The works presented on this recording draw upon influences from many styles, countries, and traditions (such as chant, hymnody, chorale prelude types, toccata figurations, unusual and hybrid formal designs, etc.). As in the case of countless examples of organ literature of the past and present, many musical materials and art forms come into play in the cultural synthesis that influences composers. Much as Bach used Baroque dance rhythms in his keyboard works, some of the pieces on this disc display passages that evoke or refer to dance rhythms from various cultures (e.g. Argentine tango and flamenco modal elements). In connection with this material, there is a “back story” to tell about the relationship between the pipe organ and the bandoneón, which is the primary instrument of the South American tangueros. The bandoneón is a hybrid between the concertina and the accordion. The instrument was invented in 1854 by Heinrich Band as a solution for churches that did not have the resources to install a pipe organ. From its origin in Germany, the bandoneón traveled to Buenos Aires in the late nineteenth century; it was then adopted by the great tangueros, such as Maglio and Greco. It is customary for the tangueros to be performers as well as composers. Thus, the organ—as well as the bandoneón—can be an instrument of both sacred and secular expression, and can dance as well as sing.—
On This Day, Earth Shall Ring (2009)
On This Day, Earth Shall Ring: Five Hymn-Based Works for Advent and Christmas is a suite of pieces based on Advent and Christmas chants and/or hymns from the Episcopal 1982 hymnal. The tunes come from various backgrounds and have rich histories in liturgical use and significance. The settings are designed so that the entire collection can be a unified suite for recital performance, but also so that each individual movement can serve as an independent work that could be put into service in a liturgical setting. The work as a whole was dedicated in tribute to The Diapason on the occasion of its centenary (in 2009). This journal continues to make important contributions through articles on performance practice, new pipe organ installations, omposers and performers of note, and other related topics.
El Tigre (2007)
El Tigre was commissioned by Catherine Willis (now Catherine Willis Cleveland) in celebration of the fortieth birthday of the prominent concert organist Douglas Cleveland. There are many and various types of idea-generating materials that composers draw upon in the compositional process. In the National Competition in Organ Improvisation (NCOI), sponsored by the American Guild of Organists (AGO), hymns and chants are offered in handouts, with directions to choose items from the handout as material for improvisation in public competition. Another segment of this event involves the inclusion of a text (a biblical quote or story, or perhaps a text from a secular source) on which the candidates might improvise. Thus, some music is either inspired by or intended to evoke images in programmatic and/or representative fashion. El Tigre is such a work. The piece outlines a day in the life of a tiger, from when he emerges from sleep through when he observes cubs at play, meets in a mating dance with his mate, chases and vanquishes potential prey, and rests after feeding.
La Pantera (2009)
La Pantera is, at one level, a prelude and fugue of singular form and development. The prelude leads seamlessly into the fugue, so there is no impression of two separate works. The prelude’s opening flourish introduces a rhythmic, energetic dance that represents the controlled power that a panther commands. The dance dissolves into the first of two lyrical sections that speak of the elegance and grace inherent in the leopard-like cat. After a simple, monophonic line, the fugue enters quietly, with its subject that becomes subtly chromatic as it unfolds. The motive in sixteenth notes begins to intertwine with the subject entries. Intensity builds, along with increases in registration, and the fugue eventually transforms into a driving dance, punctuated with a flamenco-style Phrygian motive. The entire work is brought to a close with motives that refer back to the prelude’s sinuous dance line. La Pantera is dedicated to Ken Yukl, my husband, who is an organ pipe maker, organist, and composer.
Liturgical Suite (2005)
Mark Thallander, to whom Liturgical Suite is dedicated, is the organ editor for the Fred Bock Music Company, where he has four books of organ hymn arrangements published for congregational singing. He is also a freelance organist; adjunct professor of music at Glendale Community College; president of the alumni association at Vanguard University of Southern California; president of the Mark Thallander Foundation; and a member of the new organ committee at Fuller Theological Seminary. Previously he served in several staff-capacity positions, including music associate, at the Crystal Cathedral (Los Angeles area), and then later on the music staff of Lake Avenue Church. Following a vehicle accident in 2003 that claimed his left arm, Mark has continued his career as a recitalist, editor, scholar, and speaker; he is well known for his performances that astonish and inspire the listener. I encountered him at the 2004 National Convention of the American Guild of Organists in Los Angeles, and decided to compose a work for him. Liturgical Suite is the resulting work. The suite presents compositional interpretations of hymns and chants intended for liturgical use in Lent, Easter, and Pentecost. The entire suite can be performed as a recital work, while each individual piece can be excerpted for liturgical use.
Ave maris stella (2004)
Ave maris stella was composed for organist Douglas Cleveland, who gave the premiere performance in August of 2004 at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. The work essentially follows a theme-andvariations procedure, with the variations connected fluently by transitions that create a seamless development from one section to the next. The opening material offers the chant theme in the uppermost voice, fleshed out by harmonies derived from the Dorian mode. When the chant has played out, its inversion is presented in similar fashion. This first section is both the thematic presentation and the first variation. In the second variation the chant theme appears in the pedal part, with florid ornamentation of the primary inversion motive in the right hand part; the left hand supplies an intricate counterpoint that fills out the harmonic implications. A brief third variation plays upon the inversion in the left hand part, with a high-voice pedal point and a pedalpart counterpoint. The fourth variation is a darker-toned dance, with a thematic transformation of the chant in the right hand part, a driving sixteenth-note figure in the left hand, and a dancing pedal part that often emphasizes “off-beats.” Shifting meters and exotic intervallic transformations heighten intensity as the work develops. The fifth and final variation is a toccata that derives propulsion from a repeating progression outlined by the alternating chords in the manual parts. The pedal carries the chant theme, once again transformed in unpredictable ways. Intermittent pedal solo passages hint at the turbulent pedal figurations that bring the piece to a close.
Jesu, dulcis memoria (2010)
Jesu, dulcis memoria is based on the well-known Gregorian chant melody of the same name. The work is cast as a prelude and fugue, whereby the prelude could be performed as a complete work in itself, but the fugue requires the prelude. The melodic and harmonic materials are derived from synthetic, added-tone extensions of the ecclesiastical modes, allowing a language that is lush and post-Romantic in nature. The prelude is a gentle meditation on the chant theme, with strings and celestes supplying an accompaniment progression based on transforming “sigh” motives; a solo stop or combination sings the chant melody. The texture expands to include augmentations and diminutions of the melody, giving the impression that the listener is embraced by material from this graceful chant. The fugue is based on a flowing transformation of the melody that ornaments the signature repeated notes at the melody’s beginning. Motion and intensity increase at the point where a diminution of the chant melody begins to swirl around the longer-duration notes in the counterpoint. The fugue evolves into a toccata that remains highly contrapuntal and that is “grounded,” finally, by a pedal statement of the chant melody in augmentation. The work is dedicated to Douglas Cleveland. (Cleveland's performance of this work on the Aeoline-Skinner organ at Rockefeller Chapel can be found here.)
Golden Gates (2010)
Golden Gates is a work that is offered in homage to the colorful city of San Francisco. The title is intended to have meaning on several levels. The city’s beloved Golden Gate Bridge is a landmark that is widely known, and the “bridge” aspect is a symbol that is related to the “bridging” and building of diverse cultures that has taken place in the development of one of the world’s more notable “melting pot” communities. People from all continents have come to San Francisco; the city is a marvelous example of cultural synthesis. In Golden Gates, I have sought to allow many of these voices to speak in modes that evoke their country of origin. Two primary themes permeate the work: one that is sung as a Chinese flute melody (on a 4’ flute stop), and a second theme that represents the Hispanic influence that is so strong on the West Coast. This second theme is often bound to South American dance rhythms. Two modes serve as material for melodic and harmonic language components: one based on Chinese melodic patterns and pentatonic figures, and a second based on flamenco modal patterns. The transformations of the essential themes, modes, and musical materials in the work also hint at American styles, such as various forms of jazz. The piece gradually builds to increasing levels of intensity, as the themes combine and interact in ways that symbolize the life and energy of San Francisco’s singular blend of influences.