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.
“Simple Song”, from Leonard Bernstein’s MASS: A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players, and Dancers
will be sung by our soprano choral section leader Emily Morris at both the 9:00 and 11:00 services. Flutist and Chancel Choir member Aaron McGrew will provide the obligato. MASS was commissioned by First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy and received its premiere in 1971 at the opening of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C. The Chancel Choir offers British composer Will Todd’s “Lighting the Way.” Subtitled "A Song for Pilgrims," the work was composed for the 1999 Lighting the Way Festival at Durham Cathedral in England.
A selection from Ned Rorem’s Organ Book III (1989), “Impromptu,” begins the morning services. Rorem won the Pulitzer Prize in 1976 for his orchestral composition, “Air,” and is also a published author, notably his essays on music and personal diaries. Canadian organist Healey Willan’s setting of the English folk melody Deo Gracias (translated "Thanks to God") closes the services. The tune is commonly known as the Agincourt Carol, the melody originating in the early fifteenth century in commemoration of the 1415 Battle of Agincourt.
Bobby welcomes two new additions to the 6:00 service musicians roster this week. Guitarist Alan Skowron is an active performer and instructor in the area specializing in jazz and classical. Vocalist Hannah Walters is also the music director and organist of Peace With Christ Lutheran Church here in Fort Collins. Bassist Guy Keith, percussionist Matt Brown, and yours truly will also be present and together provide a musically contemplative worship experience.
Director of Music
This Sunday morning’s choral and organ music will all hail from Britain. Two organ selections from Six Pieces by Frank Bridge, Allegro comodo and Allegro ben moderato, will be offered. The composer’s organ works are among his oft-performed repertoire. Bridge was also a mentor to his colleague and friend Benjamin Britten. Philip Wilby’s setting of “If ye love me,” a lovely alternative to the Thomas Tallis standard, will be sung by the Chancel Choir at 11:00, accompanied by organist Jean Merkel.
Come to the 6:00 service where Bobby and vocalist Adrienne Harlow will bring a gospel-tinged flavor to the congregational songs and musical selections.
This Sunday morning will be steeped in the musical imagination of famed Baroque composer George Frideric Händel (1685-1759). At the 9:00 service, violinist Harmony Tucker and myself will play Händel’s Sonata No. 1 in A Major as the prelude. Come early and hear this amazing work! Excerpts from Sonata No. 3 in F Major will also be offered.
At 10:00, join Dr. John Pippen in the Forum Room for his presentation on Part III of Händel’s Messiah. Dr. Pippen, Assistant Professor of Music History and Musicology at Colorado State University, will discuss the history of the work, the genre of the oratorio in general and its creators, and aspects of this Easter portion of Handel’s oratorio including form and text setting.
At 11:00, we will all have the privilege of experiencing the third part of Händel’s masterwork Messiah (1741). Accompanied by an eleven member chamber orchestra and featuring soloists from around the Fort Collins area, the Chancel Choir and friends will present all nine sections of part three in their entirety.*
Please join us for this Easter season service of scripture and music from Händel’s beloved oratorio, Messiah.
At 6:00, Bobby will be joined by harpist Alaina Borgers and friends for a Celtic-inspired service with other musical excursions very possible.
Director of Music
*Recordings of the musical offerings from April 29
Eastertide and Earth Day will be acknowledged in the music selections this Sunday.
French composer Louis Vierne, also famously the titular organist at Notre Dame Cathedral from 1900 until his death in 1937, will be represented by the sprightly “Chant de Printemps” (Spring Song). Italian concert organist Marco Bossi’s “Alleluja – Final,” from 6 Pieces, Op. 70 (1891) will close the morning services.
The Chancel Choir offers American composer William Albright’s “Look There! The Christ.” Taken from his collection of Six New Hymns (1983), this Easter text is set to verses over an intricate accompaniment in dual time signatures and a chorus reminiscent of gospel and blues rock. This approach of creating synergy between several seemingly incompatible styles of music is a hallmark of Albright’s compositional ethos.
On Sunday evening, Earth Day and environmental awareness will be focused upon with music both old and new. Saxophonist Bill Cleary and vocalist Kristen Smith will join Bobby and others for an evening of predominantly American music including gospel, jazz, and Native American sounds, with flute, and possibly a touch of Gregorian chant…
Many of this week’s musical selections have nature-oriented themes in support of the Environmental Fair held this Sunday, April 15, in the Fellowship Hall. I will play two selections from Flor Peeters’ Lied Symphony, op. 66 for the morning preludes. At the 9:00 service, “Lied to the Flowers,” a set of variations on an original chant-like melody fully utilizing the colors of the organ will be presented. “Lied to the Mountains,” a noble work ably capturing the majesty of the mountains well-known in our own natural habitat, begins the 11:00 service. These songs of nature were sketched out on an organ recital tour by Flor Peeters in 1947 and completed the following year. He considered the whole work a “symphonic Benedicite,” a hymn to nature and its creator.
Springtime Easter carols will be sung throughout the services and one played as a postlude as a toccata on “Gaudeamus Pariter” (often paired with the Easter text “Come, You Faithful, Raise the Strain”) by James Biery.
The Chancel Choir will also offer John Rutter’s setting of “For the Beauty of the Earth” at the 11:00.
At 6:00, acoustic music featuring banjo player Josh Beard will be presented with a focus on folk and bluegrass. Environmentally-friendly songs by John Bell and hymn writers of the past, reconstructed, will also be shared.
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.