I write a short monthly article for the church newsletter featuring the music I present. It’s a great opportunity to share my plans on both piano and organ, including my weekly selections and any upcoming seasonal recitals. Occasionally, a story gets left on the table, like how I came up with the eclectic mix of five Festive Fanfares and Finales that will be played during the postlude in September 2018.
Connection and the First Two Postludes
Connection is very important for organists since we play an instrument that is all about solitude. Plus, we tend to run very specific daily routes where it’s a huge surprise to see other randomly. Despite that, I’m proud to mention the personal connection for each of these pieces! The first postlude, a short toccata by 19th-century French composer Auguste Larriu, was recommended by someone who recognized me from the Facebook Organists’ Association. She is a good friend with one of my fans from two churches ago in Danbury, Connecticut. The second postlude is a rousing arrangement of A Mighty Fortress by Diane Bish. Talk about fans? She is an absolute favorite of church congregants everywhere that I have played. Though church organists may have their own list of favorites, this woman is the people’s favorite, hands down! It’s natural to want to play some of her arrangements.
Two More Postludes and a Bagpipes Joke
The postlude for the third Sunday is an arrangement of a famous bagpiper’s tune, transcribed for organ solo by Sean McCarthy. He is the longtime organist at the First Presbyterian Church in New Canaan, Connecticut, which proudly celebrates their Scottish roots. For me, it’s a chance to play a great tune without having to actually hear bagpipes. To recast the old joke violinists tell about the viola: What do you call 500 bagpipes at the bottom of the ocean? Five hundred too few! The fourth postlude is called Roulade by Gerald Near. The French title refers to the rolling structure of the piece. It’s a new piece to me that I’m looking forward to performing for the first time! I was introduced to Gerald Near’s music by Alec Wyton, who told me I should learn a bunch of his works. He was right!
Speaking about Alec Wyton, the final postlude of the month is his famous Fanfare, written for the state trumpet that is installed on the back wall of the immense Gothic Catedral of St. John the Divine in upper Manhattan. Though he was music director there for two decades, he was serving at his final church post in the bucolic town of Ridgefield, Connecticut when I met him. We served on the board of a tiny chapter of the American Guild of Organists in Danbury, Connecticut. I eventually studied with him for a couple of months and championed his work afterward in honor of our friendship. It’s sort of a difficult piece to play without the extra third manual and a mounted en chamade trumpet, but I’ll do my best!
The next time you see some programming of a diverse set of pieces, ask the musician for the backstory. You might make a new friend quickly! I guarantee that the program didn’t happen by accident. Each connection is like a gold coin in a treasure chest!