Due to popular demand (seriously!), Blair Carpenter and I will again offer Kacey Musgraves' "Rainbow." An anthem embraced by the LGBTQ community upon its release in 2018, the song has become notable in this pandemic era as a source of solace and comfort.
"Heart of the Heartland" is the title track from Peter Ostroushko's album released in 1995. This instrumental evokes an easy Americana vibe sure to offer a moment of repose and reflection following the sermon. Banjoist Bruce Ronda and bassist Peter Strenning will join in.
Finally, we offer a countrified rendition of the 19th century hymn "God Be With You" to close the service. This slice of Americana also serves as a fond farewell to staff member Mark Lee as he heads off soon to his next call. And adventure.
Veni Creator Spiritus. Come, Creator Spirit.
This 9th century text is attributed Rabanus Maurus, a Frankish Benectine monk who was later to become the Archbishop of Mainz. When sung, it is traditionally to Gregorian Chant and prescribed for the feast of Pentecost and additional select occasions. The tune has been set by a myriad of composers over the centuries including French Baroque organist and composer Nicolas de Grigny.
From his singular collection of organ works Premier livre d'orgue (1699), two versets from "Veni Creator" will be heard this Pentecost Sunday. The opening "En Taille a 5" is set for five voices with the chant melody played in the tenor ("taille") on a prominent pedal reed stop. The last movement, "Dialogue sur les grands jeux," displays the characteristic nasally French reeds in an opening and closing overture with a sprightly gigue between.
Violinist Amy Welsh offers the "Allegro con brio" from Violin Sonata in D Major by George Frideric Handel. Composed in 1749-50, this was Handel's final piece of chamber music before his death in 1757. An expression of joy in D major: the key most associated by Baroque composers as the "Key of God."
This Sunday morning we worship in the style of our 6:00 p.m. service! Spiritual songs of joy and praise reveling in the images of God will be experienced at the 11:00 hour.
Kacey Musgraves' "Rainbow" was released in 2018 and soon became an anthem for all who have struggled. Especially embraced by the LGBTQ community, it has now resurged as a balm in this pandemic era, recently performed by Kacey on the Global Citizen "One World:Together at Home" benefit concert. The chorus offers these words of comfort and optimism: "Hold tight to your umbrella, well darlin’ I’m just trying to tell ya, that there’s always been a rainbow hanging over your head.”
"No Longer" is a hymn text about unity written by a fave here at Plymouth, Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. Paired with the traditional Yigdal melody "Leoni," this musical offering will receive a jazz-inflected reinterpretation.
"Yahweh" is a song by the Irish rock band U2 appearing on their 2004 album "How to Dismantle an Atom Bomb." Described as a "closing prayer" to the record, the song took on a new life in the recording process when lead singer Bono spontaneously sang the lyrics and melodies in one take. He further noted, "I had this idea that no one can own Jerusalem, but everybody wants to put flags on it. The title's an ancient name that's not meant to be spoken. I got around it by singing. I hope I don't offend anyone."
Guitarist Alan Skowron and bassist Peter Strening join Blair and I for this "6 at 11" worship experience. We hope you may be present with us as well. Selah.
Wordless expressions of a blessed Christian community through ordered sound: music. An invocation. A hosannah. A hymn of praise.
"Nun bitten wir den Heiligen Geist" (We Now Implore the Holy Ghost) was composed by Martin Luther in 1524 and based on a well-known medieval leise (a 13th century vernacular church song). Numerous settings of this tune were composed in the centuries to follow including this week's ornamented chorale prelude by Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1707). An expressive invitation to the Holy Spirit as we enter worship.
Robert Borger plays Franz Liszt's heroic "Hosannah" (1862) scored for trombone and organ. Based on the chorale melody "Heilig ist Gott der Vater" (Holy is God the Father), the work is an instrumental setting of "Alleluja" from Liszt's large scale choral work "Cantico del sol Francesco d'Assisi." An acclamation of joy and triumph.
The hymn of praise "Lobe den Herren, den mächtigen König der Ehren" (Praise to the Lord, the Almighty) is a shared treasure across denominational lines the world over. Paul Manz's celebrated setting from 1975 perfectly encapsulates the fervent spirit of this venerable text: Bold. Rousing. Enlivening.
Sounds of spring. Words of comfort from the Good Shepherd through the ages. Two chorale preludes and a bit of Vivaldi.
The Irish tune Saint Columba is often associated with the hymn text "The King of Love My Shepherd Is," a lovely paraphrase of Psalm 23 by Henry Baker (1868.) The tune receives a florid interpretation by British composer Robin Milford during the prelude. Interestingly, this setting was also adapted for an orchestral version in an episode of the original Star Trek series. The postlude is an energetic and joyous Toccata on the Easter hymn "Come, Ye Faithful, Raise the Strain" (tune: Gaudeamus Pariter) from James Biery's collection Three for Easter.
The musical offering is movement one from the "Spring" portion of Antonio Vivaldi's infamous concerto Four Seasons. Violinist Harmony Tucker joins us for this well-known excerpt here in the heart of springtime.
The Road to Emmaus. A pilgrim's tale. Where Christ is made known in the breaking of the bread.
Two Easter season chorale settings will frame this Sunday morning's worship time. "Vruechten" was originally a 17th century Dutch folk tune and a love song. It soon after became an Easter carol with the text "This Joyful Eastertide" becoming most associated with the tune. James Biery's contemporary setting evokes the Baroque era with an ornamented melody overlayed a florid accompaniment. The tune "Victory" was composed by Palestrina in 1591, commonly known as "The Battle Is O'er; the Strife Is Done." Alfred Fedak offers an improvisatory and exhilarating setting of this classic Easter hymn.
For the musical offering, Charles Callahan's jazz-inflected rendition of the famous communion song "Let Us Break Bread Together" will be presented.
On this Second Sunday of Easter, we reflect upon our role as stewards of this island home called Earth. So let us have an environmental sabbath day with music celebrating nature, the Resurrection, and new life.
The familiar tune of the ecological hymn "All Things Bright and Beautiful" receives a whimsical and playful treatment by esteemed composer Emma Lou Diemer. An excerpt from her Folk Hymn Sketches for Organ, this brief character piece begins with a chirpy registration (perhaps alluding to morning bird chatter?), transitions to sonorous timbres in the verses ("The purple-headed mountain..."), and back to the cheerful refrain.
Soprano Blair Carpenter will present a solo interpretation of the choral anthem "Trust the Seeds" by Elizabeth Alexander. On this Sunday in Eastertide, we often will hear the story of doubting Thomas: the disciple in need of proof of Jesus' resurrection as faith alone would not do. Alexander's text speaks to the virtue of faith in botanical terms, encapsulated in the poem's final phrase: "There is joy in planting if you trust the seeds."
We sang the Paschal hymn "Now the Green Blade Rises" during last Sunday's Easter service. This Sunday morning, an instrumental reprise is offered during the postlude in Mark Sedio's toccata on the hymn tune Noël Nouvelet. This French carol was likely written in the late 15th century with the medieval folk quality readily apparent. It was originally paired with a Christmas text, translated as "New Noel, Noel let us sing here." The well-known Easter text was written by English priest John Crum in which he compares Christ to grain sprouting miraculously from the dark earth.
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.