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May 26, 2021 | #107 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. Venite! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .John Leavitt
2. a. In dir ist Freude. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Johann Sebastian Bach
    b. Sicilienne, from Suite. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Maurice Duruflé
3. a. Come, Come, Ye Saints . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . arr. by organist
    b. An Old Melody: Jesus Loves Me . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .arr. by organist
4. Litanies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jehan Alain

LISTENER REQUESTED SELECTION Go to the Piping Up! web page to make your request!

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.

“Litanies” (Jehan Alain)

The French organist and composer Jehan Alain was killed in action in June 1940—early in World War II, soon after the military offensive into France had been launched. He was only 29 years old, and in that moment the music world lost one of the most singular, innovative voices in 20th-century composition. Alain had been composing for only about ten years at the time of his tragic death, but had already produced nearly 150 works in that period. We’re lucky to have so much music from the pen of this remarkable musician, and yet it’s still heartbreaking that we don’t have so much more.

Jehan Alain had already known tragedy and heartbreak in his own family life. In 1937, his beloved younger sister, Marie-Odile, died in a mountaineering accident. She was only 23 years old. Just a few weeks earlier, Alain had completed the work that would become, by far, his best-known piece, the “Litanies.”

Alain included a touching inscription in the heading to his “Litanies” that expressed his own deep grief. It says: “When the Christian soul, in its distress, no longer finds new words to implore God’s mercy, it repeats over and over the same invocation with vehement faith. Reason has reached its limit. Faith alone continues its ascent.”1

But the distress of soul that the composer mentions in this dedication didn’t just arise from the anguish of losing a dear sister. She died after he’d finished composing the piece. His distress was the pain of everyday life as well. Alain was still a student at the time, trying to finish his coursework, support a family, work at least two jobs (teaching and playing), and all while the political climate in Europe was becoming tense and increasingly threatening. It was this that prompted Alain to write the “Litanies” that he hoped would fill his listener’s ears, and God’s ears, too, with an obsessive whirlwind of prayer. It’s not a lament at all—it’s a fiery windstorm of devotion and faith.

Alain gave a warning to any organist who attempted to play the “Litanies.” “If at the end,” he declared, “you are not completely exhausted, you have neither understood it, nor played it the way I intended.”2

Brian Mathias closes today’s program now with Jehan Alain’s “Litanies.” I expect he’ll be completely exhausted at the end.

  1. Jehan Alain, Litanies (Paris: Alphonse Leduc, 1939). Translation from French by Luke Howard
  2. Bernard Gavoty, Jehan Alain, musicien français, 1911-40 (Paris: Albin Michel, 1945), 82-83. Translation from French by Luke Howard.