Tuesday, April 8, 2014

This Is the Night!

Our midweek Lenten series this year was titled “Making Change.” We have covered the change of season, a change of habit, a change of circumstances, a change of heart, and the final session will be “change of plans.”

I would like to invite many of us to make a change in our usual routine for Holy Week. 

In the year 387, St. Augustine was baptized at the Easter Vigil.  It is the true high point of the full Christian year and we celebrate it in style at St. Mark’s.  Each year some of the great stories of the Old Testament are told to show how God has preserved his people since the beginning of creation.  Each year we move from darkness to light.  We respond with songs – both new and old.  Bells are rung, choirs sing, and our Lord’s resurrection is proclaimed.  More effort goes into the planning and workings of this service than any other service of the year - yet each year there are only a handful of people in the pews.
I have never been a “numbers guy” who lamented low attendance because I believe the prayers need to be prayed, the lessons need to be read, and the hymns needs to be sung regardless of how many people come.  That said, in a community that has excellence in worship (and music) as one of its core values, people ought to be present for the most significant worship event of the year.

Some say they don’t come because the service is too long.

It’s not.  Evangelical Lutheran Worship suggests twelve Old Testament readings, but we always cut that down to five or six.  This is not the three hour service you may remember as a child.

Some say they don’t come because they don’t want to sit and listen to readings.

Each year we try to present at least some of the readings in a different light.  We have used dance, drama, choral readings, and music to enhance the various lessons.

On Transfiguration Sunday we symbolically buried the alleluia.  It comes back at the Easter Vigil accompanied by a swelling organ, ringing bells, and happy voices.  Let’s make a change and have a full assembly for the Easter Vigil this year.

Remember to bring a bell – any shape, any size to help announce the gospel reading!

Photos: 1. Lutheran deacon with Easter candle from Wikipedia. 2. Noah's Ark, original artwork by members of St. Mark's. 3. The Valley of Dry Bones, original artwork by Lauren Sohacki, a member of St. Mark's. 4. A fourteenth century bell depicting Christian saints from Wikipedial

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

“Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern” Bach Vespers on November 24th at 6:00 P.M.

                                                                        The 2013 Bach Vespers Choir rehearses

Prayers can be read from a book and recited from memory.  They can be extemporaneous shouts of thanksgiving or emotional outbursts of intercession when someone we love encounters hardship and despair.

The church has long sung its prayers.  It started with Gregorian chant and has grown to include classic hymns, psalmody, and modern praise choruses.  Sometimes we pray silently with a trained choir as they sing well-rehearsed anthems and canticles on our behalf.

On Sunday, November 24th at 6:00 p.m. we will have an opportunity to worship with a choir that has diligently rehearsed a cantata by the master Lutheran church musician - Johannes Sebastian Bach.  Dawn Riske is the Director of Music Ministries at Christ the King Church in University, Missouri.  She says, “Somehow the exquisitely crafted music of J. S. Bach helps to build connections between our situation and the Holy One.  Bach’s music opens the door to prayer.” This is why we will hear “Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern” in the context of a worship service rather than in a concert setting.

Bach wrote a cantata for every Sunday of the church year – for five years.  He did not write one for Christ the King Sunday because that day had not yet appeared on the church calendar.  You will find this text, written for the Feast of the Annunciation, to be equally appropriate for a Christ the King observance. If you would like to read the text in advance, you can find it here: http://www.uvm.edu/~classics/faculty/bach/BWV1.html

Our cantata will be accompanied by an orchestra of instrumentalists from the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra and our soloists are Karina Calabro (soprano), Dr. James Hall (tenor), and Carl Moser (bass).  The chorus includes members of the St. Mark’s choirs and singers from the Jacksonville Community.  Pastor Thomas Hanson will lead the liturgy. Frank Starbuck is our German diction coach.

Bach Vespers has a 20 year history at St. Mark’s. The first cantatas being sung under the direction of Cantor Jim Rindelaub.  We are grateful for the tradition that he began!

Please join us for this unique service. All are welcome.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Bach Vespers 2013 Registration Is Now Open!

Our cantata this year is “Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern,” BWV No. 1. The orchestra will be comprised of professional instrumentalists and this work will be sung within the context of the Lutheran Vespers service, also called Evening Prayer.

Bach Vespers has a twenty year history at St. Mark's and this cantata is being sung as part of the church's 75th anniversary year celebration.  The first cantata was sung under the direction of Jim Rindelaub who was St. Mark's Cantor 1985 - 1999.  We are happy to carry on this great tradition of presenting music by one of the Lutheran Church's best-loved composers within the context of Lutheran worship.

The rehearsal and service schedule follows:
Saturday Nov. 2 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM
Saturday Nov. 9 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM
>Saturday Nov. 16 10 :00 AM - 12:00 PM
Saturday Nov. 23, 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM (This is our dress rehearsal with the orchestra.)
The service is on Sunday, November 24, 2013 at 6:00 PM.
Please send an email message to vespers@comcast.net to receive a registration form.  

Photo by Bill Daugherty

Monday, July 1, 2013

Upcoming Musical Events Include Harp Music, a Hymn Festival, and Bach Vespers

Heavenly Harps in concert on Sunday, September 22nd
7:00 PM
The ministry of Heavenly Harp was founded in 2004 with the mission of making available the unique healing benefits of harp music combined with the power of scripture and prayer to anyone, anytime, anywhere. Heavenly Harp brings peace and relaxation as well as comfort into everyday life.  Through the Lord’s leading and the doors he continues to open, Heavenly Harp now has ten recordings, and six ministry websites reaching out to many who may never enter a church. 

Through concerts, presentations, retreats, recordings, websites and online forums, the ministry of Heavenly Harp has touched an estimated 
50,000 people in the last few years.  

Aaron David Miller on Sunday, October 13th
Hymn Festival/Organ Dedication
Time TBA
“Aaron has one of the most vivid musical imaginations I've heard.  His improvisations are nothing short of spectacular.  People talk about improvisation being dead in the classical world.  That might be true, but it's alive and kicking in Aaron.  Any musician, classical or jazz, will find Aaron's creativity breathtaking.”  ---Dave Brubeck, Fourth Presbyterian Church

“Soloist Aaron David Miller closed the first half of the program with a dazzling improvisation and the second half with a partially orchestrated rendition of J. S. Bach’s G Minor Fugue.  The evening was an unquestioned success.  Miller….showed himself to be an engaging soloist.  His voicings were colorful, his use of rhythm vitalizing.” --- Steven Cornelius, The Toledo Blade

“What a superb player!  Elegant music-making throughout and the concluding improvisation was wonderful!”   ---Jerome Butera, Editor, The Diapason

                     Bach Vespers
         November 24, 2013 at 6:00 PM
      Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern

The St. Mark’s festival choir, singers from the community, and an orchestra of members from the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra combine to present the cantata by J. S. Bach in the context of a Lutheran worship service.

More information, including events pages on Facebook, will be available about these events as the times draws near.  Please put these events on your calendar now!

 There is no admission charge for these events.  A free will offering will be taken.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A New Endeavor

I am in the middle of week three! Week three of what?

I am a candidate for the Master of Arts in Church Music degree at Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, OH.

The best thing about this program is that I don’t have to quit the job I have, or even take a leave of absence, to complete the program.  Students come to the campus for three weeks in the summer to take courses on site.  My classes this session include: Systematic Theology, Liturgical Choir, Vocal Solutions for Choral Directors, Leading the Church’s Song, Conducting, and Music Technology.  Only the first two are three-week courses.  The others only last for a week, but they are 2 – 3 hours long and they meet each day.  (The middle week, last week, was brutal because I had classes from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm.) The three weeks I am gone are covered by my two weeks of continuing education time and one week of vacation.

During the regular year, students take applied music courses (private lessons) and electives at local colleges or universities.  There is also the option to take some Trinity courses on line.

It wasn’t just the short sessions that attracted me, but also the fact that several theology courses are required. I have always wanted to take some theology courses.

Schenck Chapel

Liturgical Choir meets each day at 10:20 and rehearses for the worship service at 10:45.  Worship takes many forms: Morning Prayer, Eucharist, Taizé services, and more.  Students take turns at various tasks: playing the liturgy on the organ, conducting choral anthems and psalmody, taking the role of cantor in song leading, and we all sing in the choir.  This is really fun, but it can be a bit challenging when there are 10 directors in the same room! Still, we have managed to pull it all together and lead some really fine worship in the Gloria Dei Worship Center and Schenck Chapel.
A Window in Schenck Chapel

The dorms are better than any dorms I have ever been in! They are actually efficiency apartments so I have my own restroom and kitchenette with a microwave and an under the counter refrigerator. I’m also getting some exercise by hiking up to the third floor several times a day!

The seminary campus is lovely and in the middle of a really nice section of Bexley, Ohio.  There are several restaurants within walking distance – I’ve tried most of them. Another nice thing about this area – they seem to have ice cream shops on every corner.

The weather has been gorgeous and I enjoy the courtyard so much that I have sat outside reading my  textbooks as late at 9:00 p.m.

This program will take about 5 years to complete.  Please keep me in your prayers as I begin this new endeavor!
The courtyard

Sunday, April 28, 2013

An Expanded Organ for St. Mark's

Music is about color.  The color of a sound helps us determine whether a soprano is singing or a baritone.  It lets us know if the solo instrument in a concerto is a piano or a harpsichord.  Timbre is the word that musicians use to describe an instrument’s color.

Instruments and voices also have registers – high notes and low notes.  When a harp plays in its lower register, you can still tell that it’s a harp.  In a piano concerto, the piano is also discernible whether it plays in the very depths of the keyboard or high on the other end. So, each instrument has its own timbre.

The organ is different from most instruments in that it plays many timbres depending on what the organist chooses to use.  There are basic classes of organ sounds: foundation, flute, string, and reeds.  Even within these four categories there can be many different colors – an example would be flutes with woody sounds and flutes with metal sounds. It’s also important to know that these sounds are imitative organ sounds and not replacements for instruments by the same name.  If you have a viola stop (and we do!) it is not a replacement for an actual viola.

In 1984 Lydia Krueger donated money to secure a pipe organ for St. Mark’s new nave.  It was installed by the Zimmer pipe organ builders and served our congregation well for many years.  Mrs. Krueger’s gift is still with us today.  The pipes that she gave provide the basis for the expanded instrument.  Thanks to R. A. Colby and the Walker Technical Company, we have added many layers of color.  An apt analogy would be to say we have gone from a box of eight crayons to a box of twenty-four.  We have added everything from shimmering strings to a robust festival trumpet!  All of these additions made a new console necessary.  I hope that you will come up and take a look at it some time.  You are even allowed to play it!

By now you have noticed the visual component that was also added. The facade pipes have been rearranged to follow the arms of the Christus Victor statue.  The rectangular grid pipe shades have been replaced with a grapevine motif that is carried up from the altar. A new center tower covered with a dark brown grille cloth highlights the statue in the center. The Celebrate Team spent much time choosing a look that would highlight the statue rather than overshadow it with a new organ design.

Thank you to those who served on our organ committee: Jane Daugherty, Bill Ahrens, and Pastor Hanson.  Thank you to the Celebrate Team and last year’s Council for approving this project – especially Bernie Giancola (property chair) who oversaw the new electrical needs. Thank you to R. A. Colby and Associates for their very fine work – especially Brad, Sam, and Nick who spent about 5 days here on site.  Thank you to Bob Walker of Walker Technical Company who spent the better part of two days working on the tonal finishing.  Thank you to John Parkyn whose expertise was invaluable from the very beginning.  Finally, thank you to the people of St. Mark’s and all who have contributed financially to the organ.  This organ will support the church’s song at St. Mark’s for many years to come!

Find more photos of the installation process on our Facebook album titled Organ Refurbishment April 2013 at https://www.facebook.com/stmarksjax.  If you're on Facebook, please like us while you're there!

This short video shows off the new Festival Trumpet!

Photos: 1) The original Zimmer console  2) The facade of the organ  3) Our happy organ builders from R. A. Colby, Inc. L to R: Nick, Brad, Sam  4) The new console was wheeled down London Road and taken through the back gate into the nave  5)  Pipes coming down for the facade rebuild  6) Before and After shots of the facade.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Choir Reunion For October, 2013

St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church (Jacksonville) is looking for former choir members!  As part of the 75th anniversary celebration, there will be a choir reunion party with a catered dinner in the fellowship hall on Saturday, October 26th.  Dinner will be followed by a rehearsal in the music suite.  We will prepare and sing together at the 11:00 worship service on Sunday morning, October 27th, which is also Reformation Sunday!

Reservations for dinner will be required, but even if you can’t come for dinner, you are welcome to attend the rehearsal and Sunday morning worship.  Whether you sang in the choir for a few months or many years, we look forward to seeing you! You are also welcome to come only for the dinner if you can’t attend on Sunday morning.
We are in the process of collecting names and contact information for past members.  If you would like to receive updates about this event, please contact the current music director, Tony Cruz, at vespers@comcast.net. You may also call the church at 904-396-9608 x21.

The top picture is from 1942 and we have already located 2 people in this photo!  The bottom photo (by Bill Daugherty) is from 2007.