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For over and above these arts which are called virtues, and which teach us how we may spend our life well, and attain to endless happiness…has not the genius of man invented and applied countless astonishing arts, partly the result of necessity, partly the result of exuberant invention, so that this vigor of mind, which is so active in the discovery not merely of superfluous but of dangerous and destructive things, betokens an inexhaustible wealth in the nature which can invent, learn, or employ such arts?

    ---Augustine, The City of God, Book 22, chapter 24
 
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the Archive of all the music I am playing/have played at Traditional Services at Faith United Methodist Church in Champaign, Illinois during the 2012-13 season. If you thought the music all vanished in a plume of resonance when it was over, please reconsider. And enjoy the listening experience:

Music for
Sunday, September 9, 2012
10:30 service


Toccata

Dubois


"I was glad when they said to me, 'let us go into the house of the Lord.'"
--Psalm 122:1

By the civil calendar, at least, a new (academic) year is beginning, which we observe in part by welcoming the choir back to the loft this morning, and by gathering for a church barbecue in the afternoon. So why not begin at the end? Theodore Dubois' Toccata is placed third in a series of twelve pieces for the organ, after pieces titled "prelude" and "offertory" which probably means, if it was intended for a worship service at all, that it was meant as a festive close to the service. But I am accustomed to challenging those standard assumptions about  the way things should always be done (maybe you've noticed) and so I ask, why is it that we should only feel jubilant on the way out  of the worship service?! Are we glad that it's over? So despite the deluge of writings from church authorities and commentators through the centuries, all convinced that the opening organ voluntary should be "prayerful" (by which they mean soft) and "dignified" (by which they mean slow) I hope this piece can be taken as an expression of joy for what is to come. There is, however, a middle section of suitable devotion and dignity, before the music remembers the opening and surges to an ecstatic conclusion.

Here I go with another year of slightly odd, and sometimes very conventional, selections of music for church. The reason I mentioned the possibility that the piece might not have been meant for a worship service at all was that 19th century Paris was particularly strict about drawing a line between the sacred and the secular. Not only were non-liturgical works not permitted in the churches during worship, but it was also impossible to use the church grounds for non-liturgical uses the rest of the time. Thus, organ recitals were not allowed in churches, which meant that most of the best organs in Paris were off-limits to some of the world's best organists in order to get their works heard at all! Organ recitals had to be held in other venues--Eugene Gigout went so far as to have an organ built in his home (most of these, of course, could not compete acoustically or in terms of size with the ones in the churches, which, unfortunately, could not have shown their full potential, limited to mass responses and so on). This was well before Hauptwerk sampling software would have made it possible for an organist at home to sound like one in a cathedral. Still, if the piece sounds insufficiently devotional (excepting the middle section), remember that it follows pieces titled prelude and offertory (A similar ordering comes later in the set of 12), and it would not have been unthinkable for such an exuberant display at the close of a service. What would have been harder to imagine, then, would be the effect of the soft parts, no doubt drowned by the noise of the crowd exiting the building. The French term for postlude, Sortie, is actually the French word for exit--which gives rise to the anecdote about the French organist who was improvising a postlude and, in the middle section, got very quiet, to which his concerned, proprietary student whispered, "but master, it is the Sortie! (exit)" to which the irritated organist replied, "then exit!" However, we are just getting started!

Music for
Sunday, September 16, 2012
10:30 service


Nun lob mein Seele den Herren
(Now Praise the Lord, My Soul)
Michael Praetorius



Next week, we introduce a new hymnal into the pews, consisting largely of contemporary music. What is interesting to note is that many of the celebrated composers of the past were themselves on the cutting edge of innovation and embraced the latest styles and influences. One of these was Michael Praetorius (1571-1621), who in his short 50 years, wrote an important treatise on music, lots of choral music, and once attended a conference of organists throughout the Germanies, all gathering to find out about the latest ideas in composition and church music. Who knows? Perhaps while he was at the conference, Praetorius might have brought back with him a copy of some new hymns to try with his congregation....

Hint, hint...next week we are going to learn some new songs, everybody. Be ready for it! (In the meantime I indulge my taste for the music of the German Renaissance)
Music for September 23
Hymn festival Sunday


Prelude on "Rhosymedre"

Ralph Vaughan-Williams

       


from remarks given at the service (more or less):

Historically, it has been part of the role of the organist to teach the congregation new hymns. This has been particularly necessary in situations where the organist was one of the few, or perhaps only, persons in the church who could read music. This necessity served persons like Jan Sweelink very well. Sweelink grew up in catholic Amsterdam, and was mentored by a priest at the local church, and hired at a young age to play the organ at its services. However, a year later, the Protestants took over (quite literally), and decided that it was improper to play the organ during the divine service. Actually, it had taken the Catholic church about 12 centuries to decide that the organ wasn't indissolubly linked with Roman Pagan festivals and to finally allow organ playing during the mass, so the Protestants were just having their turn. It seems odd to us these days when the organ has for so long seemed to be so strongly associated with the church. But at any rate, young Sweelink was out of a job--at least until the parish decided that it would be quite convenient for the hymns to be given out before the start of the service so that the congregation would know the tunes! Sweelink spent his compositional career writing variations on the hymns to acquaint the congregation with them while simultaneously making attractive compositions from them. This also is nothing unusual, for many church organist composers through the centuries have been using in their compositions hymn tunes that their congregations would recognize.

This morning I'm going to play a tune you may not know so well; though it is not new, it may be new to you. It does appear in our red (United Methodist) hymnals as number 447. Like many hymn tunes it has an interesting name. The other week the videographer was setting up to shoot a wedding rehearsal and I was playing this tune and when I was finished he said "that was beautiful" and I said "actually, it was LOVELY" which happens to be the name of the tune. It is better known as RHOSYMEDRE which is the word that appears in all caps in the bottom right hand corner of the page. Around 1920 Ralph Vaughan Williams wrote a prelude on this hymn tune, which I'm going to play for you. It is indeed lovely, but don't bliss out! About 45 seconds into the piece, after listening to the pretty countermelody of Vaughan Williams' own creation, you'll start to hear, on a louder stop, and slower, the hymn tune itself. That's when you really need to pay attention--hum along quietly if you want. You'll get two chances at the hymn, because after it is over the first tune he starts it again, this time in the top voice.

When the piece is over I'm going to play the tune without all of Mr. Vaughan William's special additions, as the introduction to the hymn we are about to sing. Now, since this tune appears only one time in our hymnal, to a rather occasion-specific text, we've decided to sing the tune to a different hymn. You can do that--in fact, that was once quite common in Methodism. In the 19th century this wouldn't bother anybody because Methodist hymn books were printed as words without tunes and the song leader would simply call out a tune and we'd all sing what we saw to the tune that we knew by heart. However, in this case we'll be singing the text of #379 to the tune of #447. And if you used your hymnal you'd find the tune we are singing doesn't match the one on the page. That won't be a problem though because instead of the hymnal we'll be using an insert in your bulletin that matches the text and the tune. Or you can imagine yourself a Methodist of a century ago and just listen to the tune without bothering about what it says on the page and sing the text to a new-old favorite tune.

It's been an interesting week around here. If you aren't part of the Faith congregation, let me explain that we have a lot of variety in this place. There are four weekend services, three of which are considered "traditional" (don't like that name) and one of which is considered "contemporary" (don't like that name either). This week the traditional services are coming together at 10:30 to be introduced to a new hymnal. We already have two--the standard Methodist hymnal, last published in 1989, and a supplement from 2001 which has a few more recent hymns and praise songs in it. The NEW new hymnal was published last year, and is largely comprised of music that is sung in our "contemporary" service, only now we are trying to introduce some of that music to our "traditional" congregation.

There are some good reasons for this. One is that we sometimes have one UNIFIED service where the entire church comes together for a single worship service on a weekend, and when that happens, some of the choir members and other traditional folks invariably complain about the music. The newer Worship and Life center is larger than the North Sanctuary so we generally hold our unified services on the "home field" of the "contemporary" service, use the praise band, and sing a couple hymns to satisfy the traditional folks, but also a few praise band "contemporary" numbers, which lead to frustration because folks don't know how to sing them, and (therefore?) don't like them.

We have, therefore, at least one good reason to get some of the songs of the contemporary "fusion" worship service into the heads of the "celebrate" and "daystart" people, as well as the folks from "evening faith"--church unity. Which isn't an easy thing. One of humanity's favorite pastimes is war, and among 21st century North American Christians, we like to play "worship war" in which we denigrate each other's preferred modes of having church--usually with only a dash of civility. Fortunately, the folks at Faith are far more unified than they might be, particularly considering that we have two pastor for our two kinds of service, and two sanctuaries. We could easily be two churches whose two congregations don't talk to each other. Instead, we at least meet for donuts between services, in the Gathering Area, which is between those two sanctuaries. And many people attend different services from week to week, as if the stylistic change doesn't really bother them that much.

Still, it isn't a bad idea to get the traditional service better acquainted with the contemporary praise literature. We are making an entire service of it, which led to some concerns that we are suddenly going to change the music at 8:00 and 10:30. We aren't. There will be a piece out of the new hymnal once or twice a month, but not more. And I do hope that, despite the feeling that "contemporary" worship is the wave of the future, that "traditional" worship doesn't get neglected. I think, in the long run, "contemporary" worship is more like a trend, one of the many eddies in the river that is the Church Universal over the last 2,000 years. Every generation likes to put its stamp on the worship of the church, perhaps too much so, being the self-centered creatures we are. We have a lot to learn from traditions that are not our own and music we don't relate to immediately, but we can also get stuck in the past that way and forget that we are not a museum, and that God is not the great I WAS, but the great I AM.

Trying to get people who read music to syncopate can be challenging (it even LOOKS hard on the page), but we'll get there. It's not all going to happen at once.

Music for September 30
Appalachian Service Project Sunday

"Take Me Back" from Appalachia

John Wesley Work III


"Take me back" is not only a frequently heard comment from youth returning from their experience in the Appalachian Service Project, it is also the title of the third piece from John Wesley Work III's piano suite Appalachia. A writer of choral works and a choral director at Fisk university from 1927 to 1956, where he chaired the music department, Work was also an avid ethnomusicologist, taking his tape recorder everywhere and collecting the musical sounds of his time and people. Work once spent two years specifically documenting the music of a group of African Americans in the Mississippi Delta. An album he recorded as part of his research but never released was found in his attic. Titled "John Work III: Recording Black Culture" it came out in 2007 and won a Grammy award 40 years after the composer's death.

This is one of those pieces, by the way, I found out about while I was trolling the internet for something else, spent quite a bit of time tracking down, and finally located a little too late to play for last year's service. Another reason creative programming takes persistence and patience. It isn't the most incredible piece of piano music ever written, but it is still a nice little work (sorry), and it is a shame you can't listen to it. I have been making some attempts at getting copyright holders to grant me permission to post their works (see below) but unfortunately this one is held by a really huge corporation and they don't seem to have heard of the internet (you have to snail mail them a request which does not say anything about online postings and wait for at least two weeks to hear back from them. It didn't seem worth the trouble. Plus I think they are only interested in large financial dealings like how many recordings you are planning to sell so they can get the mechanicals. That isn't going to happen, here.)

On the other hand, the composers themselves, and/or smaller firms who don't ignore your email (that's happened to me before as well with the large houses) can be a joy to deal with. And they have some very fine music on offer as well:

Music for October 7
World Communion Sunday/UMW Sunday

Gentlest Savior
O Salutaris Hostia
Ave Verum
from 10 Eucharistic Reflections

Evelyn Stell

posted by permission of
 Evelyn Stell and Fagus Music

Evelyn Stell

Evelyn Stell is a Scottish organist and composer who is dedicated to the training of young organists. She also leads the Music Advisory Group of the Liturgy Commission of her archdiocese in Edinburgh. Ms. Stell has a doctorate from the University of Glasgow and is currently working on a digital index of Early Scottish Melodies, some 700 of which have already been catalogued. The selections this morning are from "10 Eucharistic Reflections" based mostly on various plainchants. The hymn "O Salutaris Hostia" ("O saving Host") was written by Thomas Acquinas (1225-1274), while "Ave Verum" ("Come, True Body [of Christ]") has been attributed to three different 14th century popes.

In addition to celebrating Communion with Christians around the world this Sunday, our local church is having its annual United Methodist Women Sunday, and a group of women are presenting this morning's anthem.

They did a lovely job, by the way.

Oops! Maybe I should have said that Evelyn is dedicated to the training of beginning organists, whatever their age (then again, maybe they won't mind!) It is, at any rate, a noble undertaking, and Evelyn has written several voluntaries that are easy to play, and require little or no pedal, since many of the persons she works with are pianists whom she is trying to get 'converted.' The wonderful thing about these works is that although they are quite easy for an accomplished organist, they are also good music. The harmonies are imaginative, and the pieces flow well from moment to moment. The difficulty I have with easy music is that much of it is also bad music--music that takes the easy way out on several levels. Maybe it is clichéd, or shows no engagement with the subject matter, and all sounds too much like it came from a composer who only knows a few tricks, and expects the player to be similarly narrow. This music isn't, and I'm proud to play it.


While we are on the subject of oopses, I should mention another concern. Evelyn is a Catholic organist, and I play for a Methodist church. When I chose these pieces back in July I was thinking: great! Music for World Communion Sunday that emphasizes communion, and also was written by a woman, since at our local church it is also going to be United Methodist Women Sunday. And it doesn't bother me in the least to be playing music from another tradition--I do it regularly, and enjoy learning and being enriched by the music of other times, places, personalities, and denominations. Most of the time I can't imagine it would be the remotest of issues for our church, either, but due to an interesting coincidence, I'm afraid it might be. What I did not know until last week was that the Traditional Worship Committee had several complaints about our method of doing Communion (germs, and whatnot) and so we are, as of this week, going to be using Hosts (as in the piece titled "O Saving Host" above). Now, unfortunately, there are always a few Methodists who are very worried we Methodists are getting "too Catholic" every time we do anything that reminds them of the Catholic church (apparently, the introduction of candles into the Methodist church at large caused quite a stir, as did starting the practice of having services on Christmas Eve a few decades ago. I haven't noticed that sort of reaction in our church, but I have served others where the subject has come up before). So I hope this doesn't contribute to the brouhaha. It would be nice if we could get over this paranoia, particularly as human beings have a history of (literally) killing each other over communion that goes back nearly 500 years. Even today, the descendants of the people who would shed blood over whether or not the body of Christ literally entered the communion bread get upset if somebody introduces a hymn from the other Faith tradition or lights one too many candles on the altar or some really minor things. Get over it, people! And don't worry yourselves. We're still Methodists, with or without hosts during communion. (the Pope told me to write that) [update: I haven't heard anything negative about communion or Catholicism so far. Whew! I think this church is just more mature than many. Either we are ok with diversity, or it is the old Midwestern politeness. Either way, I don't miss the fireworks.]

Music for October 14              Prelude in C       J. C. Kellner
Music for October 21              Prelude in D       Fugue in D         Samuel Wesley     note: recording will be posted next week

I've provided no bulletin notes for these Sundays, but a few silent connections are of interest. October 11 was the 175th anniversary of the death of Samuel Wesley. I had no idea of this when I chose the music, and although I was "this close" to playing it on the 14th, I decided the Kellner fit slightly better and don't regret it. And, as it happens, the 14th turned out to have a couple of musical/philosophical relationships. Our Call to Worship, for example, used some phrases that could have come straight out of the Enlightenment:

[well, wouldn't you know, I can't find the darn thing. I'll let you know in a few days!]

So did the Kellner; a piece that, although slight, bubbles over with enlightenment enthusiasm. Interesting, if you can make the historical connections.

For the 8:00 offertory I decided, after reading the sermon (advance copy) to go ahead with the most famous of all Satie pieces, well known to many who don't know what it is (I'd considered playing one of the other two in the set, or perhaps something from the Gnossiennes, both of which I happened to record the day before, so they where on my mind). Erik Satie might well be the patron saint of poor composers. He lived simply, in a shabby little apartment, walking 20 miles to Paris every day where he worked in a cafe. When he was offered a large fee for some compositions, he insisted it be trimmed down. He didn't want wealth. He didn't seem to want to follow musical rules, either, and he scandalized the establishment. Seems like an apt metaphor, somehow, for the Kingdom of God, the theme of our current crop of sermons.


Music for October 28


Feste

Marteau


       
                     

How about a short German lesson for Reformation Sunday? In the title "Ein' Feste Berg" (usually translated "A Mighty Fortress") the word "Fest" means "Mighty" and is an adjective. The noun "Berg," or "fortress" is feminine (an astonishing number of inanimate objects in German and other European languages are either masculine or feminine) so, in order for the adjective to match the noun and be good German grammar it must have a feminine ending on the end, or an -e--thus "fest" becomes "feste" when placed before a feminine noun. But the word "Feste" can also be a noun, And like many words in German and English, it has many meanings. One of them is "solid" or "mighty," but it can also mean something else entirely: celebration! (like in the word "festival") This particular setting of "A Mighty Fortress is Our God" certainly sounds celebratory, dancelike, bumptious. And, oddly enough, the tune as it is presented in the piano piece you are going to hear, in a manner which is not at all the way you are used to hearing it, is actually pretty close to the way Martin Luther wrote it, with a combination of short notes and long notes in a lilting, uneven dance rhythm characteristic of the late Renaissance in which he lived. It was only later that the tune was changed to that stolid procession of quarter notes we sing for our opening hymn every Reformation Sunday. Along with a change of rhythmic approach we get a change of images: instead of a solid, walled-in Medieval town, standing grimly against barbarian invasion, we hear a celebration. The Kingdom of Heaven is here! Rejoice! Party in the streets!


Mr. Marteau is an interesting fellow. In the time I've known him, I've observed that he is 1) a kind of musical historian, or at least intensely interested in history--musical and otherwise, and 2) he has something of a prophetic strain, which is truly unusual in the field of religious music. This music seems a combination of those tendencies, since it is both an act of restoration (returning to the tune in somewhat the way Luther wrote it) and as a direct provocation of not only our current practice of singing the tune, but perhaps of the ideas in the (original) words themselves.

Here's what I'm getting at: our Judeo-Christian heritage has always contained two basic personalities, priests and prophets. The priests were the ones in charge of the ritual, telling us when and how to observe it, what needed to be done to be right with God, and so on. They are basically the protectors of tradition, and affirmers of practice. The prophets, on the other hand, dare to call those things into question. The priestly tradition says, you sinned? ok, here's what you need to do. And there follow a list of rules to follow. Go sacrifice a cow. In fact, we specialists will make it easy for you: you only need be present when the cow is sacrificed by the people who know how to do it right--just give us the money to do it. A prophet, on the other hand, might ask "does the Lord require 1,000 bulls, or 10,000 rivers of oil?....Shall I sacrifice the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?" To which the priest replies, "quiet, you!"

Jesus himself, now thought of as a priest (the Great High priest) seems to have been more of a prophet while on earth (see the fracas in the temple). The prophets are more provocateurs, and our faith has had many, though their ride hasn't generally been smooth. And generally afterwards they are retroactively "made" priests, an operation that is mainly achieved by ignoring all the bits that don't work for the priests.

When it comes to music in worship, the tradition has been nearly all priestly. Affirm the hymns, affirm the liturgy, sooth the soul, paint a portrait of dignity, and uplift. But what's going on in this piece seems to be a bit of a rewrite. Beside the rhythmic facelift the music gets from a recognition of Luther (and Marteau doesn't follow him too closely, as you'll notice if you listen to the original tune) there is that infectious dance throughout, the inevitable consequence, it seems, of following through on an idea! This is in itself a bother to many Christians, an affront to the quiet dignity assumed to be the proper mode of worship with our always dignified Deity. But behind the play on words that is the work's title, there is an ebullient celebration in progress. Simply put, the music doesn't sound much like a fortress. Nor is it necessarily a struggle. Not that there aren't a few devils, but the military imagery seems largely absent. But then, I suppose it depends what you read into it, or how you hear it.

We are 500 years hence from the time of the Reformation. Perhaps the change is the result of a new era; we aren't embroiled in a gruesome war over doctrine, and in need of assurance that the battle is the Lords, and He (and we) shall win. That (histrocial) battle is over. But by circumventing the historical needs of an earlier era, perhaps we are now more in touch with an even earlier time, more faithful to the images of our First Teacher. This fall we are engaged in a series of sermons on the Kingdom of Heaven. I don't recall Jesus using anything approaching Luther's imagery in his teachings about the Kingdom of Heaven. But the party? That seems to have been a favorite motive of his. It obviously bothered a few people. Check out the stories. There is always somebody who doesn't like it--in the stories themselves! Ever wonder how they got there?



Music for November 4    All Saint's Sunday from Moments Musicals: no. 6, "Allegretto"     Schubert

I'm sorry the piano is so out of tune--I'll have to re-record this in a few weeks when the A-flats are not so disagreeable.

Music for November 11
"The Kingdom 'is' Unfolding"



          Aria from Goldberg Variations

J. S. Bach
 

I hope you don't think I'm lazy because I'm only offering you 1/32nd of an offertory this morning. Of course, if I played the entire piece it would last about 80 minutes, and I'm sure we all have places to go. For one thing, the 5k for ASP starts at 1:00 and I don't want to be late for that. But as an example of gradual unfolding I'm not sure you can beat what may be the longest set of keyboard variations ever written. This opening aria is a beautiful piece of music in itself, but for Bach it had myriad creative possibilities, as becomes clear in the 30 variations which follow. As we listen to the opening theme, can you imagine the sorts of possibilities that the changing harmonies, melodic fragments, and descending bass line might have suggested in Bach's mind? Since there are 30 more where this one came from, rather than leave you hanging, perhaps we'll experience them together, over the next year or two, one variation at a time, as this incredible work continues to unfold....

Actually, not lazy so much as sick. This is the second time in a little over a month that I've come down with something and it is really cramping my style. I estimate I've lost at least three weeks of practice this fall, which makes it really hard to get down to business. I've spent all my energy just keeping up with my employment obligations, trying to just make it through each weekend. As a result I've had to reprogram the month of November to include pieces I can play with virtually no practice at all. New pieces are definitely out: so are difficult ones. Next week I was planning to try some (new to me) Messiaen: that will have to go.

Even this week was a bit of trick. I managed to make a semi-decent recording, but the piano is already too far gone (it gets tuned again next week, fortunately), so what you are listening to, above (rescued by a good memory) is from a recital I gave in 2002. Also, I couldn't run that 5k. :sigh: Next time.

Music for November 18

Now Thank We All Our God

Marteau
Johann Cruger's tune was written near the end of the Thirty Year's War which ravaged Europe (1648). The hymn's author, Martin Rinkart, saw his town in Saxony invaded three times. Soon his own home was one of many harboring refugees. He became the only surviving pastor in the town and had to conduct 4000 funerals in a single year at the height of a plague. No wonder bells rang out across Europe in celebration, and no doubt relief, as a treaty was signed bringing the carnage to conclusion.

 

Music for November 25

Sibelius, Jean

Sonata in F Major

I: Molto Allegro
(very fast)
       

The peculiar thing about sonatas is that, although they grew up during the rational age of enlightenment and humanism, they might also be apt illustrations of the Kingdom of God. When we say a Sonata is "in F Major" for instance, what we know is that the piece begins in F Major, and if we listen long enough, the piece will eventually also end up in the tonal domain of F Major.  But soon after it starts it will move away from its original key, and for a while in the middle the only way we know the sonata is "in" F Major is because the title tells us that it is--it seems, to our senses, more a governing theory than an actuality. The temporary reality is that the music is centered in some other tonal realm, and it may take some time to get back. What we know, too, is that the melody we heard in the beginning will also come back, eventually--in fact, in some disguised form it is probably present in the middle, too, but perhaps not obviously, and not the way we heard it in the beginning. Yet in the end as in the beginning. And, curiously, it is music, that one art form that necessarily unfolds in time, that best illustrates this principle of tension between expectation and its fulfillment.  Even while the music is in the midst of its tonal journey it is all governed by its relationship to the ultimate source, and the ultimate goal of its journey.

Sibelius' Sonata may be a happy choice to illustrate this, and in particular for this time of year. It begins by evoking bells and birds and song and dance in festive F Major and coming to a joyous climax, then subsiding as the bells toll out--three groups of three chords: the end of the section. Then the atmosphere changes; spring becomes fall and winter. A cold wind blows in the bass, major becomes minor, the dance becomes agitated, the birds become melancholy, and the music grows darker and colder. All of the earlier, festive motives are there, but in disguise, and only if you have ears to hear them. Finally, in the quiet of the upper register, the birds start to notice something--the return of spring! And everything does come back. Bursting forth, the once and future key of F Major returns, and with it all the musical ideas heard in the beginning in their fine festive form. They have never completely disappeared, and now they are present to the senses, and obvious. Joy has the last word.


Music for December 2
First week of Advent

Prelude on "Hyfrydol"
Vaughan Williams

Light of Light
Stell

posted by permission of
 Evelyn Stell and Fagus Music

       
Twentieth century English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams was responsible for editing the English Hymnal of 1906; some of his harmonizations for it are in our own hymnal, in which the tune "Hyfrydol"  is paired with the text for "Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus." Mr. Vaughan-Williams enjoyed a few spicy harmonies, as you'll hear, particularly toward the end of the prelude. It comes from the same set of organ preludes as does the well-known "Prelude on 'Rhosymedre'."

"Light of Light" is one of Scottish organist Evelyn Stell's "10 Eucharistic Reflections," and is based on the tune we know as "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence," whose text dates from the 4th century.
Music for December 9   "Choir Sunday" There isn't any solo organ or piano music either of these two weeks.
Music for December 16 
Unified Church Drama: "Stealing Christmas"
 


Music for December 23

Christe qui lux et dies

Sweelinck

Our theme for Advent this year is "light," which is why this selection was chosen. However, it is not "liturgically correct:" the detailed procedures of the Catholic church required that this ancient chant be sung at  Compline during Lent. Compline is the last "office" of the day, when the monks are getting ready for bed, which may explain why it parts of it read like a sinister ancestor of the child's prayer "Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep." The text begins: "Christ, who art the light and day, You drive away the darkness of night, You are called the light of light, For you proclaim the blessed light." Later the prayer asks to keep us free from sin and not to let "the enemy snatch us away" while we sleep as well as to keep our souls awake and vigilant. The hymn concludes with a doxology of praise to God. Sweelinck has set three verses of the chant, for the second of which I am employing the trombone stop on the pedal to bring out the melody; the third uses full organ.

 

Music for December 24     Christmas Eve

      The Christmas Carol Varied as a Rondo for the Piano Forte     Samuel Wesley
      Noel VII        Daquin

 

Music for December 30

       Noel XII, "le suisse"        Daquin
 
Music for January 6

Gnossienne no. 2       Satie


"winter session"
(a between semester break from posted recordings)

January 13
Kseniya Chumachenko
sub-organist

January 20
"The peace may be exhanged"  from Rubrics      Locklair

January 27
piano/organ duets
with Marietta Bigler

February 3
Camille Rose, violin

spring semester

Music for February 10 "Transfiguration Sunday"
Offertoire                                 Guilmant

 

Music for Lent
Feb 17    Prelude on "Bryn Calfaria"     Vaughan Williams
Feb 24    Ich ruf' zu dir Herr Jesu Christ     Sweelinck
Mar 3      Concerto in A Minor: I. (Allegro)  II. Adagio     Vivaldi/Bach
Mar 10    Concerto in A Minor: III. Allegro    Vivaldi/Bach
Mar 17    Choral no. 2 in b minor     Franck
Mar 24    "Palm / passion Sunday"   Choral no. 3 in a minor      Franck

For the past two years I seem to have taken a Lenten vow of silence regarding program notes. Actually, I am usually just so busy this time of year I can only concentrate on the music, and, often, comments on some of the pieces seem superfluous anyway. However, the last of these selections got particular focus this year not only through a long set of notes in the church bulletin, but a six-part series of blogs you can access here.

Now that I think about it, I also wrote a blog about the Sweelinck, and the first movement of the Vivaldi/Bach. So check out my blog! (I write about church music and related issues on Fridays.)

Music for March 31  Easter Sunday
Toccata from Symphonie no. 5         Charles-Marie  Widor

This popularly requested piece has become a tradition at Faith UMC. Happy Easter!

Music for April 7


"...'Hallelujah' has been restored..."

Locklair 


Vita Sanctorum

Praetorius
Dan Locklair's Rubrics (1988) consists of five movements whose titles are taken from instructions in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. The first of these, "...'Hallelujah' has been restored..." seems appropriate since that exclamation of praise and its close cousin, Alleluia, were suppressed during the penitential season of Lent (i.e., we didn't say them or sing them for six weeks).

Michael Praetorius' setting of the Easter Hymn "Vita Sanctorum" (The Holy Life), subtitled "a hymn for the feast of the Resurrection" was written roughly 400 years earlier and is a much more solemn setting than the almost electric guitarlike shout from Locklair's  restored "Hallelujah!"



Music for April

April 14: Kseniya Chumachenko, sub-organist
April 21: piano/organ duets with Marietta Bigler
April 28: Unified service for Confirmation/Children's Musical in Worship and Life Center
                           The Banjo  by Gottschalk         
what? seriously?

Music for May 5

Wondrous Gift
Soul of My Savior
from 10 Eucharistic Reflections

Evelyn Stell
Evelyn Stell lives in Scotland. One of her areas of interest is the training of beginning organists. She likes to encourage pianists to become organists. Obviously one of their primary concerns is the use of the foot pedals, so her "10 Eucharistic Reflections," of which today's selections are nos. 4 and 8, have virtually no pedal part.   However, in "Wondrous Gift" she mischievously asks the organist to deploy the pedal; it is a low C later joined not by another C but by a D above which causes a wonderfully holy racket! Reacting to the strangeness of using the feet for the beginning organist she writes humorously that the pedal can instead be played  with a "keyweight"--that is, a "pencil , car keys, mobile phone--anything that will keep the key held down."  Being Mr. Boring, I plan simply to use my feet!

copyrighted music posted with the kind permission of the composer and  the publisher, Fagus Music

www.evelynstell.com / www.forthinpraise.co.uk  (blog)  / www.fagus-music.com

 

Music for May 12

Praeludium in F
    BuxWV 145

     Buxtehude

Mr. Buxtehude must have been one busy fellow. In addition to being the organist at St. Mary's in Lubeck (now in north Germany) he was also in charge of administration, and the church fix-it guy. Somehow he found time to write 19 organ Praeludia. That ubiquitous title tells us nothing about the specific form of each piece, however, but in this particular case Buxtehude has written a prelude followed by a fugue, the latter with a suspiciously birdlike theme. They are, naturally enough, well-behaved Baroque birds. However, the double trill in measure 79 is dedicated to the real life birds who were having a fight next to the pipe room on Wednesday (and could have made it into the recording if they'd kept it up longer; see below).


Funny story (not really).  On Wednesday I made my first attempt at a recording. I spent about an hour practicing first because, frankly, I hadn't really done on it enough in the last week and the piece was only borderline ready to go before a microphone. I got my equipment set up and got ready to record. Then the guy across the street started up his riding mower. Undeterred, I continued to practice. Half an hour later, sans mower noises, I hit the record button. About 10 notes into my first take one of the pastors came into the sanctuary and told me that both of the pastors wanted to see me about something (don't worry; it was a good thing). That didn't bother me either. Life happens; I still had plenty of time. Half an hour later, I hit the record button again, and  managed to eke out a few takes. When I brought the results home, however, they weren't good. One of the microphones was fizzing, humming, popping, and otherwise making a general nuisance of itself. I couldn't accept the results: the noise was louder than the music. Now I was starting to worry a little ! So the next day I tried again, and about a minute into the first take someone came into the sanctuary to clean (which includes things like sharpening pencils and whatnot.) I went to lunch. When I returned in the afternoon it was raining. I assumed the rain on the roof would be picked up by the microphones but went ahead with it anyway. Something is better than nothing. Between takes there was some thunder off in the distance telling me I'd better hurry up with it. When I got home I checked the results and was again disappointed. The noise from the first mic was even louder than yesterday, and I had used a different one. I figured the problem had to be in the recorder itself, which I am in no hurry to replace. The mic I had used on Wednesday was already a backup choice because a few weeks ago my condensor mic bought the farm--or at least that's what I assumed ruined two day's worth of recording attempts. Now I wondered if it wasn't just the channel itself. Ugh!

I went back to check how the noises from the first day stacked up against the second day because they hadn't been uniform across the takes. That's when I realized I had accidentally been using yesterday's takes instead of today's! (duhh....) The file names are the same; the title followed by the date of recording, so instead of 5-8-13 I meant to click on 5-9-13. It's been a long week and I wasn't paying attention. Anyhow, here's a lovely piece by Buxtehude. The worst thing I can say about it is I'm not sure I really like my interpretation. But at least there is something to not like, which for this week is saying something!

Music for May 19  Pentecost Sunday

Veni Creator Spiritus  (2010)
Pinkevicius

posted by permission of Vidas Pinkevicius
Vidas' blog can be found at organduo.it

           you can find the score here


Vidas Pinkevicius is a Lithuanian organist who went to graduate school in the United States and received his Doctor of Musical Arts from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln before heading home to the capital, Vilnius, where he is organist and teacher at the university. He is also presently involved in efforts to restore a 1776 Casparini organ, runs a blog to teach and advise organists, founded a national organization to promote the art of organ playing, and is an all around busy guy. His "Veni Creator Spiritus" is a contemporary take on an ancient hymn for Pentecost. It is built in several short repeated sections, taking us through several keys and tempo changes, and contains an synthesized amalgam of the stylistic traits of several 20th century composers.

 

Music for May 26   Trinity Sunday

          O Lux Beata Trinitas
          Te Mane Laudum Carmine

          Michael Praetorius
These two selections are based on the Latin hymn "O Lux Beata Trinitas," a hymn ascribed to Ambrose in the 4th century. They are the final two pieces from Michael Praetorius' collection Hymnodia Sionia, published in 1611. Ambrose hymn on the Trinity begins with the image of a "Blessed Light" (Lux Beata) and in the second stanza exhorts "This morning we praise you, O God" (Te Mane Laudum Carmine).

This week's second selection is the last of Michael Praetorius' published organ works, and as such I left about 10 seconds of silence afterward because when I put it into the listening archive I don't want the player to simply advance to the next composer without a pause which is what it will do if you don't insert the silence. For me that is an important moment, to finish listening to one piece of music and to have time to think about it before rushing headlong into a possible musical non-sequitor. But since the hymn is about as old as hymns get, being part of our inheritance from the early centuries of the Catholic church, and exists as a chant in Latin, it made me think of the use of silence in Masses I have attended. When the music, or the scripture, or the hymn, or the liturgical responses are over, the cantor doesn't get up immediately. Usually they sit quietly for several seconds, and then, very deliberately, get up and continue with the mass. This gives the worshippers a chance to meditate on what they've just heard, and this silence is an important part of that worship. Now Methodists don't "do" silence very well, though at Faith we've tried various experiments with it. At any rate, the Trinity seems like an appropriate subject for silence, so be aware of the nonsound as well as the sound in your environment as you listen to these selections. Peace.

Music for June 3

          Herzlich tut mich erfruen

          Johannes Brahms
text of the hymn:
My heart rejoices in

the wonderful summertime:
God will make everything
beautifully, eternally new.
The heavens and earth
will be created anew,
all creatures will become
wondrously beautiful and clear.

 

 

[email protected]

Music for 2012-13 at Faith UMC in Champaign, IL USA for the
8:00 and 10:30 services

mp3 files from our
north sanctuary
Michael Hammer, organ and piano

 2010-11
 2011-12

 2012-13

September 9, 2012
10:30

Toccata
Dubois

September 16, 2012
10:30

Nun lob mein Seele den Herren
(Now Praise the Lord, My Soul)
Michael Praetorius




September 23, 2012
Hymn Festival Sunday

Prelude on "Rhosymedre"
Vaughan Williams


September 30, 2012
ASP Sunday

"Take Me Back" from Appalachia
J. Wesley Work III  ©




October 7, 2012
World Communion Sunday/
United Methodist Women Sunday


Gentlest Savior
O Salutaris Hostia
Ave Verum

Evelyn Stell

posted by permission of
 Evelyn Stell and Fagus Music




October 14, 2012

Prelude in C

J. C. Kellner





October 21, 2012

Prelude and Fugue in D

Samuel Wesley



October 28, 2012
Reformation Sunday

Feste

Marteau



November 4, 2012
All Saints Sunday

Moment Musical no. 6
Allegretto

Schubert


November 11, 2012
The Kingdom is Gradually Unfolding

Goldberg Variations: Aria
J. S. Bach




November 18, 2012
Thanksgiving

Now Thank We All Our God
Marteau


November 25, 2012

Sonata in F
I: Molto Allegro

Sibelius



December 2, 2012
Advent 1

Prelude on "Hyfrydol"
Vaughan Williams

Light of Light
Stell

posted by permission of
 Evelyn Stell and Fagus Music


December 9, 2012
Choir Sunday
(no organ music)



December 16, 2012
Unified Christmas Drama
(no organ music)



December 23, 2012

Christe qui lux et dies
Sweelink



December 24, 2012

The Christmas Carol Varied as a Rondo for the Piano Forte  
Samuel Wesley

Noel VII: Noel en trio et en dialogue
Daquin


December 30 2012

Noel XII, "le suisse"
Daquin




January 6,. 2013

Gnossienne no. 2

Satie



End of the fall semester (whew!)



"winter break"

January 13
Kseniya Chumachenko
sub-organist

January 20
The Peace may be exchanged
Locklair

January 27
piano/organ duets
with Marietta Bigler

February 3
Camille Rose, violin




Spring Semester


February 10, 2013
Transfiguration Sunday

Offertoire sur "Fillii"
Guilmant



February 17, 2013
Lent 1

Prelude on Bryn Calfaria
Vaughan Williams




February 24, 2013
Lent 2

Lord, I Call to You
Sweelinck



March 3, 2013
Lent 3

Concerto in a minor:
I. (Allegro)
II. Adagio
Vivaldi / arr. Bach



March 10, 2013
Lent 4

Concerto in a minor:
III. Allegro
Vivaldi / Bach



March 17, 2013
Lent 5

Choral no. 2 in B Minor
Franck




March 24, 2013
Palm / passion Sunday

Choral no. 3 in A Minor
Franck



March 31, 2013
Easter

Toccata from Symphonie no. 5
Widor




April 7, 2013

'Hallelujah' has been restored
from  Rubrics  
Locklair  ©

The Holy Life
A song for the Feast of the Resurrection
M. Praetorius


April 14, 2013

Kseniya Chumachenko, sub-organist




April 21, 2013

piano/organ duets
with Marietta Bigler



April 28, 2013

confirmation / musical Sunday
unified service in
Worship and Life Center

The Banjo
Gottschalk

what? seriously?



May 5, 2013

Wondrous Gift
Soul of My Savior
from 10 Eucharistic Reflections
Stell

copyrighted music posted with the kind permission of the composer and  the publisher, Fagus Music

www.evelynstell.com
www.forthinpraise.co.uk  (blog)
www.fagus-music.com



May 12, 2013

Praeludium in F
BuxWV145

Buxtehude




May 19, 2013
Pentecost

Veni Creator Spiritus
Pinkevicius

posted by permission of Vidas Pinkevicius
     Vidas' blog can be found at organduo.it

you can find the score here




May 26, 2013
Trinity Sunday

O Lux Beata Trinitas
Te Mane Laudum Carmine

Michael Praetorius



June 3, 2013

Herzlich tut mich erfruen

Brahms




End of the Spring Semester