It's going to be an interesting weekend. The bishop is coming for a visit at Faith UMC this Sunday. We are having a single service and inviting the entire church to it. Normally we have four weekend services, of which I play for them all, so, in a way, it is like getting three quarters of a week off. Sort of. Of course that one service will be more elaborate and stressful and call on more of my resources than a regular service would have, but it will certainly not be a snooze. Fortunately, that gives it a bit of luster for me.
The rest of the weekend will be spent in rehearsal with The Chorale, a community choral organization with about 70 members who sing at least three concerts annually, the first of which is always the first weekend in November. This time we are welcoming back Dr. Craig Jessop, former conductor of The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, for a fifth time! In an unusual twist, there will be no 20-piece orchestra this time around. Instead, Dr. Jessop will lead the group in mostly a cappella numbers. As the group's accompanist, I'll play the piano a couple of times and the organ once, and largely sit back and enjoy the concert. After about 8 or 9 hours of rehearsal Fri, Sat and Sunday, I won't mind the break. Normally I spend Sunday afternoon becoming the orchestral pianist and sight reading a new part in which most of my favorite notes have been farmed out to the other instruments.
But it doesn't quite end there. Tenor Davion Williams, a former scholarship winner, will sing a few solo numbers, to which I'll supply the accompaniment. And I'll also be playing a handful of short solo piano and organ pieces. I thought I'd let you listen in to some recordings I made on Tuesday as part of the learning process (this gives me a chance to see how well I can play the pieces while nervous).
Since the concert consists entirely of hymns and spirituals, I'm playing pieces based on hymns (Davion is singing spirituals; didn't that work out nicely?). Here they are, as well as some short remarks I'm planning to make as an introduction to each one:
[I probably won't say anything about this one, although it takes its name from a very interesting image in the book of Deuteronomy. I can just see a kid drawing of God with really really long arms.]
Leaning on the Everlasting Arms
This hymn tune bears the attractive name "Pisgah." The jury is out on where the name came from--possibly it's named after a mountain peak. I first heard this tune when The Chorale sang it a couple of years ago in an Alice Parker arrangement to the words of the 23rd Psalm. So if any of it sounds like verdant pastures and flowing water, that may be why.
Before every concert I've attended or played in for the last 10 or 15 years you hear the same announcement: please, turn off your cell phones! This might be what would happen if you didn't turn off your cell phone before a church service:
Jesus Calls Us
The year of Jubilee is come! That's the refrain to the following hymn. In order to announce this Year of Jubilee, it was time to sound the ceremonial trumpet.
Blow ye the trumpet, blow
When this tune was originally published, it was in a minor key. "On Jordan's Stormy Banks I Stand, and cast a watchful eye to Canaan's fair and happy land where my possessions lie." Only, a century later, as religious fashions came and went, people thought it sounded to solemn. So the tune was recast in a blithe, major key. Now just maybe it sounds as if we aren't standing on the stormy bank on the opposite side of the river at all, but we are already in the promised land. In any event, in this piece you'll hear both versions of the tune, alternately. I wonder which one will be left standing at the end....
Are We There yet?
If you happen to be in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, this weekend, perhaps I'll see you at 7 pm on Sunday at the First United Methodist Church in Urbana.