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.
Organ works by 20th century American composers will permeate the morning service this holiday weekend.
"Aria" by Paul Manz begins worship with an instrumental depiction of the classic vocal solo aria. A setting of the hymn "Jesus Calls Us, o'er the Tumult" by William Bolcom contains jazz-inspired harmonies composed in a chorale prelude style reminiscent of the Baroque era. Daniel Pinkham's "Festive March" sends us out into the day. The piece is an excellent example of the composer's quirky and idiosyncratic harmonic and rhythmic sensibilities.
It is also worth noting that Pinkham was organist for 42 years at King's Chapel in Boston, the first Anglican church established in New England in 1686.
A potpourri of sounds this Sunday as our music ensembles take leave for the summer.
Staff singer and soprano Blair Carpenter shares two spirituals, "Deep River" and "Ride On, King Jesus!" arranged by H.T. Burleigh and Hall Johnson, respectively. Both men were contemporaries and instrumental in combining the American spiritual to art music. The Chancel Choir offers Mark Miller's "God Has Work for Us to Do" at the 11:00 a.m. service. The modern and edgy text by Carl Daw speaks to the injustices of our world and calls us all to be the instrument of God to undo them. Mark Miller's setting is reminiscent of musical theater and evokes a hopeful and poignant backdrop to this amazing text. To close the morning services, I offer an exciting setting of our Doxology tune, "Lasst uns erfeuen" by my Cincinnati College-Conservatory former colleague, Brenda Portman. She currently is an organ professor at Xavier University and Resident Organist at Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church, both in Cincinnati, Ohio.
This Sunday's music is inspired by the bucolic setting of Psalm 23. The Fourth Sunday of Easter is sometimes known as "Good Shepherd Sunday" for the traditionally prescribed reading of this famous psalm and its message of assurance and comfort. And it does appear the local weather will cooperate offering us a nice backdrop during the services...
"Pastorale" by British organist and composer Alec Rowley opens the morning services. A pastorale is a traditional music form, usually in a compound triple meter, meant to evoke nature: a pastoral scene. The apt "Toccata for a Joyful Day" by eminent American composer Emma Lou Diemer sends us out on an exciting and jubilant note at the 11:00 a.m. service.
This Sunday is also the last of the season for Plymouth's hand bell choirs. At 9:00 a.m., the Youth Bells will ring a setting of "Here I Am, Lord" by Arnold Sherman during communion and "A Time for Joy" by Cynthia Dobrinski at the postlude. The Plymouth Ringers offer "All Things Bright and Beautiful" by Susan Geschke at the 11:00 a.m. service.
Also at 11:00, the Chancel Choir sings a beautiful setting of Psalm 23 by composer and virtuoso vocalist Bobby McFerrin. The composition is dedicated to the memory of his mother, who also was an accomplished singer. Sara Copper had served as a Metropolitan Opera judge and chaired the vocal department at Fullerton College in California. McFerrin's psalm paraphrase incorporates an abundance of feminine imagery.
At 6:00 p.m., Bobby and Blair are joined by harpist Alaina Bongers and flutist Rebecca Quillen for further explorations of bucolic imagery in Celtic musical offerings and an arrangement of Mack Wilberg's choral setting "My Shepherd Will Supply My Need."
The indigenous history of music in Mexico was significantly impacted by European immigrants and missionaries, Spanish colonists, and the neighboring countries of Central and South America. This week, we will explore these influences through our worship offerings. What will be heard is the merging of local folk stylings melded with the Western European art music aesthetic.
In the morning, services will begin with "Tiento de dos tiples" by Spanish Baroque composer Paul Bruna. Tiento means "touch:" and tiples "a soprano guitar," an instrument with origins in Spanish Renaissance music. Taken together, this organ work denotes a dual melody which was played on the divided keyboard of the 17th century Spanish organ: upper register for the "sopranos" and lower register for the quiet accompaniment. Eduardo Torres' "Final" closes the services with a setting reminiscent of Spanish guitar sounds and techniques though through a 20th-century lens. For the 9:00 a.m. communion time, we will hear "Elevation" by Baroque Italian composer Domenico Zipoli. As a Jesuit missionary, he emigrated to what is now present day Argentina to teach and compose music among the Guarani people.
At 11:00 a.m., the Chancel Choir will present "Journey Home" by composer and Professor of Composition at Concordia University Abbie Betinis. It is a poignant piece recounting the travels and dreams of migrants to a foreign land in the hope for a better life. A pertinent topic in our culture, to say the least.
At this week's 6:00 p.m. Dinner Church, Bobby and Blair are joined by guitarist Alan Skowron for a Spanish-inflected musical presentation.
This Sunday, a Taizé-inspired worship experience will be offered at all three of our services: a cantor-led service at 9:00 a.m. & 6:00 p.m., and the 11:00 a.m. choral service led by the Chancel Choir.
The Taizé Community in France is the center of an ecumenical movement that incorporates prayer, meditative chants, silence and simplicity. Founded in 1940 by Brother Roger, the Taizé style of worship is recognizable to both Protestants and Catholics in its application of scriptural readings, song, and communion. The hauntingly beautiful chants draw the faithful from all over the world inviting all to enter together into the mystery of God's presence.
Each chant will be sung several times in order that our meditation upon the words may become a song of prayer and an invocation to the Spirit. We hope that your hearts and minds will be opened so that you may speak and listen to God.
Let us celebrate the resurrection together this Sunday in prayerful reflection and meditation upon that first Easter so long ago. We ask that you enter the sanctuary in silence so that the services may be a time of meditation and prayer.
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.