Sunday 1st February – Epiphany 4
Prelude: Herr Gott, nun schleuß den Himmel auf (BWV 1092) – Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Communion: Mit Fried' und Freud' ich fahr' dahin (BWV 616) - Bach
Postlude: Fiat Lux – Theodore Dubois (1837-1924)
Tomorrow is Candlemas, when the Light of the World was presented in the Temple. Simeon's Nunc Dimittis is here presented in two Bach chorale preludes based on the hymn. The theme of light is continued in Dubois' 'Let there be light', a toccata which starts quietly and gradually builds up to a fortissimo climax.
Sunday 8th February – Epiphany 5
Prelude: Fugue in G minor (BWV 578) - Bach
Communion: Siciliano (from Flute Sonata in E flat, BWV 1031) – Bach, arr. C.H. Trevor
Postlude: Toccata and Fugue in D minor (BWV 565) - Bach
Today's postlude, the most famous of all organ works, needs no introduction – or does it? Doubt was cast upon the authenticity of its authorship and upon its origins as an organ piece by Peter Williams in two talks on BBC Radio 3 in 1981. Williams suggested that it originated as a piece for solo violin in A minor by a composer of the generation following Bach. He invited the violinist Jaap Schröder to prepare a version for solo violin and it does work excellently as a violin piece!
Sunday 15th February - The Sunday before Lent (The Transfiguration)
Prelude: For the mountains shall depart ('Elijah') – Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
Communion: Then shall the righteous ('Elijah') - Mendelssohn
Postlude: Then did Elijah the prophet ('Elijah') - Mendelssohn
The ascension of Elijah in a 'fiery chariot, with fiery horses' going up 'by a whirlwind to heaven', the subject of our first reading, is masterfully portrayed by Mendelssohn in his famous oratorio 'Elijah'.
Wednesday 18th February - Ash Wednesday
Prelude: O Lamm Gottes unschuldig (BWV 1095) - Bach
Communion: Lent Prose (NEH 507)
Postlude: O Lamm Gottes unschuldig – Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706)
Tonight's new moon marks the beginning of the Chinese Year of the Sheep. Christ as the 'lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world' is invoked in these two chorale preludes on a metrical version of the Agnus Dei.
Sunday 22nd February – Lent 1 Music by Estonian composers
Prelude: Ave Maria – Peeter Süda (1883-1920)
Communion: Largo – Rudolf Tobias (1873-1918)
Postlude: Maestoso – Edgar Arro (1911-1978)
Tuesday marks the 96th anniversary of the declaration of the Estonian republic in 1918, and therefore I play three pieces by Estonian composers to mark the occasion.
Arro's Maestoso was written in 1943 during the most tragic days of the Second World War when Estonia was already under occupation - an occupation which lasted until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, when Estonia regained its independence.
Sunday 1st March - Lent 2 Music by Welsh composers for St. David's Day
Prelude: Pie Jesu (Requiem) - Karl Jenkins (b. 1944)
Communion: A sad pavan for these distracted times – Thomas Tomkins (1572-1656)
Postlude: Processional – William Mathias (1934-1992)
Tomkins was born at St. David's. His 'sad pavan' was written a fortnight after Charles I's beheading. Tomkins himself felt the full force of Cromwell's military coup – the organ which he had designed at Worcester Cathedral was destroyed by Cromwell's troops and he lost his job as cathedral organist. Although he was allowed to remain in his house in the Close, he never lived to see the Restoration.
William Mathias was born in Whitland, Dyfed. From 1970-1988 he was Professor and Head of the Music Department at the University College of North Wales Bangor. He was known as a conductor and pianist and gave or directed many premières of his own works. In 1972 he founded the North Wales Music Festival at St Asaph Cathedral and remained its artistic director until his death.
Sunday 8th March - Lent 3 Music by women composers for International Women's Day
Prelude: Prelude and Fugue on 'St. Mary's' – Elizabeth Stirling (1819-1895)
Communion: Verset: 'Tantum ergo sacramentum' – Juliette Folville (1870-1946)
Postlude: Prelude and Fugue in D minor – Clara Schumann (1819-1896)
Born in Greenwich, Elizabeth Stirling was an eminent London organist of the mid-Victorian period. In 1856 she submitted her exercise for the Oxford degree of Bachelor of Music, but, although accepted, it was not performed, as Oxford at this time restricted degrees to men only (the ban on women graduates was lifted as late as 1920).
Eugénie-Emilie Juliette Folville was born in Liege, Belgium. In 1897 she took a position teaching piano at the Liege Conservatory. She lived for several years in London.
A pupil of her father Friedrich Wieck, Clara Schumann gave her first recital at the age of nine and could play the piano concertos of Mozart and Hummel from memory whilst still a child. A pianist of the first rank, married to Robert Schumann in 1840, most of Clara's compositions were for her own instrument, but her list of works include songs and string trios. The three preludes and fugues of op.16 were written in 1845 and published by her husband as a birthday present.
Sunday 15th March - Lent 4
Prelude: Irish Tune from County Derry – Percy Grainger (1882-1961)
Communion: God so loved the world ('The Crucifixion') – John Stainer (1840-1901)
Postlude: The immovable Do (or The cyphering C) – Percy Grainger
'The immovable Do' was conceived coincidentally. One morning Grainger was practising on one of his harmoniums when the mechanism of the high C broke so the instrument continuously played the tone automatically. Grainger being inventive as always improvised around the drone creating a new piece. The piece ‘draws its title from one of the two kinds of Tonic sol-fa notation. I chose the one with an ‘immovable Do’ (in which ‘Do’ always stands for C). In my composition – which is not based on any folksong or popular tune – the ‘ immovable Do’ is a high drone on C which is sounded throughout the whole piece. It seemed natural for me to plan it simultaneously for different mediums seeing that such music hinges upon intervallic appeal rather than upon effects of tone colour’. The drone on the high C's are played by wedging two pencils in the organ keys!
Sunday 22nd March - Passion Sunday
Prelude: Majesté du Christ ('L'Ascension') – Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992)
Communion: The Primerose – Martin Peerson (b.1571-73, d.1650-51)
Postlude: O Mensch, bewein' dein' Sünde groß (BWV 622) - Bach
The text for Messiaen's 'Majesty of Christ praying that His Father should glorify him' comes from today's Gospel. Martin Peerson's 'primrose' from the 'Fitzwilliam Virginal Book' acknowledges that last Friday night we reached the Spring Equinox, the fixed point which determines the date of Easter. Bach's hauntingly beautiful chorale prelude on 'O man thy grievous sin bemoan' comes from his 'Little Organ Book', compiled at Weimar around 1714, when he was 28 years old.
Sunday 29th March - Palm Sunday
Communion: Herzlich thut mich verlangen (BWV 727) - Bach
Postlude: In tears of grief ('St. Matthew Passion') – Bach
A chorale prelude on the famous 'Passion Chorale' during the communion is followed by the final chorus from Bach's St. Matthew Passion' as a postlude.