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Sunday Music Musings July 18, 2020

July 19, 2020

The organ prelude is the first two movements of “Variations on the Ash Grove” (Welsh tune we are using for our Gloria) by Minnesota composer Christine Shulz. (I played a movement as postlude last week). I love her story: “Music has always been a very important part of my life.  I began taking organ lessons at age 4 and played for my first church service at Garden City Christian Church at age 7.  My dad built special pedal extensions so that I could reach the organ pedals!  At age 10, I was hired to provide organ music while people dined at the Cat ‘n’ Fiddle Supper Club near New Ulm — a few years later, I was “promoted” to waitress. Two months after graduating from Lake Crystal High School, my alto saxophone and I toured 7 European countries with the U.S. Collegiate Wind Band.  That fall, I began my seemingly endless college career at MSU, earning B.S. (music), A.S. (secretarial), and Master of Music (organ performance) degrees.  During this time, I was the accompanist for the MSU Concert Choir, and we were invited to perform at Bethlehem.  I remember falling in love with the big, beautiful sanctuary and wanted to get my fingers on the pipe organ!  I was delighted to learn in 1990 that Bethlehem was looking for an assistant organist.  I auditioned and was offered the job– but before deciding to take it, I attended a worship service to get a “feel” for the place.  The warm welcome from strangers and the four pastors, plus hearing the uplifting music, made my decision easy!”

Christine Schulz.jpg
Christine Schulz, composer

This reminds me of exactly 30 years ago when I was called to Grace church. The air-conditioning was broken when I auditioned, it was HOT and a lovely group of choir members came out to put me through my paces on hymn playing! I left for a Cape May vacation only to find a note from Father Bob Ihloff pinned to my front door upon my return—as they were frantically trying to get hold of me! Such was life before cell phones. In August I secretly visited a service in the congregation to “get a feel” and someone told me at the peace that I should join the choir! I took it as a good sign that the congregation was paying attention!

Composer Christine Schulz worked as a medical transcriptionist and part-time organist until after 16 years, and ready for a change, she also became office assistant position at Bethlehem Lutheran Church. She considers having “Variations on The Ash Grove” for organ published by MorningStar Music in 1995 a highlight of her career. She is secretary for the Sioux Trails Chapter of the American Guild of Organists, and since February of 1984, she’s been the rehearsal/performance pianist for over 130 musicals at MSU-Mankato. Everyone has their own way of crafting a life in music.

Our Hymn of the Day goes with the Old Testament lesson, of Jacob’s dream. Jacob’s Ladder is an English folk tune, set in our hymnal by Jack Noble White (of “First Song of Isaiah—Surely it is God who Saves me” fame). The words are by Harry Loper, and the only information about him in the hymnary is that he was living in Camden NJ in 1902. In the history of Tabernacle Methodist Episcopal Church, Camden NJ I found a bit more: “On Monday evening, November 25th, 1895, the new pipe organ was opened with a great recital by S. Tudor Strang, assisted by the Orpheus quartette. Many other improvements to the church were made…At the beginning of the year 1896, Rev. Thomas Harrison, known as the “Boy Preacher,” assisted in Revival Services, continuing for eight weeks. The singing was in charge of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Loper, the singing evangelists, who had been for some time members of Tabernacle Church. They rendered very efficient service in the Revival. The whole of North Camden was mightily stirred.”

Tabernacle Methodist Episcopal Church, Camden 1893

I love that there are so many talented parishoners in our church-so our postlude is Erik Donough on saxophone. When looking for wonderful solo instrument/no accompaniment music, J.S. Bach’s cello suites are a go-to. Suite No. in G is the first of 6 six Cello Suites, BWV 1007-1012, composed them during Bach’s Köthen period 1717–23. They were not well known until Pablo Casals began recording them 1936-1939, at which point they became extremely popular.

Prelude to Cello Suite No. 1 in G in Anna Magdalena’s handwriting

The Prelude from the first suite with its arpeggiated figures has inspired transcriptions for almost every instrument. Here’s Yo-Yo Ma who won a grammy for his recording of the cello suites. A quick search of YouTube found transcriptions for violin, viola, guitar, marimba, electric bass, flute, “Beach clarinet” …you get the picture! Enjoy Erik’s summery saxophone version!

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