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October 06, 2021 | #126 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. A Trumpet Minuet . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Alred Hollins
2. a. Allegro, from Concerto no. 6. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . George Frideric Handel
b. Come, Sweetest Death, Come, Blessed Rest. . . . . . . . . . . .Johann Sebastian Bach
3. a. Come, Come, Ye Saints . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . arr. by organist
b. An Old Melody: Gentle Annie. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .arr. by organist
4. Finale, from Symphony no. 2. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Charles-Marie Widor

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.

“Come, Sweetest Death, Come, Blessed Rest” (J. S. Bach, arr. Fox)

Sometimes on Piping Up we’ve talked about music that was attributed to Bach, but with some doubt about the attribution, mainly on the grounds of style. Some scholars felt a particular work didn’t sound enough like Bach, didn’t fit with the traits of his music. Today, we have the flip side of that judgment. The sacred aria “Komm, süsser Tod,” was published in 1736 in a large volume of sacred songs, comprising 954 texts and 69 melodies. We know Bach edited and revised the music for many of these songs. How many did he actually compose himself? Perhaps as few as three. But “Komm, süsser Tod,” BWV 478, is one of those three arias, and is almost universally considered to be authentically by J. S. Bach primarily on the basis of style. It just sounds a whole lot like Bach!

The lyrics of this sacred aria anticipate death: “Come, sweetest death, come, blessed rest. Come, lead me to peace, because I am weary of the world.”1 The German word “Weltschmerz” hadn’t been coined yet when Bach wrote this aria, but the sentiment, the feeling of overwhelming sadness at the suffering and pain of mortality, had of course existed for a long time.

Bach uses the first four notes of the melody—a descending minor scale—to signify this awaited death. Baroque musicians felt that specific states of the soul could be represented directly in music, and the falling phrase, especially this particular descending four-note pattern, was a very common symbol of grief, sadness, and lamentation in the baroque era.

But is there hope in this piece, too? Any signifier of faith, the resilience to endure? Those might be hard to find, admittedly. Another feature of baroque music is that it tends to focus on one single affect or emotion at a time. But there are, in the middle of all these descending phrase shapes, moments when the melody lifts, leaps upward. The lyrics, too, speak of looking up toward Jesus, heaven, and the angels, for final comfort and rest.

It’s true that grief and sadness aren’t always easily brushed aside. There’s no instant remedy, not even death, that’s guaranteed to make everything feel better. Perhaps Bach understood how this aria could express the reality that sometimes we just need to acknowledge and own our grieving and sadness, even as we look to heaven and hope for relief.

Our organist today, Richard Elliott, plays Virgil Fox’s exquisite arrangement of Bach’s “Come, Sweetest Death, Come, Blessed Rest.”

  1. Translation from the original German lyrics by Luke Howard.