Preparing for Worship – Jeff Brummel, associate minister of music.
The July 17 prelude was composed during my first summer at Wilshire in 2006. The piece uses the older musical form known as the North German Präludium, sometimes known as the organ Fantasia style.
Ultimately, the Fantasia style found its zenith in the organ music of Johann Sebastian Bach, whose Prelude and Fugues and Toccata and Fugues took an already archaic form and built upon its foundation, making it uniquely his own expression.
Elements of the Fantasia predate Bach, who was born in 1685, by about 200 years. These elements were found in the musical form known as Ricercare, which had its genesis in Italian and Spanish organ music. Ricercare found its way into Girolamo Frescobaldi’s organist textbook, Fiori Musicali (Musical Flowers) in 1635. Basically, this was a textbook for organists on how to play in worship.
A few years later, it was German organist Johann Froberger who said that the Fantasia should have multiple sections that alternate between free notes with scales and big chords and sections that are strict and imitative. Froberger said, “sometimes there should be one note, sometimes many notes, and there should be a pedal solo at the end to embellish the final chord.”
To me the Fantasia style, a favorite among organists to this day, reminds me of a parallel — our church! We are a church of many different parts: some parts are refined and measured, while other parts are on the more free and spirited side of things. It is our natural way of life as a church, a church who works, a church who thinks, a church who is intentional about what we do, a church who dreams and even a church who plays.
Like the Fantasia style evolving through the past centuries, Wilshire is also building on traditions from the past and making this thing called “church” our own. Every day we become more organically us while remembering our past through the centuries and even millennia.
As I ventured to compose this prelude many years ago, I remember that my goal was to capture the Fantasia tradition of the past but to speak in such a way that would be familiar and pleasant to our ears and hearts today. That is why I chose the form of Fantasia and even the hymn tune Lobe den Herren. The Fantasia, much like Wilshire, is steeped in a rich history, but free to move as the spirit guides.