Breathing life into seemingly hopeless situations — the work of the Spirit.
At 9:00, it is Confirmation Sunday! Join Lucas, Peter, and me in music expressing the winds of the Spirit, creation of the new, and the waters of baptism.
At 11:00, an aria for organ warmly invites you to worship in an elegantly prosaic composition by Paul Manz. The Chancel Offer offers the stunningly beautiful hymn of praise "Laudate Dominum" by Mozart, a choral classic. Staff Vocalist Alex Young presents the dramatic opening soprano solo. The organ sends you into the world with a regal setting of the C. Hubert H. Parry hymn tune "Jerusalem" entitled "O Day of Peace" by Charles Callahan.
At 9:00 a.m., fiddler Harmony Tucker joins the Celtic musical celebration with traditional Irish and Gaelic tunes plus melodies from other modern "new traditional" sources. Who knows what may be offered...
At 11:00 a.m., the Plymouth Ringers invoke our worship time with the Irish ballad tune "The Star of the County Down" arranged by Samuel Stokes. The Chancel Choir offers the well-known Irish hymn "Be Now My Vision" in a lovely setting by composer Dan Forrest. Lastly, the organ celebrates the 338th birthday of Johann Sebastian Bach on March 21 with the grand sonorities of his "Prelude and Fugue in E Minor, BWV 533" informally subtitled in 1705 as "The Cathedral."
Songs and chants of the living water and new life this Sunday morning.
It will be a tale of two cellos at the 9:00 a.m. service with Lucas Jackson and Aaron Dunigan-AtLee offering tunes from early America and more.
Two Welsh tune settings for organ by British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams will be presented at the 11:00 a.m. service in "Rhosymedre" and "Hyfrydol." The Chancel Choir sings a beautifully flowing arrangement of the Southern Harmony tune "Amazing Grace" by Bruce Stevenson.
At 9:00 a.m., songs of guidance and revival greet you in the musical strains of Celtic folk music. Guitarist and vocalist Bill DeMarco joins us in this time of worshipful renewal.
At 11:00 a.m., we again experience the music of J.S. Bach in the third movement from BWV 1005 with violinist Harmony Tucker. The Chancel Choir sings the introspective "By the Babylonian Rivers" by Mark Sedio. Based on Psalm 137, the text compares the story of the ancient Israelites exile to our own personal exodus from captivity and hope for new life. Finally, the organ offers the aptly-entitled "Postlude in D" in a regal British manner by Canadian-English composer Healey Willan.
We seek the Light of God – and listen – as our journey into the wilderness continues this First Sunday in Lent.
At 9:00, the Sanctified Art-commissioned song "Land of the Seeking" by Spencer LaJoye opens worship. The composer and lyricist shares his thoughts on its genesis:
"I became kind of enamored with the idea of a magical place called 'The Land of the Seeking,' which you can only get to via the shadow of your doubts, the moment a candle burns out, the point where you’re so lost you just keep going instead of turning around, etc. The idea that there’s an entire welcoming 'land' for us when we feel place-less and questioning and confused…that was appealing to me. I’m also so inspired by Nicodemus coming to Jesus under the cover of night. Like the 'scary' thing (nighttime, darkness, unknown) is actually a comfort for a questioning person. And the idea of there being an abundance of grace beyond the bottom of the well…that was also inspiring to me."
At 11:00, the organ offers two chorale preludes from the Lenten section of J.S. Bach's "little organ book" in "Jesus, Priceless Treasure" and "If You But Trust in God to Guide You." The Chancel Choir sings a hauntingly beautiful arrangement of the early American tune "Wondrous Love" by composer Peter Stearns.
Our yearly pilgrimage through the wilderness has begun anew as we began our collective Lenten journey with last night's Ash Wednesday service. God meeting us where we are while we intently come forward into the divine presence. In community, in the bread and wine.
At 9:00 this First Sunday in Lent, we greet the new morn with songs from the Celtic folk tradition and more with cantor Blair Carpenter and ukulelist Stuart Yoshida.
At 11:00, the organ speaks with two hymn tunes of dedication and praise. At the Prelude, a dramatic setting of "Just As I Am" welcomes you with rising sonorities that offer an urgent plea to the heavens. As the closing phrase of each verse text states: "Lamb of God, I come, I come." A majestic and victorious setting of the venerable tune "Deo Gracias" (Latin for 'Thanks to God') closes the service by British-Canadian composer Healey Willan.
The Chancel Choir offers the hymn anthem "One Bread, One Body" in an elegant setting by prolific composer Mark Hayes.
This Sunday is Bach's birthday...or is it? It is not as easy to answer as one would think. However, Bach scholar and Harvard professor Christoph Wolff 's answer to this question posed by Michael Barone, host of "Pipedreams," settles it for me:
"Moving Bach's birthday is absolutely ridiculous. True, his life was actually 11 days longer because Protestant Germany adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1700 — but with the legal stipulation that all dates prior to Dec. 31, 1699, remain valid...Hold on to March 21, and feel good about it!"
And so we will! This Sunday morning, two works inspired by the very letters of Bach's last name and one by the man himself on the occasion of turning 336.
The Bach motif originated with Bach himself as a way of "signing" his name into his compositions and to provide a challenging melodic fragment to compose with. The notes are Bb (in German musical terminology, called B). A, C, and B (called H in German musical terminology.) A respectable number of works have been composed over the centuries to honor Bach in this way including by Johannes Brahms, Franz Liszt, and Arnold Schoenberg.
This Sunday, the third fugue in G Minor from Robert Schumann's "Six Fugues on the Name BACH" (1845) will be offered. The Plymouth Ringers play "A Zephyr on B-A-C-H", a work I composed which began with the conspicuous question of, "What would an enchanted windchime, given the chance in a warm breeze and a penchant for Bach, sound like?" Just in case you wondered...
The morning service concludes with Bach's "Fantasia in C Major, BWV 570." This uncommon selection in Bach's repertoire has the musical flexibility to be played either quietly and delicately or with bombast and gravitas. We'll go with the latter this week.
At the 6:00 p.m. service, songs from the Iona Community will gather us in with a short tribute to Bach as well in Jethro Tull's "Bourée" with flutist Aaron McGrew.
A Celtic Sunday all around as we honor St. Patrick's Day and the beautifully haunting Celtic folk music tradition.
At 10:00 a.m., harpist Alaina Bongers and flutist Rebecca Quillen offer a wide breadth of Celtic and folk-inspired music including the Irish ballad "Star of the County Down" and "Wondrous Love." Though first appearing in the 1854 edition of The Southern Harmony, the melody for "Wondrous Love" was taken from a popular English ballad.
At 6:00 p.m., violinist Abigail Morgan joins us for a Celtic tour-de-force of jigs, reels, and the lovely waltz "SÍ Bheag SÍ Mhór" by famed 18th century Irish harp composer Turlough O'Carolan. Sláinte!
A line from Nirvana's 1992 hit "Come As You Are" could have been uttered by the Pharisees in the Gospel reading this Sunday: "Come as you are, as you were, as I want you to be...." Hypocrisy incarnate as these self-appointed arbiters of souls decide who will receive salvation in God — a demand of conformity to a false sense of righteousness. Jesus begged to differ...
An intense and gradual crescendo of earnest devotion and, well, the addition of organ stops runs through the prelude, a setting of the hymn "Just As I Am" by Paul Rutz. As if pleading to the Christ ("Lamb of God, I come, I come!"), the dramatic and moody work effectively portrays the hymn text's message of humble service to the Light despite one's perceived faults and unworthy attributes.
Aaron Copland composed twelve settings of poems by Emily Dickinson published as a song cycle in 1950. This Sunday we hear the third song, "Why Do They Shut Me Out of Heaven?" The text first questions the petty reasons for not being admitted into paradise. This quickly turns into frustration and anger as heaven itself seems to simply ignore the noisy objector. One can see how some would face this injustice, even daily, in this world.
The service ends with a blast from the 19th century in "Allegro maestoso," the penultimate movement from Organ Sonata No. 2 in C Minor by Felix Mendelssohn. An energetic and jubilant piece from the sonatas that were considered the finest organ works since J.S. Bach in this era. Mendelssohn like Schumann and Brahms were students of Bach and the Baroque era which sensibilities informed their compositions significantly. For Mendelssohn, his virtuosic pedal work owed much to Bach as displayed in this Sunday's postlude.
Next Sunday at 6:00 p.m., folk music from the Celtic and American traditions will be offered with guitarist Bill DeMarco joining.
William Bolcom and William Albright were colleagues in the composition department at the esteemed School of Music, Theatre, and Dance of University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Their collaborations together produced the ragtime revival of the late 1960's as well as numerous organ works inspired by each composer's artistry. This Sunday morning, we experience a few examples of their eclectic catalogue.
The Gospel Preludes by William Bolcom are a four volume collection of hymns and spirituals set in a gospel, blues, jazz, and even avant-garde manner. They are as spiritually compelling as they are artistic, even strange. For the prelude, the 19th century hymn "Jesus Calls Us; O'er the Tumult" is similar in form to a Baroque chorale prelude (cantus firmus on one manual, accompaniment on another with pedal) but harmonically evokes jazz, blues, and gospel. A gentle setting that beckons the ear to listen deeply to Bolcom's complex chromatic writing.
The title "Carillon-Bombarde" by William Albright refers to the bell peal figure heard throughout the piece in both manual and pedal and the use of the large French reed stop: the Bombarde. Commissioned in 1985 for the re-dedication of the historic Chapman tracker organ at St. Margaret's Church, Straatsburg-on-Hudson, New York, the work is thrilling, almost typical, yet inescapably imbued with Albright's characteristic quirkiness.
The Musical Offering this Sunday is a solace for prayer and reflection in George Frideric Handel's "Andante" from Sonata No. 1 with violinist Harmony Tucker.
This Sunday at 6:00, join us for an eclectic evening worship experience with the musical sounds of gospel, jazz, blues, the Celtic folk tradition, and an ethereal instrumental from the early days of the band Genesis. Guitarist Alan Skowron returns to this newly reinstated evening service.