Foothills Music Club March organ concert

Published 12:03 pm Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tryon organists (from left) Carol Bartol, John Gardner, Eleanor Roemer. Lesley Bush and Susan Mahnke. (photo submitted)

by Elizabeth Gardner

The March meeting of the Foothills Music Club (FMC) took place at the Tryon Presbyterian Church on Thursday, March 10. The concert, featuring performances by local organists, was preceded by a business meeting, at which president Fran Creasy presided. Highlights of the meeting were the announcement of the 2011 FMC scholarship winners and election of FMC officers to fill two vacancies. The scholarship winners have been announced separately by Elaine Jenkins, FMC scholarship chair.

Jeanette Shackelford will succeed Fran Creasy, who has served as FMC president for four years, and Carole Bartol was elected vice-president. The other officers are Krysti Hamlin, secretary, and Nancy Walburn, treasurer, who are continuing to serve.

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Following the meeting, the annual public FMC organ concert began at 3 p.m. in the sanctuary of the church. Creasy opened the program by announcing that over $34,000 has been given to deserving high school musicians in the community since the founding of the FMC by Lesley Oakes in 1988. She then introduced Eleanor Roemer, the organizer of the organ concert, who was the first organist to perform. Roemer recalled that the organ as we know it today had its origins around 1,000 BC, and that the bellows then were driven by water pressure, hence the name of this instrument was the hydro. She then performed two organ Fantasias, the first by Johann Pachelbel and the second by J.S. Bach.

More Baroque organ music was presented by Carole Bartol after she shared a couple of J.S. Bach tidbits: Bach was an extremely large man whose hand could reach four white keys beyond the reach of an average person’s hand; therefore, he could do all kinds of fingering between his thumb and little finger which most organists find diabolical. It is also said that the clergy of the churches where Bach was organist were disconcerted that Bach would never play the hymns correctly; instead, he played all kinds of embellishments which caused the following conversation: “Don’t you understand? He’s a genius!” answered by “We do not need a genius; all we need is an organist who will play from the book!” Bartol performed two chorales by Bach – “Wer den lieben Gott” and “Komm, suesser Tod,” followed by a movement from the Second Suite by Louis-Nicolas Clerambault.

Susan Mahnke then performed the “Liturgical Suite for Organ” by Denis Bedard, followed by John Gardner’s playing of the sparkling “Gloria” by Marcel Dupre, one of the giants of 20th century French organ music. He was then joined by Elizabeth Gardner, soprano, who performed Aaron Copland’s musical setting of Emily Dickinson’s poem “I’ve heard an organ talk sometimes…and understood no word it said…”

Lesley Bush demonstrated the miracle wrought in organ-land through modern technology. He used a “midi” device that enabled the organ to play automatically while he led the congregation in singing the hymn “O Sons and Daughters of the King.” He then seated himself at the console and performed Healey Willan’s organ arrangement of this hymn.

The Sine Nomine Singers, under the direction of Rita Stobbe with Eleanor Roemer at the organ, concluded the program with “Look at the World” by John Rutter, contemporary English composer of many choral pieces, who may be more popular in the States than in England. This piece about the beauty of creation and the source of all our blessings brought the concert to a fitting close.