Thursday, July 28, 2011

Organ Bliss in Seattle

For me, one of the highlights of the annual Tallis Scholars Summer School in Seattle are the performances of Joseph Adam, the organist at St. James Cathedral. He and Peter Phillips have established a tradition whereby Joseph lets Peter pick what he would like to hear for the Postlude after we sing at the Mass on Wednesday night.

It's always great, but this year's choice was an absolutely mind-blowing tour de force. The prelude was very beautiful, and a piece I hadn't heard before - Scherzo, op. 2 by Maurice Duruflé. I've sung and heard a lot of Duruflé this year, as my New York choral director, Dr. Thea Kano, specializes in his music. So it was lovely to hear the Scherzo, which was exactly what I've come to expect from this composer - intensely personal, ethereal music written by an organist who was clearly influenced by Debussy.

The big payoff was a 25-minute Postlude, a stunning performance of Franz Liszt's Fantasia and Fugue on "Ad nos, ad salutarum undam." You can expect to be awed by any performance of Liszt keyboard music, and this didn't disappoint. The huge, sweeping performance on the double organs was so powerful that you could actually feel it - something akin to standing close to a helicopter landing!

Joseph is really a treasure. He sings with us, too, which makes our alto section that much better. His work is a unique and special part of the Seattle TSSS experience.

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