The Parable of the Mustard Seed opens us to the mystery of the Kingdom of God—seemingly miraculous growth from an unlikely source with Joy and Peace aplenty.
Rhonda Larson composed a lovely solo flute work entitled "Be Still My Soul" in 2003 which incorporates the famous Jean Sibelius theme and hymn tune "Finlandia." This Sunday, we hear Plymouth member Aaron McGrew's adaptation of the piece for flute choir. By recording the solo with selective elements of the auxiliary accompaniment part, Aaron creates a layered tapestry of evocative timbres including effects such as singing into the flute.
From the organ we hear two selections from the Emma Lou Diemer catalogue.
First, her whimsical arrangement of the nature hymn "All Things Bright and Beautiful," a delightful and fanciful ode to God's creation. Lastly, her "Toccata for a Joyful Day," a piece that is faithful to its title.
At the 6:00 p.m. outdoor service, we will learn to trust the seeds and cherish the holy ground we stand on—this soil of God. Bassist Peter Strening joins Blair and I for this early evening worship service out on the green.
It has been nearly two years since we convened
For worship at Rolland Moore Park, so pristine
Celtic folk tunes
'Murican ones too
Give thanks for the fellowship out on the green!
See you Sunday at 10 a.m.!
Songs of faith and devotion—moved by a higher love (a new mode)
The tune for "Sweet Hour of Prayer" (1861) was written by William Bradbury, who also composed music for such well-known hymns as "Just As I Am" and "Jesus Loves Me." Based on a text attributed to William Walford, a blind English minister, the hymn expounds on the joy of being with God in prayer. The setting by William Bolcom from Book 4 of his Gospel Preludes serenely projects this moment of sublime communion in a highly chromatic idiom with surprising and interesting harmonic resolutions.
"How Firm a Foundation" is one of Christendom's most enduring and popular hymns of faith. Written by the enigmatic "K." (published in 1787), the text is usually paired with the familiar early American melody "Foundation." The toccata setting based on this tune by Craig Phillips is an exciting flourish of creative sections which keeps the well-known hymn tune ever front and center.
Violinist Amy Welsh offers the opening movement "Caprice" from Arches by American composer Kevin Puts. The entire five movement work alternates between caprices and arias and utilizes a pattern of key centers and arch-like figurations that provide an architectural symmertry to the entire work as a whole — arches.
At the 6:00 p.m. live in-person service, an eclectic blend of songs from the Iona and Taizé comunities will be shared on this Trinity Sunday evening. Violinist Amy Welsh (fresh from Sunday morning:) joins us again with lovely descants and a reprise of "I. Capriccio" from Arches.
Join us for a hymn sing this Sunday! The age-old tradition of coming together in song may be very different these days, but we can still be together in the Spirit: same time, different location.
Consider these words by hymn writer Rev. Fred Pratt Green, who so thoughtfully captures the spiritual dimensions to music-making in worship.
When in our music God is glorified,
and adoration leaves no room for pride,
it is as though the whole creation cried,
How often, making music, we have found
a new dimension in the world of sound,
as worship moved us to a more profound
So has the church, in liturgy and song,
in faith and love, through centuries of wrong,
borne witness to the truth in every tongue:
And did not Jesus sing a Psalm that night
when utmost evil strove against the Light?
Then let us sing, for whom he won the fight:
Let every instrument be tuned for praise!
Let all rejoice who have a voice to raise!
And may God give us faith to sing always:
Two brief versets on the Gaelic tune "Bunessan" by Richard Proulx accompanies your morning coffee this Sunday morning. The melody, most associated with the lyrics "Morning Has Broken" (thank you, Cat), is initially presented in a slightly jazzy chorale setting. Following, the tune transforms into a dream-like state: a meditative repose.
A tintinnabulation ensues courtesy of the Plymouth Ringers! Sure to keep your attention, my musical setting of this term coined by poet Edgar Allen Poe in his work "The Bells" relates joy and alertness, if somewhat ambiguously...
The ecstatically triumphant "Chant de Joie" (Song of Joy) by Jean Langlais closes the service in no uncertain terms however: in hope, in faith, and, oh yes, joy.
It is unofficially "Baroque Week" at Plymouth beginning this Reformation Sunday and extending into the October 28 Wednesday evening Vespers. Aided by the generous gift of a harpsichord for our chancel (thank you!) and cellist Heidi Mausbach, we'll experience the timeless music of Johann Sebastian Bach: the musical architect of the German Reformation.
Bach composed three sonatas for the Viola de Gamba and harpsichord between 1730 and 1740 during his tenure at Thomaskirche, Leipzig. For the Prelude, the lively "Allegro moderato", the fourth and final movement from BWV 1027 in G major, will be offered. Cellist Heidi Mausbach steps in for the hoary Viola de Gamba in this delightfully joyful excerpt.
One does not need to be a Bach connoisseur to recognize the Musical Offering this Sunday....just to have attended enough weddings! "Jesus bleibet meine Freude" (Jesus shall remain my joy), famously known as "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring," is originally a chorale movement from Cantata 147 "Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben" (Heart and mouth and deed and life). Based on a 1661 hymn tune, this chorale has been heard the world over in arrangements for a variety of instruments, choral settings, and even inclusion in hymnals. On Sunday, soprano Blair Carpenter presents a rendition in German with myself and Heidi accompanying.
The works of Bach are revered, studied, and performed by musicians of all kinds. He wrote for everyone including for strings, wind instruments, brass, vocalists, and choirs. Think on the masterworks such as the Brandenburg Concertos, Mass in B Minor, and his numerous cantatas. But it was a special moment for Bach when he could compose for his primary instrument, the organ. The "Fantasia in G Minor, BWV 542" is technically a stand alone work but is often paired with the magnificent Fugue in G Minor.
We'll hear the high Baroque drama of the Fantasia a la carte this Sunday....with no small allusion to Halloween as well. If I'm being honest.
The sweet discordant sounds of jazz greet you this Consecration Sunday morning with certainly a blue note or two. Guaranteed.
Bassist Ori Britton, Plymouth's Staff Singer Blair Carpenter, guitarist Alan Skowron and myself join you "from the past" in a prerecorded service this weekend.
Forest Green is an English folk song collected by British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams in 1903. Originally entitled "The Ploughboy's Dream," the tune was renamed Forest Green after the town in Surrey where the melody was collected from a certain Mr. Garman. Often paired in England with the beloved Christmas text "O Little Town of Bethlehem", we will hear it through the ears of stewardship and jazz-inflected harmonies as "As Those of Old Their Firstfruits Brought."
After we each sing to the Spirit to "Take My Gifts" for God's holy mission in our world....we "Take Five," and deservedly so! Saxophonist Paul Desmond wrote this jazz standard in 1959 for inclusion on the Dave Brubeck Quartet's seminal album "Time Out." Brubeck requested a tune from Desmond to showcase drummer Joe Morello's adeptness at playing in the irregular 5/4 time signature. The result was the most successful jazz single in history! Although you couldn't dance to it...
Signs of Autumn abound. A season of change and of stewardship: a time to assess our support of God's work in the world and our willingness to receive God's providence.
The 15th century German hymn tune "Gott der Vater wohn uns bei" (inclusively translated as "Mother God, Be Our Stay") is an ode to the protective promise of God. Paul Manz's setting is hopeful and joyful with a lively manual ritornello dancing above the cantus firmus in the pedal.
Vivaldi's Four Seasons has been excerpted plentifully at Plymouth over the years. We do so again with the opening Allegro of Movement III: Autumn. The movement signifies a country dance in the crisp autumn air. Vivaldi offers these unambiguous words to the music's intent:
Celebrates the peasant, with songs and dances,
The pleasure of a bountiful harvest.
And fired up by Bacchus' liquor,
many end their revelry in sleep.
An Italian Baroque Oktoberfest!
The service ends with a "Postlude" by William Mathias. Quirky, cheery, and very British in its regal character, we jauntily walk out into the Autumn air.
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.
Improvisation for some musicians is fear incarnate. It is a language to learn but also a leap to take. Jazz musicians live for the opportunity to "compose in the moment" while classical players can sometimes cease to be without a music score. In these times, improvisation in a general sense is essential for all of us. For some days, you don't know what is next!
This Sunday, we will hear a sketch, perhaps an impromptu or two. But as with any improvisation, there is always that central idea to refer back to. An oasis in the midst of uncertainty. The trusty Gaelic tune "St. Columba" will be that glue
including a setting by Matt Riley with violinist Harmony Tucker.
Amid all the ambiguity, we hope to see you this Sunday at 10:00 a.m.
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.