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Music of the Month: Jesus Has Come—Eight Organ Preludes for the Church Year

This collection contains an array of settings that will appeal to organists of all ability levels and sensibilities. The melodies are set in alluring, recognizable ways and are suitable for preludes, voluntaries, and postludes. Matthew Machemer uses a variety of styles: Baroque writing with clean, contrapuntal lines; dramatic settings with lush harmonies; and elegant, understated treatment, useful throughout the Church Year.

Using This Volume

As various congregations return to their sanctuaries this summer to again worship and receive the Lord’s gifts together, they’ll greet a new season of the Church Year: the Season after Pentecost. For organists looking for new music to enhance their church’s worship this summer, Machemer’s latest volume of preludes for the Church Year will be timely.

The eight hymn tunes in this volume are sure to be in many congregations’ repertoire of hymns during the Season after Pentecost; from the festival of the Holy Trinity through the Day of Thanksgiving. Although the tunes in this volume are familiar, Machemer uses a distinct variety of styles, meters, and textures to present these eight tunes in a new and refreshing way.

Machemer includes German tunes ES IST DAS HEIL, LOBT GOTT DEN HERREN, IHR, O DURCHBRECHER, JESUS IST KOMMEN, GRUND EWIGER FREUDE, and LOBE DEN HERREN; the more recent Western European tunes AR HYD Y NOS and HAF TRONES LAMPA FÄRDIG; and even the modern American tune FORTUNATUS NEW.

AR HYD Y NOS

The tune AR HYD Y NOS appears in Lutheran Service Book for three different hymns, making this setting quite serviceable. Machemer features the melody in the pedal line, while the two treble voices trade a colorful rhythm and harmonic texture back and forth. This setting is unique to the tune and provides organists with a variant setting of the well-known tune.

“One of the things I try to do is play and listen to a big variety,” Machemer said. “A lot of times when I approach something from a composing standpoint, I’ve got a type of sound in mind that I’m thinking of or looking for—or something I’ve heard someone play recently.”

Having ideas in mind for how he wants to approach or interpret a hymn tune when writing a new setting is one of the ways Machemer approaches writing new music. Although some inspiration for prelude settings comes from improvising or experimenting on the organ bench, he said it’s also useful to sit down away from the keyboard and execute an idea on paper.

“Sometimes it’s easy to get into a rut as a musician. If you’re a keyboardist, you find your fingers and feet going to the same spot all the time,” Machemer said. “Sometimes being at the desk shakes me out of that so I don’t fall into the same patterns all the time.”

ES IST DAS HEIL

Another way Machemer interprets tunes in a fresh way in this volume is by writing the prelude in a different meter than the chorale hymn tune that congregations sing. For example, his setting of ES IST DAS HEIL, a chorale sung in a square 4/4 meter, appears in 6/8 meter in this volume.

“I wanted to give it dancing type of sound,” Machemer said. “[Changing the meter] may arise out of the needs you have or what you want to do with the tune, but other times it’s a desire for something different; something you haven’t heard in other settings before.”

FORTUNATUS NEW 

The setting of FORTUNATUS NEW is another example of using meter to feature a tune in a distinct way. This tune, set to the Good Friday hymn “Sing, My Tongue, the Glorious Battle,” is also sung in a driving 4/4 meter. Machemer’s setting takes that assertive rhythm and applies the same texture to the harmonies in the prelude, written in 12/8.

“A couple of years ago I was playing a lot of Healey Willan music, which is dramatic and chromatic and has fun shifts in the tonality,” Machemer said. “I tried to write ‘Sing, My Tongue’ to sound something like that with big, more-than-four-voice chords and some unexpected shifts in the harmony.”

Even while Machemer presents these tunes in distinct and unique ways, they are still serviceable for organists to play as preludes, offertories, or postludes during the church service.

“They’re supposed to be used in the service. You want an interesting setting so it’s not perfunctory, but you want the tune there in an obvious way,” Machemer said. “Ultimately, you’re trying to reinforce those tunes and texts in an engaging way.”


Add these eight beautiful settings to your music library to use throughout the Church Year. 

Order the collection

 

Written by

Nathan Grime

Nathan Grime is from Fort Wayne, Indiana. He is a 2020 graduate of Hillsdale College, where he studied rhetoric, public address, and journalism. Currently, Nathan is the organist and Kantor intern at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Hillsdale, Michigan.

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