Monday, November 11, 2013

Old Sounds in New Styles

An interesting instrument seems to be making a new name for itself in classical music today.  The organ has been a part of the classical music tradition for a long time through the Anglican Church.  Famous composers, such as J.S. Bach, not only wrote for organ, but they were organists themselves.  Currently, though, the membership in many churches is declining steadily, so fewer organists are able to rely on job stability through the church.  However, organists are still finding work as performers in secular venues.  The chair of the organ department at Juilliard, Paul Jacobs says that he sees a future for organists in “the broader realm of classical music”.  He also says that the quality of organ playing in the U.S. is the highest that it’s ever been. 

Mr. Jacobs is leading this future that he spoke of, as he won the first Grammy ever awarded to an organist in 2010, and he is currently working on a new album.  To account for the new wave of organists, major halls across the country, including the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Kennedy Center, and Alice Tully Hall, have either installed new organs or updated existing ones.  At the Walt Disney Hall, they have made an effort to program orchestral repertoire that calls for organ, and they are also commissioning new pieces because they view the organ as a contemporary instrument.  A recent Juilliard graduate is making a recital career for herself by performing transcriptions of orchestral pieces for organ.  Additionally, organ virtuoso Nathan Laube recently performed and recorded an organ concerto with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra.  In all of these cases, it has been reported that the audience has been very receptive to the new roles of the organ. 

I think all of this is very exciting.  Although I would not have guessed that the organ would be an instrument contributing to orchestra concerts and new music, I think it is a great thing.  The organ has a beautiful sound, and if the performer is in a place that the audience can see them, it is stimulating to watch them play.  Many people will continue to see the organ used in church ceremonies, so it will be more accessible for them than some other instruments used frequently in contemporary music.  The biggest downfall to the organ in today’s culture is that it can only be used in specific venues.  However, if this is helping to draw people to famous concert halls, then this support will hopefully benefit a range of musicians. 

Article:  King of Instruments, back on stage

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