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Sunday’s Worship Music

The Organ Voluntary
Now Thank We All Our God
Sigfrid Karg-Elert

8:30 Offertory
An Anthem
Brian Mann, arr. Tom Trenney
The Youth Choir
Anna Barson, cello

11:00 Offertory
How Lovely is Thy Dwelling Place
Johannes Brahms
Chancel Choir

THIS MORNING’S ORGAN VOLUNTARY is from the pen of German romantic composer Sigfrid Karg-Elert (1877-1933). He spent most of his life in Leipzig and received his musical education at the Conservatory there; he would later join its faculty, teaching music theory and composition. Karg-Elert began his compositional career writing music mostly for the piano at the urging of his mentor Edvard Grieg. In addition to his pursuits at the organ, he became entranced by the harmonium (also known as the reed organ) and would ultimately compose one of the most significant and extensive catalogues of original works for that instrument. The provincial cultural climate in Germany during the 1920s and 1930s was especially unkind to the worldly Karg-Elert.  Although his music was widely admired outside Germany, especially in the UK and the United States, he was branded an élite and it was almost completely ignored in his homeland. This led him to try his hand at concertizing, and in 1932 he accepted an invitation to tour America as a concert organist. Alas, his limited skills were no match for the virtuoso performances American audiences had come to expect from the likes of Marcel Dupré, Louis Vierne and others. This, combined with his penchant for solace and confidence of the 80-proof variety, rendered the tour a disaster. Karg-Elert would die the following year from diabetes. This morning we hear his Chorale-Improvisation on Now Thank We All Our God (subtitled Triumphant March). Although Johann Crüger’s famous melody of 1647 is presented in its entirety, it remains mostly hidden amidst rhythmic alterations; yet, the work’s energy and rich harmonies project a joyous, even triumphant spirit of thanks and praise.