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Monday, May 12, 2008

Musical Musings: Fire & Freedom edition

Yesterday the Church celebrated the Day of Pentecost and for this year's festivities I have a roundup of music that expresses the Spirit of resurrection, renewal, restoration and reconciliation; I'm especially excited to hear about your particular Pentecostal Favorites in the comments!

It has been called "the apotheosis of the dance!"--Beethoven, Symphony No. 7; this Leonard Bernstein recording includes another of my Beethoven favorites, Symphony #2. Herbert von Karajan's classic version with the Berlin Philharmonic is complete on YouTube.

In the Acts 2 scriptures for Pentecost we hear Jesus promise, "John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit...and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." In the book of Joel we find another Divine promise, "I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions," remembered so clearly by Peter and quoted in Acts 2. John reveals to the world in Revelation 21, "Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God..." Aligned with that same Spirit of newness, Carly Simon sings "Let the River Run--Come, the New Jerusalem" from the 1988 film Working Girl:
We're coming to the edge, running on the water, coming through the fog, your sons and daughters. Let the river run, let all the dreamers wake the nation. Come, the New Jerusalem.
here's the sequence from the film.

Written and originally recorded long ago by The Youngbloods, "Get Together" reminds us "the Dove is on the wing," and Wilson Phillips has a recent version on their CD, California.

I had to include Bob Dylan's literally iconic Blowin' in the Wind, with its recurring response "The answer is blowin' in the wind" to the persistent question, "How many...". His own recording can be found in his album The Best of...

From J.S. Bach's 18 great chorales for organ, a splash of splendor for you organists to play or for anyone to listen to, his fantasy on «Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott» - "Come, Holy Ghost, Lord God," BWV 651; Walter Kraft has made a recording.

Also by The Fifth Evangelist, J.S. Bach, a sparkling bright motet for vocal soloists, chorus and continuo, BWV 226, «Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf» - "The Spirit Also Helps us in our Weakness..." I'm especially partial to this because I played organ continuo for a performance of this piece on a famous organ with a locally well-known chorus. I like this affordable 2-CD set that includes all ten motets performed by Helmuth Rilling with the Stuttgart Bach Collegium.

A hymn that may be less-familiar to those who haven't hung out in Lutheran circles is O Day Full of Grace, "Den signede Dag" written by N.F.S. Grundtvig, 1826, with tune composed in the same year by C.E.F. Weyse. The text includes, "God came to us then at Pentecost, his Spirit new life revealing, that we might no more from him be lost, all darkness for us dispelling. This flame will the mark of sin efface and bring to us all his healing." The hymn is #161 in the Lutheran Book of Worship and #627 in Evangelical Lutheran Worship.

Revelation Song by Kari Jobe is a Spirit-filled contemporary song in the contemporary praise genre.

Likely almost everyone knows and probably loves Ralph Vaughn Williams' elegant tune Down Ampney, "Come Down, O Love divine"; Bianco of Siena prayed the original...
Come down, O love divine, seek Thou this soul of mine, and visit it with Thine own ardor glowing...O let it freely burn, 'til earthly passions turn to dust and ashes in its heat consuming...
I've enjoyed playing Jan Bender's organ partita, "Four Variations on Down Ampney," published by Augsburg in 1971, but apparently it's currently out of print.

For a concluding taste of fire and freedom, I'll recommend Charles W. Ore's festive prelude on «Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott» - "Come, Holy Ghost, God and Lord," published by Concordia; Charles Ore has recorded this piece along with more than a dozen others on From My Perspective; on the same site you can listen to an MP3.

May this season of Pentecost be a green and growing one for all of you...

Alleluia! The Spirit of Life fills the World! Alleluia, Alleluia!


  1. Thank you for this rich feast Leah Sophia! I especially love the Carly Simon piece.

  2. Love the Charles Ore reference in particular! He was my organist in the call I just recently left. A BLESSING!!!! I am sure I will never again work with someone that talented!

  3. I LOVE these musical recommendations! Thank, off to spend money buying the music I don't have...


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