Timeless Praise

Six years ago, I played an organ video for Will. It was one of my favorite hymns of all time, Holy God We Praise Thy Name. The organist in the video was Stephen Tharp, one of the world’s leading organists, who had recorded that hymn at his church  in New York. Will was 13 at the time, and was two years away from even starting organ lessons.

(Parenthetically, Will later got to meet Mr. Tharp when he came to perform on the Schantz pipe organ at Gesu Church in Milwaukee. Tom and Will’s first and beloved organ mentor, John Weissrock, posed for a photo after the concert.)

Fast forward to this weekend, and Will is playing the pipe organ at the 150th anniversary for a church. One of the hymns he is playing with the congregation, is this same one, Holy God We Praise Thy Name. His father is accompanying the hymn also with a brass quintet. The roof will be lifted with the beautiful sound of brass, organ and voices.

It goes without saying that the king of instruments, the pipe organ, is the fitting choice for accompanying this great hymn of praise. The organist and music express the words and meaning of the hymn that, in a very clear, doctrinal and confessional way, points to our Heavenly Father, who is worthy of all praise. Here is the full text of the hymn, and below that, the video!

Holy God, we praise Thy Name;
Lord of all, we bow before Thee!
All on earth Thy scepter claim,
All in Heaven above adore Thee;
Infinite Thy vast domain,
Everlasting is Thy reign.

Hark! the loud celestial hymn
Angel choirs above are raising,
Cherubim and seraphim,
In unceasing chorus praising;
Fill the heavens with sweet accord:
Holy, holy, holy, Lord.

Lo! the apostolic train
Join the sacred Name to hallow;
Prophets swell the loud refrain,
And the white robed martyrs follow;
And from morn to set of sun,
Through the Church the song goes on.

Holy Father, Holy Son,
Holy Spirit, Three we name Thee;
While in essence only One,
Undivided God we claim Thee;
And adoring bend the knee,
While we own the mystery.

Thou art King of glory, Christ:
Son of God, yet born of Mary;
For us sinners sacrificed,
And to death a tributary:
First to break the bars of death,
Thou has opened Heaven to faith.

From Thy high celestial home,
Judge of all, again returning,
We believe that Thou shalt come
In the dreaded doomsday morning;
When Thy voice shall shake the earth,
And the startled dead come forth.

Therefore do we pray Thee, Lord:
Help Thy servants whom, redeeming
By Thy precious blood out-poured,
Thou hast saved from Satan’s scheming.
Give to them eternal rest
In the glory of the blest.

Spare Thy people, Lord, we pray,
By a thousand snares surrounded:
Keep us without sin today,
Never let us be confounded.
Lo, I put my trust in Thee;
Never, Lord, abandon me.

Will’s Home – Just in Time for Mother’s Day!

Will’s back home from his first year at college. He had a wonderful year at Wheaton College Conservatory and made the Dean’s List. We are thrilled to have him home again, but he’s working hard this summer with a landscape company, so we’ll catch him when we can.  Here’s Will playing Toccata Festiva by Purvis which expresses the feeling of having our son home again. Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there.

Will’s Organ Concert June 10, 2014 Gesu Church

Organist Gary McWithey wrote the following review of Will’s concert on June 10.

Last evening I had the privilege of attending the 2nd Tuesday Organ Concert series at Gesu Church on the Marquette campus in Milwaukee. Artist of the evening was young Will Schlueter. Having just graduated from high school and just turned 18, the talent and skill this young man exhibits is utterly amazing.

The program consisted of two movements from the Vierne Symphony #2, Bach’s “Wedge” prelude & fugue, the gorgeous Cantabile by Franck, three Chorale Improvisations on familiar hymn tunes by Paul Manz and the popular Toccata Festiva by Richard Purvis.

Will’s playing was clean, mature and exciting on every count. For a young man who has only studied organ for three years (!), his dedication and command of the instrument is staggering. I have heard the Gesu organ played by many organists. Will’s command and understanding of this massive instrument and live acoustic in the building was as good as any, and better than many.

Kudos to Will’s organ instructor, Sister Mary Jane Wagner, and to John Weissrock who acted as page turner and I’m sure offered his expertise at controlling the Big Schantz.
If you were not in attendance for this epic performance, shame on you! If you hear of Will playing in the area again, don’t miss it! I’m sure his playing will astound you, too.

Midnight Music

Late one night recently I came downstairs for some water and was surprised to see the basement door open and the light on.

Putting my (hearing impaired) ear down the stairway, I heard the soft strains of music. It was Will, keeping a lonely vigil at his organ in the night hours. Will’s love of organ has become a single focus in his young life. I find him in the family room listening, listening, listening to organ performances on YouTube and on CD’s and spending hours alone practicing in his basement hideout.

What does a 17-year-old young man find in music written so long ago? The answer is that he finds in it the same thing that the composers did, and perhaps only serious musicians who write or who play the music fully understand what that is. We who love to listen to music understand up to a point. Those who can look at a page of black squiggles and markings and translate that into glorious sound understand and love it at an even deeper level. At least that’s what I think.

You can’t give love of music to a child. You can create an appreciation and share what you know, but passion for making music is something inside a person. It’s either there or it’s not. Will has been surrounded by good music from before he was born. When I was expecting him, I used to lie next to my boombox and play classical music from Bach to Stravinsky. I thought it couldn’t hurt to give a preborn babe some music appreciation. Then he accompanied his father to trumpet performances at churches all over. He sat through a Skylight performance at age 6 in the orchestra pit and never moved an inch the whole time. He was taken to the Chicago Symphony and Milwaukee Symphony and many other concerts. He has heard musicals and operas and symphonies of all kinds. But ultimately, his own love and desire to make serious music has come from inside of him. And only God can give that. Nobody can take credit for the interests and gifts our children have, whatever they are. We can only try to be good stewards of them.

In a world where entertainment media dominate so much of our children’s lives, it was a glad moment to realize that Will could be satisfied late at night, with only God and himself, making music on his organ.

(I found this music on his desk today! I’m not sure what it is, but it looks a little challenging.)

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A Little Night Music

Will’s concert last Saturday evening went well. Sometimes as a parent you step back and just ask, “Where in the world did that come from?” My favorite pieces that he played were improvisations on several hymns, including, Savior of the Nations Come, Be Thou My Vision, Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Thy Word, and Alleluia, Sing to Jesus. Also, I enjoyed his playing Bach’s In Thee is Gladness, a joyful burst of sound in that dark church. Many times, I don’t get to hear what he is practicing in the basement, so to hear the final result is always interesting.

I have the recording of the Bach piece which I’d like to share, but non-techno Mom has to wait for son to turn it into an individual mp3 from the digital recording. At the end, he was asked if he had an encore in his pocket somewhere. When he whipped out with the opening measures of the Widor, it drew laughs from the organists in the crowd. (Pretty big pocket if you have the Widor in it!) He played it from memory and then told me in the car that he was glad he hadn’t forgotten it as he hadn’t played it in a while. (Well, yes, it is a good thing!)

 

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The Concert

Every once in a while the Lord sends a day that will stay in the memory bank for all happy reasons. It was a gorgeous day in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with deep blue skies and a mild breeze. Today was Will’s long awaited organ concert at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. A nice crowd came out to hear him.

Will’s hard work and dedication paid off with a confident performance. As a parent, you watch in amazement as your children develop their God-given gifts. Today was one of those days. Emily was sitting on my lap which explains the rather jerky video I took of the concert finale, Acclamations by Langlais. The piece is powerful but dissonant. It ends, however, in triumph on a major chord. Will made that old church vibrate on the last notes.

Thank you to Will’s excellent organ teacher, Sr. Mary Jane Wagner, and Michael Batcho of St. John’s who organizes the Fine Arts program at the Cathedral. I want to personally thank Pastor Mark Knappe and his wife Diane who attended the concert today. (That’s Pastor in the photo below.) They have been such an encouragement to Will, embracing him like one of their own. Will served as fill-in organist for their church for the better part of a year. He not only was able to use his music for the Lord in corporate worship, but gained valuable experience.

It was a joyful day, and the beautiful music took my mind off the awful things going on in our world and placed it on God, the author of all that is good.

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