On this Fourth Sunday of Advent, the Vision and Light of Christmas grows nearer illuminating the receding and darkening days of wintertime.
In the morning, the birth of one to be known as "Immanuel" (God with us) is foretold. A prayerful and jazz-laced setting of "Veni Emmanuel" begins the services and opens our hearts to the coming of Christ. At the early communion service, two Marian songs will be offered by soprano Blair Carpenter: "A Slumber Song of the Madonna" by Samuel Barber and "The Stable" by Royal Brantley. "How Fair and How Pleasant Art Thou" by Marcel Dupré began as a series of improvisations based on Vespers Antiphons for the Assumption of Mary. So well-received was this music that he was compelled to notate them for publication. Dupré's antiphons have been described by Pipedreams host Michael Barone as "grave yet rapturous."
Gustav Holst was a pioneer of the now common hymn-anthem for church choirs. His setting of the Marian-themed communion hymn "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence" will be offered at the 11:00 a.m. choral service.
The annual 6:00 p.m. Longest Night Service celebrates the hope of Advent while acknowledging the Winter Solstice (December 21) and the inevitable colder days and longer nights ahead. Accompanied by harp, flute, cello, organ and piano, songs and musical expressions of solace, hope, and ice will be offered in this richly contemplative service.
The Chamber Choir will sing Bob Chilcott's setting of the ancient text "Nova! nova!" (News! news!) reminding us that even in darkness, the Good News of the Birth of Light in Christ will soon be upon us.
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) will be the organ music focus this Sunday morning as part of the Advent Baroque composer series. The four Advent works of the Orgelbüchlein ("Little Organ Book") will be offered. Composed mostly in Bach's Weimar period from 1708-1717, the collection contains 46 works representing the major feast days of the liturgical year, a small number completed of the 146 planned works. Bach describes the purpose of this collection in his foreword: "In which a beginning organist receives given instruction as to performing a chorale in a multitude of ways while achieving mastery in the study of the pedal, since in the chorales contained herein the pedal is treated entirely obbligato. In honour [sic] of our Lord alone. That my fellow man his skill may hone." The Orgelbüchlein was a pedagogical guide, study in compositional techniques and a religious statement. The four Advent works, BWV 599-602, are Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland (Come now Saviour of heathens), Gottes Sohn ist kommen (The Son of God is come), Herr Christ, der einge Gottes-Sohn (Lord Christ, the only Son of God), and Lob sei dem allmächtigen Gott (Praise be to God Almighty).
At the 11:00 a.m. service, the Chancel Choir will sing composer Robert Hobby's setting of the Charles Wesley Advent hymn, Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus. The text is set to the tune JEFFERSON from the 1835 early American shape note and song book, Southern Harmony. Amy Welsh will conduct.
At 6:00 p.m. the annual Longest Night service will include harpist Alaina Bongers, flutist Rebecca Quillen, the Plymouth Ringers, and our newest ensemble, the Chamber Choir. Advent selections include an arrangement of the 16th century plainsong chant Divinum Mysterium by Alaina Bongers and the Anglican choral classic A Spotless Rose by Herbert Howells.
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.