ORGAN SYMPHONY? Really?

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.

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