At the Prelude, an aria for the organ by prolific Lutheran composer extraordinaire Paul Manz. Referencing the vocal solo music form, a beautiful fluid melody soars above a pulsating string accompaniment. An imitative section on the plenum registration offers a full-bodied choral response before descending back into the solo voice.
At the Offertory, a thoughtful and mysterious pondering of the classic hymn of dedication, "My Faith Looks Up to Thee" by Russian composer Yury Arbatsky. This beloved tune is played in a double canon on the manuals with a murky pedal line lurking below. Searching for truth, perhaps.
At the Postlude, the joyous "Festival Voluntary" by Belgian composer Flor Peeters is offered. Conceived with the stately British organ voluntary in mind, this boisterous recessional sends us out into the world with spirit and hope.
Music and words are intrinsically linked: one describes the other. Creatives and lovers of music and poetry have known this for centuries. I would say that we all experience this powerful relationship, consciously or not. So for this week, there will be no musicological descriptors of the music you'll hear this All Saints' Sunday but rather these— words.
Harpist Alaina Bongers and flutist Rebecca Quillen bring the evocative titles "Willow Weeping in the Wind" and "Autumn Shadows" to life this Totenfest Sunday morning: a day when we remember loved ones who have passed on to the communion of saints, walking roads we can only imagine.
The Stephen Paulus choral work, "The Road Home," comes to mind after writing the preceding paragraph. The poet Michael Dennis Browne collaborated with Paulus on this cherished anthem and described the genesis of the beautiful prose: "I thought of the speaker as a persona rather than myself...I was also trying to suggest the consolation that can come to someone of faith, in times of great stress, as a result of prayer and an abiding belief in divine mercy."
Allow these words to bring you solace, and hope, during these anxious days. The music will follow...
Tell me, where is the road
I can call my own,
That I left, that I lost
So long ago?
All these years I have wandered,
Oh when will I know
There's a way, there's a road
That will lead me home?
After wind, after rain,
When the dark is done,
As I wake from a dream
In the gold of day,
Through the air there's a calling
From far away,
There's a voice I can hear
That will lead me home.
Rise up, follow me,
Come away, is the call,
With the love in your heart
As the only song;
There is no such beauty
As where you belong;
Rise up, follow me,
I will lead you home.
It is a Sunday of "musical reunions" as we enter this stewardship season.
The organ returns! As the result of patience and due diligence, we have the privilege to hear this instrument roar and purr in the sanctuary once again.
A lively and eccentric "Scherzo" by British composer Alan Ridout gets us started. The playful yet austere "Praeludium" by German composer Hermann Schroeder closes the service with a Neo-Baroque flair.
Members of the Plymouth Ringers once again grace the sanctuary with my minimalist arrangement of the "Prayer of St. Francis", also known as "Make Me a Channel of Your Peace." While some of our beasts will be blessed following the service, let us be blessed by the presence of these folks and their musical offering.