TEMC “Organ Tweet for Nov 30 2014

The Choir Organ

Choir Organ

TEMC Choir Stopknobs

The Organ in church music dates from the Middle Ages: the Choir as we know it, a group of singers in a local church offering or supporting God’s song among the faithful is a more recent idea (although there is a wonderful ‘first account of a choir’ you can find in 2 Chronicles 20-22, where the king Jehoshaphat sent singing men ahead of the army to great effect!).

In Christianity the idea of the choir began in religious communities of monks and nuns, moving quickly to the chapels of royalty, to cathedrals and churches welcoming and supporting their congregations in the Protestant and Reforming traditions. But the introduction of the choir to Christian worship, particularly in England, had the effect of establishing a new standard division for some organs – the Choir organ, which features gentle, colourful and from the overall organ-concept mostly independent sounds with the particular job of accompanying voices.

TEMC “Organ Tweet” for Sun 23 November

Organ Quotes II
Reed Pipes

“There is nothing to playing the organ. You only have to hit the right notes at the right time and the instrument plays itself.”
– Johann Sebastian Bach

“Oh! there is an organ playing in the street – a waltz too! I must leave off to listen.
– Lord Byron

“The organ is the grandest, the most daring, the most magnificent of all instruments invented by human genius.”
– Honore de Balzac

“To my eyes and ears the organ will ever be the King of Instruments.”
– Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

ORGAN SYMPHONY Concert Program for Sun Nov.16

10658941_709572839122969_2549348661117052086_oSun 16 Nov 2014, 2pm
Timothy Eaton Memorial Church
230 St. Clair Avenue West, Toronto, Canada  

Toronto Concert Orchestra
Kerry Stratton, Conductor and Artistic Director

The Sanctuary Choir of Timothy Eaton Memorial Church
Elaine Choi, Director of Music
Soloists: Alison Cecilia Ahrends, Brittany King, Joanne Leatch,
Jean Nato, Lyndsay Promane, Paul Williamson, Michael York

Christopher Dawes, Principal Organist of TEMC
organ soloist and ensemble musician

Grand cortège de Bacchus
     (du ballet Sylvia, ou La nymphe de Diane) – Leo Délibes

Welcome – The Rev. Dr. Andrew Stirling

Oratoire de Noël – Camille Saint-Saëns
     I. Prélude
     II. Recitative
     III. Choeur

Allegro (Symphonie No.6, Op.42) – Charles-Marie Widor

Deux Motets – Maurice Duruflé
Tota pulchra es, Maria
     Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est

Cantique de Jean Racine – Gabriel Fauré

Le Cygne (Carnivale des Animaux) – Camille Saint-Saëns

Oratoire de Noel – Camille Saint-Saëns
IX Quintette et Choeur
    X Hymne “Tollite Hostias”




 Symphonie No.3 Op.78, c – Camille Saint-Saëns
     I. Adagio – Allegro
     II. Poco Adagio
     III. Allegro Moderato – Presto
     IV. Maestoso – Allegro

TEMC “Organ Tweet” for Rededication Sunday Nov. 16

TEMC Exterior detail small

The Carillon Tower, Timothy Eaton Memorial Church

When an organ, a church building, a communion chalice, prayer shawl or any other inanimate object is said to be somehow ‘dedicated’ to God’s service it is actually not so much about “the thing” – it is really about us. In committing a century of vision, investment, artistry, careful management and thoughtful reflection to its organ, our church has not just honoured a legacy or maintained an asset – it has sought God’s will for how our faith might be proclaimed in our time and place, and found a way both for us, and the world around us.

It might be easy for the music of the TEMC Organ Rededication Service at 11:00 today to be overshadowed by the glories of the festive concert planned for later that afternoon – so here, to avoid the risk, is perhaps the true heart of our Sunday celebrations.  The service is broadcast live on CHIN Radio AM 1540 in Toronto, live-streamed on the Internet and podcast for download anytime at www.temc.ca (follow the Listen and Learn link, and either ‘Listen Live’ or ‘Find a Sermon’ searching for Sunday November 16.

BIG HYMNS: “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty”, “Now thank we all our God”, “O God beyond all praising”, and in the postlude “A mighty fortress is our God” – all voicing one of the highest tenets of the Christian faith, gratitude.

A LITURGY OF REDEDICATION that culminates in an improvised “Organ Praise” response in music.

A “CHOIR ANTHEM” BY THE ORGAN: In keeping with TEMC’s eclectic and outreaching musical tradition I’m offering two consecutive movements from Edward Elgar’s “Enigma” Variations, and most especially “Nimrod” – Elgar’s beloved testament to his closest friend and to a conversation they had about the slow movements of Beethoven Symphonies.

A POSTLUDE CELEBRATING THE REFORMATION: the Roman Catholic Church is the unquestioned founder and initial sponsor of the organ’s unique place in Christian worship to this day – but it was the Reformation that made it what it is throughout Christianity today – the main enabler of congregational singing looking both backward and forward in time.

PRAISE TO GOD for holy work in our midst, including music. Amen. Alleluia!


June 7 Organ Century Concert

The excitement in Toronto, and especially at Timothy Eaton Memorial Church is building in the lead up to Sunday’s concert – and one reason is the rarity of the event.  Here’s a picture of the performers, including myself and Maestro Kerry Stratton at the June 7th 2014 Organ Century Kickoff Concert when the Toronto Concert Orchestra made its debut performance at TEMC.

1) Begin with it being an organ concert – only a small minority of musical concerts even involve the organ let alone feature it – and yes, that includes choral concerts, one of the most common venues for the organ on the concert scene.

DSC_00782) Great organs, often in beautiful churches represent the lion’s share of concerts involving the organ – and Toronto has many such settings, but not many of those organs have reached the age of 100, with all of the investment, care, artistry and craftsmanship that implies.  Here the TEMC organ stands in a small cohort, with perhaps a half-dozen others in Toronto.

3) The organ (sometimes called the King of Instruments) is only rarely even heard with the orchestra (sometimes called the Queen of instruments), again, let alone featured.  Despite a natural affinity which includes a large number of organ works transcribed for orchestra and a larger number of orchestral works transcribed for organ, composers and orchestras only occasionally have organs available to them to create and perform the symphonic repertoire.  The “Organ Symphony” is aptly titled: while uniquely featuring the organ, it is not really an organ concerto – a virtuoso showpiece for a solo instrument.  Instead this is a symphony in the most lush, expansive and beautiful sense, and the organ is beautifully woven into the orchestra texture, especially in the 2nd and 4th movements, and like every other instrument gives the gifts it uniquely can to the entire work – one of the marks of master 19th century composition and orchestration.

480_EN4) The Saint-Saens Organ Symphony (post-Halloween I couldn’t resist this unusual caricature of the composer, probably referencing his “Danse Macabre”…) is an interesting work, commissioned (of a Frenchman!) by the English Royal Philharmonic Society, and dedicated to the memory of perhaps the 19th century’s greatest keyboard artist, Franz Liszt. The work’s most outstanding features are the use of keyboard instruments (the organ, of course, but also piano for two- and four-hands), and a romantic composition device known as Cyclical Form, in which melodies introduced early in the symphony return and are developed throughout the movements of the work.

MI00009592985) All music aspects aside – “Organ Symphony” is about gathering to celebrate – 100 years of the magnificent organ of TEMC – and launching a year of celebrations, and a new era in the instrument’s life, with the organ’s largest refurbishment/expansion plan in decades coming in 2015.  It also brings Maestros Kerry Stratton and Elaine Choi and their ensembles together for the first time to celebrate the musical beauty that has helped define Timothy Eaton Memorial Church for its own 104 years.  And remember, the Church’s own Organ Rededication Service happens at 11:00am the same day, broadcast live on CHIN Radio (AM 1540), live streamed on the Internet at www.chinradio.com, and available by podcast for later download at www.temc.ca.

You mustn’t miss this event – “Organ Symphony”, with the Toronto Concert Orchestra under Kerry Stratton and TEMC Sanctuary Choir under Elaine Choi – Sunday November 16 2:00pm at TEMC, 230 St. Clair Avenue West, Toronto – Tickets available now at Ticketweb.ca, or from the Volunteer Office at (416) 925-5977.

TEMC “Organ Tweet” for Sun 9 November

The Swell Organ


TEMC Swell stopknobs

The name of the Swell division refers to a pipe organ technology dating from the mid-19th century that encloses pipes within a chamber with louvres (somewhat like a Venetian Blind) that can be opened and closed by a pedal operated by the organist.  Pipes treated in this way are able to ‘Swell’ louder and softer to make music more expressive than it could by simply adding and subtracting stops, and are said to be ‘under expression’ – and the Swell division is not the only one to be built this way (we have a total of five at TEMC, the others being the Choir, Solo, Bombarde and Echo divisions).

On most organs having a ‘Swell’, it is played from the manual (keyboard) immediately above the Great (at TEMC this is the third from the bottom).  Swells are characterised by enclosing both loud and soft stops, giving them (usually) the widest volume range and greatest versatility of function on the organ. The Swell is a mainstay of accompanying choirs, voices and instruments, a key tool to colour the unenclosed stops of the Great through ‘coupling’ (a device allowing more than one division to be played on a single keyboard at the same time), and perhaps most importantly the organist’s most immediate and intuitive means of shaping musical phrases, and managing music’s louds and softs.

ORGAN SYMPHONY Radio Ad hits the airwaves

10658941_709572839122969_2549348661117052086_oThat moment when one of Canada’s great organs shouts out its incredible and unique music to celebrate its own 100th birthday… ORGAN SYMPHONY with the Toronto Concert Orchestra under Kerry Stratton and the TEMC Sanctuary Choir under Elaine Choi.

Sunday November 16 2pm Timothy Eaton Memorial Church – tickets at Ticketweb.ca or the TEMC Volunteer office at (416) 925-5977.

You’ll hear this all next week on 96.3 Classical FM – but here’s your on-demand version – don’t miss this great event on November 16, 2pm at Timothy Eaton Memorial Church.

Morten Lauridsen in Toronto, or Zeitgeist meets Love and Craft

ML shining night

Morten Lauridsen

A recent Toronto choral event, the Shining Night Festival in honour of a visit by, and dedicated to the works of Morten Lauridsen, brought to mind an overused, but always intriguing concept – that of Zeitgeist. The events of the tortured 20th century have made it comparatively rare for North American English to welcome Germanic expressions into mainstream parlance. But Zeitgeist, a term describing a generally-held feeling in society based on a specific time at some point bucked the trend and made the cut. And I am not alone in the media world (as a self-styled metatheorist) to seek higher, less obvious meaning found in this invisible backdrop to events, trends and ideas.

One of the more immediately identifiable composers by virtue of a characteristic harmony, textual and melodic sense spanning much of his work, Lauridsen is something of a choral ‘brand’ – and one audible in his music, not simply marketed or personified to him as an individual. To use a bit of technical jargon, his fondness for first-inversion chords, disjunct melody based on dissonant notes approached by leap, added-note compound and yet strictly tonal harmony and a kind of free-nonprogrammatic approach to text and image makes anyone exposed to even just a few works instantly suspect upon hearing another.

Morten Lauridsen has had a long, productive and well-positioned career as a composer of choral music, and contributed much beauty to concerts and church services – on purely musical grounds his many accolades and awards are well-deserved. His choral works are performed and recorded widely throughout the world, and are omnipresent on the US choral scene. But there was more than an easily-recogniseable product and a distinguished reputation at work in the success of the composer’s first-ever visit to Toronto, and perhaps the most simple way to state it is that his music is beautiful, and it seems to matter.

If a certain Zeitgeist might have especially motivated Lauridsen’s welcome to Toronto and the large audiences encouraged by enthusiastic choristers and professionals, it might just be our collective hunger for what matters. If we must live under the shadow of economic uncertainty, pandemic, war, terrorism, political farce and gridlock, we want to be pointed to the light, as in the collection of sacred Latin texts of Lux aeterna. We want to heal from the loss of innocents, be they in Iraq/Syria, West Africa, or in the silent cribs of our children in upstairs bedrooms, as in Dana Gioia’s Prayer. We want to look into the strange emptiness of darkness and time and see healing beauty, as in James Agee’s Sure on this Shining Night.

Morten Lauridsen begins every composition class he teaches at the University of Southern California with poetry, and while never conceding to explicit word painting he doesn’t ‘set’ texts… he venerates them, both in the clear reverence in which he holds them, and in the characteristic, crafty and often caressing music with which he enfolds them. He convinces us first (as he did in sessions with students of our Choral Programs at the University of Toronto, and with the public in encounters at the main Festival Day at Yorkminster Park Baptist Church) that text matters deeply to him, and then uses beautiful music to prove that it can matter to us.

Posted in IAM.