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February 23, 2022 | #146 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: Brian Mathias

1. Finale Jubilante. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Healey Willan
2. a. Ronde française . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Léon Boëllmann
    b. The Reed-grown Waters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Sigfrid Karg-Elert
3. a. Come, Come, Ye Saints . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . arr. by organist
    b. Wayfaring Stranger. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .arr. by organist
4. Final, from Symphony no. 2 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Louis Vierne

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.

“Wayfaring Stranger” (arr. Mathias)

The American folk hymn and spiritual “Wayfaring Stranger” is a deeply poignant, unequivocally sad hymn. In the broader repertoire of Christian hymnody there are many texts that rejoice in God’s goodness, that implore God for help in times of trouble, and trust that He will respond. Even those hymns that speak of this life as a pilgrimage suggest that God will help us along the pathway home. 

But the heartbreaking words of “Wayfaring Stranger” express no hope at all that things will improve in this life, even with strong faith and devotion to God. The song’s melody is thought to be perhaps Scottish in origin. The text might be derived from a German-language hymn penned in 1816. But this spiritual’s deeper message speaks directly to the oppressive conditions of African-American life in the 19th century. Each of the hymn’s verses ends with the couplet,

“I’m just a going over Jordan
I’m just a going over home.”

It was common in African-American spirituals to refer to liberation from enslavement as “crossing Jordan” or “going over Jordan,” using a biblical metaphor so as to not raise suspicion too overtly among the oppressors. But too frequently that freedom came only with death.

In the verses themselves, we learn that the singer’s father, mother, and siblings had already all “crossed over” into the next world. The life of wandering on this earth is, as the lyrics tell us, marked by “sickness, toil,” and “danger,” “dark clouds,” “rough and steep” pathways, and a pervasive sense of estrangement. You can feel the unfathomable weariness in the words.

Finally, in the fourth verse, after death, the pilgrim exclaims:

“I’ll drop the cross of self-denial,
And enter in my home with God.”1

For many, even today, the “cross of self-denial” remains an oppressive burden, and God’s promised rest can seem very distant. The bleakness expressed in this hymn might be understood as a condemnation of those who profess a belief in Christ while ignoring the heavy burdens of their fellow “wayfaring strangers.” Perhaps that’s where the hope lies in this song—that we might see more clearly the necessity of helping the weary, relieving the oppressed, and comforting the lonely and sad.

  1. https://hymnary.org/text/i_am_a_poor_wayfaring_stranger