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February 02, 2022 | #143 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: Clay Christiansen

1. Festive Trumpet Tune. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . David German
2. a. Variations. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Dmitri Kabalevsky
    b. Adagio, from Symphony no. 3 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Louis Vierne
3. a. Come, Come, Ye Saints . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . arr. by organist
    b. All Through the Night . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . arr. by organist
4. Toccata, from Symphony no. 5 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Charles-Marie Widor

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.

“Adagio” from Symphony No. 3 (Vierne)

Those of you who have studied some music theory know the note that determines whether a chord is major or minor is the middle note of the triad—the third of the chord. The bottom note is used to name the harmony, so a C-chord, for example—C, E, and G—is a triad that has C as its root. The fifth of the chord is G. But it’s the third of the chord—in this case, E—that determines whether that C-chord is “C major” or “C minor.” All it takes to turn C-major to C-minor is to drop that E down to an E-flat. The quality of the chord, or the mode of the harmony, changes with that one small shift.

For centuries, composers have employed the symbolic and expressive possibilities of shifting between major and minor modes in the same piece, sometimes within the same phrase, or even the same measure. It can express a bittersweet quality, a subtle but significant change of outlook. Depending on which direction it goes—major to minor, or vice versa, it can be a powerful musical symbol of moving from despair to hope, or alternatively, from elation to disappointment.

A common example is the Picardy third—sometimes called the “happy third.” That’s when an entire piece or section of music is in the minor mode, but at the final cadence, that third of the chord is raised to make it end in major harmony.

In the “Adagio” movement from Louis Vierne’s Symphony No. 3, all these varieties of mode shifts are present. The movement is nominally in B minor, but every time the main theme is harmonized, the accompaniment starts with major harmony that then shifts to minor in the next beat. As this intensely chromatic theme is developed, the mode shift sometimes goes in the opposite direction. And then, the final ten measures are an extended Picardy third. Vierne actually changes the key signature to B-major for this conclusion, and the main theme is heard, finally, without any tonal ambiguity at all.

Vierne wrote this symphony two years after his divorce, and in the same year that he lost his teaching position at the Paris Conservatoire. It should not be surprising if we hear disappointment in this music. It may be more surprising, yet relieving, to hear the calm and peace at the end.

I’m not suggesting that a shift from minor to major harmony expresses merely an “attitude adjustment.” That would be too simplistic. But this variable feature of harmonic modes can be used, even in purely instrumental music, to express the feelings of the Psalmist who wrote, “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”1

  1. Psalm 30:5.