From the Organ Bench

Vicki Fey, Organist

November 17, 2019

The Opening Voluntary this Sunday is based on the hymn tune NOEL, set to the text of hymn 308 in Glory to God, “O God in Whom All Life Begins.”  This hymn is one of Nazareth Choir’s “Hymns in My Heart” series and was their October hymn of the month. The tune is also occasionally sung to “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear,” which may explain the tune name, although that pairing of text and tune is less familiar to us. The tune, a traditional English melody, was adapted by Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan (1842- 1900).  Sullivan is, of course, best known for writing music to lyrics by William S. Gilbert, the two of them producing popular operettas. Sullivan did compose some choral anthems, although he is best remembered for his hymn tunes.  To his credit, he refused to grant permission to those wishing to make hymn tunes from the popular melodies in his operettas. In Glory to God there is another text set to NOEL, “O God, Who Gives Us Life” and the familiar tune ST. KEVIN, most often sung at Easter to “Come, You Faithful, Raise the Strain.”

The Closing Voluntary is a setting of the tune ORTONVILLE, which does not appear in Glory to God, but has been set to texts such as “Majestic Sweetness Sits Enthroned” and “How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds.”  The composer of the tune, Thomas Hastings was born at Washington, Lichfield County, Connecticut in 1784. He developed a love of music at an early age. The last 40 years of his life were spent directing several church choirs; his aim always the greater glory of God through better musical worship.  Hymnary.org says “If we take the aggregate of American hymnals published during the last fifty years or for any portion of that time, more hymns by him are found in common use than by any other native writer. Not one of his hymns is of the highest merit, but many of them have become popular and useful.”  He died in New York in 1872. The tune ORTONVILLE appears in 315 hymnals. Hastings is perhaps best known for the hymn tune TOPLADY, sung to “Rock of Ages.”


September 29, 2019

Both the Opening and Closing Voluntaries this Sunday are based on hymns we will sing in worship.  The Opening Voluntary is an arrangement of the hymn “I Love to Tell the Story,” which serves as our hymn following the sermon.  The very beautiful arrangement is by Emily Maxson Porter, about whom I’ve written before. The text is by Katherine Hankey, an English missionary and nurse, best known for being the author of the poem “The Old, Old Story”, from which both “Tell Me the Old, Old Story” and “I Love to Tell the Story” came. Hankey (1834-1911) was born the daughter of a prosperous banker in London. Though her family worshipped in the Anglican tradition, she was inspired by the Methodist revivals of the followers of John Wesley and both organized and taught in Sunday schools in London. Following that, she served as a missionary and nurse in South Africa, assisting her brother. In 1866, she became seriously ill and had a long, slow recovery. It was during her recovery that she wrote a fifty-stanza poem on the life of Christ and the hymn “I Love to Tell the Story” is drawn from the second part of this poem, titled “The Story Told.”  The tune written for this hymn is by William G. Fischer and was composed in 1869 and named HANKEY in the author’s honor.  Fischer added the refrain.

The Closing Voluntary is based on the tune DARWALL’S 148TH, most frequently sung to the text “Rejoice, the Lord is King,” but this Sunday sung to the 1988 text by Brian Dill, “Come Sing, O Church, in Joy!”  The arranger of the voluntary is Alfred V. Fedak (b. 1953). Al is a native of New Jersey and has degrees from Hope College and Montclair State University.  Additional study was done at Westminster Choir College, Eastman School of Music, and the Institute for European Studies in Vienna.  After serving as organist and choir director for churches and synagogues in New Jersey and Michigan, Fedak has held the position of minister of music and arts at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Albany, New York, since 1990.  Since 2014 he has also served as organist and choir director of Congregation Beth Emeth, also in Albany, a position he had held previously in the 1990s.  Mr. Fedak has over 300 choral and organ works in print, and more than 100 of his hymn tunes appear in hymnals and collections. Fedak also served on the Presbyterian Committee for Congregational Song, which produced our hymnal Glory to God. The text was the winner in a PCUSA hymn competition to celebrate the Bicentennial in 1988, for which the theme was “Celebrate the Journey.” (The final line of each stanza is “In bold accord, come celebrate the journey now and praise the Lord!”)

Sunday’s pre-service music will be played by Rick Wornat, piano.  Rick serves as the accompanist for the Nazareth Choir.


September 22, 2019

Sunday’s Opening Voluntary is an arrangement of “Amazing Grace,” which we will sing as our closing hymn. Gerald Near composed the organ arrangement, which begins with the melody on a solo stop and increases in intensity with both hands on one keyboard until the solo melody returns near the end.  Gerald Near (b. 1942) is considered by many to be one of the finest composers of church music writing today. He studied music theory and composition at the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago, continuing those studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. It was during his stay at U of M that he also studied organ with noted teacher Robert Glasgow, undertook the publishing of organ and choral music, and completed his Master’s degree in orchestral conducting. Near has been commissioned by both the American Guild of Organists and the choral ensemble Gloriae Dei Cantores to compose music for various events and concerts.

The Closing Voluntary is a “stately, spirited” arrangement of the adaptation of a spiritual (MCKEE) first adapted by Harry T. Burleigh (1866-1949). The tune is most often sung to the text “In Christ There Is No East or West” and is our opening hymn Sunday.  MCKEE first became widely known with the text “I know the angel’s done changed my name” as sung by the Fisk University Jubilee Singers. This tune has much more rhythmic interest than its “four-square” cousin on the facing page in our hymnal.  Carl Daw says, in his blurb at the bottom of the hymn that, “This 1940 pairing [of text and tune] marked the first use of African American musical material in a mainline North American hymnal.”  The organ arrangement is by the late Dale Wood. Dale Wood (1934-2003) was a composer, organist, and choral director best known for his church music compositions. At the age of 13, Wood won a national hymn-writing contest sponsored by the American Lutheran Church.  In addition to composing and playing, he was a contributing editor to the “Journal of Church Music,” chaired the publication committee of Choristers Guild, served as Music Director at Grace Cathedral’s School for Boys (San Francisco), served as editor of The Sacred Music Press, becoming Editor Emeritus after his 21-year tenure, and received an Exemplar Medallion from California Lutheran University in 1993.

Kristeen Sorrells will play unaccompanied and accompanied viola for the Pre-Service music this Sunday.


August 25, 2019

The Opening Voluntary this Sunday, “Voluntary in F Major”, is in volume 1 of A Century of American Organ Music 1776-1876, compiled and edited by Barbara Owen, a church musician, historian, organist, and lecturer. The composer is James Cox Beckel (1811-?).  Owen’s particular interest is printed organ music of America’s first century.  American organists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries followed their European counterparts and improvised most everything needed for both liturgical and non-liturgical use, while choral music and parlor keyboard pieces were both written down and published. German-American Moravians, thought to be the first to use the organ in their services, left behind a large body of choral, woodwind and brass music, but no organ music.  It wasn’t until after the mid-1800s that organ music began to be published, but wasn’t of very high quality musically. The earliest examples of printed organ music are in instruction books. Composer Beckel published one of these instruction books which included representative organ pieces by him and others, as well as instructions for their use and suggestions for improvisation. Registration suggestions were often included, keeping in mind that the organs that most pieces of this period were written for were similar to the English organs of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. By the 1870s, organ recitals had become popular, so large, more complex works were written down and published.

The Closing Voluntary is one of my favorites – I’ve played it twice at Central, but it seemed the right piece to get the program year off the ground.  John Rutter’s “Toccata in Seven” has a rhythmic drive due to the 7/8 meter. (Think Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” with two extra beats!) Rutter is, of course, one of England’s most prolific composers of choral music and his music has been sung around the globe, but his organ output is small. Rutter (b. 1945) was a chorister at Highgate School, then studied music at Clare College, Cambridge.  It was at Clare that he published his first choral anthems, including the popular “Shepherd’s Pipe Carol,” composed at the age of 18.


August 18, 2019

As the Chancel Choir starts back this Sunday, we also welcome saxophonist Kyle Blake Jones, from Kingsport, Tennessee.  Kyle played for us last July.  He begins his second year in the Artist Diploma program at the University of Texas at Austin.  We will play both Opening and Closing Voluntaries.

The Opening Voluntary is “Prayer of St. Gregory” by Alan Hovhaness. Hovhaness (1911-2000) was born in Somerville, Massachusetts to parents of Armenian and Scottish descent. His compositional output began at the age of 4 and, while he had composed more than a thousand works by the time of the World War II, he made the decision to destroy almost his entire output.  He had become dissatisfied with his work up to that time, as he was becoming enamored with the idea of combining Eastern with Western musical influences, in particular influenced by music of his Armenian heritage.  Between World War II and the time of his death, he composed more than 360 works, including orchestral pieces, concertos, oratorios, operas, chamber works, songs, and 52 symphonies.  The “Prayer of St. Gregory” was originally composed for trumpet and strings, but translates well to soprano saxophone and organ. It began as an Intermezzo in an opera composed in 1946 and premiered in New York that same year.  Hovhaness describes the excerpt as “a prayer in darkness,” and is one of his most popular short pieces.  The St. Gregory referred to was the Illuminator, who brought Christianity to Armenia at the beginning of the fourth century.

The Closing Voluntary is one of a set of Twelve Heroic Marches by German baroque composer Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767). These are short pieces identified with an expressive title indicative of a particular heroic trait – the one Kyle and I will play Sunday is “The Rejoicings.”  Each piece is similar in form, with the first half establishing the tonic (or home) key, moving to the dominant (the key five notes above the tonic), while the second half begins in the dominant key and returns to the tonic (home) key.


August 11, 2019

Sunday’s Opening Voluntary is a piano arrangement of the great hymn “It Is Well with My Soul,” composed by Mark Hayes.  We will sing Stanza 1 of this hymn as our response after we pass the peace.  Mark Hayes (b. 1953) was born and raised in Wisconsin in a creative musical environment. He began piano lessons at the age of 10 and began developing his improvisational skills shortly after. He has a Bachelor of Music degree in piano performance from Baylor University, which is where he began composing and arranging music for piano as well as anthems for choirs. He draws from a variety of musical styles, including jazz, gospel, pop, folk, and classical. He has over 1000 published works. The composer of the tune, Philip P. Bliss (1838-1876) was born in Pennsylvania.  He went to Chicago in 1864 to work for Dr. George F. Root, conducting musical Institutes, and composing melodies for use in Sunday Schools. His bio on hymnary.org says that “…In 1874 he joined D. W. Whittle in evangelical work. To this cause he gave (although a poor man) the royalty of his Gospel Songs, which was worth some thirty thousand dollars. His death was sudden. It occurred in the railway disaster at Ashtabula, Ohio, Dec. 30, 1876.”  He also authored hymn texts, but the pairing of this tune to the text by Horatio Stafford of “It Is Well with My Soul,” is perhaps his most lasting legacy.

The Closing Voluntary is a March by French composer, organist and teacher Théodore Dubois (1837-1924).  He first studied under a local teacher in Marne and later went to the Paris Conservatoire. Dubois became choirmaster at the famous Church of the Madeleine in 1868 and, in 1871 he succeeded César Franck as choirmaster at the Basilica of Sainte-Clotilde. He returned to the Church of the Madeleine in 1877, following Camille Saint-Saëns. While teaching at the Paris Conservatoire, he forbade the study of or listening to the music of Debussy and Ravel, as it was too modern!  Most of his works have not survived, with the exception of a few organ pieces and his very famous “The Seven Last Words of Christ,” which is still performed in many churches.

August 4, 2019

While Vicki takes a few vacation days, we are privileged to have guest musician Eric Nelson as organist and Rebecca Testerman playing oboe this Sunday. Eric is Professor of Music and Director of Choral Studies at Emory University. He is also the conductor and Artistic Director of Atlanta Master Chorale. In addition, he is a fine pianist and organist! Eric subbed for Vicki when the choir went to Scotland two years ago. Rebecca Testerman is adjunct professor of oboe at Young Harris College and has played at Central before as well as other churches and with various orchestras in the area.


July 28, 2019

Sunday’s Opening Voluntary is a setting of “You Servants of God,” which serves as our opening hymn, set to the tune HANOVER. Composer of this setting, Flor Peeters (1903-1986), was a Belgian composer, organist and teacher. Peeters gave concerts and masterclasses all over the world, and was noted for his organ method books for students. He composed a large collection of shorter and more lengthy settings of hymn tunes such as the one played this Sunday.  The tune HANOVER is sometimes attributed to William Croft (1677-1727), as is the tune LYONS, most often sung to the text “O Worship the King, All Glorious Above,” although the two tunes are similar and both tunes and texts are interchangeable, appearing in different hymnals as one or the other!  Croft was appointed organist of Westminster Abbey in 1709.

The Closing Voluntary is a Toccata by the lesser known Pachelbel, Wilhelm Hieronymous (1686–1764), German composer, organist, and the elder son of his more famous father, Johann Pachelbel.  The younger Pachelbel almost certainly received his first musical education from his father. He served as organist at several churches in Nuremberg. His compositional output must not have been large, as there are only seven surviving keyboard pieces, several of which show the influence of his father, including the Toccata played this Sunday.

Sunday’s anthem is Bobby McFerrin’s version of Psalm 23, sung by an ensemble within the Chancel Choir.  McFerrin dedicated this version to his mother and says of the text, “I wrote this feminine version of the 23rd Psalm to address a group of singers who felt excluded by the patriarchal aspects of the Bible.  Whether we visualize or praise the Lord in terms of gender or in other personal ways, the beauty of the 23rd Psalm is in the worship and in the music.”  McFerrin also gives permission to choose the language that “most suits your group’s spiritual preference.”  The ensemble will also lead the congregation in a West Indian call and response version of the Lord’s Prayer (in our hymnal) following the Prayers of the People and will sing the Sevenfold Amen which comes at the end of Peter Lutkin’s very familiar “The Lord Bless You and Keep You” as a choral response at the end of the service.


July 21, 2019

This Sunday’s Opening Voluntary is a simple arrangement for organ of our opening hymn, “Be Thou My Vision,” with the Irish tune name SLANE. Composer/arranger Philip Gehring is Professor Emeritus of Music at Valparaiso University in Indiana. Gehring holds undergraduate degrees from Oberlin College and Conservatory and M.M. and Ph.D. degrees from Syracuse University. In addition to composing organ and choral works, he spent a good portion of his career as an organ recitalist. Since retiring, he has held visiting professorships at Yale Institute of Sacred Music, as well as the University of Iowa and St. Joseph’s College, Rensselaer, Indiana. SLANE appears in an Irish folk ballad book from 1909. It became a hymn tune when it was arranged by David Evans (PHH 285) and set to the Irish hymn “Be Thou My Vision,” translated by Mary Byrne in 1905 and published in the Church Hymnary (1927). The Psalter Hymnal Handbook of 1988 says that “SLANE is named for a hill in County Meath, Ireland, where St. Patrick’s lighting of an Easter fire–an act of defiance against the pagan king Loegaire (fifth century)–led to his unlimited freedom to preach the gospel in Ireland.”

The Closing Voluntary is a Fugue in A Major by the German composer Friedrich Wilhelm Zachau (1663-1712). The dictionary definition says that a fugue is “a musical composition in which one or two themes are repeated or imitated by successively entering voices and contrapuntally developed in a continuous interweaving of the voice parts.”  J. S. Bach was the master of this compositional technique, and likely studied some of Zachau’s work, but carried it way beyond the simple imitative style of Zachau.  This “little” fugue is a 3-voice instead of a 4-voice fugue (no pedal) with a simple second theme and no embellishment of the initial theme. Probably Zachau’s most famous claim to fame is that he was Handel’s first music teacher, giving him lessons in violin, organ, harpsichord, and oboe.

GUEST SOLOIST: Our soloist this Sunday is choir member Amber Tittle. Amber is singing “An Offering” by composer Dan Forrest, with a text by Eileen Berry. Forrest (b. 1978) has become one of the most popular choral composers in the country. He majored in piano at Bob Jones University, earning both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in Piano Performance, also studying advanced theory and composition.

Dan Forrest’s Requiem for the Living (2013) is perhaps his best known work. The Chancel Choir here at Central performed it several years ago. They have also sung some of his choral anthems, the most recent being his “St. Patrick’s Hymn,” sung on the Sunday of the baptism of Linda and Rudy Massengill’s grandson, Aiden.  Author Eileen Berry holds a BA in Creative Writing and an MA in English from Bob Jones University, which is where she met Dan Forrest. She is an adjunct instructor and a full-time author for BJU Press. “An Offering” appears in a collection of songs by Dan Forrest.


July 14, 2019

The Opening Voluntary is a theme and variations by William McNair based on Sunday’s middle hymn, “What Is the World Like” (tune NEW WORLD).  Bill McNair has served as organist and director of handbell choirs at both Shandon Presbyterian Church in Columbia, SC and, most recently, at First Presbyterian Church in Savannah, working with his wife Anne, who has served as choral director, in addition to other congregations in Atlanta and Columbia. They will retire in August of this year. Bill’s wife Anne is a past-president of the Presbyterian Association of Musicians and they served as co-directors of the 2013 Montreat Conferences on Worship and Music. He has a number of published compositions/arrangements and this voluntary came from a collection of organ works based on hymn tunes written by Sally Ann Morris.  The tune NEW WORLD was composed by Morris to go with the text “What Is the World Like” by Adam Tice, which concluded a hymn festival at the 2009 Annual Conference of The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada. We see in this text references to the mustard seed, the prodigal son, the good Samaritan, and the ten bridesmaids.

The Closing Voluntary is based on the hymn tune AZMON, this week paired with a David Gambrell text, “The Lord is God” and serving as our opening hymn.  Paul Manz is the composer, about whom I’ve written before.  Manz (1919-2009), a Lutheran musician, was noted for his hymn improvisations, most of which were written down and published in several volumes.  AZMON was composed in 1828 by Carl Gotthelf Glaser (1784-1829) and Lowell Mason set his text “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing,” to the tune in 1828. This pairing of text and tune has appeared in 440 hymnals.

Our guest soloist this Sunday is Sheldon Michael, no stranger to Central.  He will sing an arrangement of the first two verses of Psalm 29, “Give God, our Maker, Praise” by Heinrich Schütz. Schütz (1585-1672) is generally regarded as the most important German composer/organist prior to J. S. Bach.  Most of his extant works were primarily written for the Lutheran church, and most of those for the Elector of Saxony’s chapel in Dresden. He studied in Venice with Gabrieli and is credited with bringing the “Italian style” of music composition to Germany.

 


July 7, 2019

Pianist Karen Brown joins me Sunday to play two piano/organ duets based on hymn tunes.  The Opening Voluntary is an arrangement of the traditional American tune NETTLETON, most commonly sung to “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”  While it is not clear who actually composed the tune, we do know that it appeared first as a 2-part tune in John Wyeth’s publication Repository of Sacred Music, Part Second (1813) and its tune name was HALLELUJAH. It is sometimes attributed to evangelist Asahel Nettleton (1783-1844), who compiled Village Hymns of 1825, although that publication contained no music and there is no further evidence that he wrote any tunes.

The offertory is an arrangement of the Irish melody ST. COLUMBA, which appears in 134 hymnals, most often with the Psalm 23 paraphrase, “The King of Love My Shepherd Is.” The tune is named for the Irish saint who “carried the torch of Irish Christianity to Scotland” (Hymns Ancient and Modern and who has the dubious distinction of being the first to report a sighting of the Loch Ness monster, in 546!).  The tune is just one of a collection of Irish melodies compiled by George Petrie (1789-1866) and published in C. V. Stanford’s “Complete Collection of Irish Music as noted by George Petrie,” in 1902.  It was supposedly sung at the dedication of a chapel in county Londonderry.  (From the Zions Lutheran Church, Weatherly, PA web-site.)


June 30, 2019

The Opening Voluntary for June 30 is an arrangement of our middle hymn, “Jesus Calls Us.”  The arrangement is by Emma Lou Diemer.  Ms. Diemer (b. 1927 and, as far as we know, at age 91 is still living!), has written many works for orchestra, chamber ensemble, keyboard, voice, chorus, and electronic media. She is an organist as well as a composer and teacher, having taught at the University of California, and has performed programs of her own works at such prestigious churches as Washington’s National Cathedral, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, and both Grace Cathedral and St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco.  She has written many collections of hymn tune arrangements for organ as well as secular compositions for solo piano, piano 4 hands, and two pianos. She has composed a number of hymn tunes, using texts by both early and contemporary poets. Her compositional style over the years has varied from tonal to atonal, from traditional to experimental. This particular arrangement has a bit of a wandering tonality, but always comes back to the tonic, or “home base” key, particularly at the end.

The Closing Voluntary is taken from a large choral work, “Rejoice in the Lord, alway” by Henry Purcell (about whom I wrote in August of 2018) and this arrangement for organ is by E. Power Biggs.  At the beginning of the choral anthem, Purcell chose a “ground bass,” a repeated pattern, sounding like a descending bell peal, thus the reason for the title “The Bell Anthem” or in this case “Bell Symphony.”  The descending bell peal in the organ version is played in the pedals and repeated throughout the piece.  As this Bell Symphony is in the key of C major, it can also be paired with Purcell’s Trumpet Voluntary, also in C Major.

We begin the season when the Chancel Choir takes a few weeks off.  Trace Haythorn will be our soloist on June 30, singing Mendelssohn’s “I Will Sing of Thy Great Mercies,” from Psalm 89.


June 16, 2019

A word about the Closing Voluntary from this past Sunday – in the latter years of his life, J. S. Bach (1685-1750) spent considerable time and effort compiling and arranging collections made up of earlier diverse works, with the goal that the collections be published. The last of these for organ, only partly in his hand due to failing health and eyesight, is known as the “Eighteen Chorales,” containing extended and elaborate settings of Lutheran chorale tunes (hymn tunes).  The Closing Voluntary for this past Sunday comes from that collection, his setting of the Lutheran Chorale “Komm, Gott, Schöpfer, heiliger Geist” which is itself a variation of the chant melody “Veni, Creator Spiritus;” which appears as #278 “Come, Holy Ghost, Our Souls Inspire” in Glory to God.  Bach has taken a short prelude from his collection of simple chorale settings, the “Orgelbüchlein” (Little Organ Book), and added a second, longer section.  The first part, identical to his older setting, has the melody clearly heard in the soprano, with rhythmic figuration underneath for the hands and feet.  At the end of this section, a flowing line is introduced in the hands, and the pedals now play the melody in a grand, slow manner underneath. This joyous music is ideal for the celebration of Pentecost, with a fiery nature giving sound to the images of the Spirit descending as told in scripture.

This Sunday’s Opening Voluntary is based on the early American tune NETTLETON, which is most often paired with the text “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”  We will sing portions of this hymn in two places this Sunday – the third stanza as the response to the Assurance of Pardon and the first two stanzas following the baptism. The setting is by Robert Lau. Lau holds a Bachelor of Science in Music Education from Lebanon Valley College, a Master of Arts in Theory from the Eastman School of Music, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Musicology from The Catholic University of America. In addition, he has done studied at Teachers’ College of Columbia University, Westminster Choir College, and with the late Robert Shaw at the Carnegie Hall Workshops in New York City. Lau is Music Associate at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Cathedral in Harrisburg, PA where he assists in leading choral evensongs and occasionally plays Sunday services. Lau has more than 400 published choral and keyboard works.

The Closing Voluntary is by Timothy Albrecht, about who I’ve written previously.  Dr. Albrecht holds a joint faculty appointment as Professor of Music at Candler School of Theology at Emory University, where he has taught since 1982, and in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Music. He also serves as Emory University Organist.  This delightful, brief setting of our opening hymn for Trinity Sunday, “Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty!” is in changing meters, alternating between the standard hymn meter of four beats to a measure, and a more syncopated rhythm in 5/8 and 7/8 time.


May 26, 2019

Sunday’s Opening Voluntary, Prelude on AR HYD Y NOS, is by Robert Hobby, whose music I have played before. Hobby, b. 1962, is currently Director of Music for Trinity English Lutheran Church, Fort Wayne, Indiana, where his responsibilities include playing for many of the worship services, overseeing the graded choral program, and managing the church’s concert series. We will sing this tune to one of three texts appearing in Glory to God, “Go, My Children, with My Blessing,” as our closing hymn.  This Welsh melody, whose title translates to “throughout the night,” is frequently used to set evening hymn texts.  Carl Daw says that the author of “Go, My Children…,” Jaroslav Vajda, was asked to create a text matching this tune for use during the day, so he paraphrased the Aaronic blessing from Numbers 6, “[imagining] that passage as a benediction that might be spoken by God at the conclusion of a worship service.”

The Closing Voluntary is by Emory University organist Timothy Albrecht and is based on our opening hymn “Jesus Shall Reign.”  Albrecht cleverly alternates statements of the tune with a “ritornello” (a short instrumental refrain or interlude or recurring section in a concerto) taken from Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 5.


May 19, 2019

Sunday’s Opening Voluntary is a delightful piece (“Flute Solo”) by Thomas Arne (1710-1778). Arne, an English composer, is best known for his patriotic song “Rule Britannia”, a version of “God Save the King” (the tune to which we sing “My Country, ‘tis of Thee) which became the British national anthem, and the song “A-Hunting We Will Go”. Arne was a leading British theatre composer of the 18th century, working at Drury Lane and Covent Garden. It is unclear whether he composed “Flute Solo” originally for flute and harpsichord, or for organ using flute stops for the solo right hand.

The Closing Voluntary is appropriate for Eastertide and is based on the hymn tune VREUCHTEN, which we most often sing to the text “This Joyful Eastertide.”  The Dutch tune name means “fruits” and the text cited above was written to fit the tune. Composer David Lasky (not to be confused with a cartoonist of the same name!) has served as Organist and Director of Music at Saint Cecilia Catholic Church in Leominster, Massachusetts since 1981. He has also served churches in Bartlesville, OK and Gardner, MA. He earned his Bachelor of Music degree in Music History and Literature at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell in 1979, and earned a Master of Music degree in Organ Performance in 1981, also at UMass/Lowell. In 2005, he earned his Master of Arts degree in Church Music and Liturgy from the Rensselaer Program of Church Music and Liturgy at Saint Joseph College, Rensselaer, Indiana. Lasky (b. 1957) composes sacred organ and choral music, with more than 300 published compositions.


May 12, 2019

We are privileged to have Chelsea McFarland, member of the Atlanta Symphony’s horn section, playing with us in worship Sunday.  In addition to playing on the choir’s anthem version of Psalm 23, we will play the Opening Voluntary, an arrangement of the nineteenth century American tune, RESIGNATION, typically set with the text “My Shepherd Will Supply My Need.” The arranger of this setting for horn and organ is conductor, composer and keyboardist Kenneth Dake (b. 1961), Director of Music at New York City’s historic Marble Collegiate Church.  A native of Illinois, Dake has a degree in piano performance from The Juilliard School, pursuing organ studies after graduation with Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church’s retired organist/director of music John Weaver. John Weaver played the dedicatory recital for Central’s organ in 1966 and again in 1996 when the organ was restored/upgraded.

The Closing Voluntary is the brief opening section of a five-part partita by Daniel E. Gawthrop on the familiar Welsh hymn tune HYFRYDOL, sung this Sunday to the text “Alleluia! Sing to Jesus.” Composer Dan Gawthrop was born in 1949 in Fort Wayne, Indiana and is one of the few living American composers making a living solely in that field, self-publishing most of his organ and choral works through Dunstan House publishing. He has received more than one hundred commissions to compose choral and organ music.  His very popular anthem “Sing Me to Heaven” is among the most frequently performed choral pieces of our day and has sold more than a half million copies. Central’s Chancel Choir is only one of the hundreds of church and high school choirs who have sung “Sing Me to Heaven”.  While living in the Washington, D.C. area, he was a broadcaster for the D.C. NPR station and served for a time as music critic for the Washington Post.  Prior to his move to southern Idaho, he lived in Jonesboro, TN, where Steve and I got to know him.  A generous soul, he gave us any number of copies of his organ music, and our Bristol choir sang the east Tennessee premier of his “Gloria.” His wife, Jane Griner, either writes or paraphrases most of the texts he sets to music, scriptural or otherwise


May 5, 2019

The Opening Voluntary this Sunday is based on our Closing Hymn “Will You Come and Follow Me” set to the tune KELVINGROVE.  John Bell and Graham Maule, of the Iona Community, wrote this sacred text in 1987 and set it to the Scottish tune KELVINGROVE.  It was written as a sending song for youth completing a year of service to the impoverished. The first four stanzas of the hymn are the voice of Christ, and we will sing those four stanzas as the closing hymn, inviting our graduating seniors to remain true to Christ’s call. The fifth stanza, which we will sing as the congregational response, is our response to Christ’s call. The popular Scottish song, the source of the tune of the hymn, has an interesting history with regard to its text.  The original text went through a ‘sanitizing” in the Victorian era, as the original subject matter was thought too dark and risqué. The Kelvin Grove is a richly-wooded dell through which the river Kelvin flows just northwest of Glasgow. The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, opened in 1901, is a very popular tourist destination and is noted for its stunning architecture.  In addition to 22 galleries, with art and artifacts from ancient Egypt to Charles Rennie Macintosh, there is a pipe organ, with the oldest parts of the instrument dating from 1902.  Every day at 1:00 pm, there is a 30-minute organ recital, and every organist begins with either an improvisation on KELVINGROVE or someone’s composition based on the tune.  Many choir members were able to tour the Kelvingrove gallery/museum and to hear the organ recital on their 2017 Scotland trip.

The Closing Voluntary is based on Sunday’s opening hymn, “A Hymn of Glory Let Us Sing,” sung to DEO GRACIAS (or AGINCOURT), a 15th-century tune in an arrangement by Dr. Kristina Langlois.  Dr. Langlois has been the Director of Music and Worship at Westwood Lutheran Church in St. Louis Park, MN, since 2000, and Organist there since 1993. There are three texts in Glory to God which are set to this tune, which is very popular across many denominations.


April 21, 2019

Opening Voluntary music for Easter will begin approximately ten minutes before the hour with a rich variety of music for organ solo, flute and organ, and handbells!  First in the trio of musical offerings will be J. S. Bach’s (1685-1750) lively Prelude in G Major, BWV 541 (catalog number). This is one of the larger Preludes and it, along with the accompanying fugue was probably written during Bach’s service at Weimar (1708-1717). Stylistically, the use of not only repeated notes, but repeated chords was not typical of Baroque music, but Bach seems to have developed this style while in Weimar.

Following the Bach, we will be treated to the lovely flute stylings of Jim Zellers, as he and I play a movement of a Johann Helmich Roman Sonata in G Major. Roman (1694-1758) was considered to be the “father of Swedish music.” He composed twelve sonatas for flute, published in 1725 and dedicated to the Swedish queen at the time who was a patroness of Roman.

Closing out the trio of voluntaries (all in G Major!), the Geneva Handbells will play Fred Gramann’s Festive Praises. Gramann is recognized in the handbell world for composing incredibly beautiful and quite challenging music for bells, with many of his compositions based on hymn tunes. Fred Gramann earned his bachelor’s degree in organ performance from Syracuse University, winning the student National Organ Competition sponsored by First Presbyterian Church of Ft. Wayne (IN), and his master’s from the University of Michigan.  Following his studies in Paris with noted organists Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986) and Marie-Claire Alain (1926-2013), in 1976 Gramann became Director of Music for the American Church in Paris, directing both vocal and handbell choirs in addition to serving as organist and overseeing a weekly concert series. He also composes choral music and is Honorary Associate Director of the Raleigh Ringers, who performed for the 40th anniversary of his appointment at the American Church in Paris in 2016.

The Closing Voluntary is the famous Toccata by Charles-Marie Widor. (See my blog article of August 19, 2018, for information.)  I last played this piece for Interim Pastor David Cozad’s last Sunday.


April 14, 2019

Sunday’s Opening Voluntary will get us into the Palm Sunday mood! Processional, by William Mathias, was composed in 1964 and could easily remind one of a throng of people in procession. Mathias, (1934-1992) born in Wales, was a child prodigy. He began playing piano at the age of three and composing at the age of 5. He attended Aberystwyth University and the Royal Academy of Music.  From 1970-1988 he was a professor of music and head of the music department at the University of Wales.

While his compositions include large scale works, including an opera, three symphonies and three piano concertos, he is noted mostly for his choral music written for the Anglican choral tradition. Perhaps his most well-known anthem is Let the People Praise Thee, O God, written for the 1981 royal wedding of Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer.  He also made a significant contribution to organ literature, and his Processional is likely one of his most frequently performed organ pieces.  He founded the North Wales International Music Festival in St. Asaph in 1972 and directed it until his death in 1992.  He directed the adult choir for a Montreat worship and music conference in the late 1980’s-early 90’s.

The Closing Voluntary is by Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (or Jan Pieter Sweelinck – 1562-1621). Both an organist and composer, Sweelinck was born in and died in Amsterdam. He was a principal figure in the development of organ music before J.S. Bach. He never traveled outside the Netherlands, succeeding his father and remaining in his post as organist of the Oude Kerk (Old Church) in Amsterdam from 1580 until his death. Sweelinck composed both sacred and secular vocal music, but was known mainly as an organist and composer of keyboard music, which includes chorale variations, toccatas (of which the Closing Voluntary is one), fantasias, and sets of variations on secular tunes. English composer John Bull composed Fantasia on a Theme of Sweelinck, leading to speculation that Sweelinck met Bull during one of Bull’s visits to the Netherlands. Two of Sweelinck’s organ students were the German composers Samuel Scheidt and Heinrich Scheidemann, who influenced the playing of Buxtehude, Handel, and Bach.


April 7, 2019

We are pleased to have violinist Benjamin Dawson playing for us again Sunday.  Benjamin was last here December 16. He is currently pursuing his D.M.A. in composition at the University of Georgia and is a graduate teaching fellow.

The Opening Voluntary is the slow movement of a suite written for solo instrument and keyboard by John Stanley.  Stanley (1712-1786) was an English organist and composer.  Born in London, he became blind at the age of two.  At the age of seven, he began his musical studies.  At age 11, he became the organist of All-hallows Church, Bread Street and at the age of 13 was elected organist at St. Andrew’s Holborn.  After the death of Handel, Stanley continued to champion the performance of Handel’s oratorios until shortly before his own death.  There are six suites (Stanley called them “solos”), comprising almost all of his output of solo/accompaniment works.

During communion, we will play an arrangement for violin and piano of “Wondrous Love” by Duane Funderburk. Born in in 1954, Funderburk has both undergraduate and graduate degrees in piano performance and music education from Seattle Pacific University and Boston University, and a doctorate in collaborative piano from the University of Southern California.   He has been involved with church music for many years and has composed many works based on hymn tunes for solo instrument and keyboard for use in worship. Funderburk currently serves as Co-Director of Worship and the Arts at Lake Avenue Church in Pasadena, California, conducting and composing for a 100-voice choir and 35-member chamber symphony.

The Closing Voluntary is a short variation on the hymn tune TALLIS’ CANON, arranged for organ by Robert Hobby, b. 1962. Hobby is currently Director of Music for Trinity English Lutheran Church, Fort Wayne, Indiana, where his responsibilities include playing for many of the worship services, overseeing the graded choral program, and managing the church’s concert series. Hobby received a Bachelor of Church Music from Wittenberg University in 1985 and a Master’s degree in Organ Performance from the University of Notre Dame in 1987. In addition to organ studies, he studied composition with noted church music composers Donald Busarow and Richard Hillert. During the Sundays in Lent, our congregational response is sung to this tune.


March 17, 2019

The Opening Voluntary this Sunday is a movement of a Trio Sonata by Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767).  One reviewer, when writing about Telemann in a review of a recording of Telemann’s Trio Sonatas says that “Telemann could write a trio sonata in the time that it would take the average person to read an article in a magazine, and with perhaps half the effort. He always took the bassline first, then added the top line or solo, and finally added all the obbligato stuff in between, and — presto! — Telemann was done.”  While Telemann was born four years before J. S. Bach, he lived seventeen years beyond Bach’s death, thus his works are considered to have served as a bridge between the late Baroque and early Classical periods. We are privileged to have violinist Adelaide Federici and oboist Pamela Holloway joining us Sunday for the Telemann movement and the choir anthem, as well as service music.

There will be no Closing Voluntary, as there is a congregational meeting to elect officers.


March 3, 2019

This Sunday is Youth Sunday, so youth will be leading worship in many capacities – preaching, singing, reading and serving.  The Youth Bell Choir will ring the Opening Voluntary.  The organ Closing Voluntary is Agincourt Hymn by English composer John Dunstable (ca.1370-1453). The tune, also called DEO GRACIAS, is a setting for three texts in Glory to God: “O Wondrous Sight, O Vision Fair,” our closing hymn this Sunday, appropriate as we also recognize the Transfiguration of Christ; “A Hymn of Glory Let Us Sing!”’ and perhaps the text most often sung to this tune, “O Love, How Deep, How Broad, How High.”  John Dunstable’s name was likely actually “Dunstaple,” but, as it is conjectured that he was born in Dunstable, Bedfordshire, England, the “b” spelling has been most commonly used, although both are correct. His birthdate is not recorded, only guessed at based on his earliest surviving compositions, which date from around 1410–1420.  While not much is known of his life or his musical training, it is believed that he was highly educated, though there is no record of an association with either Oxford or Cambridge universities. It is quite likely that he was in the service of John of Lancaster, fourth son of Henry IV and brother of Henry V.  In addition to his work as a composer, his local reputation was as an astronomer, astrologer, and mathematician.  His death date of Christmas Eve 1453 is certain, as it was recorded in his epitaph in the church of St. Stephen Walbrook in London, also his burial place.  While not many of his works survive, primarily due to the English Reformation, his musical influence traveled to the continent and his harmonies are seen as defining traits of early Renaissance music.  Those works that did survive include two complete masses, 12 motets, several mass sections, and twenty-seven settings of various liturgical texts.  The late organist E. Power Biggs says of Agincourt Hymn that Dunstable was most certainly the author of this hymn, which celebrated the victory of Henry V at the Battle of Agincourt in France in 1415. The opening trumpet fanfare should be recognizable to all!

February 24, 2019

The Opening Voluntary this Sunday is a combination of two settings of the hymn tune DIX, most often set to the texts “For the Beauty of the Earth” and, for Epiphany, “As with Gladness, Men of Old.”  (We sing the former in worship this Sunday.) Composer/arranger Ronald A. Nelson (1927-2014) served for thirty-seven years as Director of Music at Westwood Lutheran Church in suburban Minneapolis, directing choirs of all ages from three-year-olds to adults. His degrees are from St. Olaf College and the University of Wisconsin.  In retirement, he spent his time composing and guest conducting.  In addition to choral and organ music, he also wrote music for wind ensembles and orchestras, having received commissions from such organizations as the National Symphony, the USAF Band and Chorus, and Brevard Music Center, to name just a few.  An early version of the hymn tune DIX was composed by German Conrad Kocher (1786-1872).  Kocher was trained as a teacher, moving to St. Petersburg, Russia at the age of 17 to work as a tutor.  However, his love for the music of Haydn and Mozart overcame his desire to teach, so he moved back to Germany, remaining in Stuttgart for most of his life.  Some of his early compositions were published by a local music firm – later this firm sent him to study music in Italy.  Coming back to Stuttgart, he founded a School for Sacred Song, encouraging and popularizing four-part singing in area churches, while also serving as organist/choir director at a Stuttgart church for 38 years. Kocher wrote a treatise on church music, collected many German chorales, and composed an oratorio, two operas, and some sonatas. Kocher’s chorale melody for “Faithful Savior, We Are Here,” found in one of Kocher’s chorale collections was revised and shortened by William H. Monk into the current form of the tune DIX. It was first paired with the text “As with Gladness, Men of Old,” written by William Chatterton Dix, in 1861 and has remained popular ever since. Its pairing with “For the Beauty of the Earth,” written in 1864 by Folliott S. Pierpoint, is more common in North America than in places “across the pond.”

There will be no Closing Voluntary, as there is a congregational meeting immediately following worship.

February 17, 2019

Sunday’s voluntaries are settings of the hymn tune HOLY MANNA, an early American tune set to three texts in Glory to God, “All Who Hunger, Gather Gladly,” “Brethren, We Have Met to Worship,” and “God, Who Stretched the Spangled Heavens,” which is the text we will sing this week.  Both settings are by composers about whom I’ve written before.  The Opening Voluntary is by Charles Ore (b. 1936) and the Closing Voluntary is by Edwin T. Childs (b. 1945). Just a reminder about the hymn tune – HOLY MANNA is one of the oldest published American folk hymns.  It was originally published in the four-note shaped-note tune book Columbian Harmony in 1829 (paired with “Brethren, we…”) and is attributed to William Moore, the collection’s publisher.  The tune is a pentatonic, or five-note melody with a simple harmonization.  The Opening Voluntary begins with a soft fanfare-like introduction over a slow moving pedal part with the melody in the left hand.  The Closing Voluntary also has the melody in the left hand, but the right hand has a fast moving “ostinato” – usually a musical figure repeated at the same pitch throughout a composition, although in this piece it is a two-measure figure, repeated several times, turned upside down, and repeated again when the piece moves into a new key! In addition, the left hand and pedal have the melody in canon at the key change, with the left hand in augmentation (slower notes) until near the end.

February 10, 2019

As there is a congregational meeting this Sunday, there will be no Closing Voluntary.  The Opening Voluntary is based on the tune of the Opening Hymn, “You Walk Along our Shoreline.”   The tune name, WIE LEIBLICH IST DER MAIEN, composed by Johann Steurlein (1546-1613), literally translates “How Lovely is [the month] of May.” Surprisingly, this was a sacred text by Martin Behm (1557-1662). However, the tune was originally written first for a secular text, “Mit lieb bin ich umfangen” (“With love I am embraced”) before being matched to Behm’s text.  The tune appears in Glory to God with three different texts. Steurlein was the son of a Lutheran pastor and mayor of the town of Meiningen from 1604-1612.  He initially studied law in Wittenberg, moving to Meiningen 20 years later. In addition to composing, he also considered himself a poet of sacred songs, although his critics thought his offerings in that area to be less than stellar. The composer of the two variations on the tune played Sunday is Manfred Spiller (b. 1932). Spiller studied both theology and music (primarily composition) in Leipzig. From 1960 to 1975, Spiller served first as a pastor, then as the head of a hospital run by nurses of a Protestant order. Since 1976 his principal vocation has been composition, with an emphasis on church and chamber music as well as orchestral works. The two variations come from a set of four organ variations on the tune, with the first variation setting out the tune clearly and the second in the style of a minuet, with the melody less obvious.


February 3, 2019

Sunday’s Opening and Closing Voluntaries are both based on hymn tunes sung in this Sunday’s Children’s Sabbath Worship.  The Opening Voluntary is by organist/composer Charles Ore, about whom I’ve written before.  It is on the tune HYFRYDOL, a Welsh tune, which we most often sing to the text “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling,” as we are this week.  It has a spirited accompaniment on lighter registrations, with phrases of the melody in the left hand alternating with this accompaniment.  HYFRYDOL is one of the most familiar and most loved Welsh tunes. It was composed by Welsh composer Rowland Hugh Prichard (1811-1887) at the age of nineteen.  Along with about forty of his other tunes, it was published in a children’s hymnal (The Singer’s Friend) compiled by him in 1844. Prichard had an interesting career – he worked as a textile worker as well as an amateur musician, serving as cantor in a church and, near the end of his life was a loom tender’s assistant in the Welsh Flannel Manufacturing Company! HYFRYDOL is Welsh for “tuneful” or “pleasant.”  The Psalter Hymnal Handbook of 1987 says to “sing in unison or harmony, and observe one pulse per measure,” meaning move it along!

The Closing Voluntary is based on the tune AZMON, sung most often to “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing” but also to the text we are singing this Sunday, “O for a World,” written in 1987.  The organ arrangement is by Alfred V. Fedak (b. 1953). Al Fedak is a native of New Jersey and has degrees from Hope College and Montclair State University.  Additional study was done at Westminster Choir College, Eastman School of Music, and the Institute for European Studies in Vienna.  After serving as organist and choir director for churches and synagogues in New Jersey and Michigan, Fedak has held the position of minister of music and arts at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Albany, New York, since 1990.  Since 2014 he has served as organist and choir director of Congregation Beth Emeth, also in Albany, a position he had held previously in the 1990s.  Mr. Fedak has over 300 choral and organ works in print, and more than 100 of his hymn tunes appear in hymnals and collections. Fedak is a Fellow of the American Guild of Organists, achieving the highest score on the qualifying exam since the establishment of the Guild in 1895.  He additionally holds the Guild Choirmaster Certificate. Mr. Fedak served on the editorial committee for Sing! A New Creation, a hymnal supplement, and served as a member of the Presbyterian Committee on Congregational Song (the committee which assembled GLORY TO GOD), overseeing the work of its music subcommittee.  He has composed music on commission for numerous churches, cathedrals, schools, colleges, individuals, community choruses, the Hymn Society, the Organ Historical Society, and for chapters of the AGO and Choristers Guild. The Voluntary is titled a “Toccatina,” which simply means “little toccata.” Merriam-Webster’s definition of “toccata” is “a musical composition usually for organ or harpsichord in a free style and characterized by full chords, rapid runs, and high harmonies,” thus a “toccatina” is a briefer, simpler version of that description. In this arrangement, the melody is hinted around at before a full statement in the pedal, followed by a full chordal statement to end the piece.


January 27, 2019

Like the choir anthem, the Closing Voluntary is also by Felix Mendelssohn. In 1844, Mendelssohn was commissioned by an English publisher to compose three “voluntaries;” Mendelssohn was uncertain as to what this meant so he created six multi-movement works and titled them “sonatas.”  The third was composed in August of 1844, and the remaining five in December, 1844 and January, 1845.  They are not sonatas in the widely understood meaning of that category of compositions, but rather large works of two to four movements using lots of different forms.  The Closing Voluntary is the third movement of the Sonata II in C minor/major.  (The first two movements are in C minor, the closing two in C major.)  The third movement is inspired by the preludes of J. S. Bach; and as is often the case with those preludes, it is paired with a fugue (not heard this Sunday).  The structure is a simple three-part form, with an opening idea that is repeated twice, each time in a grander and longer version.   The organ works of Mendelssohn are considered the first truly significant organ works composed after those of J. S. Bach about 100 years prior.

January 20, 2019

Sunday’s Opening Voluntary is based on the sermon hymn, “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy” and is by the late Lutheran organist/composer Paul Manz (1919-2009).  Manz’s organ works based on hymn tunes began as improvisations at the hymn festivals for which he became known, with many of his improvisations written out and published later. The tune IN BABILONE is a Dutch traditional melody appearing in a collection dated 1710. English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams discovered the tune and included it in The English Hymnal of 1906, from which it gained widespread use.  There are a number of texts set to this tune, including “Holy Spirit, Ever Dwelling” and, with a completely different focus “Hail, Thou Once-Despised Jesus.”  “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy” is the only text in Glory to God set to IN BABILONE.

The Closing Voluntary is by Italian composer Domenico Zipoli (1688-1726) and is a Toccata in C Major. Zipoli was a composer of the Italian Baroque period. He received musical training as a child, later studying organ in Florence, then briefly studying with Scarlatti in Naples and with Pasquini in Rome.  After having been appointed organist of a Jesuit parish in Rome in 1715, Zipoli traveled to Spain in 1716, where he joined the Society of Jesus, desiring to work in the Reductions of Paraguay (a “reduction” was a mission) with the Guarani peoples in an area incorporating the borders of present-day Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina.  Although he wished to be ordained, there was no available bishop. During his time as a missionary, he served as music director for the local Jesuit church. He died of an unknown infectious disease at the age of 38.  He is known today mostly for his keyboard music, although he also wrote two oratorios which didn’t survive.  Recently some of his South American church music was discovered in Bolivia, including two Masses, two Psalm settings and various other sacred pieces.


January 13, 2019

The Opening Voluntary is based on the early American tune NETTLETON, which is most often paired with the text of Sunday’s opening hymn, “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”  The organ setting is composed by Edwin T. Childs (b. 1945), now retired from Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, having previously taught music theory and composition at Cairn University (PA), and Biola University (CA). The tune is found in a tune book of 1813, Wyeth’s Repository of Sacred Music, Part Second, with no composer attribution.  Hymnary.org says about this tune “…authorship of this tune is not clear, with different editors attributing the tune to different composers (or not naming one at all).” The Hymnal Companion to the Lutheran Book of Worship (1981) also notes the observation by George Pullen Jackson that the tune is “one of a group related to the folk melody ‘Go tell Aunt Tabby (Aunt Rhody, Aunt Nancy, etc.) her old grey goose is dead.’” (p. 519)

The Closing Voluntary is also based on an early American hymn tune, found in Southern Harmony of 1835. The tune is COMPLAINER, named for the first text for which it was paired, “I am a great complainer, that bears the name of Christ,” but is also frequently paired with “Jerusalem the Golden” and appears in at least 11 hymnals.  The arranger of the organ voluntary is Gilbert M. Martin (b. 1941). Martin has composed/arranged more than 300 choral and organ works and his music has been sung and played by church and school choirs and organists across the country for many years.


December 16, 2018

We are privileged to have violinist Benjamin Dawson to play for us in worship this Sunday.  Benjamin is a native of Abingdon, VA, and several time winner of the Bristol (TN/VA) Music Club Scholarship auditions in whichever division he entered.  I’ve played for Benjamin on any number of occasions and I’m happy he is now so close by! Benjamin is a composer, theorist and violinist. He is currently pursuing his D.M.A. in composition at the University of Georgia. Dawson is a member of Pi Kappa Lambda and is in frequent demand as a performer and teacher.  The Opening Voluntary is an arrangement for violin and organ of the Pastorale movement from Italian composer Arcangelo Corelli’s “Christmas Concerto.”  Corelli (1653-1713) and his family were prosperous landowners in the diocese of the Papal States, but not of the nobility.  There are any number of anecdotes and legends attached to Corelli, although not much reliable contemporary evidence documenting his life.  We do know that he studied music initially under a priest in the nearby town of Faenza, and then in Lugo, before moving in 1666 to Bologna, a major center of musical culture of the time. By 1675, Corelli had moved to Rome, where he was hired as a supporting violinist by various churches, organizations, and patrons. Corelli was influential as teacher and mentor to a generation of violinists and composers. Movements of his concerti grossi (“big concertos”) have often been used in Western culture. For example, a portion of the Christmas Concerto is in the soundtrack of the film “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.” A “concerto grosso” is a musical form for a small group of solo instruments and full orchestra, in which the main thematic material is passed back and forth between the two. The Pastorale was considered optional by Corelli, but it has survived and continues to be popular.  A “pastorale” alludes to the shepherds who gathered at the manger, with long notes in the accompaniment imitating the drone of bagpipes.

The Closing Voluntary is by early-20th century German composer Helmut Walcha (1907-1991), based on the tune of Sunday’s opening hymn, UNSER HERRSCHER (“Christ is Coming”). Walcha was born in Leipzig and blinded at age 19 after a smallpox vaccination.  Despite his blindness, he was accepted at the Leipzig Conservatory and became an assistant to his organ professor at St. Thomaskirche (one of J. S. Bach’s two Leipzig churches).  In 1929, he moved to Frankfurt, accepting a position at the Friedenskirche and remained in Frankfurt for the rest of his life. Walcha recorded the complete organ works of Bach twice, once in mono (1947-52) and again in stereo (1956-71). Walcha’s organ works include four volumes of his own chorale preludes as well as organ arrangements of orchestral works by other composers. Many significant American organists of the 20th century studied with Walcha and went on to teach at such significant institutions as Southern Methodist University (Dallas) and Eastman Conservatory (Rochester, NY).  While his organ chorales have definite nods to 20th century harmony, the chorale tune is always recognizable.

December 9, 2018

This Sunday, the Opening Voluntary will be for marimba and oboe.  Taizé regular Barbara Cook will play oboe, also playing on the Chancel Choir’s anthem version of “O- So-So,” or “Come Now, O Prince of Peace.” Alan Fey, my oldest son, will play marimba.  Alan and his wife Janet, along with younger son Jordan and his wife Erica will be in town to celebrate my mother’s 90th birthday. Alan has played at Central several times in the past, most recently in 2014 for the Handbell Guild of America’s National Seminar and the worship service that was hosted here at Central.  The music is his own arrangement of the tune DIVINUM MYSTERIUM, “Of the Father’s Love Begotten,” #108 in Glory to God. Originally written as the first of five pieces for Second Presbyterian Church in Nashville and scored for soprano and marimba, it works equally well with an oboe playing the soprano melody.  About this piece, Alan says: “These 5 arrangements of Advent and Christmas carols all stem from memories of hearing or singing these as a child. DIVINUM MYSTERIUM is a simple arrangement for soprano and marimba that was initially arranged for a service in the summer with the text from hymns 108, 65, and 850 [in Glory to God], as those fit the lectionary. However, this tune has had a Christmas connection for me since I sang it as a child with the Houston Children’s Chorus – it was always sung keeping the chant-like rhythm, so that remained in most of this arrangement. It also uses the final chord from Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” as its inspiration.”  There will be no Closing Voluntary, as there will be a congregational meeting.


December 2, 2018

Retired Presbyterian organist/composer John Weaver, who served Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City for more than 30 years, had a rotating repertoire of organ music.  He played a 30 minute “prelude” before the service each Sunday and, in particular during various seasons, would play the same piece from year to year.  He said that people came to expect to hear their favorites during Advent, for example.  This Sunday, I follow John’s lead, as I will play the very well-known J. S. Bach organ chorale “Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme”, or as one translation has it “Wake, awake, for night is flying.”  This is a favorite Advent piece of mine and one which I try to include every year. The translation in Glory to God (hymn 349) is “Sleepers, Wake! A Voice Astounds Us” and is based on the parable of the wise and foolish bridesmaids in Matthew 25.  Philipp Nicolai created both the text and tune of the chorale, which Bach later used in this famous chorale prelude. Nicolai (1556–1608) was a German Lutheran pastor, poet, and composer, and is most widely recognized as a hymnodist. The other text and tune of his in our hymnal is #827, “O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright,” most often associated with Epiphany.  He was ordained to the Lutheran church in 1583, but was eventually expelled during the Counter-Reformation.  Nicolai received a Doctorate in Theology from the University of Wittenberg and held several pastorates in the later part of his life. His two most famous hymns, mentioned above, are sometimes referred to as the “King” (“Sleepers, Wake!”) and “Queen” (O Morning Star…”) of chorales, having inspired many composers. Nicolai was, perhaps, the last example of what were called “Meistersingers,” describing those folks who authored both words and music, text and melody.

Bach composed two cantatas based on both of Nicolai’s chorales.  Bach’s organ setting of “Wachet auf…” appears in a later set of six chorales named after publisher Johann Georg Schübler, who published the set in 1747 or 1748. It is a transcription of a movement from the previously mentioned cantata; the original voicing has the choir tenors singing the melody, accompanied by violins and violas playing a unison countermelody accompanied by a bass line.  In the organ version, it is easy to understand how it was originally conceived, but it stands quite nobly on its own. (The cantatas were composed about 20 years earlier.) Bach died in 1750, so these chorales were published at the end of his life

As the Opening Voluntary, the Chancel Choir will sing a different translation, “Now let heaven and earth adore Thee,” then I will play the Bach.

The Closing Voluntary, based on the same chorale, is by noted Lutheran musician, the late Paul Manz. Manz (1919-2009) is remembered primarily for his choral and organ works. He was named Cantor Emeritus at both the Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. Luke in Chicago and Mount Olive Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, the church from which he retired. His organ works based on hymn tunes began as improvisations at the hymn festivals for which he became known.  Many of these improvisations were later written out and published and are played by church organists the world over.

[Note:  John Weaver played the dedicatory recital on Central’s organ in 1966 and again upon the renovation of the organ in 1996.]


November 25, 2018

Sunday’s Opening and Closing Voluntaries are based on the hymn tune NICAEA, sung to the text “Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty!,” which serves as our opening hymn.  The setting for the Opening Voluntary is by Canadian composer Healey Willan (1880-1968). He is considered an Anglo-Canadian composer, as he was born in England and emigrated to Canada in 1913, where he remained until his death. Willan composed some 800 musical pieces, the majority sacred works for choir such as anthems, hymns and mass settings.  The tune NICAEA is named after the Council of Nicaea (A.D. 325) at which church leaders began to formulate the doctrine of the Trinity, resulting, of course, in the Nicene Creed, which became a pillar of church doctrine.  NICAEA, composed by John Bacchus Dykes, was written specifically for the familiar text by English author Reginald Heber.

The Closing Voluntary is a setting by John Leavitt (b. 1956).  Leavitt is a composer, conductor, pianist, and teacher, primarily composing music for church and school.  He received his undergraduate degree in music education from Emporia State University, Kansas, a master’s degree in piano & composition from Wichita State University, and the Doctorate of Musical Arts in conducting from The Conservatory of Music at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He has served on the faculty of MidAmerica Nazarene University in Olathe, KS, Newman University in Wichita, KS, Concordia College, Edmonton, Alberta Canada, Concordia University in River Forest, IL, and Friends University in Wichita. He also served as music director at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Wichita and conducted the Master Arts Chorale and Youth Chorale.  His music has been performed in at least thirty countries and is represented in almost every major music catalogue in the U.S. I played this arrangement as the Closing Voluntary my first Sunday at Central, February 19, 2017!


November 4, 2018

Sunday’s Closing Voluntary will be a setting of For All the Saints, in an arrangement by noted Lutheran composer and organist David Cherwien.  Cherwien takes as his inspiration the sixth of seven stanzas appearing in the 2006 hymnal Evangelical Lutheran Worship, “But then there breaks a yet more glorious day: the saints triumphant rise in bright array: the King of Glory passes on his way. Alleluia!”  Many hymnals have at least four and frequently five stanzas of the original eleven stanzas, including Glory to God: the Presbyterian Hymnal of 2013, but this particular stanza is less frequently sung.  The author of the text, William Walsham How, D.D. (1823-1897) was educated at Oxford and took Holy Orders in 1846. His most well-known hymn texts are “O Word of God Incarnate,” “For All the Saints Who From their Labors Rest” and “We Give Thee but Thine Own.”  Carl Daw, who wrote all the ascriptions at the bottom of the hymns in Glory to God, says of the tune by Ralph Vaughan Williams, SINE NOMINE, which is so closely identified with this text, that it was “created to be sung during a reverent but dramatic procession at the beginning of an All Saints’ Day service, an enacted representation of the enduring ‘fellowship divine’ celebrated by this text.” David Cherwien appears to have also been inspired by two great French composers, Maurice Duruflé and Marcel Dupré.  The opening begins with a soft toccata-like passage that grows in volume, as does the beginning of the final variation of Duruflé’s “Veni Creator Spiritus.”  With snippets of the melody initially in the pedal, as he approaches the final transition to the end of the piece he evokes Dupré’s B Major Prelude in the use of an intervallic motif, also in the pedal.  For All Saints Day, I am playing this piece in memory of colleague Rob Frazier of Winston-Salem, who died recently after a battle with cancer, and Blake Looney, a youth in our Bristol church, who was killed in a car accident on All Saints Day in 2013 and who loved attending the Montreat Worship and Music conferences with us and singing and ringing bells.


October 28, 2018

While this Sunday is focused on the dedication of our pledges and gifts, it is also the Sunday we remember the Protestant Reformation so, in a nod to the Reformation, I’m playing an arrangement of “A Mighty Fortress” as the Closing Voluntary, in a setting by Charles Ore. The German name of the tune is EIN FESTE BURG and was composed by reformer Martin Luther (1483-1546), with a text based on Psalm 46. Much has been written about Martin Luther and his break from the Roman church – he believed in justification by faith in Jesus Christ, strongly disagreeing with much of Catholic doctrine. He was born in Eisleben, Germany, part of the Holy Roman Empire at the time. He attended the University of Erfurt, receiving both a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts degree, became an Augustinian monk in 1505 and an ordained priest in the Roman church in 1507.  It was during his tenure at the University of Wittenberg that he published his 95 Theses (1517), written in Latin, but translated the following year into German.  He translated the Bible into German between 1521 and 1534. He was influential on German hymnody, composing a number of tunes, five of which are in Glory to God, including EIN FESTE BURG. Luther’s inspiration for hymn tunes included traditional Latin hymns, and both sacred and secular folk melodies.  There is disagreement concerning the origin of EIN FESTE BURG, legend calling it a drinking song.  What we do know is that the original tune was more rhythmic in character than the version in most hymnals. The version by Charles Ore is also very rhythmic, and trades off the melody between the pedal and the manuals.


October 21, 2018

The Opening Voluntary for this Sunday is titled “La Grace”, translated “Mercy” and is by Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767), a German Baroque composer. (See my article from June 27 for more info on Telemann.)   This is one of a set titled Twelve Heroic Marches, short pieces identified with an expressive title indicative of a particular heroic trait. Each piece is similar in form, with the first half establishing the tonic (or home) key, moving to the dominant (the key five notes above the tonic), while the second half begins in the dominant key and returns to the tonic (home) key.  While several of the pieces exhibit a grand, march-like character, “La Grace” has a beautiful, flowing melody with a simple accompaniment. Telemann composed Musique Héroïque in 1728, in Hamburg. The original composition, scored for two oboes or violins, trumpet, two horns, and keyboard, has been lost; the version usually heard today is a 1947 arrangement for trumpet and keyboard by Ernst Pätzold.  Hal Hopson has arranged the solo organ version.

The Closing Voluntary is Johann Pachelbel’s “Toccata in E Minor,” and is likely familiar to most beginning organ students. Pachelbel was born in 1653 in Nuremberg, predating J. S. Bach by 32 years.  Pachelbel showed exceptional musical and academic talent at a young age. In 1669, he both began studies at the University of Altdorf and was appointed organist of St. Lorenz church.  He developed an interest in Italian music of his day as well as Catholic church music, which influenced his compositional output.  By 1673, he had become a deputy organist at famed Saint Stephen Cathedral in Vienna, a cultural center, where he spent the next five years. He next served in Eisenach, employed as court organist to Johann Georg I, Duke of Saxe-Eisenach.  While there he met members of the Bach family, tutoring many of J. S. Bach’s older siblings. Following a short tenure in Eisenach, Pachelbel moved to Erfurt and was employed at a church there for 12 years. During this tenure he became known as one of the leading south German organ composers of his time. His church contract required that he compose preludes for each church service.  His output of music based on German hymn tunes is a result of this commission. Pachelbel’s other compositions include a set of six keyboard “arias” with variations, a set of Vespers and more than 90 fugues based on the Magnificat, as well as his famous “Canon in D,” written originally for strings and keyboard and popular at weddings today.  About 20 toccatas survive, characterized by the consistent use of what is known as a pedal point, i.e. a sustained pedal note over relatively fast notes in both hands, and the E Minor Toccata is no exception.


October 14, 2018

The Opening Voluntary this Sunday is the second movement of the second of three organ sonatas by German composer Paul Hindemith (1895-1963).  Sonatas I and II were composed in 1937, Sonata III in 1940. Hindemith was one of the foremost German composers of his generation and a leading musical theorist. At the beginning of his compositional career other composers were challenging what we would call a “traditional” harmonic structure, and Hindemith was one of those in the pursuit of a new tonality. He was more interested in composing music for everyday occasions (“utility music”) and considered composers as craftsmen meeting social needs of the day rather than artists satisfying their own souls. He set out, and was mostly successful, in writing sonatas for almost every available instrument.  Atypical of German composers of the time, his organ works aren’t based on Protestant chorales or elements of the liturgy, but are rather free works without recognizably based melodies or programmatic structure.  Hindemith held many musical jobs, playing violin in cafes, dance bands, and theaters, and became leader of the Frankfurt Opera Orchestra at the age of 20.  His music was questioned by the Nazi hierarchy and was in and out of favor; he first moved to Switzerland in 1938 and then to the U.S. in 1940, (becoming a citizen in 1947) in part because of his wife’s Jewish ancestry. The second movement of Sonata II is given no title other than the instruction “ruhig bewegt” (quietly moving).  It has a very simple structure: there is a quiet opening section which is then repeated with a fuller sound and a bit of variation; a second section that returns to the opening sound followed again by a fuller sounding variation, and then a brief coda which follows the same paralleling structure.  The rhythmic and melodic character is reminiscent of a “pastorale,” music associated traditionally with shepherds.

The Closing Voluntary is a very brief setting of the hymn tune NETTLETON, sung most often to the text “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” our opening hymn for this Sunday.  NETTLETON appears in 324 hymnals and honors hymnal compiler Asahel Nettleton, American theologian, pastor, and evangelist in the Second Great Awakening. He likely did not compose it, as it is most frequently attributed to “anonymous,” but it first appears in an 1813 American tune book, printed in Harrisburgh, PA –  printer and bookseller John Wyeth’s Repository of Sacred Music, Part Second.  The book opens with the following:  “Original and selected from the most eminent and approved authors in that science; for the use of Christian churches, singing-schools & private societies. Together with a copious and plain introduction to the grounds of music, and rules for learners.”  Organist and church musician Wilbur Held composed this setting.


October 7, 2018

The Closing Voluntary for this Sunday, World Communion Sunday, is a setting of the African-American tune MCKEE, most often sung to the words “In Christ There Is No East or West.”  MCKEE first became widely known with the text “I know the angel’s done changed my name” as sung by the Fisk University Jubilee Singers. The tune has connections with an Irish folksong, and in all likelihood American slaves heard and adapted the melody. Composer Charles Callahan has written a fanfare-like piece with phrases of the hymn tune in between. Callahan (b. 1951), is a native of Cambridge, Massachusetts. A graduate of The Curtis Institute of Music (Philadelphia) and The Catholic University of America (Washington, D.C.), Callahan is a well-known composer, organist, choral conductor, pianist, and teacher. His compositions for organ are performed frequently in churches.  Among his several commissioned works are two from Harvard University and also from the Archdioceses of St. Louis and New York for Papal visits. These pieces are scored for full orchestra, choir and congregation.  He remains active as a church musician and concert organist.  In 2014, the American Guild of Organists awarded Callahan its Distinguished Artist award, “for his illustrious career as composer, performer, teacher and consultant, and his lifelong service to the sacred music profession.”


September 30, 2018

Sunday’s Opening Voluntary will be two short preludes based on the tune LIEBSTER JESU, sung to the text “Dearest Jesus, We Are Here,” which we are singing as the baptism hymn.  The first setting is by Charles Ore (b. 1936).  Ore is organist at First Presbyterian Church in Lincoln, NE, and is an accomplished organ recitalist as well as a composer of organ and choral music.  In addition, he is a leader in the use and development of organ improvisation.  His setting is a very free, unmetered version of the tune. The second setting is by the late Lutheran organist/composer Paul Manz (1919-2009). Manz is noted for his choral and organ works. He was named Cantor Emeritus at both the Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. Luke in Chicago and Mount Olive Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, the church from which he retired. Probably his most popular choral work is the Advent motet “E’en So, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come.” His organ works based on hymn tunes began as improvisations at the hymn festivals for which he became known.  Many of these improvisations were later written out and published and are played by church organists the world over. Manz’s setting of LIEBSTER JESU has the melody in the pedal, using a sound at a higher pitch than notated.  The composer of the tune LIEBSTER JESU, Johann Rudolph Ahle (1625 – 1673) was a German composer, organist, theorist, and Protestant church musician. His compositions primarily consist of sacred choral and vocal works, instrumental music, and organ music.

The Closing Voluntary is based on the 19th century American tune SHOUT ON, most often sung to the text “I Know That My Redeemer Lives – Glory, Hallelujah.”  There is absolutely no relationship to Handel’s version of “I Know That My Redeemer Lives!” The tune appears in at least five hymnals, almost always with the above-mentioned text.  The composer of this arrangement, Sir George Shearing, OBE (1919–2011) was a British jazz pianist, born blind, who for many years led a popular jazz group that recorded for Discovery Records, MGM Records and Capitol Records. His famous jazz standard “Lullaby of Birdland” was only one of over 300 titles. Among his compositions was a set of arrangements of eight early American hymn tunes, written for both organ and piano under the title “Sacred Sounds from George Shearing.”  He initially recorded the piano versions on tape – they had to be transcribed from tape to paper (manuscript).  He created the organ versions with the help of noted church musician Dale Wood, who, at the time of the recordings, served as Executive Editor of The Sacred Music Press, publisher of the collection (1977).


September 23, 2018

The Opening Voluntary is based on the tune KINGSFOLD, sung as our last hymn and congregational response with the text “Today We All Are Called to Be Disciples.” English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams harmonized the tune in 1906, taken from the 1893 collection English County Songs.  He called the tune KINGSFOLD after hearing it first in a Sussex village by that name.  The text of the hymn is appropriate for stewardship season and was indeed written by Presbyterian minister H. Kenn Carmichael in 1985 as part of a 1986 denomination wide stewardship campaign with the theme “Called to Be Disciples.” The organ arrangement is by James Biery.  Biery (b.1956) is an American organist, composer and conductor who is Minister of Music at Grosse Pointe Memorial Church (Presbyterian) in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan, having served previous congregations in St. Paul, MN and Hartford, CT.  Both his Bachelor and Master of Music degrees were in Organ Performance at Northwestern University.  He has been awarded annual ASCAP Plus awards since 2006 for his compositions, both organ and choral.  James and his wife, Marilyn, also an ASCAP Plus award winner, have been creating new music and texts for 25 years. Meditate on the text of the hymn at #757 as you listen to this lovely arrangement of this English tune.


September 16, 2018

Sunday’s Opening and Closing Voluntaries are based on hymn tunes sung in the service. The Opening Voluntary is an arrangement of the hymn tune HOLY MANNA, arranged by Edwin Childs, about whom I’ve written before.  The hymn tune was originally composed to be sung with the text “Brethren, We Have Met Together” (or, as we will sing it, “Brethren, We Have Met to Worship”) and is one of the oldest published American folk hymns.  It was originally published in the four-note shaped note tunebook Columbian Harmony in 1829 and is attributed to William Moore, the collection’s publisher.  The tune is a pentatonic, or five-note melody.  The tune AMAZING GRACE is also a pentatonic melody, i.e. it is made up of five notes and, if you were looking at a piano, could be played all on the black keys (and also, of course, the corresponding white keys.) Most shape-note melodies were written in three parts, but a number of composers have harmonized HOLY MANNA with four parts, as it is used in approximately 138 modern hymnals. It is also used as a setting for the texts “God, Who Stretched the Spangled Heavens,” “All Who Hunger, Gather Gladly,” and “I Will Arise and Go to Jesus.”

The Closing Voluntary is based on the hymn tune CRUCIFER, in an organ arrangement by Charles W. Ore.  Composed by Sir Sydney Hugo Nicholson (1875 –1947) for the popular text which we sing this Sunday, “Lift High the Cross,” this tune appears in around 76 hymnals.  Nicholson was an English choir director, organist and composer, most noted for the founding of the School of English Church Music (now the Royal School of Church Music – RSCM) when he became concerned with the sad state of choral music in English parish churches.  One of his organist posts was at Westminster Abbey, where he is buried.  He edited an early version of “Hymns Ancient and Modern,” still the standard hymnal in many Anglican churches. He was knighted in 1938 for his services in the name of church music.


September 9, 2018

Sunday’s Opening Voluntary is the third movement of the fourth Organ Sonata by Felix Mendelssohn.  Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (1809-1847) was a German composer, pianist, organist and conductor of the early romantic period, that period typically said to run from approximately 1800-1850. In addition to six organ sonatas and three preludes and fugues for the organ, he wrote symphonies, concertos, oratorios, piano music and chamber music.  Although born into a prominent Jewish family (his grandfather Moses was a highly respected Jewish philosopher) he was brought up without religion, as his father had renounced the Jewish faith.  At the age of seven, in 1816, Felix was baptized as a Reformed Christian and given the additional names Jakob Ludwig. The name Bartholdy was first adopted as a surname by Felix’s maternal uncle as a means of breaking with the Jewish traditions of Moses Mendelssohn, so was adopted by the whole family, although Felix and Fanny rarely used the name. It was Mendelssohn who revived interest in the music of J. S. Bach, conducting Bach’s St. Matthew Passion in 1829.  Mendelssohn’s older sister Fanny was also a talented pianist and composer and it was for her wedding that Felix composed the third organ sonata.

The organ sonatas were commissioned as a “set of voluntaries” by English publishers in 1844 and published in 1845.  Mendelssohn first drafted seven individual voluntaries, but then regrouped them into a set of six sonatas, two of which have references to Lutheran chorales.  The fourth sonata was actually the last to be composed.

The Closing Voluntary is André Campra’s Rigaudon, often used as a wedding processional.  The organ arrangement is from Campra’s tragic opera Idoménée (from Greek mythology). Campra (1660-1744) was one of France’s leading opera composers and conductors.  He wrote “musical tragedies” and opera-ballets, cantatas and sacred music, including a Requiem.  He served as Director of Music at both Arles and Toulouse cathedrals, followed by a stint at the cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris. In a controversial move, Campra added violins to the performance of sacred music at Notre-Dame, controversial because in that era violins were considered to be street instruments.  He had a passion for theatrical music, so gave up his post at Notre-Dame in 1700 but, by 1720 his compositional output was only sacred music.

Rigaudon (also rigadon, rigadoon) is a French baroque dance in duple meter. Its origin was as a lively 17th-century folk dance for couples, but it became popular as a court dance during the reign of Louis XIV. By the end of the 18th century, its popularity waned as the minuet rose to prominence as a ballroom dance.

August 26, 2018

Sunday’s Opening Voluntary is one of a set of eleven organ chorale preludes composed by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897). One of the English translations of the hymn text is found in our hymnal at #514, “Soul, Adorn Yourself with Gladness.”  Prolific translator Catherine Winkworth translated the first two stanzas of this 1649 text by Johann Franck in the mid-1800s and John Caspar Mattes translated the third stanza in 1913 – all stanzas have been altered to use more modern language, i.e. replacing “thyself” with “yourself.”  The tune was composed by Johann Crüger in 1649.  Crüger was a German composer of well-known hymn tunes and the editor of what was likely the most widely used Lutheran hymnal of the 17th century.  This tune appears in more than 80 hymnals.

The eleven chorales by Brahms were written in 1896 at the end of the composer’s life and published posthumously in 1902.  Based on verses of nine Lutheran chorales, two of them were set twice in the organ collection and several were transcribed for solo piano by Ferruccio Busoni in 1902.  J. S. Bach set this tune in his Cantata 180 and Bach and Brahms weren’t the only composers to pen organ works based on this chorale tune.  Although Brahms was a German composer and pianist he spent much of his professional life in Vienna.  Musicians frequently refer to Bach, Brahms, and Beethoven as the “three Bs of music” after nineteenth-century conductor Hans Van Bülow first made the comparison.  Brahms composed for symphony orchestra, chamber ensembles, piano, organ, and voice and chorus.  Perhaps his most famous vocal work is his Requiem, largely composed after his mother’s death and using texts from the Lutheran Bible.  The lovely chorale, “Soul, Adorn Yourself with Gladness,” while played only on one manual with no pedal part, maintains the prominence of the melody in slower notes, while the accompanying two voices support the melody with soothing, slow eighth and sixteenth notes.

The Closing Voluntary is by Emily Maxson Porter (I wrote about her in a previous article) and is the final variation in a set based on the hymn tune WESTMINSTER ABBEY, sung this Sunday to “Christ Is Made the Sure Foundation.”   The tune was composed by English composer Henry Purcell (c.1659 – 1695). Although influenced by Italian and French Baroque music, Purcell’s output was a uniquely English form of Baroque music. Purcell is widely considered to be one of the greatest of English composers, eclipsed perhaps by Sir Edward Elgar two hundred years later.

Purcell came from a musical family – his older brother Thomas sang for the coronation of Charles II of England.  Henry Purcell composed music for the church, the stage, the court, and for private entertainment.  In the 1670’s he tuned the organ at Westminster Abbey and was employed to copy the organ parts of choral anthems.  In 1679 he was appointed organist at Westminster Abbey and in 1682 was one of three organists appointed to the Chapel Royal.  He served through the reigns of Charles II, James II, and William and Mary.  As a composer for the Chapel Royal, Purcell had a string orchestra at his disposal, so he composed music for choir and strings, including an anthem composed for the coronation of James II.


August 19, 2018

The Closing Voluntary for David Cozad’s last Sunday as Interim Pastor is the Toccata from the Fifth Organ Symphony by Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1937). Widor was a French organist, composer, and teacher, most noted for his ten organ symphonies. Interestingly, Widor was born into a family of organ builders, and initially studied music with his father, who was titular organist of Saint-François-de-Sales from 1838 to 1889. The French organ builder Aristide Cavaillé-Coll, who revived the art of organ building in France, arranged for Widor to study organ technique and composition in Brussels.  Following his studies, he moved to Paris and, at the age of 24, was appointed assistant to organist/composer Camille Saint-Saëns at Église de la Madeleine. At the age of 25, Widor was appointed “provisional” organist at Saint-Sulpice in Paris, playing on the instrument still considered to be Cavaillé-Coll’s masterpiece. Although this position was initially “provisional,” Widor remained there for almost 64 years, succeeded upon his death by former student and assistant Marcel Dupré.

Although Widor wrote music for a wide variety of instruments and ensembles, only his works for organ are played with any regularity. The works called “symphonies” were inspired by the instruments of Cavaillé-Coll, which had a greater array of stops and warmer sounds than the organs of the Baroque and Classical periods. The Toccata is certainly the most famous movement of all Widor’s organ symphonies, although the first movement of the Sixth Symphony is also played frequently. While Widor was pleased that, during his lifetime, the Toccata was widely played, he was quite unhappy with how fast most organists played it and he always played it in a more deliberate manner, with a more controlled articulation.


August 5, 2018

We will be joined this Sunday by oboist Rebecca Testerman.  The Opening Voluntary, for oboe and organ, is Aeoliana, by Everett Gates.  Gates, who died in 2006, was Professor Emeritus of music education at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY.  He received both a bachelor’s degree and a performer’s certificate in viola in 1939, and a master’s degree in 1948. He joined the music education faculty in 1958, and became chair of the department eight years later. Prior to joining the Eastman faculty, Mr. Gates was a member of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra from 1937 to 1948. In addition, he served a ten-year tenure as principal violist and assistant conductor with the Oklahoma City Symphony and was a member of the faculty of Oklahoma City University.  Among his compositional output is a compilation of intermediate level etudes for the study of time, meter, and rhythm challenges in modern music, titled Odd Meter Duets for Treble Instruments. Aeoliana is based on a modal scale, the “Aeolian” scale. This modal scale begins on the note “A” and is played on all natural notes, without any sharps or flats (on the piano, all white notes). It begins in an “odd meter” and changes to a faster “even” meter, continuing to accelerate in tempo through the end of the piece.

The Closing Voluntary is based on the hymn tune MCKEE, which is occasionally sung to the text “In Christ There Is No East or West,” but this Sunday will be sung to a text by Adam Tice and written in 2005, “The Church of Christ Cannot Be Bound.”  While we usually think of MCKEE as an African-American spiritual, the website Hymnary.org says about it that “MCKEE has an interesting history. According to a letter from Charles V. Stanford to Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (who arranged the tune for piano in his Twenty-Four Negro Melodies, 1905), MCKEE was originally an Irish tune taken to the United States and adapted by African-American slaves. It became associated with the spiritual ‘I Know the Angels Done Changed My Name,’ which appeared in J. B. T. Marsh’s The Story of the Jubilee Singers with their Songs (1876).”  Harry T. Burleigh (1866-1949), most noted for his solo arrangements of spirituals, arranged the tune in 1939.  Composer Dale Wood arranged the setting played on Sunday.  Wood (1934-2003), was best known for his sacred compositions, both choral and organ.


July 29, 2018

This Sunday, the Opening Voluntary will be Paul Halley’s Pianosong, written for solo piano, with an optional organ part.  Paul Halley (b. 1952) was born in England, but moved to Canada when his father, a musician, immigrated with his family. He became an Associate of the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto at the age of 16, winning an organ scholarship to attend Trinity College, Cambridge. His church work includes a tenure as music director at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, Victoria, British Columbia, and organist/choirmaster at New York City’s Cathedral of Saint John the Divine.  He became a member of the Paul Winter consort in 1977, collaborating as both a performer and composer with the group until 1989, receiving five Grammy Awards for his contributions as both composer and performer. In 1989, he founded Joyful Noise, Inc., a non-profit organization, whose faculty teach children proper vocal technique, music theory, and general musicianship.  His current position is as Music Director at the University of King’s College and All Saints Cathedral in Halifax, Nova Scotia. One could say that the style of Pianosong is eclectic, fusing a bit of new age with classical and pop.  This is one of very few piano/organ pieces where the organ serves more as orchestral backdrop rather than as an equal partner.

The Closing Voluntary is based on the opening hymn tune for this Sunday, NETTLETON, as we sing the text Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.  Composer Emily Maxson Porter certainly covers the bases in her many artistic endeavors.  She has been a teacher, organist, composer, software engineer, and visual artist.  Her various jobs include music teacher at the Milwaukee Montessori School, Assistant Professor of organ and music theory, Concordia University, St. Paul, MN and Lynchburg College, Lynchburg, VA, software engineer at Bear Automotive and Eaton Corporation, Milwaukee, WI, and organist and sometime choir director at various midwestern churches. She has composed both organ and choral music and has an extensive website with samples of her visual art. This setting of NETTLETON is a bit more bombastic than most and the indication in the music is for it to be played in the style of an Austrian “ländler.” Merriam-Webster defines “ländler” as “an Austrian couple dance of rural origin in triple time that was a precursor of the waltz but slower and performed with stamping somewhat dragging steps.”


July 22, 2018

This Sunday, July 22, we are privileged to have, in addition to soloist Sheldon Michael, (singing an arrangement of “How Firm a Foundation”) saxophonist Kyle Jones from Kingsport, Tennessee, playing the Opening and Closing Voluntaries and hymns.  Kyle is a performer, teacher, and new music advocate.  Recent endeavors include organizing an evening of George Crumb’s music, performances at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and continued work as a member of the chamber music collective, “Syzygy.” (Google this term for definition – astronomers will likely know what it means!) Kyle will begin an Artist Diploma in the fall at the University of Texas at Austin. His teachers at East Tennessee State University and Peabody University include Stephen Page, Gary Louie, and Thomas Crawford. Vicki Fey has served as his accompanist on several occasions.

The Opening Voluntary is César Franck’s Solo Pour Concours (“Solo for a competition”). Franck, (1822-1890) was a composer, pianist, organist, and music teacher who worked in Paris during his adult life. He was born in a region that became Belgium and became a French citizen when his father wanted to enroll him at the Paris Conservatoire. From 1858 until his death in 1890, he was organist and maître de chapelle at the newly consecrated Sainte-Clotilde Basilica, overseeing the installation of an organ by famed organ builder Aristide Cavaillé-Coll, whose instruments Franck championed all his working life. Franck’s Solo was written for his son Georges, with a notation that it is “a little piece for an entrance exam” with instrumentation unspecified. French music editor Nicholas Prost, a saxophonist, thought Solo would make a great teaching piece. It is a beautifully lyric piece and will be played on the soprano saxophone on Sunday, with organ accompaniment.

The Closing Voluntary was originally written by J. S. Bach as an organ concerto which has been arranged for various solo instruments and organ, including the trumpet, but the soprano saxophone is a nice substitute!  Bach composed this Concerto between 1713 and 1714 and it is an adaptation of the first movement of the Violin Concerto in C major, Op. 1 no. 4, by Johann Ernst, prince of Saxe-Weimar. It is a lively piece with lots of back and forth between the solo instrument and organ.


July 1, 2018

Sunday’s Opening Voluntary is based on the hymn tune FINLANDIA, by Jean Sibelius which we are singing as the closing hymn with the text “This Is My Song.”   The first two stanzas of the hymn were written by American poet Lloyd Stone between World Wars I and II and have a focus on international peace during a brief hopeful time – our land may have blue skies and bright sunshine, “But other lands have sunlight too, and clover, and skies are everywhere as blue as mine.” Stanza 3 was added sometime around 1938 and was written by Methodist theologian Georgia Harkness, using some of the language of the Lord’s Prayer. About this stanza, Carl Daw states that “her additional stanza moves from the theme of international harmony to a consideration of the universal sovereignty of God.” Ms. Harkness was one of the first women to hold a full professorship at a U.S. theological seminary and was instrumental in helping secure ordination for women in the Methodist Church.  The orchestral tone poem Finlandia, Op. 26, by Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, was composed in 1899 and revised in 1900, the last of seven pieces written to accompany a tableau depicting episodes from Finnish history and was occasionally performed using alternate titles to avoid the increasing threat of Russian censorship. Often cited as a traditional folk melody, the hymn portion is original Sibelius. The tune is most often sung to the text “Be Still, My Soul” but “This Is My Song” has become increasingly popular in churches as an alternative to more nationalistic hymns.

The Closing Voluntary is the fifth in a suite of Five Heroic Marches, originally written for four trumpets by Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767), a German Baroque composer who was prolific on several instruments.  Telemann was born four years before the great German composer Johann Sebastian Bach and lived seventeen years longer than Bach.  Telemann served as godfather to Bach’s second son, Carl Phillip Emmanuel Bach, who succeeded him in the position of Kapellmeister in Hamburg. Telemann studied law to please his family, but ended up with a music career, with an output of approximately 3000 works (not all survived), including compositions for organ, instrumental solos and ensembles, operas, and choral works. Telemann’s music links the style of the late Baroque and early Classical periods.


May 27, 2018

As we conclude our worship this week, Trinity Sunday, we will sing the final stanza of the hymn “Come, Thou Almighty King” which begins “To thee, great One in Three.” This anonymous text first appeared in a collection published in 1757 as a parody of “God Save Our Gracious King,” and was paired with that tune, which is sung on this side of the pond to “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee.” Felice de Giardini (1716-1796), an Italian violinist and composer working in London wrote a new tune for these words in 1769.  It echoes the original tune, and of course follows the unique poetic structure.  About this tune, Carl Daw states that “[he] has created something with more grandeur than his model.”  His original tune has been slightly and uniquely altered in two versions that are common in hymnals today.  One version is titled ITALIAN HYMN, recognizing the nationality of its composer. The second version is titled MOSCOW, a nod to the fact that Giardini died in acute poverty after moving to Moscow. Glory to Goduses ITALIAN HYMN to set this text.  The Opening Voluntary will be two short settings of the slightly different version known as MOSCOW.

The Closing Voluntary is based on the hymn tune NICAEA, always sung to the text ”Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty!,” an appropriate opening hymn for Trinity Sunday.  Author Reginald Heber was born in England in 1783 into a wealthy, educated family. He entered Oxford University at the age of 17, having translated a Latin classic into English verse by the age of 7. After graduation he became rector of his father’s church near Shrewsbury in the west of England and was there for 16 years. He was appointed Bishop of Calcutta in 1823 and wrote “Holy, Holy, Holy!” in 1827.  After just three years his health declined and he died of a stroke. Most of his 57 hymns are still widely used today, with “Holy, Holy, Holy!” appearing in 1,425 hymnals.  The tune NICAEA is named after the Council of Nicaea (A.D. 325) at which church leaders began to formulate the doctrine of the Trinity, resulting, of course, in the Nicene Creed, which became a pillar of church doctrine.  NICAEA, composed by John Bacchus Dykes, was written specifically for Heber’s text.  Composer David M. Cherwien arranged the Closing Voluntary. Cherwien followed the late distinguished Lutheran musician Paul Manz as Director of Music/Organist at Mt. Olive Lutheran Church, Minneapolis. He is composer of the multi-volume popular series for organ, Interpretations, short pieces based on hymn tunes.  Other liturgical music for choir and organ are in the catalogues of several publishers.  He has also authored a book, “Let the People Sing,” a practical guide for those who lead the congregation in song, published in 1997 by Concordia.

May 20, 2018

The Closing Voluntary for Pentecost Sunday (May 20) is Litanies, by 20thcentury French composer Jehan Alain (1911-1940). Alain was born into a family of musicians.  Father Albert was an organist, composer, and organ builder; younger brother Olivier was a composer, organist, and pianist; younger sister Marie-Claire Alain (1926-2013) was an organist and throughout her life gave many recitals and workshops in the United States and abroad, always a champion of her oldest brother’s brief output of organ music.  By the age of 14, Jehan Alain was substitute organist at a church in his hometown, St. Germain-en-Laye.

He began composing in 1929 and continued until the outbreak of World War II ten years later. His music was greatly influenced not only by the music of Debussy and of Alain’s contemporary Olivier Messiaen, but also by his interest in the music, dance and philosophies of the far east, a renaissance of the popularity of baroque music, and in jazz.

In 1935 he went to Paris, attending the Paris Conservatoire and earning First Prizes in Harmony and Fugue. While there, he was appointed organist of Saint-Nicholas de Maisons Laffitte and also played regularly at the Rue Notre-Dame-de-Nazareth synagogue.  He studied organ with the great organist/composer of his time, Marcel Dupré, taking First Prize for Organ and Improvisation in 1939.

Perhaps his most famous organ work is Litanies, composed in 1937. There is an inscription at the beginning of Litanies  that, when translated, reads  “When, in its distress, the Christian soul can find no more words to invoke God’s mercy, it repeats endlessly the same litany….for reason has reached its limit; only faith can take one further…”.  In addition to Alain’s interest in music, he was interested in mechanics, becoming a skilled motorcyclist and dispatch rider in the motorized division of the French army. On 20 June 1940, he encountered a group of German soldiers at Le Petit-Puy.  Abandoning his motorcycle, he engaged the enemy troops, killing 16 of them before being killed himself.  For his bravery, he was posthumously awarded the Croix de Guerre and, according to Nicholas Slonimsky, editor of “Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians,” was actually buried by the Germans with full military honors. The opening phrase of Litaniesrecurs throughout the piece, as a “litany” to the Holy Spirit and one can imagine, particularly at the end of Litanies, not just the Christian soul seeking God’s mercy, but tongues of fire raining down on us, the disciples of Christ!  If you wish, you are invited to be seated for the Closing Voluntary this Sunday.


May 13, 2018

This Sunday’s Opening and Closing Voluntaries are based on hymn tunes sung in the service. The Opening Voluntary is on the tune WAREHAM, in an arrangement by composer Healey Willan (1880-1968). Willan is considered an Anglo-Canadian composer, as he was born in England and emigrated to Canada in 1913, where he remained until his death. Willan composed some 800 musical pieces, the majority sacred works for choir such as anthems, hymns and mass settings.  He served as organist and choirmaster at several churches in London and Toronto, where he also became Ontario’s provincial education minister and chancellor of the University of Toronto. The tune WAREHAM was composed by Dr. Samuel Arnold (1739-1802), an English musician and composer whose output included works for the theatre as well as the church. Although we most frequently sing the text “The Church of Christ in Every Age” to this tune, Sunday’s text is a paraphrase of Psalm 1, the lectionary Psalm for the day, written by David Gambrell in 2009. Gambrell is Associate for Worship in the PC(USA) Office of Theology and Worship, previous editor of the journal Call to Worship,and served as an ex officio advisor to the hymnal committee. In addition, he recently served as an editor for the just released revised Book of Common Worship.

The Closing Voluntary is based on the tune FESTAL SONG and is set by American organist and composer Seth Bingham (1882-1972). Born in Bloomfield, New Jersey, his farming family relocated to Naugatuck, Connecticut. He received a B.A. from Yale in 1904, studying organ and composition. He also studied in Paris with Alexandre Guilmant, Vincent d’Indy and Charles-Marie Widor.  Bingham earned his B.Mus. from Yale in 1908, teaching music theory, composition and organ there from 1908 to 1919. He served as organist and choirmaster at New York City’s Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church from 1913-1951. In addition, he was an associate professor at Columbia University from 1922 to 1954.  He received an honorary doctorate from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1952, and lectured at the School of Sacred Music at Union Theological Seminary from 1953 to 1965. This Sunday, we sing this tune with the text “Arise, Your Light Is Come!” written by Ruth Duck in 1974.  Ms. Duck is an ordained pastor in the United Church of Christ and professor of worship at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL.  She has written books and articles about Christian worship and edited or co-edited three books of worship resources. GIA Publications, publisher of many of her works, says about her texts – “Her powerful texts have emerged as the major part of the cutting edge of language that speaks of God in universal terms and in poetry that is as poignant as it is stoic.”

May 6, 2018

Sunday’s Closing Voluntary, Toccata in Seven is by prolific English composer John Rutter (b. 1945), noted mostly for his choral works, which include his “Requiem.”  Rutter attended Highgate School in London where, as a chorister, he took part in the first recording of Benjamin Britten’s “War Requiem” in 1963.  He continued singing in the choir at Clare College, Cambridge; and his first compositions were published while a student there. He served Clare College as Director of Music from 1975-79 then, in 1981 founded his own choir, the Cambridge Singers, which he still conducts. In addition to his many choral compositions sung by choirs around the globe, he was commissioned to write an anthem, “This is the Day,” for the Wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton in 2011 sung at Westminster Abbey during the service.  Toccata in Seven appears to be his only solo composition for organ, although many of his choral works have organ accompaniment.  The “seven” refers to the meter and “toccata” literally translates as “touch” so Toccata in Sevenis a lively piece in an odd meter!  If one were to count it out loud, it would be 1-2 1-2 1-2-3 as the notes are in two groups of two and one group of three.

April 29, 2018

The Opening Voluntary this Sunday is based on a Welsh melody of 1784, AR HYD Y NOS, literally translated “All Through the Night,” the most common text sung to this tune. German composer Gerhard Krapf (1924–2008) crafted this arrangement.  Krapf was born in Meissenheim, Germany, studied piano and organ for several years, then was drafted into the German army in 1942. Captured by the Russians in early May of 1945 he spent years of hard labor, not even knowing the war had ended. It was during this period when he began composing music, writing his compositions on cement bags. After his release, he received music degrees in Germany and immigrated to the United States in 1953 for further study. Krapf served as professor of organ at the University of Iowa from 1962 to 1977 and at the University of Alberta, Canada from 1977 to 1987. He almost always chose Biblical texts, believing in the importance of serious music in worship of the divine. AR HYD Y NOS is popular with Welsh male voice choirs, and is frequently sung by them at festivals both in Wales and around the world. The text in Glory to God is by Jaroslav Vajda, written in 1983.  He was asked to write a text for use during the day, as mostly evening texts are sung to the tune so, according to Carl Daw, Vajda took the Aaronic blessing in Numbers 6 and recast it as a benediction that might be spoken by God at the end of worship. We will sing “Go, My Children, with My Blessing” as our closing hymn.  The Closing Voluntary is based on the tune ENGELBERG and is by composer Charles Ore, a composer whose music I enjoy playing for worship.  Set to two texts in our hymnal, this fifth Sunday of Easter we will sing the text “We Know That Christ Is Raised,” a text appropriate for both Eastertide and a Sunday when we celebrate a baptism.  ENGELBERGis by distinguished Irish composer, teacher, and conductor Sir Charles Villiers Stanford (1852 –1924). Born in Dublin, Stanford was educated at the University of Cambridge before studying music in Leipzig and Berlin. In addition to his appointment as organist of Trinity College, Cambridge, he was a founding professor of the Royal College of Music, teaching composition there for the remainder of his life.  Two of Stanford’s pupils were Gustav Holst and Ralph Vaughan Williams, whose fame eclipsed that of their teacher. Stanford’s best-known compositions are his choral works for the church. His compositional style is influenced more by Brahms and Schumann than of up and coming romantic composers such as Liszt and Wagner.

April 15, 2018

Sunday’s Opening Voluntary is an arrangement of the very popular Beethoven tune “Hymn to Joy,” composed for his ninth symphony.  The arrangement is by Dr. Timothy Albrecht, who holds a joint faculty appointment as Professor of Music at Candler School of Theology, where he has taught since 1982 and in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Music at Emory University. He also serves as Emory University Organist. The opening hymn Sunday is Brian Wren’s text “Christ Is Risen! Shout Hosanna!” set to “Hymn to Joy.”  The Closing Voluntary is an arrangement of a German melody, adopted by the Moravian church.  A large body of both vocal and instrumental music from the early American Moravians survives today, solely composed for the worship of God. The setting of the Moravian hymn “Look Up, My Soul, to Christ Thy Joy” is by Robert Elmore (1913-1985). Elmore was an American composer, organist, and pianist, active in Philadelphia during the mid-20th century.  His first composition was written at age 11. While in his teens he was appointed organist at Central Baptist Church in Wayne, PA and performed as a theater organist in several theaters. His first major organ recital took place in 1929 in the famed Auditorium at Ocean Grove, NJ.

April 4, 2018

This Sunday’s Opening Voluntary is by the Italian composer Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757).  Scarlatti spent much of his life in the service of the Portuguese and Spanish royal families. While he is considered a composer of the Baroque era (born the same year as J. S. Bach and Handel), his music influenced the development of the Classical style. He composed in a variety of musical forms, although he remains known mainly for his 555 single-movement keyboard sonatas, of which the Sonata in D Major is one.  Although composed primarily for the harpsichord (and with a few for organ), many pianists play Scarlatti’s sonatas, as they are delightful exercises in finger dexterity!  The Closing Voluntary by Lutheran musician David Cherwien is a setting of Sunday’s closing hymn, “The Risen Christ” using the tune WOODLANDS.  The tune was composed by Walter Greatorex, an English composer and musician, in 1916.  (Walter is not to be confused with Henry Greatorex, composer of a setting of the “Gloria Patri” sung in many churches.)  Greatorex is probably best remembered for WOODLANDS, commonly used with the text by Timothy Dudley-Smith, “Tell Out, My Soul” and the text we sing Sunday, “The Risen Christ,” written by United Church minister Nigel Weaver during the meeting of the Hymn Society in Toronto in 1993. The Cherwien setting begins with a bold statement of the hymn tune and segues into a fugal (imitative) section, with the melody in a slower rhythm in the pedals.  There is also a phrase of a familiar tune hidden amongst the imitative back and forth – see if you can identify it!


March 28, 2018

We are privileged to have brass, timpani, and harp for Easter worship this year!  To take advantage of having the brass, both the Opening and Closing Voluntary will be pieces for organ, brass, and timpani.  The Opening Voluntary is Marche from a Suite of Dances by French composer/conductor André Campra. He served as music director at cathedrals in Arles and Toulouse and then served at the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris from 1694-1700. He also composed music for the theatre, publishing under his brother’s name in order to protect his reputation as a church musician!  From 1720 until his death in Versailles in 1744, he composed only sacred music. His most famous composition is, very likely, Rigaudon, from his opera Idoménée, arranged for organ by a number of composers and frequently used as the processional or recessional at weddings.  The Closing Voluntary is an arrangement for brass, organ, and timpani of Francesco Manfredini’s Trumpet Finale.  Manfredini (1684-1762) was an Italian Baroque composer, violinist, and church musician and a contemporary of J. S. Bach and Antonio Vivaldi.  While he composed oratorios specifically for the church, only his secular works remain popular. After an extended stay in the court of Monaco, he returned to his hometown of Pistoia as choir master at St. Phillip’s Cathedral, where he remained until his death.  It is presumed that the bulk of his music was destroyed after his death.

Music Notes About the Easter Anthem

The Chancel Choir will be joined by organ, harp, six brass, and timpani for Trinity Te Deum by Latvian composer Ēriks Ešenvalds (b. 1977).  He was a student at the Latvian Baptist Theological Seminary (1995–1997) before obtaining a master’s degree in composition (2004) from the Latvian Academy of Music. He won the Latvian Grand Music Award in 2005, 2007 and 2015 and did further study in England. This anthem was commissioned for the Installation of the Master of Trinity College, Cambridge in October of 2012.

The Latin Te Deum has been traditionally ascribed to Saints Ambrose and Augustine on the occasion of Augustine’s baptism by Ambrose in A.D. 387, although current scholarship now attributes the text to a 4th century bishop. Regardless, it is an early Christian hymn of praise. The opening phrase is “Te Deum laudamus” or “We Praise Thee, O God.” This ancient hymn follows the outline of the Apostles’ Creed, calling on God’s name at the beginning.  The anthem follows the same outline, opening with a majestic statement of praise to God which recurs throughout the anthem.  The slow section lists all those who praise God – “Heaven and earth are full of the Majesty of Thy glory. The glorious company of the Apostles praise Thee. The goodly fellowship of the Prophets praise Thee.” And so on, returning to the creedal statements, recalling Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection.

In addition, the brass will also accompany the congregation, choir, and organ in the singing of the opening hymn “Jesus Christ is Risen Today” and “Hallelujah” from Handel’s Messiah.


March 21, 2018

The well-loved Palm Sunday hymn, “All Glory, Laud, and Honor,” has a history based on facts and legends.  Text-writer Theodulph of Orleans was likely a native of Italy and traveled to France with Charles the Great (Charlemagne), becoming Bishop of Orleans around 785.  After the death of Charles, he remained friendly with Emperor Louis but was suspected of participating in the plot to dethrone Louis in favor of Bernard of Italy, so he was imprisoned at Angers in 818. Theodulph wrote the text of the hymn while in prison. The Latin original was a two-line refrain sung in alternation with thirty-eight two line stanzas and written as a processional hymn, as the clergy and choir in the Middle Ages not only processed within the church, but in the church square and through the town as well. The legend has it that King Louis passed the prison during the Palm Sunday processional while Theodulph was singing this hymn and was so taken by the hymn and the voice singing it that he immediately freed the Bishop. The fact is that he likely remained in prison until his death in 821.  The tune, often named ST. THEODULPH because of its association with this text, is also known as VALET WILL ICH DIR GEBEN. It was composed by Melchior Teschner, a German Lutheran pastor and musician, in 1614 for a text of the same name, a hymn for the dying.  The Palm Sunday Opening Voluntary, based on this tune, begins and ends with a loud trumpet fanfare, and is arranged by Edwin T. Childs, now retired from Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, having previously taught music theory and composition at Cairn University (PA), and Biola University (CA).


March 14, 2018

The Opening Voluntary for this Sunday, March 18, is the third movement of Daniel Gawthrop’s four movement Reformation Symphony for organ, a setting of the German Chorale Aus Tiefer Not, composed in 2016. I will have played three of the four movements of this work over the past few months, leaving out only Gawthrop’s version of “Sleeper’s, Wake,” as I chose instead the well- known Bach chorale prelude for the first Sunday of Advent. The chorale tune Aus Tiefer Not, most commonly translated Out of the Depths, was composed by Martin Luther in 1524 and is traditionally paired with a Luther text of the same name. The translated text is in our hymnal at #424.  Using only the string stops of the organ as accompaniment, there is a lovely flute obbligato at the beginning, which recurs between phrases of the chorale, also played on string stops.  The Closing Voluntary is by David Schelat and is based on the early American tune by William Billings, When Jesus Wept. This simple tune with matching text, both created in 1770, is also in our hymnal at #194.  This tune appears in several shaped-note tune books of the 18th century and would have been sung unaccompanied.

ORGAN RECITAL SERIES:  Mulberry Street United Methodist Church in historic downtown Macon will host the Cherry Blossom Organ Recital series (30-minute programs) each day at noon from March 19-23.  Recitalists for the week are listed here:

Monday, March 19 – Nathan K. Lively, Organist and Choirmaster, St. John’s Episcopal Church, Washington, CT. (Kyle was previously a colleague of Steve’s and mine at a Lutheran Church in Kingsport, TN.)

Tuesday, March 20 – Richard Gress, Organist, Sandersville United Methodist Church, Sandersville, GA;  Organ Student at Mercer University Townsend School of Music

Wednesday, March 21 Vicki Fey, Organist, Central Presbyterian Church, Atlanta, GA

Thursday, March 22  – Pat Graham Crowe, Interim Organist, Mulberry Street United Methodist Church, Macon, GA; Artist Diploma Student at the Mercer University Townsend School of Music

Friday, March 23 – Justin Maxey, Organist, Roswell Presbyterian Church, Roswell, GA; Artist Diploma Student at the Mercer University Townsend School of Music

These programs are sponsored jointly by the church and by the Macon Chapter of the American Guild of Organists.


March 7, 2018

ORGAN UPDATE: The organ “glitches” of the last few weeks were due to a failing processor.  Thanks to Phil Parkey, the Atlanta organ builder who enlarged and maintains the sanctuary organ (and installed and voiced the chapel organ), the processor was replaced Monday and the organ is “up and running!”

Opening and Closing Voluntaries for this Sunday, March 11 are based on two hymn tunes heard during the service of Lenten scriptures, readings, and music, both with English origins.  The Opening Voluntary is based on the tune KINGSFOLD which will be sung to the hymn text “I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say.” This tune is used again in the service, setting one stanza of the hymn “Today We All Are Called to Be Disciples” which is sung at the presentation.  Noted composer and organist Charles Ore created this organ setting which has a similar Celtic rhythmic drive as another tune in the service, STAR OF THE COUNTY DOWN, an Irish melody. The Closing Voluntary is based on the tune KING’S WESTON which was composed by English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams for the text “At the Name of Jesus.”  Geneva Bell Choir will be ringing a setting of this tune at the offertory.  Lutheran musician David Cherwien composed the organ setting.  It begins with an imitative section in the manuals, and the pedals have the melody all the way through.

ORGAN RECITAL SERIES:  Mulberry Street United Methodist Church in historic downtown Macon will host the Cherry Blossom Organ Recital series (30-minute programs) each day at noon from March 19-23.  I will play the program Wednesday, March 21!  If you’re able to get to Macon that day, I would love to see you!