This weekend my home congregation celebrated The Baptism of Our Lord. I was so excited as I looked over the bulletin because every hymn was a baptism hymn and the opening hymn was CW 89 To Jordan's River Came Our Lord. That meant I had reason to play J.S. Bach's "Christ, unser Herr, zum Jordan kam" (BWV 684), which I don't get to play that often since the chance of me playing organ falling on The Baptism of Our Lord when my church has five organists is pretty slim. But when I looked at CW 89 again and realized that it wasn't Luther's hymn of the same title, but used the hymn tune WINCHESTER NEW, I knew that my desire to play Bach for preservice wouldn't be understood by the casual congregation member.
Therein lies the church organist's dilemma: either play music which fits the theme of the service but might not be either a hymn chosen for the service or a hymn tune recognizable to the congregation, or never get a chance to play some of the greatest pieces of organ music ever written because your pastor never picks the hymns on which their tunes are based and thus be consigned to playing preludes, offertories, voluntaries, or postludes on the same old hymns over and over.
Of course, I chose to play the Bach for preservice. Why pass up a chance to play Bach? Here's Johann Sebastian Bach's setting of "Christ, unser Herr, zum Jordan kam" (BWV 684) as played on an organ built by a contemporary of Bach:
So what's the problem? I'm pretty sure the congregation had no clue (a) what I was playing or (b) why I was playing it. My church doesn't ask organists to put the titles of their preservice music in the bulletin, so the congregation usually is at a loss to know what the organist is playing for preservice, offering, or postlude and why they are playing what they are playing. But since a different organist plays for each of the four services every weekend, I suppose it would be challenging for the church secretary to coordinate all their service music and put it in the bulletin.
So how do you teach a congregation such a historically Lutheran hymn such as Luther's baptism hymn? Well, there's something the choir can help with. When I heard the account of Jesus' baptism read during the service, it brought to mind a Charles W. Ore choral setting which uses Luther's baptism hymn, called "This Is My Son." (CPH 983288WEB ) It's cool and driving and well written and very accessible for a decent church choir, organist, and high school trumpeter. And once it's in your head, it will never leave. It would be a great way to introduce Luther's baptism hymn to a congregation because the trumpet plays the melody, the choir sings a verse, and then finally the congregation gets to join in singing.
And Concordia Publishing House currently has Charles W. Ore's "This is My Son" on sale for $0.65 a copy! What's not to love?
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