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"The Prodigal Son"

posted Mar 5, 2013, 11:06 AM by Amelia Fannin   [ updated Mar 5, 2013, 11:06 AM by in apropos ]
The Gospel for the Fourth Sunday in Lent this year is the story of the Prodigal Son.  The prelude, entitled “The Prodigal Son,” is from Three Gospel Scenes, Quoting Familiar Hymns by James Biery.  Mr. Biery (b. 1956) is an American organist and choirmaster who currently serves at Grosse Pointe Memorial Church (Presbyterian). He has written both choral and organ pieces and has won national awards for organ playing and composition.  In the prelude I’ll play on March 10, he has chosen a classical passacaglia form for the first portion of the piece, leading up to a refreshing harmonization of the hymn tune St. Columba, which we sing to “The King of love my shepherd is.”  I find Biery’s choice this hymn tune in relation to the Gospel story of the Prodigal Story to be an interesting one.  While I will reserve singing that text until Good Shepherd Sunday (Easter IV), I do believe this organ piece is captivating and evocative of the development and tension inherent in the narrative of the parable. The passacaglia form perfectly suits the spinning out of a narrative, as a single theme develops in number of voices and intensity.  I encourage you to listen carefully on Sunday as the theme progresses to a climax and then resolves into the harmonized, peaceful, familiar hymn tune. 

Jeffrey Mills