One of the good things that has happened because COVID changed the way we worship at Skidaway Island Presbyterian Church in Savannah, Georgia, is the weekly Music Notes that our music director shares. She had been sharing them with the choir, but more recently has also shared them with the church community. When you read the notes you recognize how seriously Dr. Mary McKee takes choosing music for each worship service. The music is not the main thing, but it has to relate and enhance the worship.
Here are the notes for this week:
Two organ preludes will begin at 9:55 a.m. The first is an arrangement by Lani Smith of “For All the Saints” which will be sung as the opening hymn. The original hymn tune is by one of England’s most acclaimed composers, Ralph Vaughan-Williams. In Sunday’s arrangement it is presented three times, each time with a more elaborate accompaniment. The second prelude is an arrangement by John M. Rasley of “Evan” by W. H. Havergal. For those familiar with the hymn, Rasley keeps every note of the tune but alters the rhythm making it almost unrecognizable yet creates a piece that beautifully sets the tone on a Sunday when we remember those who have died.
After Gene sings the first hymn, “For All the Saints,” he will next sing “Psalm 84” adapted by David G. Preston and recommended by Diane Tracy. The Irish tune, “Londonderry Air” will be familiar and an enchanting setting for the psalm which begins “O Lord of hosts, how lovely is Your dwelling place.”
After the sermon, Ben Cork will play Adagio from Sonata No. 1 in G Minor by J. S. Bach, one of three sonatas for unaccompanied solo violin in which Bach explores and expands the limits of the violin while taking the listener on a spiritual journey. Ben, originally from Atlanta, is in his final year at Georgia Southern University pursuing a BA in Music Performance. He is the concert master of the Georgia Southern Symphony and the first violinist of the Honors Magnolia String Quartet. He teaches violin and viola to middle and high school students in Brunswick as well as to all ages in the Statesboro area.
During communion, a piece for piano and violin will be played titled “Spiegel im Spiegel” by Arvo Pärt which means “mirror in the mirror,” an infinity mirror in which images reflect unto each mirror and become smaller and smaller into infinity. Pärt employs his own compositional creation called tintinnabulation in which there are two simultaneous voices, the first in the piano that plays tonic triads meditatively throughout the piece and the second voice in the violin that plays fragments of slow scales. Pärt defines tintinnabulation as “an area I sometimes wander into when I am searching for answers – in my life, my music, my work. In my dark hours, I have the certain feeling that everything outside this one thing has no meaning. The complex and many-faceted only confuses me, and I must search for unity. What is it, this one thing, and how do I find my way to it? Traces of this perfect thing appear in many guises – and everything that is unimportant falls away. Tintinnabulation is like this. . . . The three notes of a triad are like bells. And that is why I call it tintinnabulation.”
The closing hymn is “Let Us Talents and Tongues Employ,” words by Fred Kaan and music of a Jamaican folk melody. Kaan, who died in 2009, was from the Netherlands and committed to working for peace and justice. A phrase in the first verse sums up the music and message after communion, “reaching out with a shout of joy.”
The postlude, “Light Eternal” by Lani Smith carries on the spirit of hope and joy from the final hymn and the message of eternal light that lives on in death.