Sheep may safely graze Sheep may safely graze, BWV 208 . . . . . . . . . . . J.S. Bach Largo, BWV 596, arranged from Vivaldi Deck thyself, my soul, with gladness, BWV 654 These distracted times Voluntary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Thomas Tomkins A sad pavan for these distracted times (1649) Music on the Death of his Father (1674) . . . Dietrich Buxtehude Contrapunctus I—Evolutio—Contrapunctus II—Evolutio O God, to whom shall I complain? O God, to whom shall I complain? (1940). . . . . Paul Hindemith Toccata “for the elevation” (1621). . . . . Girolamo Frescobaldi Life out of balance Hymn Melodies from The Sacred Harp . . . . . . . . . D.W. Steel And am I born to die? (IDUMEA) Salvation, oh the joyful sound (PRIMROSE) Amazing grace, how sweet the sound (NEW BRITAIN) Koyaanisqatsi (“Life out of balance,” 1983) . . . . Philip Glass Herbert V.R.P. Jones, bass
Organ by Karl Wilhelm, Mont-Saint-Hilaire, Québec.
Two manuals and pedal, 26 stops, 33 ranks.
In ages past, musicians were called upon to respond to triumphs and loss, to joy and sorrow, in the lives of their communities. Music celebrated victories and peace treaties, and commemorated the fall of cities and the death of kings and popes, as well as that of humbler individuals: J.S. Bach was expected to provide original music for the funerals of city councilmen as well as dukes. Today’s concert includes appropriate music for meditation; each set will be followed by a brief period of silence.
The well-known opening song by Bach is usually assumed to refer to Christ the Good Shepherd, but in fact was written to flatter a nobleman whose subjects, the “sheep,” are described as safe from terror and invasion.
When the English Civil War broke out, Thomas Tomkins was an aged cathedral organist in Worcester, England. In 1647 his cathedral was vandalized by religious zealots, and the organ dismantled, but Tomkins continued to compose in the hope of the eventual restoration of services. Finally, on 31 January 1649, King Charles I was executed, and Tomkins wrote his “sad pavan,” a slow processional dance, as a reponse.
The first movement of Hindemith’s third organ sonata, based on a medieval melody, is the most dissonant and passionate piece in today’s program: a love song that is a cry for justice. A toccata is an exploratory keyboard piece. Frescobaldi’s toccata was written for the moment in the Mass when God is believed to come down from heaven in the form of bread and wine: the harmonies are full of poignant dissonances and unresolved suspensions.
Godfrey Reggio’s 1983 film Koyaanisqatsi has no plot or dialog, only contrasting scenes of serene nature and bustling human activity, accompanied by a ground-breaking soundtrack by Philip Glass. The title is a Hopi word referring to our world as disintegrating, out of balance, ripe for renewal. In response to the disintegration of September 11, many find renewal in their faith, and in symbols of faith such as familiar hymns. The first two hymn melodies are well known in the southern Sacred Harp tradition, but are interpreted in the slow, ornamented style of the traditional African American congregational song known as “lined hymns” or “Dr. Watts.” The final hymn, “Amazing grace,” also from The Sacred Harp, is played in the style of the bagpipe bands that have become so achingly familiar to us from broadcasts of funerals of police and firefighters.David Warren Steel
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