What ruler wades through murky streams and bows beneath the wave,
Ignoring how the world esteems the powerful and brave?
Water, River, Spirit, Grace, sweep over me, sweep over me!
Recarve the depths your fingers traced in sculpting me.
These words from Sunday's opening hymn by Thomas Troeger address the humble spirit of Jesus' baptism in the Jordan — an act seemingly below the stature of a would-be Messiah. But glory dwelled within this moment and carries into our lives daily if we choose to receive it.
Susan Palo Cherwien's insightful baptismal text "O Blessed Spring" is commonly paired with the English tune "O Waly Waly." For the prelude, we'll instead hear the alternate tune "Berglund" by Lutheran pastor and cantor Robert Buckley Farlee in a two-part setting by James Biery. The first section assigns the cantus firmus to the pedal with a delicate manual motif over top contrasting with the flowing tranquil mood of the closing section.
Members of the Plymouth Ringers ring in the new year with my arrangement of the Renaissance tune "In Thee Is Gladness." I set the lively and dance-like melody in the Lydian mode, a tonality composers have used to signify Light (in the Epiphany season or otherwise!). The tell-tale raised fourth scale degree offers a sense of wonder and awe in this carol for the new year: "In thee is gladness amid all sadness, Jesus, sunshine of my heart!"
To close Sunday's worship, an exuberant work also from the Renaissance entitled "Glorificamus" by John Redford, organist and composer at St. Paul's Cathedral, London during the reign of King Henry VIII (circa 1525.) "Glorificamus" was described in the E. Power Biggs-edited anthology "Treasury of Early Organ Music" as "precious evidence of the advancement of organ music in England .... freeing this kind of music from the yoke of vocal polyphony."
Two prominent contemporary American organ composers will be presented during this week's morning services. Gerre Hancock was known as a master improviser of all the classic forms including fugues, trios, and even entire organ symphonies. This ingenuity is very present in his choral and organ output as well. The atmospheric and tonally adventurous setting of the well known hymn Beautiful Savior opens the services. Ned Rorem left an indelible mark on contemporary organ repertoire as well as the vocal, choral, and operatic genres and in literature as a diarist. At 95 years of age, Mr. Rorem has retired from composing but enjoys his works performed regularly throughout the world. Fanfare from OrganBook III and "...No darkness at all..." from A Quaker Reader will be offered.
The Chancel Choir will present a setting of the familiar Isaiah 9:2-6 text prophesying the advent of the Light to the world in Arise and Shine! by John Paradowski.
Come later to the 6:00 p.m. service for a Celtic evening of jigs, reels, and beautifully haunting tones from the British Isles. Violinist Abigail Steidley and guitarist Scott Steidley joins Bobby and Blair for this exciting worship experience.