Friday, October 9, 2009

Reformation hymns

This Sunday we'll continue our build-up to Reformation Sunday at the end of the month. Pastor's sermon series is providing the perfect reason to play variations on "A Mighty Fortress" at various points in the service each week, including this week's meditative prelude. Ever since Luther first wrote the hymn, composers have found inspiration in the hymn and have written countless arrangements and interpretations of the tune.

The process of building upon past tunes and musical ideas is part of the total experience of music. Music is about patterns, and our ears learn to hear and even expect certain chord progressions and melodies. I've heard it suggested that the reason we sometimes dislike music (even to extreme cases like the riot that occurred at the premiere of "Rite of Spring") is because we cannot recognize the patterns within the music.

From that point of view, some of the best church music is endowed with its meaning and structure from its incorporation of meaningful motifs. Like a Wagnerian opera where each character has its own leitmotif, a prelude that incorporates "Ein Feste Burg" inevitably provokes thoughts of Luther while "Lasst Uns Erfreuen" conjures up Easter memories. This October, I hope your prayers and meditations consistently include that confident phrase from Psalm 46 that God is our refuge and strength, a truly "mighty fortress."

This week we'll also be singing the great hymn "Thy Strong Word," and the choir will change gears from the classical sound of Bach to a romantic melody by Brahms. We hope you enjoy listening and joining in with us in worship and praise.

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