From the Organ Bench

Vicki Fey, Organist

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 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!