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December 01, 2021 | #134 Piping Up! Organ Concerts at Temple Square

Piping Up! Organ Concerts at Temple Square is streamed online every Wednesday at 12:00 noon MDT. Piping Up! can be viewed on TheTabernacleChoir.org, the Choir’s YouTube channel, the Choir’s Facebook page, and Broadcasts.ChurchofJesusChrist.org. When concerts are concluded, they are available for on-demand viewing on the Choir’s website, YouTube and Facebook.

These programs continue the tradition of noon organ recitals at Temple Square—a tradition that has lasted for more than a century. The concerts are produced without an audience and comply with all COVID-19 guidelines. Each concert will feature a different Tabernacle or Temple Square organist and is hosted by Luke Howard.

Repertoire

Organist: Joseph Peeples

1. Rhapsodie sur des noëls. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Eugéne Gigout
2. a. Noël suisse, Grand jeu et duo, from Nouveau Livre de Noëls, no. 12 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Louis-Claude Daquin
    b. Coventry Carol . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . English carol
3. a. Come, Come, Ye Saints . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . arr. by organist
    b. In the Bleak Midwinter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Gustav Holst
4. Postlude on MENDELSSOHN ("Hark! The Herald Angels Sing") . . . David Willcocks

Focus Piece

An on-going feature of Piping Up! Organ Concerts at Temple Square is a focus piece with additional inspirational background on a specific repertoire selection. Written by host Luke Howard, a professor of music at Brigham Young University, the focus piece connects the music in a unique way to lift and inspire listeners.

“Coventry Carol” (arr. Sumsion)

“Coventry Carol” is an old Christmas song that has, unusually, remained intact for five hundred years. And it’s an unusual carol for Christmas time, anyway; there’s no joy, no celebration in the lyrics. Originally this carol was sung as part of a mystery play or pageant in the English city of Coventry, going back to the 16th century and possibly earlier. Apart from updating the spelling, the text has remained exactly the same as the version written down by Robert Croo in 1534. And the music has similarly endured with little subsequent adaptation.

The sobering words of “Coventry Carol” focus on the Massacre of the Innocents, the wholesale slaughter, order by King Herod, of all males two years of age and under in the city of Bethlehem. Traditionally the Feast of the Holy Innocents is commemorated on December 28, as part of the Christmas season in the liturgy.

When performed as a scene in the Coventry pageant, this song is sung by three Bethlehem mothers immediately after Joseph has been warned to take his family and flee to Egypt. The mothers sing this lullaby to calm their own children, knowing fully that those babies will be executed the following day. It’s a song of deep grief, not a lullaby of peace or rest.

Grief has been an accompaniment to Christmas from the very beginning. Mary was told “a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also.”1 And there was grief when the “Coventry Carol” was revived in the 20th century. During the BBC’s Christmas broadcast in 1940, shortly after the city of Coventry was heavily bombed and its cathedral almost completely destroyed, “Coventry Carol” was performed as the final work on the program, sung from the ruins of the cathedral. It was a carol of grieving that year for the thousands who were rendered homeless or childless by the violence of war. These words from the final verse must have felt like a sword piercing through their souls also:

“That woe is me, poor child, for thee
And ever mourn and may
For thy parting neither say nor sing,
‘Bye bye, lully, lullay.’”

There is hope at Christmas, of course. Jesus was spared from Herod’s brutal massacre, and He would bring life, peace, hope, and salvation to the world. The “Coventry Carol” reminds us that those beautiful, eternal gifts came at a high price. Joseph Peeples now performs Herbert Sumsion’s arrangement of the poignant “Coventry Carol.”

  1. Luke 2:35 (KJV)