Sound Theology by Colleen Butcher


This week’s playlist is a combination of the expected and the unusual. Included are Phillip Sly singing “The Trumpet Shall Sound” and the Sinfonia from Bach’s “Easter Oratorio.” The middle work is a chant setting by Thomas Tallis featuring 8 choirs/40 voices – it is a masterpiece of choral writing, with a text that is an affirmation that we worship only one God, always! Holst’s “Bringer of Jollity” and the “completely mad” arrangement of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus are included to make you smile and bring an element of surprise to this, my final Sound Theology playlist.Christ is RISEN! May the music continue, resonating throughout this Easter season.
ST#187 – Easter
Hallelujah Chorus

Holy Week

As we come to the end of Lent, we also complete our adventures through the six Suites for Solo Cello, written in the early 1700s by J.S. Bach.

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Lent 5

This week’s Suite #5 in C minor echoes a journey of pain or worry, sadness or contemplation. Unlike the D minor suite (#2), which sometimes feely jaunty, C minor settles into the weightiness of the minor key. In this suite, Bach uses a special technique to emphasize the resonance and depth of the music. The musician is instructed to retune the cello (called scordatura), to bring the pitch of the A string (the highest string on the instrument) down one whole step to a G, resulting in these open strings: C-G-D-G. This tuning causes the cello to vibrate and resonate quite differently from the way it does with the normal C-G-D-A setup; one can easily hear the dark pureness that this tuning provides.

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Lent 4

Sound Theology #183 – Lent 4

In the fourth Cello Suite, Bach takes us on an unexpected journey. The suite is nominally in the key of E-flat major throughout its seven movements, returning to the home key at the end of each movement. It is grounded and solid, exhibiting the characteristic ‘heroic’ feeling of many works written in E-flat. But between double bar lines, the instrumentalist follows Bach through a rugged terrain.

Of the suites so far, this is the most challenging. The harmonic foundation of double-stops and repetition of the ‘home’ key that are crucial in a solo suite are missing through most of this work. Because of this, the music can feel disjointed or angular. The focus on the single melodic line gives the performer artistic license to emphasize different parts of the melody. If you listen to different performances, you will find a wide variety of tempos and interpretations; each unique yet convincing.

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