A botanical theme of growth. Of life emerging out of seeming death. Coaxed into being by the Spirit.
"Lied to the Flowers" is a poetic song of color and variations for the organ by the aptly named Flor Peeters. It is movement four from his Lied Symphony for organ, a programmatic ode to nature also celebrating the ocean, desert, mountains, and sun. The essence of flowers is suggested with Peeters' specific colored registration and evolving variations on the chant-like flower motif. The Spirit is called to dwell within us in J.S. Bach's glorious setting of "Komm, Gott Schöpfer, heiliger Geist" (Come, God Creator, Holy Ghost.) It is a chorale partita in two parts: the first section presents the cantus firmus in the soprano followed by a repetition in the pedal overlayed with a flowing manual ritornello symbolizing the rushing wind of the Spirit.
This week's musical offering will be the well-known "Meditation" from Thais played by violinist Amy Welsh. Consider it a brief moment of reflection, calm, and inner silence as we virtually worship together this Sunday.
Two selections from Johannes Brahms' Eleven Chorale Preludes will be heard in this Sunday's 11 a.m. streaming service. Composed in 1896, a year before his death, the chorale preludes contain a Baroque sensibility but through the lense of the 19th century. Herzlich tut mich erfreuen ("My Faithful Heart Rejoices") is based on a 16th century hymn encouraging one to act from the heart in service to God. Mein Jesu, der du mich zum Lustspiel ewiglich ("My Jesu, Thou who me to delight forever") is setting of a now extinct German hymn extolling the virtue of serving the Light.
Soprano Blair Carpenter and I will offer our arrangement of the choral anthem "The Lord Is My Light and My Salvation" by Rosephanye Powell. Based on Psalm 27, the text relates the wisdom of trusting in God who can even make the blind see.
Agape love, rebirth, and the transformative work of the Holy Spirit: three concepts intertwined beautifully in this Sunday's reading of John 3.1-17.
The ancient Latin text "Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est" (Where charity and love are, there God is) refers to agape love and is traditionally associated with the Washing of Feet rite on Maundy Thursday in Catholic and some Protestant traditions. Contemporary settings of this text include works by Maurice Duruflé, Paul Halley, David Conte, and this Sunday morning's offering by Norweigan composer Ola Gjeilo. The anthem is also another selection from the March 16 Ola Gjeilo concert the Chancel Choir will participate in at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center in New York City. The Gregorian chant melody associated with the text, composed between the 4th and 10th centuries, serves as the pedal cantus firmus in Jeanne Demessieux's beatific setting of the tune during the Prelude.
A Hymn to the Spirit, "Come Down, O Love Divine," commonly associated with the tune Down Ampney, is given a subtle tango inflection by contemporary composer Mark Sedio for the 9:00 a.m. communion time.
To close the morning services, Camil Van Hulse provides an arrangement of the 17th century Lutheran hymn "Upon the Cross Extended" relating the life-giving power of Jesus' ministry summarized in these words from verse 7: "Your cross I place before me; Its saving pow'r restore me."
At the 6:00 p.m. service, cantor Blair Carpenter and ukulelist Stuart Yoshida lead you in songs of the spirit, love, and the wilderness as we continue the Lenten journey.
On this first Sunday of our Lenten observance, two dramatic organ works from the Baroque period will be played. The "Chaconne in E Minor" by Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1707) offers inspired variations over a ground bass. The "Dialogue sur les grands jeux" from Suite du premier ton by Louis-Nicolas Clérambault (1676-1749) completes the morning services on a grand French high Baroque note.
During the 9:00 a.m. communion time, soprano Blair Carpenter sings a solo version of the Stephen Paulus choral anthem "The Road Home." Based on the folk tune "The Lone Wild Bird" from The Southern Harmony Companion of 1835, the text was written by Michael Browne in 2001 and speaks to returning home after being lost in the proverbial wilderness.
At the 11:00 a.m. choral service, the Chancel Choir offers "The Spheres" by Ola Gjeilo. This work is a selection from our March 16 Alice Tully Hall concert in New York City celebrating the music of Ola Gjeilo. It is an a cappella setting of the first movement from Gjeilo's 2008 Sunrise Mass.
At the 6:00 p.m. Dinner Church service, cantor Blair Carpenter and I lead you in songs by Iona Community composer John Bell and songs of wilderness travel.
In this week's reading, Jesus foretells his death.
Music to reflect the gravitas of this revelation to his followers can be found in Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings, in an arrangement for organ by William Strickland. Upon the Cross Extended by Camil van Hulse continues the solemn affect as we near Holy Week. The Chancel Choir offers "Trust the Seeds" by Elizabeth Alexander, set to her original poem about nurturing the seeds of faith, entrusting their growth to God.
The Threshold Choir will also join the morning services. They are part of a national movement to offer solace and comfort to those on the threshold of life through song. Their songs of peace and tranquility will be a welcome offering to all of us this Sunday morning.
Our present day calendars are ten days ahead of the Old Style calendars of Bach's era, making Bach's date of birth March 31 in comparison. And so this Sunday, I'll take the opportunity to pay tribute to this master composer and his influence on generations after him.
Composers such as Franz Liszt and Max Reger offered works in honor of Bach by 'signing' his name into their music using the pitches B, A, C, and H (German indication for B flat). We'll hear Robert Schumann's Fugue No. 3 in G Minor on the Name of BACH and Alice Jordan's Largo on BACH this Sunday morning as two fine entries utilizing this compositional device. Bach's own well-known "Little" Fugue in G Minor, BWV 578 will close the services.
Music and text have been inexorably linked for thousands of years. The desire to humanize our music-making always leads back to the expressiveness of the original musical instrument: the human voice. Compositions are sometimes named after vocal terms, such as as cantabile, Italian for 'singable'.
This Sunday morning's focus will be on the sustaining power of words and poetry.
The music will follow suit with organ works named after and embodying literary terms such as "Soliloquy," "Poem," and "Epilogue." Hymns and the choir anthem will express poetic texts by 17th century Anglican priest George Herbert and noted contributor to our New Century Hymnal, Shirley Erena Murray.
The power of words, through music.
This Sunday is indeed the Second Sunday of Lent but also the Feast of Saint Patrick. And it is to the latter that the musical selections this week take their primary cue.
Plaintive organ settings on ancient Gaelic tunes such as Bunessan ("Morning Has Broken") and St. Columba ("The KIng of Love My Shepherd Is") will be heard. For the Postlude, an excerpt from the final movement of Irish composer Charles Villiers Stanford's "Sonata Celtica" will be offered. The entire movement is based on the 19th century hymn tune St. Patrick's Breastplate, which was set to text translated from a 5th century prayer of protection attributed to St. Patrick himself. Composed in 1918, the sonata is characteristic of organ works of this period: dramatic, virtuosic, and occasionally sentimental, a vestige of the 19th century.
At the 11:00 a.m. service, the Chancel Choir will sing a benediction, an "Irish Blessing" by Bob Chilcott. The well-known text, "May the road rise to meet you..." is a loose translation of an ancient Gaelic prayer. Chilcott's intimate setting has become a staple in our choir's repertoire. Finally, a few traditional Irish slip jigs will find their way into the service as well, courtesy of Harmony Tucker and her fiddle.
At 6:00 p.m., join fiddler Abigail Steidley, guitarist Scott Steidley, bassist Peter Strening, Blair and Bobby as they lead you in ancient Celtic songs and present lively jigs and reels. Afterwards, join us all for a well-deserved pint or two at McClellan's.
The Adagio from Organ Symphony No. 3 in F Sharp Minor (1911) by Louis Vierne sets the tone this first Sunday morning in the Lenten season.
The affect is solemn as well as beatific as we begin our Lenten journeys. At the 11:00 a.m. service, the Chancel Choir presents the Kyrie from Maurice Duruflé's Requiem, a choral masterwork of the 20th century. Composed first for organ and chorus in 1948, two later versions included chamber orchestra and full orchestra, both also with organ accompaniment. The entire work is based on Gregorian chant with each movement employing the appropriate chant in highly creative ways, often using techniques harkening back to the Renaissance and Baroque eras. The Kyrie will be conducted by Bryan Kettlewell, director of choirs at Thompson Valley High School. Also at 11:00, the Youth Bells will ring A Simple Dance arranged by Michael Glasgow, based on the Shaker tune Simple Gifts. To close the services, a setting of the Charles Villiers Stanford hymn tune Engelberg will be offered. Commonly set to the text When in Our Music God Is Glorified, it will be a fitting conclusion to this very musical and artistic start to the Lenten season, especially with the art installation present led by our guest preacher, Linda Privatera.
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.