St. John’s Suite (Four Chorale Preludes for Organ) was composed during the summer of 2007 on a commission from St. John’s Baptist Church (Charlotte, NC) in celebration of the 2008 installation of the church’s new Létourneau pipe organ (Maureen Howell, Organist). Approximately twelve minutes in length, the title of each movement of St. John’s Suite is taken from the Gospel According to John. These scriptures are, in turn, found in the hymn texts that are associated with the well-known hymn tunes that are the basis for St. John’s Suite. The piece is especially suitable for the period of Holy Week and Easter.
1. “Hosanna : Blessed is the King of Israel…”
Based on the beloved Palm Sunday hymn tune, St. Theodulph, this tune is most often associated with the hymn text All Glory, Laud and Honor. This movement seeks to capture Christ’s solemn procession into Jerusalem as described in John 12:12-15. Both the minor mode and dotted rhythms help convey the dark, but stately, mood, which culminates in the glory of the triumphant full organ. At the climax a statement of the tune, St. Theodulph, appears in a bold, double-pedal statement. Near the ending of the piece, the quiet of a reed stop, accompanied by the warm strings of the organ, emerge as a reminder that this triumphal march is only temporary and soon gives way to the dark and sad days of Holy Week.
2. “…lovest thou me more than these?”
This playful and sprightly movement is based on the hymn tune, Galilee, which is most often associated with the hymn, Jesus Calls Us. The title of the movement is from St. John 21:15 and it is this scripture that is invoked in the hymn. Dialoguing between the flute colors of the organ abounds throughout the movement. Played on a pedal solo stop, the complete Galilee hymn tune appears near the end of the movement.
3. “…the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.”
This serene movement is based on the German chorale tune, Herzliebster Jesu. The scripture above is from John 10:11 and appears in the hymn text as well. The solo melody of the movement (which is really an elongation of the Herzliebster Jesu melody) is played on a solo color, accompanied by the strings of the organ.
4. “…blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”
The final movement of St. John’s Suite is based on the 15th century tune, O Filii et Filiae, long associated with Jean Tisserand’s Easter hymn, Ye Sons and Daughters Let Us Sing. Based on scripture from St. John 20:29, this highly rhythmic and energetic movement utilizes the full resources of the organ.
1. “Hosanna : Blessed is the King of Israel…” = ca. 4’ 00”
2. “…lovest thou me more than these?” = ca. 2’ 00”
3. “…the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” = ca. 3’ 30”
4. “…blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” = ca. 2’ 30”
Total duration of St. John’s Suite = ca. 12’ 00”