MONDAY, JANUARY 20, 2014 AT 6:53AM - Zac Hicks, Pastor of Worship Yesterday, Coral Ridge announced our official partnership with our new Organist and Artist in Residence, Chelsea Chen. You can read all about it here. She's remarkable from top to bottom, and she's the right person to help us steward our 6600-pipe Ruffatti organ. It's a stunning instrument, and it's especially remarkable when it's in capable hands. Coral Ridge has had a rich history of such capable hands, and Chelsea will be able to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in that line.
ZAC HICKS // WORSHIP. CHURCH. THEOLOGY. CULTURE
I have a theory...or a hunch...or at least a vision of a possible future. I don't know whether it will come to fruition, but I hope and dream that it is so. I believe several things in church music are converging in a timely manner that will help see the organ into the future of church music. But before I talk about that, I want to offer my vantage point of where we are.
The Organ is Doing Fine vs. What's An Organ?
Many can attest that the organ is alive and well and doing just fine. TheAmerican Guild of Organists is 300+ chapters strong, representing the full breadth of the United States along with a few places abroad. Young organists (like Chelsea) are still rising up in the ranks of fine musical institutions and are able to find jobs in various churches across the world. Organ builders...
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – Organ recitals tend to fall into predictable patterns – a Bach prelude and fugue, something French, something English or American, some more French, an improvisation if you're lucky, and a French barn burner to close.
There's nothing wrong, of course, with including the French romantics, post-romantics and modernists. Music by Vierne, Widor, Duruflé, Franck et al. can be powerful and magnificent, especially on a suitable instrument with a virtuoso performer. On Sunday at Independent Presbyterian Church, New York organist Chelsea Chen proved as much with the urgency, precision and coloration she displayed in Marcel Dupré's Prelude and Fugue in B major, the closing work on her recital.
CHELSEA CHEN, Organist
Sunday, Nov. 24, Independent Presbyterian Church
November Organ Recital Series
Music of Gjeilo, Debussy, Chen, Litaize, Wammes, Mulet and Dupre.★★★★★
But what came before the Dupré broke the mold. Although a French presence was present, it was subdued – Debussy transcriptions, short works by the lesser known moderns Gaston Litaize and Henri Mulet – but music by the Norwegian-American Ola Gjeilo, Dutch composer Ad Wammes, and Chen herself gave this recital rare distinction.
Gjielo's grandly cinematic “Sinfonietta” opened, Chen immediately filling the IPC sanctuary with color and volume. The organist's transcription of the Claude Debussy six-movement piano staple, “Children's Corner Suite,” was a palpable realization of pictorial sonorities that pianists can only dream of producing. “Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum” was fluid and flighty, “Serenade of the Doll” animated in playful dialogues. The ragtime evocations of “Golliwog's Cakewalk” spoke more orchestrally than pianistically.
Chen took folk songs she heard as a child and fashioned them into the three-movement “Taiwanese Suite,” which she composed in 2003. Reflections of landscape scenes – hills, moonlight, mountains – were beautifully portrayed in gentle harmonies and pentatonic scales, and colorfully rendered on the IPC's Dobson instrument.
The organist's verbal program notes were engaging as well, as...