New Organ Music for Lent, Easter, and Ascension: An annotated list

The liturgical seasons of Lent and Easter call for divergent musical expressions from an organist. Fortunately, many composers have worked to create beautiful new works for organ for these seasons. I reviewed over fifty recently released works from major publishing houses. The following collections are those I found most rewarding for worship and inspiring for congregational singing. Each is marked E (Easy), M (Moderate) or D (Difficult).

SOLO ORGAN MUSIC FOR THE SEASON

Biery, Marilyn. Meditations of the Love of God. Morning Star, 1999. MSM-10-949. 15 pp. $8.00. D.

Biery wrote these for a composers workshop for the Twin Cities American Guild of Organists. They were first played at the St. Paul Cathedral last year. Not for the faint-hearted, these settings are evocative and non-hymn based. But they display the best of current writing and offer excellent music for Lent. Be sure to read her performance suggestions at the beginning of the collection.

Bloedow, Mark E. Five Lenten and Holy Week Hymn Settings. Morning Star, 1999. MSM-10-325. 14 pp. $8.00. E.

Bloedow crafts beautiful and easy settings of common Lenten hymns that would work well for offertories or for hymn introductions. Titles include “Ah, Holy Jesus,” “Go to Dark Gethsemane,” “Jesus, in Thy Dying Woes,” “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded,” “Were You There.”

Callahan, Charles. Partita on Laudate Dominum (O Praise Ye the Lord). Concordia, 1998. 97-6768. 20 pp. $7.00. E-M.

The subject of these variations is the hymn tune laudate dominum, often associated with the text “O Praise Ye the Lord” (also “Sing Praise to the Lord”), a paraphrase of Psalm 150. Callahan does a good job of treating this tune, one for which we don’t often find settings. Nice, different addition to usual Easter fare.

Fruhauf, Ennis. Welsh Hymn Tune Preludes. Concordia, 1998. 97-6671. 16 pp. $10.00. M-D.

Don’t let the title scare you away. Most of these beautifully set Welsh hymn tunes are in every hymnal. Fruhauf writes in a style akin to Ralph Vaughan Williams, who treated three of the same tunes himself in his little masterpiece Three Preludes for Organ on Old Welsh Hymn Tunes.

Haan, Raymond H. Four Hymns of Rejoicing. Morning Star, 1998. MSM-10-518. 16 pp. $8.00. E.

Four useful settings for Easter: foundation, lobe den herren, marion, and upp, min tunga (the only setting of this tune I’ve ever seen published). The last setting would work well in Eastertide, and if you sing the hymn in worship, be sure to see Larry Visser’s hymn introduction and free harmonization in Reformed Worship 38.

Hobby, Robert. Three Easter Hymn Settings. Morning Star, 1999. MSM-10-421. 11 pp. $7.00. M.

Hobby offers fresh and exciting settings of three well-known Easter hymn tunes, laast uns erfreuen, auf, auf mein herz, and judas maccabeus. You could think of the collection as a triptych and use the first setting for a prelude, the second for an offertory, and the third for a postlude on a Sunday in Eastertide.

Held, Wilbur. The Lord Is My Shepherd: Six Settings on Psalm 23. Morning Star, 1999. MSM-10-420. 18 pp. $9.00. E.

Held sets six well-known tunes associated with the twenty-third psalm. Of particular note is crimond, a beautiful (and the best!) tune for this psalm that is rare to find as a published hymn setting.

Krapf, Gerhard. Hymn Meditations for Organ Vol. 3. Sacred Music Press, 1999. 70/1241 S. 32 pp. $12.50. E-M.

Most of the hymn tunes here are associated with the Easter season—laast uns erfreuen, grosser gott, gaudeamus pariter, ash grove, and hyfrydol. Krapf is a master at his craft, and you will appreciate the lengthier treatment of these tunes, which makes them suitable as a preludes. His articulation markings are key to making this music come alive.

Linker, Janet. Variations on how firm a foundation. Concordia, 1996. 97-6586. 23 pp. $7.50. E-M.

Linker sets this familiar tune in nine different movements. Each movement has a different flavor (I especially liked the trumpet tune), yet all are set in the same key, which makes it easy to mix and match movements.

Miller, Dan. Two Festive Hymn Settings. Morning Star, 1999. MSM-10-419. 12 pp. $7.00. M.

Two exciting settings, one for Palm Sunday and one for Easter. The setting “Royal Procession on All Glory, Laud, and Honor” could be used on Palm Sunday as an extended prelude to the singing of the hymn, giving the Sunday school children lots of time to get down the aisle with their palm branches. The “Festival Alleluia” is a jazzy 12/8 setting of LAAST UNS ERFREUN.

Rotermund, Donald. Seven Hymn Preludes, Set 5. Concordia, 1997. 97-6691. 28 pp. $10.00. E-M.

Look at the partita on “O Day Full of Grace,” a useful Eastertide prelude.

ORGAN AND INSTRUMENTS

Albrecht, Mark. Festive Processionals for Organ and Trumpet. Augsburg Fortress, 1998. 11-10930. 39 pp. E-M. $15.00.

This is a versatile new collection that works well for one or two trumpets and organ. Three hymns are set with an introductory fanfare followed by a voluntary or gigue. The trumpet parts (in B-flat and C) are printed on separate pages.

Leavitt, John. My Song Is Love Unknown (for organ and instrument). Augsburg, 1997. 11-10828. 19 pp. $15.00. E.

Leavitt writes this setting of “Love Unknown” for organ and either French horn, clarinet, violin, or viola. There are three different settings—hymn, song, and chorus—that would work well as service music during Lent—or use all three movements together as a longer prelude. Beautiful! Reproducible (and transposed) parts included.

Webster, Richard. Paschal Suite for Organ and Trumpet. Augsburg, 1997. 11-10831. 29 pp. $15.00. D.

Webster composed a three-movement work (“Passacaglia, Pastorale, Paean to the Risen Christ”) that would well for prelude, offertory, and postlude. You will need a very good trumpeter since the tessitura tends to stay quite high. Reproducible parts for the trumpeter are included.

ACCOMPANIMENTS FOR CONGREGATIONAL SINGING

Baldwin, Antony. Final Flourishes: Hymn Tune Settings for Organ and Congregation Vol. 2. Sacred Music Press, 1999. 70/1205S-4. 32 pp. $12.50. E.

These “final flourishes” are meant to be played as an alternative harmonization for the last stanza of the hymn. They will work well; they are not jolting and are composed with a simple integrity that fits the style of the hymn. I found these refreshingly simple and a nice diversion from the often overly redone hymn harmonizations that are so prevalent. Yet Baldwin’s settings have just enough spice to give a needed lift on the final stanza.

Bisbee, B. Wayne. Hymn Introductions for Lent, Easter, Trinity. Morning Star, 1998. 18 hymn introductions. $10.00. E.

Bisbee composes hymn introductions that are clever and helpful for eighteen hymn tunes associated with Lent and Easter. Bonus: They’re individually printed on heavy cardstock—a nice fit on the rack next to your open hymnal.

Cherwien, David. Concertato on Easter Hymn for Congregation, Organ and Optional SATB Voices, Trumpet or Brass Quartet, and Optional Timpani. Hope, 1999. No. 8000. 12 pp. $7.95. Separate parts available: 8001 SATB Octavo $1.10; 8000T solo trumpet $2.00; 8000B Brass parts (trumpets, trombones, and timpani) $15.00.

Here’s your opening hymn for Easter morning, all ready to go! This concertato is adaptable and exciting for any and all of the resources you have available for Easter.

Randall D. Engle (randyengle@aol.com) is pastor of North Hills Christian Reformed Church, Troy, Michigan.