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October 13, 2021 | #127 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. Recessional. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Robert Cundick
2. a. Fantasia in G Minor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Johann Sebastian Bach
b. Finale, from Sonata no. 6 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Felix Mendelssohn
3. a. Come, Come, Ye Saints . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . arr. by organist
    b. An Old Melody: Beautiful Savior. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . arr. by organist
4. Pièce héroïque . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .César Franck

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.

“Fantasia” in G minor, from BWV 542 (J. S. Bach)

Anyone who has studied tonal music theory understands the harmonic significance of a pedal point. Tonal harmony is commonly heard and analyzed in relation to the lowest note, the bass note of the chord. When that bass note is held for a long time—say, for example, on the pedal of an organ piece—then it becomes a “pedal point,” and everything that happens harmonically in the other parts is anchored by the powerful harmonic pull of that pedal point.

J. S. Bach understood better than any composer the emotional power of dissonance. He used it with extraordinary finesse, especially when he wished to express emotional tension in a cantata, a chorale harmonization, or works where the text indicated grief, suffering, anguish, or distress. And he applied that principle to purely instrumental works as well, in order to elicit the same affective response in the hearer.

When dissonances are untethered, and the harmonic tension compounds with each new chord, there is a palpable sense of feeling harmonically lost or uncertain. The passage of music shifts anxiously, aimlessly, seeking resolution but not knowing where to find it. But that same passage, when played over a pedal point, takes on the harmonic stability of that bass note. It is anchored, and the dissonant movement can be heard as departing from or moving toward the resolution and consonance established by the pedal point.

I realize this description is a metaphor—we’re applying labels of human emotions to an essentially acoustic phenomenon. But this is how Bach and his colleagues thought about music and its potential to move the listener.

In our own experiences, too, there are times when life’s dissonances seem to compound on each other, making us feel untethered from the spiritual and emotional consonance we crave. Saint Paul taught that a hope in God’s immutable counsel can be “an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast,” by which we can tell more clearly if we are departing from or approaching nearer to the peace and reconciliation God offers.1 That formidable “pedal point” of spiritual hope pulls us to where we want and need to be.

We’ll hear now Bach’s marvelous application of both untethered dissonance and the power of pedal points in the Fantasia in G minor, from BWV 542.

  1. Hebrews 6:19.