During this stressful time, it’s important to count our blessings where we can. While we can’t meet as normal right now at church for our service on Sunday morning, I thought I could still take the opportunity to offer an organ piece through e-mail every week. It’s just on my electronic organ in my apartment (please excuse the squeaking organ bench), but it’s a nice chance to prepare something special I might not otherwise get to do.
It’s often trickier than one might think to pick out music that will fit with the lessons each week. For example, I remember one year at my church on Long Island, we prepared an anthem specially for Epiphany, but, as you can imagine, getting the choir all back together after Christmas wasn’t as possible as I had first thought it might be, and we had to move the piece to the week after. Our minister very graciously added some extra context during his sermon that Sunday so that the piece still seemed to fit even though it had clearly been meant for the reading from the week before. It’s not always the case that things work out so well though.
I often might think of a piece that will fit perfectly with a certain reading only for it to turn out there’s not quite enough time to learn it before the date. I then will have to wait until that reading comes around again. One of the readings given in the lectionary for last week was from Exodus. Whenever there’s a lesson from that part of the Old Testament, it always makes me think of one of my favorite organ pieces: Go Down, Moses arranged by Calvin Taylor.
Although we’ll have to wait until August for the readings that tell the story of Moses leading the people of Israel out of Egypt, I thought I’d go ahead and use this time to go ahead and offer a performance of Go Down, Moses. I first heard this piece at an American Guild of Organists concert in Minnesota in 2014, and then didn’t get a chance to play it until a couple years later when I was working at a church in Illinois.
The composer and concert artist Calvin Taylor was born in 1948, and he studied organ and composition at several prestigious music schools in the country. He has written several sets of pieces that make use of African-American spirituals, and Go Down, Moses is number one in a set entitled “Five Spirituals for Organ.” I hope you enjoy this selection from his music. -Danny Corneliussen