By “last week” I’m not referring to the week that’s past — it is my last week as a church organist! Tomorrow night is my last Thursday night choir rehearsal. Except for vacations, I have been at a Thursday night choir practice practically my whole life! And it’s just not been at LCH; in college when I was the organist at the First United Methodist Church of Van Nuys, CA, they had Thursday night rehearsals, too. After all, “God made Thursday nights for choir practice!” our friend Peter Hallock used to always say. I think I even had Thursday night rehearsals at Holy Nativity Episcopal Church in Aina Haina which was the position I had before coming to LCH. (However, when I was the organist at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Burbank, they had their rehearsals on Wednesday nights. Oh, well, I had that church job for only about three years. The rest of my life Thursday has always been choir night.)
Sunday is the Fourth Sunday of Advent, a day when we typically celebrate the visit of the Virgin Mary to St. Elizabeth. One of our parishioners asked me to write about the music that I’m playing this last week and its significance. Well, to tell you the truth, for the last umpteen years at LCH, I’ve played music in a three-year cycle to sync with the three-year lectionary. I don’t just pick music because I like it — I choose music based on its relevance to the lessons of the day. So if you check out the LCH website, www.lchwelcome.org, and go to the section on Music, you’ll see that I’m repeating music from 2009.
All of Sunday’s organ music is by J. S. Bach. The prelude will be “Meine Seele erhebet den Herrn,” BWV 648, and is part of a collection called the Schübler chorales which were all transcriptions of cantata movements. The usual translation is “My soul magnifies the Lord,” and is the canticle which Mary sang when she visited her cousin Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John the Baptist. This piece is a transcription from “Mein Seel erhebt den Herren,” BWV 10, movement 5, which is a duet for alto and tenor.
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; *
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed: *
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him *
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm, *
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, *
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things, *
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel, *
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
The promise he made to our fathers, *
to Abraham and his children for ever.
The postlude will be Bach’s “Fugue on the Magnificat,” BWV 733, which some attributed to Johann Ludwig Krebs, Bach’s student and copyist. Now scholars believe, though, that this is definitely Bach’s work even though it was copied out by Krebs, and is not a fugue but rather is a fantasy.
For the communion, I’ll be playing Bach’s “Gottes Sohn ist kommen,” BWV 600, from his Orgelbüchlein (Little Organ Book). Its translation is “God’s Son is coming.”
I’ll write more about the music for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in another post.