Dr. Jeannine Jordan, Concert Organist

Posts tagged ‘hymn playing’

This is One Amazing Book

Check our pew racks and you’ll find not only a Bible and a Book of Common Prayer but another blue-covered book, The Hymnal 1982.    It is one amazing and important book.  Our hymnal draws all of us, all Episcopalians, together musically in the same way that the Book of Common Prayer draws us together in prayer and liturgy. 

Hymns are powerful expressions of our faith, powerful reminders that our Lord is with us in struggle and sorrow, powerful exaltations of joy, powerful and loving reminders of God’s grace.  Singing our praise through hymns is another form of communing with Christ and each other. 

I had many plans for this newsletter article this month, but because of visits from my family, work, practice, and most recently, the death of a dear friend, I put off writing the article until the day after our editor wanted it.  Well, now I know why.  It is so I can share a story with you about the power of hymns – the power of a hymn we sang several weeks ago, “The Lord My God My Shepherd Is.”

Two weeks ago, I learned one of my students (and a very dear friend) was diagnosed with colon cancer, a mass on the liver, and pulmonary embolisms.  A shock but I was sure with prayer and the miracles of medicine this wonderfully caring, generous, woman of God would go through and survive treatment for all the above and life would go on.  I was wrong.  She declined dramatically and quickly.

One week ago, I was teaching Paul, one of my many incredible organ students – a 54-year-old man who is a savant in some very particular ways, and also has cerebral palsy.  His lessons have been such an amazing journey for me.  He grew up in the Lutheran church the son of a pastor.  He has heard hymns all his life and amazingly can play by-ear, even with his physical limitations, almost any hymn his sister, Ruth and I can name or hum.  Not only does he know the tunes, but he knows how many verses each has.  Woe is me when I choose a Lutheran hymn that happens to have 11 verses as he will play every verse for me as he is singing that text in his mind.  His lessons are often jaw-dropping for me.  And…if I give him a word, like “shepherd,” he will create a medley of hymns that contain the word “shepherd” in some verse or other of the hymn.  Truly it is astounding seeing/hearing this man/ child share God’s glory through hymns.

And, so back to the story.  A week ago, I knew their friend and fellow-student, Karen who attends and plays the organ at Paul and Ruth’s church, was in the hospital and struggling mightily after colon surgery.  So, I decided to record Paul playing “The Lord is My Shepherd” and send it to Karen.  The response from Karen’s daughter who shared this recording with her Mom, was that Karen was at peace and smiled throughout the recording.

Today I sent word of Karen’s death to my student group.  Several expressed their sadness at losing a friend and colleague but the following response from Ruth, my student Paul’s sister, truly shows the power and glory of the many hymns, but in particular #663 from our amazing blue book, The Hymnal 1982.

“I am so grateful for you and your moment of genius last week during Paul’s lesson.  Recording him playing The Lord is My Shepherd was clearly a God-inspired moment.  I know that song brought joy and comfort to Karen and her family.  It has brought comfort to me at hearing this news.  It amazes me how you and Paul were used in this special way.  I am grateful.”

And this is the power of the great hymns of our faith. 
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Dr. Jeannine Jordan, organist, has a large organ studio with students of all ages and skill levels.  She is also the Minister of Music and Organist at St. Bede Episcopal Church in Forest Grove, Oregon. She and her husband, David Jordan, media artist of Pro-Motion Music , are the creators and presenters of the dramatic story-driven organ and multimedia concert experiences, From Sea to Shining Sea, Bach and Sons, and Around the World in 80 Minutes.  Subscribe to our free monthly e-newsletter for more intriguing and engaging articles – click here #DrJeannineJordan  #OrganAndMultimediaConcert

The Church, The Music, The Service, The Organ – Making Them One With Integrity

The definition of integrity includes three words: wholeness, unity, and honesty. As a musician who has participated in church music for most of her life, reflecting on these words has been illuminating.

As a child, I sang in church choirs and when I had developed sufficient piano skills, I played for Sunday school and other church gatherings. Participating in church music was one part of my wholeness as a child. It was part of the whole person I was becoming.

For my family, the church was a unifying force in our lives. Sunday services, Sunday school, Bible studies, boards and committees, and choir participation meant regular attendance and participation. The church was a place to express our faith through service and music. It was a place where we as a family unit joyfully, for the most part, participated together in weekly worship and church gatherings.

There was an honesty to our family church participation. It completed our lives and gave fullness to them. Church participation was not questioned, as it was the norm. I never knew anything different. Participating in church music was the unifying force and that which completed or made whole the church experience. The music of the church gave integrity to worship and God’s word.

As a teenager, I became involved in church music in a different way. I was no longer the child participating in junior choirs, playing the piano for Sunday school and learning the act of worship, I was now a worship leader. There was now responsibility-a responsibility that demanded integrity. I do not remember that I had a formal job description in my first years as a paid church musician, but I do know that my organ teacher, whose position I filled when she moved from the town, instilled in me the integrity for church work that stays with me to this day. To fulfill the role of a church organist, an organist must be prepared before she can “play” a church service.

Let us examine a typical job description for a church organist from the point of view of serving in church music with integrity. Most job descriptions for a church organist begin with the imperative:
“The church organist will play for all Sunday worship services throughout the year.”

What exactly is meant by the word “play”? The “playing” of a worship service is the visible result of years of invisible work of organ study requiring thousands if not tens of thousands hours of practice. The “playing” of a particular worship service is the one hour where weeks if not months of worship planning and preparation with the pastor, worship committee, choir director, soloists, and cantors is experienced by a group of people. A group of people that see only that hour with you on the organ bench “playing” the service.

“Playing” a service with integrity means being prepared. It means putting years of practice and study into use. It means finding music appropriate to the season, the scriptures, and the pastor’s message. It means learning that music including the hymns and service music. It means rehearsing with choirs, soloists and cantors. It means putting together the music so the service proceeds smoothly and seamlessly.

Creating wholeness and unity through careful honest preparation is the way of those who serve with integrity in the church as an organist.

Dr. Jeannine Jordan is the Organist and Director of Music at St. Bede Episcopal Church in Forest Grove, Oregon.  She is also a concert organist who performs the organ and multi-media concert experiences, Bach and Sons and From Sea to Shining Sea throughout the US and Europe.

The Transfiguring Experience of a Hymn-A-Thon

Last Sunday, March 2, 2014, Transfiguration Sunday, the dozen musicians of our small Episcopal parish in Forest Grove, Oregon embarked on a project which in the end was a transfiguring experience for all of us.  Our project, a fund-raiser for the St. Bede Episcopal Church Music Ministry, was a Hymn-A-Thon:  a marathon singing of one verse of all 720 hymns of the Episcopal Hymnal.

 Our day of singing began at 8:00 a.m., included worship and a “concert hour” during which we sang all verses of over twenty “sponsored hymns,” and ended with a fervent singing of hymn #720 nearly 12 hours later.  We were all part of an exalting, glorifying, spiritually changing experience to promote and further excellence in church music.

To quote one singer, “I was periodically overwhelmed by the worship involved in the act of singing hymns – praising God. I don’t know quite why I was surprised by that… but every once in a while I was struck dumb by the message, the music and the act of prayer that we call singing hymns. Thanks be to God!”

Sing Praises, Sing Praises

“Praising God in song is the only earthly activity in which we will continue to engage after our time on earth is done. So we really ought to learn how to do it right.” 
Erik Routley

There is nothing like robust, exuberant, Spirit-filled hymn singing to bring tears of joy to this organist.  Yesterday, the congregation of the small church I serve lifted their voices in glorious praise as they joyfully sang “All Creatures of Our God and King;” years ago I had the thrill of accompanying 400 men as they opened a Christmas service singing “Joy to the World;” at a revival meeting I counted verses as I played while the congregation lustily sang “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee” in Korean; in Columbo, Sri Lanka I joined the congregation enthusiastically singing, “Majesty;” after hearing an incredible organ introduction, the congregation and I sang “Lobet den Herrn” acapella in German with the Stadtkirche congregation in Bielefeld, Germany.

I grew up singing and playing hymns.  “How Great Thou Art,” “Are Ye Able,” and “For All the Saints,” were family favorites.  Spirit-filled family hymn singing on Sunday afternoons in the Zielke household was not uncommon.  Playing hymns is the most treasured and pleasing part of my church work and something I cherish sharing with each congregation I serve.

“Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises.
For God is the King of all the earth; sing to him a psalm of praise.”
Psalm 47:6-7

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