Music Message for October 4, 2020 from Danny
(If you do not see the music icons/links within this post, please click on the Oct. 4, 2020 title/link above.)
Chorale Prelude on Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan by Johann Peter Kellner
“Whate’er My God Ordains Is Right”
For this week, I again have some music by a Lutheran composer—this time I have a chorale prelude by Johann Peter Kellner. Kellner is known today mostly for his role in disseminating the music of J.S. Bach—through copies written out by him and by his colleagues. The piece of Kellner that I chose is his chorale prelude on the hymn “Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan.” Unlike some of the old Lutheran hymns that I’ve been looking at, this one does appear (and is relatively unaltered) in several hymnals today (though it doesn’t seem to be one that is done very often—at least at the churches where I’ve worked).
I’m not much of a literature or theology expert, but I think it is really interesting to think about which of the old hymn texts tend to be used in our churches today and which don’t. I especially notice that a lot of the old Lutheran hymns seem to be obsolete nowadays or to have never made it into the American or English churches’ hymnals. (I notice this probably because I spend a lot of time practicing sacred pieces by German composers from long ago.) One thing that seems to crop up a lot in these old hymns is the idea that death can be a comfort and something to look forward to. Last week, for example, the Pachelbel variations I played at the service were on the hymn “Alle Menschen muessen sterben”—literally translated, that first line means “all people must die.” Perhaps hymn texts like these aren’t as palatable to church goers nowadays—or at least not the ones that seem to state the fact so bluntly. I also think that this modern preference in hymn lyrics has a lot to do with the fact that most of us haven’t grown up seeing death around us as much as our ancestors did. (Sorry, I don’t mean to harp on the death theme–I just mention it because it really does happen in quite a lot of the old hymns, and I’ll probably look at some of them in future music messages.)
Anyway, though, here it is, my recording of Kellner’s Chorale Prelude on “Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan.” The melody of the hymn is played in long notes in the right hand, soprano voice—and I’m using the oboe stop so it should be easy to pick it out when listening.
And then I thought I’d also record the organ accompaniment for the hymn. Catherine Winkworth translated three of the original six stanzas in the nineteenth century (the text was first written in the seventeenth century by German poet and teacher Samuel Rodigast), and here are those words (which aren’t too directly about death, by the way). Anyway, though, thanks very much for listening and singing along this week, guys! Best to you!
1. Whate’er my God ordains is right,
Holy His will abideth;
I will be still whate’er He doth,
And follow where He guideth.
He is my God, though dark my road,
He holds me that I shall not fall:
Wherefore to Him I leave it all.2. Whate’er my God ordains is right
Though now this cup, in drinking,
May bitter seem to my faint heart,
I take it, all unshrinking.
My God is true; each morn anew
Sweet comfort yet shall fill my heart,
And pain and sorrow shall depart.
3. Whate’er my God ordains is right:
Here shall my stand be taken;
Though sorrow, need, or death be mine,
Yet I am not forsaken.
My Father’s care is round me there;
He holds me that I shall not fall:
And so to Him I leave it all.