The organ prelude, Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam, by Buxtehude (1637-1707), is an ornamented prelude based on an old German hymn by Luther (1483-1546). Following this prelude, the choir will sing Luther's hymn in German (English translation will be provided in the bulletin inserts). The lyrics reflect on the baptism of Christ. Many composers have set the original melody and words in different ways. You can listen to a very early setting of this hymn by Michael Praetorius (1571-1621) here.
"Christ our Lord came to the Jordan
in accordance with his father's will,
he received baptism from Saint John,
to fulfil his work and ministry.
By this he wanted to establish for us a bath
to wash us from our sins,
to drown also bitter death
through his own blood and wounds.
This meant a new life."
For the processional hymn, however, we have a rather abrupt shift into Epiphany mode with the hymn, We three kings. This duality continues through the service and creates a sort of mosaic effect. The anthem will be my own arrangement of, Down to the River to Pray, an African-American Spiritual highlighting baptism, and during communion, Katie Powell will sing, The Kings, by Peter Cornelius (1824-1874). In my anthem, you here a simple, almost Gospel music inspired setting of the familiar song. The most famous interpretation, of course, is from the 2000 movie, O Brother, Where Art Thou? You can listen to Alison Krauss' recording here.
Our communion piece, The Kings, is a beautiful piece that was originally written for a full choir and soloist, but our arrangement this Sunday is for soprano and organ. Katie will sing a text that reflects on the visitation of the Magi, and the organ will play the famous Epiphany hymn, How bright appears the morning star. You can listen to the original version for choir and soloist here.
This week, we celebrate the Baptism of Christ, but we also celebrate the Epiphany. In a way, we get two feasts rolled into one - or maybe it is a buffet! I hope you will join us as we start the season after Epiphany this week, and please be aware that we have three upcoming musical events this month. Stay tuned for more information.