This Sunday morning we hear music exemplifying consolation, peace, and hope in these difficult days in our country and around the world.
Our somber yet hopeful plea to God is reflected in "Soliloquy" by David Conte at the prelude. Composed in 1997, the work begins and ends in a plaintive single voice with a grand chorus of sound between. "Chant de paix" (Song of Peace) by Jean Langlais sets a calm, ethereal, even healing tone during the 11:00 a.m. offertory. J.S. Bach's "Komm, Gott Schöpfer, Heiliger Geist" (Come, God Creator, Holy Ghost) from his Great Eighteen Choral Preludes, composed in the last decade of his life, closes the services by invoking the Spirit.
The Plymouth Ringers offer a hauntingly serene setting of the ancient tune Picardy by Sandra Eithun entitled "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence." While primarily a Eucharistic text, a message of hope is also revealed: Christus vincit.
At 11:00 a.m., the Chancel Choir will lead us in the final hymn, "All Our Hope in God is Founded" with a glorious setting by Michael Burkhardt.
At the 6:00 p.m. Service of Ordination, "The Ground" by Ola Gjeilo will serve as the musical centerpiece with a string quartet and Bobby Brannock on piano accompanying. Based on a chorale from the final movement of Gjeilo's "Sunrise Mass" (2008), the work is intended to convey a sense of, in the composer's words, "reaching a kind of peace and grounded strength after the long journey of the mass...".
Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Liszt, and Anton Bruckner are 19th century composers known to most listeners as producing sprawling symphonies, quintessential piano works, and choral masterworks. This Sunday morning, we will hear examples of their, for most, little known organ works.
Beethoven wrote only three published works specifically for organ, two of which are part of opus 39: "Prelude Through All Major Keys". As the title implies, the work seamlessly moves through all twelve key signatures before returning to C major. Opus 39 was composed when he was only nineteen. Liszt's large scale organ works are pinnacles of the repertoire to organphiles but is overshadowed by his piano output to the general public. Liszt's gentle "Adagio in D Flat" will be offered at the 9:00 communion service. Bruckner was a renowned organ improviser in the latter half of the 19th century but composed very few works for what was his favorite instrument. His "Postlude" (or Nachspiel) will close the services in an ode to the Baroque era.
The Chancel Choir offers a rousing setting of the spiritual "Standing in the Need of Prayer" at the 11:00 a.m. choral service by Moses Hogan. Hogan arranged dozens of spirituals for chorus in such creative and exciting ways before his untimely death in 2003. A vocal trio of Karen Dawson, Jennifer Stimson, and Andrea Weidemann are featured in this fun uplifting work.
At 6:00 p.m., come join us for a service on the labyrinth! Bobby will lead us in song as we together come and find the quiet center in the Spirit.
Two famous cousins from the Baroque era frame the morning services with chorale preludes based on two well-known hymn tunes.
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) composed several settings of "Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier" (Dearest Jesus, we are here). This week, we hear BWV 731, the ornamented four-voice chorale setting with soprano played with the right hand, alto and tenor in the left, and bass in the pedal. The Johann Gottfried Walther (1684-1748) setting of "Lobe den Herren, den mächtigen" (Praise to the Lord, the Almighty) also utilizes four voices but in a quasi-fugal style. Fragments of the hymn tune become the unifying motive throughout the brief chorale prelude.with large reeds in the pedal exclaiming the jubilant melody in its entirety.
During the 9:00 a.m. communion service, a setting of the 13th century Eucharistic hymn by Thomas Aquinas, "Adoro te devote" (I devoutly adore you), will be offered by 20th century British-Canadian composer Healey Willan.
At 11:00 a.m., the Chancel Choir sings the evocative anthem "I Believe" by composer Mark Miller. The text is based on an anonymous poem found written on a cellar wall in Cologne, where jewish citizens purportedly spent years in hiding from the Nazis during World War II. The paraphrased text reads: "I believe in the sun, even when it's not shining. I believe in love, even when I don't feel it. I believe in God, even when God is silent." May these words of faith, hope, and comfort empower us in these difficult days as well.
At 6:00 p.m., Bobby and Blair are joined by resident Plymouth ukulele guru Stuart Yoshida, bassist Peter Strening and steel guitarist Chris Kennison for an eclectic selection of spiritual and sacred songs featuring a taste of the "Sacred Steel" tradition. Come and experience this unconventional service of evening prayer and unique sounds!
The tune "Hymn to Joy," made famous in the fourth movement of Beethoven's monumental Ninth Symphony, receives the variation on a theme treatment during this week's prelude by Charles Callahan. Set as a seven movement partita, each brief section pays homage to venerable compositional forms such as the etude, chorale, and trio. The 16th century German hymn "In Thee Is Gladness" is set as a Baroque bicinium, a nod to the past by Paul Manz. A stately hymn-like recessional from 19th century England, "Choral Song" by Samuel Sebastian Wesley, concludes morning worship.
During the 11:00 service, the Chancel Choir and flutist Aaron McGrew offer "Celtic Communion" by prolific American composer Mark Hayes. His setting incorporates the ancient Gaelic tune Bunessan paired with two verses of Reginald Heber's eucharistic text "Bread of the world in mercy broken" and a concluding excerpt from the circa 5th century poem "St. Patrick's Breastplate", traditionally attributed to Saint Patrick himself.
At 6:00 p.m., come join us for the annual Taste of Plymouth in our new monthly Dinner Church format. Bobby and Blair will lead us in song as we worship together and welcome area students to Plymouth.
Seven, outside of being a very biblical number, binds together several works this Sunday morning.
Scherzo in Italian means "joke" or a "jest." In musical terms, it refers to a light, often humorous movement from a larger form such as a sonata or symphony. For the prelude, a stand-alone scherzo by British composer Alan Ridout will be played in the meter of, mostly, 7/8 time. John Rutter's "Toccata in 7" ends the services on a whimsical, albeit asymmetrical, note.
The Chancel Choir ushers in the new program year at both services this Jubilee Sunday morning with an offering of the Rutter classic anthem "For the Beauty of the Earth."
At 6:00 p.m., Bobby will be joined by cantor and violinist Hannah Walters, banjo player Josh Beard, and cellist Daniel Delaney for a festive Jubilee evening service.
Three musical meditations, each with a distinct subject for their focus, will be offered this Sunday morning.
"Meditation" by British organist Melvin Bird is an elegant and reverent work composed as an homage to composer/organist Jean Langlais, utilizing allusions to Langlais' own harmonic language. The well-known "Meditation" from Jules Massenet's 1894 opera Thais for solo violin and orchestra will be offered by violin Amy Welsh. The work was originally used as entrance music during Act II and, with the marking of "Andante religioso," implied a religious solemnity. The final jubilant meditation from "Five Meditations on 'Wondrous Love'" by American composer Ronald Perera closes morning worship.
At 6:00 p.m., Bobby and Blair are joined by fellow collaborators Alan Skowron on guitar, Peter Strening on bass, and percussionist Mike Hamilton for a spirit-led evening service.
This Sunday morning we hear two excerpts from a staple of the organ repertory, Suite gothique.
The four-movement work was composed by Léon Boëllmann in 1895, just two years before his untimely death at the age of 35. While greatly influenced by contemporaries César Franck and Camille Saint-Saëns, Boëllmann's compositional style also channeled post-Romantic sensibilities in his sonorous phrasing and harmonies. The beautiful "Prière à Notre-Dame" opens the service
with "Menuet gothique" closing worship on a majestic note.
The Summer Choir returns for the last time this season with a reading of "Song of Remembrance" by Tom Fettke. This communion anthem is a paraphrase of Jesus' words to us from I Corinthians 11: 24-26 "Do this in remembrance of me."
This week we will hear works from and inspired by the rich musical history of the British Isles.
The well known Irish folk tune Slane ("Be Thou My Vision") is set as an organ partita by composer Daniel Pinkham. Pinkham was a respected presence in the Boston music life having spent decades as organist for the historic King's Chapel and a professor at the New England Conservatory of Music. "Be Thou My Vision" is part of a collection of works entitled "Music for a Quiet Sunday" and premiered by James David Christie in 1999 at Follen Community Church (Unitarian) in Lexington, Massachusetts. "Toccata Giocosa" (meaning a "playful" toccata) by Welsh composer William Mathias will close the service. It was dedicated to and premiered by Sir David Willcocks on the installation of the new organ at the Royal College of Organists, London in 1967.
Additionally, Celtic music by violinist Abigail Steidley and guitarist Scott Steidley will be played during the offering leading to a Celtic-inspired Doxology. And the Chancel Choir will make a rare appearance this summer as we all see our Associate Minister Jake Joseph off to his new calling in New England. The choir will provide a sung benediction, "An Irish Blessing" by Bob Chilcott, to that end.
The musical selections this Sunday are inspired by the suggested character of a "Good Samaritan": humbleness, a devotion to the Light, perhaps one embodying "eroica," a heroic nature.
We begin the morning with a character piece from A Quaker Reader (1977), "Bewitching attire of the most charming simplicity...", by esteemed American composer Ned Rorem. The title is a quote from an essay describing the humble and endearing attributes of 18th century Quakers in Nantucket, Massachusetts. The Summer Choir returns with a joyful offering in "We Are Singing, for the Lord Is Our Light," a liberal interpretation by Hal Hopson of the South African Freedom Song "Siyahamba." And finally, a "Festival Voluntary" by 20th century Belgian organist and composer Flor Peeters lends a regal British style close to the service.
At 6:00 p.m. I will be joined by Blair and violinist Hannah Walters as we present offerings from contemporary American composers. The preservice meditation time will be accompanied by the tranquil organ excerpt from A Quaker Reader to help you center for worship. During communion we offer my jazzy arrangement of "In Christ There Is No East or West" for piano, voice, and violin (based on an organ setting by James Biery). To close, myself and Hannah play "Etude in A MInor" by Michael Nyman. This work famously appeared in the soundtrack to the 1993 film The Piano, and in other contexts as well. It is a work that I believe viscerally embodies the affect of "eroica."
The prescribed reading for this Sunday, Psalm 66, asks us to "make a joyful noise to God" and "sing the glory of his name." The annual Hymn Sing this Sunday morning should suffice then! With hymnody and the scripture in mind, chorale preludes based on one very famous tune will be the course.
The 1680 German hymn "Lobe den Herren, den mächtigen König der Ehren," often translated as "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, King of Creation," is a staple of Christian congregational singing and found in hymnals throughout the world, including The New Century Hymnal (hymn 22 "Sing Praise to God, Who Has Shaped"). Written by German Reformed Church teacher and theologian,Joachim Neander, the tune was likely based on a folk tune, first appearing in print fifteen years earlier. Numerous settings of "Lobe Den Herren" have been written over the centuries by namely Lutheran organ composers such as J.S. Bach, Johann Walther, and Hugo Distler. This Sunday morning, we'll hear 20th century settings by German Neo-Baroque composer Helmut Walcha and Paul Manz, the Cantor Emeritus of Mount Olive Lutheran Church in Minneapolis.
At the outdoor 6:00 p.m. Dinner Church service, we'll sing songs interspersed with Jane Anne's creative retelling of the joyful Psalm 66. Bobby and Blair will lead the way and be joined by bassist Peter Strening and Michael Hamilton on percussion.
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.