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March 16, 2022 | #149 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: Richard Elliott

1. Allegro, from Concerto after Vivaldi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Johann Sebastian Bach
2. Intermezzo, from Symphony no. 6 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Charles-Marie Widor
    b. Aria . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Flor Peeters
3. a. Come, Come, Ye Saints . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . arr. by organist
    b. Believe Me, If All Those Endearing Young Charms. . . . . . . . . . . . . .arr. by organist
4. Tu es petra . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Henri Mulet

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.

“Tu es petra” (Mulet)

In 1919, Henri Mulet completed a set of ten Esquisses byzantines—“Byzantine Sketches”—to celebrate the installation of the new organ at the landmark Basilica Sacré-Cœur that sits atop Montmartre in Paris. The basilica’s design was based on the early Byzantine style of church architecture, complete with dome and mosaics, even though the building itself dates from the late 19th century.

Somewhat unusually, Mulet’s Esquisses byzantines are dedicated not to an organist or a patron, but to the building itself. It was a building Mulet knew well; his father had served as choirmaster at the Basilica, and his mother played harmonium in the church. Not surprising, then, that each of the ten “sketches” in the set is named either for a portion of the sacred liturgy, or more frequently a portion of the building: the nave, stained-glass windows, rose window, bell tower, and so on.

The last movement, a brilliant toccata, is titled in full, “Tu es Petra et portae inferi non praevalebunt adversus te.” It’s usually known simply as “Tu es Petra.” This title is an enigma. As a choral singer, I have over the last half century performed numerous motet settings of the biblical text, “Tu es Petrus,” “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”1 Mulet’s title uses, however, the feminine form of the Latin word for “rock”—“Petra” instead of “Petrus”—and leaves out the phrase “and upon this rock I will build my church.” If this is a reference to sacred scripture, it seems odd—bordering on blasphemous—to alter it so dramatically as the title for an untexted piece of music. Why would Mulet do that?

It turns out that in this title, Mulet refers not to the ancient apostle Peter, but to the Basilica Sacré-Cœur itself. Its white limestone construction, on top of the rocky outcrop of Montmartre, is both the “rock” and the “church,” the “Petra” of the title, and Mulet’s glorious toccata celebrates its permanence in the face of all kinds of sinister threats from below.

There are many musical compositions that commemorate the institution of the church. There aren’t very many that celebrate the physical structure of a sacred building. And yet the safety, sanctuary, refuge, and holiness the institution seeks to offer relies fundamentally on the sacred physical space created by a church building, a space carved out of the everyday spaces we inhabit the rest of the time.

Our program closes now with Henri Mulet’s brilliant organ toccata, “Tu es Petra,” from the Esquisses byzantines.

  1. Matthew 16:18.