Musical Musings~Reflections on Sunday's Music

September 24, 2017

Five Reasons A Passacaglia Is Exciting

Sunday's postlude will feature a passacaglia by John Ebenezer West composed in memory of the German organist Josef Rheinberger.  Here are five reasons to stay and listen to this musical form:

1. A Spanish dance in triple meter that develops more of a celebratory feel

2. We like things to repeat- the ground bass or ostinato will repeat 14 times

3.  The word pasor (walk)  from passacaglia reminds us of taking a "stroll" through the various styles of composing

4. These styles of composing include rhythmic and harmonic changes, additional melodies and short trumpet tunes

5. The crowning sound of the organ can be displayed through the gradual increase of stops and sounds

Musical Musings~Reflections on Sunday's Music

August 27, 2017

 Pachelbel's amalgam of organ styles

Pachelbel’s “Toccata in E Minor” remains a delight for the ears as one of the South German composer’s twenty surviving toccatas.  Johann Pachelbel hails from Nuernberg with his parents raising him within the Lutheran tradition. Pachelbel’s compositions possess the gift of a composer marrying an Italianate style and a North German style of organ performance.  The composer explores this in the “Toccata in E Minor” by employing an uncomplicated contrapuntal style that emphasizes melody and harmony. 

The work begins in a rhapsodic nature above a pedalpoint in the pedal line with fast-moving notes in the left and right hands.  At first it may seem that Pachelbel explores imitative counterpoint, however it appears that the composer prefers restating a melodic motive/idea that circles through the circle of fifths.  This motive includes five sixteenth notes and four thirty-second notes.  As someone that taught J.C. Bach who eventually began to teach J.S. Bach, there remains no doubt that this work helped shape the compositional output of J.S. Bach.

Musical Musings~ Reflections on Sunday’s Music 

July 10, 2016 

Five reasons the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor is by Bach 

Musicologists often debate the authorship of today's postlude, however I'd like to take a different direction. Let's present five reasons why this work is undoubtedly composed by the German master-J.S. Bach: 
1. The final chord progression of the fugue is nowhere else to be found in the works of Bach-it sounds surprising, however this is the composer exploring contemporary harmonies! 
2. Yes, this work fits the violin like a glove, however J.S. Bach aptly practiced and played the violin. Why would Bach not transcribe this to the organ even though it may be challenging to play? 
3. Yes, the parallel octaves at the beginning do not in any way resemble practices of the Baroque composers, however Bach may have just been adapting good music to an organ that had poor registration choices, making it fuller and louder. 
4. Yes, Bach did master the rules of counterpoint, however just like his colleague Dietrich Buxtehude (who he traveled to Lübeck just to hear him play), Bach employs a subdominant answer in the fugue instead of a dominant one. 
5.This work was attributed to Bach in a collection of works compiled by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy. Why should we have cause to doubt the authorship by the very person who introduced Bach in 1829 after Bach's music had been in obscurity for almost 100 years?

Sunday's Prelude: Toccata Jazzica-Michel

Sunday's Postlude: Toccata and Fugue in D Minor (BWV 565)-J.S. Bach

Musicians: Kieren Morehead, Sanctuary Choir

Musical Musings~ Reflections on Sunday’s Music 

July 3, 2016 

Great Is Thy Faithfulness-Notes from Austin Lovelace 

Many volumes of hymn studies give exotic stories about the origin of gospel songs, but the author wrote in 1955 that there were no special circumstances for his. The Methodist minister gives the "faithfulness of God" as the main theme, and the promise of an unchanging God who assures us of pardon, peace and presence. Its use during the Billy Graham crusades, with its message of great personal comfort have spread its message all over the world.

Sunday's Prelude: God Save The King Variations- Wesley

Sunday's Postlude: National Hymn- Arr. Thewes

Musical Musings~ Reflections on Sunday’s Music

June 26, 2016 

Pretty Nice Time For A Chorale Partita! 

Today we have the joy of experiencing a chorale partita throughout the worship service. The Baroque composer Georg Böhm developed this genre of music for the keyboard that is based on a hymn tune. Today's chorale partita is based on "From All That Dwell Below The Skies." Generally, this form of music begins with an introduction of the chorale followed by movements that function as variations. 
For the Gathering Music the theme is presented as a rhythmic fanfare, followed by a chiffy, celebratory flutes. A vibrant toccata closes the set of music followed by a trumpet tune in 6/8 meter.  For our Introit, the sustaining sound of the strings of the organ will present the cantus firmus in an airy, dream-like state. And finally, for our Special Music, the theme will be presented in its relative minor in a responsorial fashion between the feet and the hands.

Sunday's Prelude: Partita on "Lasst Uns Erfreuen"-Ameigh

Sunday's Postlude: Lead On Eternal Sovereign-Holst/Hopson

Musician: Sharon Smeltzer, vocalist

Musical Musings~ Reflections on Sunday’s Music 

June 19, 2016 

Non Nobis Domine-is Byrd the composer? 

Today's Introit will feature the Brass Trio playing a work that includes the text: "Not unto us, O Lord, but to Your Name give glory." Recent research has discovered that this canon attributed to Byrd includes extracted portions from a Wilder 5-voice motet from the 1500s set to the phrase "there is none to console" and therefore may not be composed by William Byrd. The "Non Nobis" text or the first one mentioned here came from the first collect of the Thanksgiving service added to the Book of Common Prayer. We even have records of Mozart and Beethoven admiring this canon.  So, what may be the verdict? My opinion remains that due to the spirit and respect of sharing each other's works (which unfortunately is uncommon today), I can see the possibility of extracting a secular text about comfort and using it as a message to seek our comfort and release in Jesus. Through what secular texts may God be speaking to you today?

Sundays' Preludes: Madrigal; Lamentazione-Gluck; Preludio et Fuga-Pergolesi

Sunday's Postlude: Psalm XIX-Marcello

Musicians: Brass Trio

Musical Musings~ Reflections on Sunday’s Music 

June 12, 2016 

Come, Thou Fount Of Every Blessing-Notes from Austin Lovelace 

Born of humble parents, Robinson , the lyricist of this hymn, could not afford schooling for the ministry, so he was apprenticed at fourteen to a London barber and hairdresser. After a dissolute youth he was converted by George Whitefield and became a Calvinistic Methodist minister. Like the more famous John Newton's "Amazing Grace," his hymn is one of providence and grace. Like Jacob, who raised an Ebenezer ( a stone altar which signified that God has brought him thus far), he confesses how great a debtor he is to the grace of God, as are we all.

Sundays' Preludes: Sketches No. 1+2- Robert Schumann

Sunday's Postlude: Sketch No. 4-Robert Schumann


Musical Musings~ Reflections on Sunday’s Music 

June 5, 2016 

Time To Dance: The Siciliana! 

Today's Postlude by the Exceptional Friends is a cohesion of the blues and baroque dance styles.  The siciliana dance is derived from the Baroque dance suite and is usually in 6/8 time with short phrases. The dance also includes lilting and dotted rhythms that resemble a slow jig.  Musicologists link the siciliana to the peasant dances of Sicily, Italy.  Its melancholic nature certainly relates to the blues, however in this work Dr. Joe Utterback has incorporated elements of the blues that give it a renewed energy: blue notes and blue scales, tremolandos and grace notes. The short phrase approach lines up well with ever predictable progression of the blues: I-IV-I-V-IV -I. Listen closely for how Dr. Joe Utterback alters this pattern by including the third and second scale degrees instead of the expected progression leading into a turnaround or transitional section before the 8-bar blues resumes.

Sundays' Preludes: This Is Amazing Grace; Here I Am To Worship

Sunday's Postlude: Sicilianablues-Utterback

Musicians: Exceptional Friends, Tanya Marshall, Kelly Miskis, Revolution Team, Alex Ruzanic 

Musical Musings~ Reflections on Sunday’s Music 

May 22, 2016 

J.S. Bach's Prelude and Fugue in E-Flat Major (BWV 552) 

Today's Gathering Music and Postlude features an organ work by J.S. Bach that remains a testament of the composer's mastery of his compositional craft and devotion to his persevering faith in Christ.  Some musicologists view this work as a sermon on the Trinity. 
The prelude remains the longest prelude Bach ever composed and begins in the French-Overture style ( slow dotted rhythms complement fast fugal writing). As Bach holds emotion and intellect in perfect balance, the symbolism of the Trinity becomes readily apparent through the slow dotted rhythm selection representing the Father, the style galant  tuneful section representing the Son, and a electric sixteenth-note counterpoint section representing the Holy Spirit. 
The Fugue, in tri-partite form, also represents the Trinity. Listen for the "Father" section at the beginning which includes slow, fugal writing followed by the "Son" section in the middle which consists of rapid, fugal writing for manuals only. Finally, Bach's depiction of the Paraclete closes the movement through the representation of the gigue dance and the lengthening of the notes of the theme, also known as augmentation.

Sunday's Prelude: Prelude In E-Flat Major-J.S. Bach (BWV 552.1)

Sunday's Postlude: Fugue In E-Flat Major-J.S. Bach (BWV 552.2)

Musicians:  Steel City Harmonizers and Trombone Quartet

Musical Musings~ Reflections on Sunday’s Music 

May 15, 2016 

Faith based questions on Today's Prelude 

As we listen to the organ selection by Maurice Duruflé in today's Gathering Music, I would like to encourage us to meditate and ponder the following for each movement: 

Theme: Where is the Holy Spirit in my life? 
1st Variation: What is the Holy Spirit calling me to do in Beulah church? 
2nd Variation: Where is the joy of the Lord? 
3rd Variation: What act of faith and perseverance is the Holy Spirit calling me to? 
Final: What spiritual renewal do I need as well as the church?

Sunday's Prelude: Choral Variations on Veni Creator-Durufle

Sunday's Postlude: Reign In Us-Glover/Neufeld

Musicians: Revolution Team; Sanctuary Choir

Musical Musings~ Reflections on Sunday’s Music 

May 8, 2016 

Jehan Alain's Litanies 

Today's postlude includes repetition, planned sonorities, additive rhythms and non- Western scales to illustrate the transcendence of God. The French composer Jehan Alain composed this work in aguish as he was mourning the death of his 23 year-old sister Marie-Odile due to a mountain accident. One describes a litany as a series of invocations and supplications read by a leader which a congregation then alternatively responds to. In Litanies, Alain develops a quasi plainsong melody as the invocation, however instead of functioning as a lament, the invocation becomes a storm overthrowing everything in  its way. The inscription that precedes this work by Alain explains this well: "When the Christian soul in distress can no longer find new words to implore the mercy of God, it repeats ceaselessly and with a vehement faith the same invocation. Reason has reached its limits: faith alone can go further."

Sunday's Prelude: Morceau Symphonique-Guilmant

Sunday's Postlude: Litanies-Alain

Musicians: Howard Bear, trombone; Chancel Bells; Sanctuary Choir