This year, the Church celebrates the Day of Pentecost on May 23, marking the end of the season of Easter. The word “Pentecost” literally means “fifty,” as it falls fifty days after Easter Day.
On the Day of Pentecost, Jesus’ apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit and given the ability to speak in many languages, which they used to spread the Gospel to all people and cultures. The Day of Pentecost marks the beginning of the “Time of the Church” in the Church Year—that half of the Church Year where the paraments in the sanctuary remain green and God’s people hear, in more detail, about the works and ministry of Jesus.
Benjamin Kolodziej has composed three new organ hymn preludes on Pentecost tunes that are fitting not only for the Day of Pentecost, but throughout the entire Season after Pentecost.
The first in the Light Divine collection is a setting of FARLEY CASTLE, a tune that accompanies three different hymns in Lutheran Service Book (#631 “Here, O My Lord, I See Thee Face to Face”; #769 “Eternal Spirit of the Living Christ”; and #786 “Lord of All Good”). As the tune appears both in C and D major in LSB, the prelude is provided in both keys in this collection.
“Every time I’ve played that tune, it struck me as a Psalm tune; like a Genevan Psalter tune,” Kolodziej said of the 16th-century hymn tune. “I was inspired to compose something simple. The melody is in the pedal with a simple polyphonic accompaniment in the manuals.”
With the cantus firmus in the pedal, Kolodziej said the parallel sixths in the manuals provide a repetitive pattern that shouldn’t be too difficult to get used to.
“I hope they might remind you of exercises you’ve done in your organ studies,” Kolodziej said. “I didn’t mean for this to be a technical challenge.”
The registration suggested for the prelude on FARLEY CASTLE is a full plenum with mixture in the manual and a plenum with a reed in the pedal to emphasize the melody. Kolodziej said a lighter registration could befit the prelude.
“I really debated about the registration because I could hear it in a number of ways,” Kolodziej said. “I could hear it with 8-foot flutes in the manual and an 8-foot principal in the pedal.”
The place in the church service for this prelude may determine the registration for this prelude. If an organist is playing it during communion in conjunction with the communion hymn “Here, O My Lord, I See Thee Face to Face” (LSB #631), a more reflective registration would be appropriate. If an organist is playing the setting as a postlude on Pentecost in conjunction with the Pentecost hymn “Eternal Spirit of the Living Christ” (LSB #769), the fuller registration would be a suitable conclusion to the festive celebration of the Day of Pentecost.
The second setting in the collection is a lively version of IN BABILONE, which is set to the hymns “Holy Spirit, Ever Dwelling” (LSB #650) and “Son of God, Eternal Savior” (LSB #842) in Lutheran Service Book.
“This was one of my favorite pieces. I was creating daily hymn videos on Facebook from March 15, 2020, to March 15 this year. From them came a number of hymn settings I eventually wrote down, and this was one I composed for Pentecost last year,” Kolodziej said. “I composed it as an improvisation and after putting it online I decided it was worth writing down.”
The setting is unique in that it’s written in 8/8 meter. The eighth-note rhythm in the ritornello theme is emphasized on particular beats, which is indicated in the first line of the score. This sprightly rhythm is accentuated by the open registration: 8-foot and 2-foot flutes in one manual.
The melody is first stated in chord clusters with string stops in another manual, while the left hand maintains the accented rhythm on the other manual. All the while, the pedal provides rhythmic steadiness with eighth notes during the ritornello sections and sustained tones that match the melodic rhythm once it enters.
After the melody is stated once in tandem with the ritornello theme, the melody is stated a second time in the pedal, and the registration in both the pedal and manuals is increased as the setting crescendos to a full finish.
Kolodziej said the most important part of the piece is keeping the rhythm consistent throughout the different sections: the ritornello, the melody, and the conclusion with the cantus firmus in the pedal.
“Sometimes this looks harder on paper than it actually is,” Kolodziej said. “The eighth note remains constant the whole time.”
The final setting in the collection is a prelude on Orlando Gibbons’ SONG 13, the tune for the Pentecost hymn “Holy Spirit, Light Divine” (LSB #496).
“I was inspired by Healey Willan and Paul Manz with this setting,” Kolodziej said. “Like with the first piece, there are parallel sixths throughout. The cantus firmus is in the left hand in long whole-note values.”
Kolodziej said he wanted to compose something peaceful and meditative for this tune, but that the setting shouldn’t be played too slowly since the melody is stated in whole notes and it shouldn’t be lost to the listener by too slow a tempo.
“I had in mind something gentle,” Kolodziej said. “Pentecost has many themes. The Spirit is a gentle dove but also a roaring fire.”
The melody is stated once in this setting with interludes that Kolodziej said might invoke the orchestral ritornello in the English melodic tradition.
“I’m not straying too far from the tonic harmony here,” Kolodziej said. “It’s just one iteration of the tune; this could be used for prelude music before the service, as an offertory or voluntary, or during communion.”
Add this collection to your music repertoire by ordering Light Divine: Three Pentecost Hymn Setting for Organ below.