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Music of the Month: Lord of Our Life

The music of the month is Lord of Our Life, a sturdy partita by Kenneth T. Kosche, which uses the mighty tune ISTE CONFESSOR. The first four movements include “Theme,” “Trio,” “Bicinium,” and “Chorale,” and are interpretations of the first line of each stanza. The partita closes with a bright “Finale.”

Theme: “Lord of our life and God of our salvation …”

The theme begins with twenty measures of a buoyant, march-like rhythm that is found primarily in the pedal. The hymn is then introduced using a strong trumpet stop. If the instrument the organist is using does not include a solo reed strong enough to compete with a plenum chorus, the organist may need to couple higher octaves with a regular trumpet and/or add mixtures to be sure the melody is audibly featured.

While the tune is introduced, the pedal line continues the same rhythm from the first twenty measures of the theme. This adds a forward-moving feel to the strong and sturdy tune. By the end of the theme, the parts played on the manuals incorporate this dotted rhythm as the piece builds to a final, triumphant major chord.

Trio: “See round Your ark the hungry billows curling …”

The trio is written in the meter 12/8, and the two manuals and pedal combine to create a “vigorous” and “snarly” tone, as Kosche calls for. The piece begins with both hands playing on the swell, using a small plenum with a chorus reed and a Cymbal III mixture. The pedal uses a 16’ reed stop to add that “snarly” component to the 12/8 meter.

At measure 12, the right hand moves to the great to feature the melody, using a trumpet, principal, and optional mixture. The melody cuts through the meter using duplets and tied notes. This technique shifts then to the pedal, and a clean and accurate articulation is necessary to convey the tone of this zesty trio.

Bicinium: “Lord, be our light when worldly darkness veils us …”

The bicinium uses just the manuals, and the first eleven measures use only the swell to build up to the melody line being played on the great in the bass clef. The swell is voiced using a small plenum and Cymbal III mixture, and the combination of sixteenth notes and dotted rhythm bring the 6/8 meter alive.

The melody at measure 12 marks the first time in the partita when the hymn tune is played in a bass octave. The bass sound of the trumpet pairs well with the light and lively articulation in the swell. After seven measures of the melody being played in 6/8, the trumpet adds ornamentation to the melody and features counterpoint technique with the swell. The piece ends in ritornello style, with the final ten measures concluding the bicinium on just the swell.

Chorale: “Peace in our hearts when sinful thoughts are raging …”

The chorale also uses just the two manuals. The right hand is played on the swell, using a plenum chorus with a mixture and chorus reed. The left hand, played on the great, uses two foundational principals. The swell features the melody, played in chords of half and quarter notes. The left hand features the movement, with eighth-note runs throughout the entire piece.

The articulation in the right hand is key, as the quarter-note chords need to be played staccato so the left hand isn’t muddied. A dramatic ritardando at the end of the piece marks a clear close to the chorale. Separation and emphasis on each note in the final three measures in the left hand will bring out the final chord and prepare wonderfully for the partita’s finale.


The finale uses elements of a fugue, as a full swell and great trade the melody back and forth, and it eventually works its way to the pedal. The finale is to be played “strong, crisp, and bright,” but not rushed.

If the organist is using an instrument with three manuals, the choir manual may be reserved for a festival trumpet stop that will add brilliant flourishes throughout the finale. The final ten measures of the finale are to be played broadly, as a reed is added to the chorus on the great. The manuals dictate the ritardando, as the pedal articulates the movement toward the resounding conclusion of the partita.

Text copyright © 2019 Concordia Publishing House

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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 at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Hillsdale, Michigan.

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