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.
This Sunday morning we delve into the repertoire of prolific German composer Felix Mendelssohn. An organist, pianist, conductor and composer of symphonies, concertos, chamber music and keyboard and vocal works, Mendelssohn was also instrumental in reviving interest in the music of J.S. Bach, considered out of fashion in the early 19th century.
For the Prelude and Postlude, we will hear excerpts from Mendelssohn's Concerto in E Minor, Opus 64. It is his last large scale orchestral work completed in six years in 1845, two years before his death. The work is considered a standard in violin repertoire and is performed often. Violinist Katrina Nelson and pianist Judy Leatherman will present the concerto excerpts. During the Offertory, Mendelssohn's Adagio from Organ Sonata No. 1 in F Minor will be offered. His Six Organ Sonatas were also published in 1845 and form a significant contribution to the organ repertoire to this day.
At 6:00 p.m., cellist Daniel Delaney joins Bobby and Blair for an eclectic range of musical landscapes including Baroque, Celtic, gospel, and blues.
The reading of Psalms 42 and 43 this weekend evoke images of nature and reveals our desire to be led by the Light into eventual joy.
A whimsical setting of the folk hymn "All Things Bright and Beautiful" by Emma Lou Diemer begins morning worship. Those gathered for Summer Choir (it could even be you!) will offer a simple arrangement of Natalie Sleeth's classic anthem "Hymn of Promise". The text encourages us to have hope in God's design in nature and in our own lives. Echoing the text of the closing hymn's refrain ("We shall go out in joy, and be led forth in peace..."), 20th century French composer Jean Langlais' "Chant de Joie" (Song of Joy) closes the service on an exciting and triumphant note.
At 6:00, Bobby and Blair will be joined by the versatile Alan Skowron on guitar.
This Sunday morning we preface the beginning of summer with the fourth movement from Vivaldi's The Four Seasons, "L'estate" (Italian for Summer). This famous set of violin concerti was composed from 1716-17 and published in 1725. The Four Seasons is considered one of the earliest examples of programmatic music: music that follows a literary narrative and embodies the meaning of the prose, often quite literally. In Summer, cuckoo calls, the misery of the overbearing heat, and thunderclaps will represented within the music itself. The three movements are based on a three part sonnet, included below, most likely written by Vivaldi. Violinist Harmony Tucker will lead us into this summertime odyssey of beauty, unrelenting heat, and fierce storms threatening the European harvest.
I. Allegro non molto
Under a hard season, fired up by the sun
Languishes man, languishes the flock and burns the pine
We hear the cuckoo's voice;
then sweet songs of the turtledove and finch are heard.
Soft breezes stir the air, but threatening
the North Wind sweeps them suddenly aside.
The shepherd trembles,
fearing violent storms and his fate.
The fear of lightning and fierce thunder
Robs his tired limbs of rest
As gnats and flies buzz furiously around.
Alas, his fears were justified
The Heavens thunder and roar and with hail
Cut the head off the wheat and damages the grain.
At 6:00 p.m. Bobby will be joined by cantor Blair Carpenter, guitarist Alan Skowron, and bassist Peter Strening for a spirit-led service including arrangements by John Bell and a nod to Pride Month from singer-songwriter Kacey Musgraves.
We come together as one church at the annual 10:00 a.m. outdoor service and picnic this Pentecost Sunday. Come and enjoy a slice of Americana and sing hymns to the Spirit.
Plymouth's 6:00 p.m. Service Music Coordinator Bobby Brannock will lead a band of local talent in bluegrass-inspired offerings by legendary songwriter Willie Nelson and an original composition by our banjo player, Josh Beard. Also joining Bobby will be vocalist Blair Carpenter, well known to Plymouth regulars, and fiddler Hannah Barnes, guitarist Benjamin Werling, and bassist Paul Geoghan-McWilliams.
Hope to see you all there on what will hopefully be a beautiful Colorado morning!
Organ works by 20th century American composers will permeate the morning service this holiday weekend.
"Aria" by Paul Manz begins worship with an instrumental depiction of the classic vocal solo aria. A setting of the hymn "Jesus Calls Us, o'er the Tumult" by William Bolcom contains jazz-inspired harmonies composed in a chorale prelude style reminiscent of the Baroque era. Daniel Pinkham's "Festive March" sends us out into the day. The piece is an excellent example of the composer's quirky and idiosyncratic harmonic and rhythmic sensibilities.
It is also worth noting that Pinkham was organist for 42 years at King's Chapel in Boston, the first Anglican church established in New England in 1686.
A potpourri of sounds this Sunday as our music ensembles take leave for the summer.
Staff singer and soprano Blair Carpenter shares two spirituals, "Deep River" and "Ride On, King Jesus!" arranged by H.T. Burleigh and Hall Johnson, respectively. Both men were contemporaries and instrumental in combining the American spiritual to art music. The Chancel Choir offers Mark Miller's "God Has Work for Us to Do" at the 11:00 a.m. service. The modern and edgy text by Carl Daw speaks to the injustices of our world and calls us all to be the instrument of God to undo them. Mark Miller's setting is reminiscent of musical theater and evokes a hopeful and poignant backdrop to this amazing text. To close the morning services, I offer an exciting setting of our Doxology tune, "Lasst uns erfeuen" by my Cincinnati College-Conservatory former colleague, Brenda Portman. She currently is an organ professor at Xavier University and Resident Organist at Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church, both in Cincinnati, Ohio.
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.