Monthly Archives: March 2014

Working with the resources at hand

I first heard Messiaen’s “Quartet for the end of time” in a live performance at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY many years ago.  If you don’t know the piece, it can be difficult listening for the first time.  Written in a POW camp during WW II, it is scored for violin, clarinet, cello and piano and is an eight movement meditation on passages from the Book of Revelation.  I remember reading in the program notes at the time that Messiaen composed the piece with that scoring because those were the instruments and players available at the time.  The result is quite an accomplishment.

This morning’s prelude at our 11 AM Eucharist was “Quiet City” by Aaron Copland.  Copland composed the piece as incidental music for Irwin Shaw’s play of the same name. The play was a flop and never made past the previews, but Copland rewrote the music originally scored for trumpet, sax, clarinets and piano and created an orchestral version for trumpet, English Horn and strings that has become a mainstay of the repertoire.  

While we have many fine musicians who play regularly at our Sunday Eucharists, including a fine oboist who doubles on English Horn, we don’t have a trumpet player with the technique or stamina to tackle “Quiet City.”  We do however, have a fine clarinetist and a great pipe organ, so several years ago, we decided to work with the players we had on hand and substitute the clarinet for the trumpet and the organ for the orchestra.  Once again, the result is quite an accomplishment.

My point here is that as Parker Palmer says, you have to wait for the “way to open” if you want to get anywhere.  Would it have been better to substitute a different piece?  Easier, perhaps, but not better.  The music draws people in, whatever the instrumentation, the same way that the organ music of Bach draws people in despite differences in organs and registration.  I have a happy congregation and two happy wind players.  Life is good.

Coming soon: Ballade for English Horn and Organ by Leo Sowerby

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The St. George Voices in Concert

The St. George Voices performed well in their annual concert Sunday for an appreciative audience.  The repertoire included music of the Renaissance, jazz, pop and contemporary choral music, all sung unaccompanied. From the opening “Sing we and chant it” by Thomas Morley to the closer, Billy Joel’s “And so it goes,” the Voices acquitted themselves admirably, navigating the differing styles and historical periods with finesse, great intonation and all around musicianship.  Great job everyone!

You can listen to a recording of the concert here:

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The Best Concert Ever!

We’re still recovering from our first full concert with choir and orchestra at St. George’s. You can listen here: 

Here’s the rep:

     “The Beatitudes” – Arvo Paert

     “Kyrie in D minor” K 341 – W. A. Mozart

     “Kyrie and Agnus Dei from Mass in D” – Antonin Dvorak

     “Magnificat in G minor” – Antonio Vivaldi

Singers and orchestra all performed spectacularly for a large and appreciative audience. This concert is proof that talented dedicated volunteers can perform at a professional level and achieve great musical results. Besides the Beatitudes, I was particularly pleased with the choruses from the Vivaldi and the Dvorak Agnus Dei.  Working with these musicians is a great joy for their director.  We continue to grow artistically, spiritually in ministry, and more fond of singing and playing together.  Kudos to all.  And now, on to Lent and Easter…

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Filed under Church Music, Concerts