Melinda Coffey Armstead, piano
Robert Armstead, bass-baritone
Prelude to Worship
Five Uneasy Pieces . . . assembled by MCA
Visions Fugitives (1917) Op. 22 No. 1 . . . Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953)
Fünf Klavierstücke (1920) Op. 23 No. 1, mm 1-12 . . . Arnold Schönberg (1874-1951)
Sonata Op. 1 (1909) mm 1-18 . . . Alban Berg (1885-1935)
Prelude (1839) Op. 28 No. 14 . . . Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849)
Visions Fugitives Op. 22 No. 20 . . . S. Prokofiev
I to the Hills Will Lift My Eyes (Psalm 121) . . . Scottish Psalter (1615)
Terra Beata . . . Franklin Sheppard, arr. by Larry Shackley
Chorale: Ach Gott, erhör mein Seufzen und Wehklagen . . . J. S. Bach (1685-1750)
O hear, my God, my prayer and sore complaining,
Let grief not hide the grace I’m e’re obtaining.
Thou knows’t my pain, I need not feign.
O help me bear my cross, hear Thou my praying.
Fugue in D Major, Well Tempered Clavier Book I . . . J. S. Bach
As the theme of the day is “Fear of the Unknown”, you will note that the piano prelude music comes from 20th century composers Prokofiev, Schönberg and Berg (the newest piece is 100 years old) plus one Chopin prelude, none of it composed to reassure us. The only real connection among these pieces is the feeling that something unpredictable is happening. I stitched them together (3 complete pieces + 2 fragments) as Dr. Frankenstein stitched together his masterpiece from bits and pieces, the outcome being a sentient but unsettling imitation human. Later in the service, good old familiar hymns and Bach bring us back to confidence in the beauty and order of things.
[As a marginally-relevant aside, in the movie Young Frankenstein, Dr. Frankenstein’s assistant steals the brain of a wise and kindly person from the morgue, but accidentally drops it. So he grabs another one to replace it. Back at the laboratory, Dr. Frankenstein asks whose brain this is, and he says, “Abby something. Abby …… Abby Normal.” Mary Shelley did not know these details when she wrote the novel “Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus,” in 1818, so we forgive her for leaving them out. But the novel and its various reincarnations in film have left many children and not a few adults with a fear of the unknown. Especially anything wrapped in darkness.
Of course, if you believe in predestination, the fear is completely irrational, as fear cannot affect the outcome. You may as will relax and enjoy the ride. (There is a story about a man who DOES believe in predestination: He trips and falls down the stairs, gets up and says, “I’m glad that’s over with.”) On the other hand, if you DON’T believe in predestination, there is also no point in being afraid, because what good will it do you? As we are intelligent and logical, none of us therefore need ever again fear the unknown. I’m pleased to have cleared that up, so that we can all now sleep like babies.]