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March 17, 2021 | #97 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. Sinfonia, from Cantata no. 29 ("We Thank Thee , God") . . . Johann Sebastian Bach
2. Prelude on a Swedish Folk Song ("Värmeland, the Beautiful") . . . . . Robert Cundick
3. a. Come, Come, Ye Saints . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . arr. by organist
    b. An Old Melody: Slane . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .arr. by organist
4. Concert Variations on the Austrian Hymn . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .John Knowles Paine

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.

“Even Song” (La Montaine)

The American composer John La Montaine was an eclectic musician, drawing on so many different inspirations and influences in his music—from medieval chant to jazz, from folksong to avant-garde experiments. No one piece of his is quite like another. But in any artist’s work and career, there is always a through-line, a connecting thread that pulls together the variety and distinctiveness of their creations. For La Montaine, that through-line included a career-long interest in the Bible and Christian liturgy.

La Montaine composed, for example, three Christmas mini-operas, and a trilogy of Christmas song cycles for chorus and soloists. Two more song cycles, for soprano and orchestra, set biblical texts. Another orchestral work is based on the Song of Solomon. He wrote a setting of the Te Deum and a “Mass of Nature” in the 1960s. So the 1952 organ piece titled “Even Song”—La Montaine’s first of a handful of works for organ—invites at least a cautious look for inspiration in scripture and the liturgy.

I should point out that La Montaine’s title is two words (“Even Song”), not one word—“Evensong”—which is of course the evening service in the Anglican rite, the equivalent of Vespers. While that correlation would easily wrap up the inquiry, I wonder if the composer kept the two-word title for a reason.

“Even Song”—two words—is the direct English translation of the German “Abendlied.” And one of the best-known examples of an “Abendlied” in music is the superb 6-part motet by Josef Rheinberger, based on the biblical narrative of Christ’s appearance on the Road to Emmaus. And there’s definitely a narrative arc in La Montaine’s work, too: a peaceful opening, increasing harmonic tension, and then a resolution back to the opening stillness.

I’m not suggesting that La Montaine was inspired by Rheinberger directly, or that this organ work presents a similar “Road to Emmaus” narrative. If nothing else, thinking of La Montaine’s “Even Song” as an “Abendlied,” in the same family as Rheinberger’s, opens up many interpretive possibilities. Perhaps it illustrates some other biblical event that happened at eventide: the dove returning to the ark with an olive leaf,1 for example; Isaac and Rebekah seeing each other for the first time2; or the miracle of the loaves and the fishes.3 Or perhaps it simply marks a time for prayer, a time of sacred rest, of peace.

  1. See Genesis 8:11.
  2. See Genesis 24:63-64.
  3. See Luke 9:12-17.