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Every once in a while the Lord sends a day that will stay in the memory bank for all happy reasons. It was a gorgeous day in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with deep blue skies and a mild breeze. Today was Will’s long awaited organ concert at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. A nice crowd came out to hear him.
Will’s hard work and dedication paid off with a confident performance. As a parent, you watch in amazement as your children develop their God-given gifts. Today was one of those days. Emily was sitting on my lap which explains the rather jerky video I took of the concert finale, Acclamations by Langlais. The piece is powerful but dissonant. It ends, however, in triumph on a major chord. Will made that old church vibrate on the last notes.
Thank you to Will’s excellent organ teacher, Sr. Mary Jane Wagner, Michael Batcho of St. John’s who organizes the Fine Arts program at the Cathedral. I want to personally thank Pastor Mark Knappe and his wife Diane who attended the concert today. (That’s Pastor in the photo below.) They have been such an encouragement to Will, embracing him like one of their own. Will served as fill-in organist for their church for the better part of a year. He not only was able to use his music for the Lord in corporate worship, but gained valuable experience.
It was a joyful day, and the beautiful music took my mind off the awful things going on in our world and placed it on God, the author of all that is good.
Will tried out the tracker organ in chapel at Wisconsin Lutheran College. He left his organ shoes at home, so he is in his sock feet! He had a wonderful time talking with Dr. Erik Ankerberg, head of the Honors Program, as well as Professor Bill Braun and several others.
The American Guild of Organists held their regional competition in Milwaukee at St. Paul’s Church last Saturday. Will worked hard for months and ended up learning much and earning a $100 prize. Playing alongside students from Eastman School of Music and Lawrence University was not a small thing for a junior in high school, but he had worked hard and played his best, he felt.
Will got to talk with Dr. John Behnke of Concordia University Mequon who was one of the judges, and who took time to encourage Will’s musical work. It was a wonderful day. You can read more and see the contestants’ photos by scrolling down a bit on the AGO website.
Among the pieces Will is playing at his concert next Wednesday is Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in D Major (BWV 532). You have to hear this done with a great organ at least once in your life. Bach’s musical genius is a gift that is passed from one generation to another as musicians learn the discipline and joy of playing it and then bless all those who hear it.
Below is the Bach piece he will be playing There are 2 parts.
The concert is at 12:15pm this coming Wednesday at St. John’s Cathedral in downtown Milwaukee. People wander in on their lunch hour. There is no cost. Details are here.
For music lovers only. As I noted in the photos posted below, Will is working hard on his organ pieces for the AGO regional competition coming up in March. At the end of February, he is also performing at St. John’s Cathedral in Milwaukee for their Wednesday Concert Series.
Here is a recording Will made of one of his competition pieces. It is a different kind of organ piece for him, but very powerful. The ending is really exciting. It is called Suite Medievale: Acclamations, by French Composer, Jean Langlais. It was written in 1947, just after the two World Wars, and the dissonance of the piece speaks to the dissonance of the times. At the end, Christ is triumphant in these Acclamations. Just as He always is.
Will plays this wonderful hymn on the organ at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist.
Crown Him with many crowns, the Lamb upon His throne.
Hark! How the heavenly anthem drowns all music but its own.
Awake, my soul, and sing of Him who died for thee,
And hail Him as thy matchless King through all eternity.
Among other things, Will played Lemmen’s Fanfare, one of my favorites.
A fugue is at least two (four in this fugue) melodic lines, each layering over the other ones and imitating them, all while revolving around a central theme. J.S. Bach wrote 48 fugues. The “Little Fugue in G Minor” is one of his best recognized.
Will’s hands and feet are all playing separate melodies that intertwine. If you miss one note, it turns into a train wreck as the notes no longer fit into the scheme, like a math problem where the columns don’t line up right! (My way of saying it!)
At the beginning of his compositions, Bach would write the initials J.J. for “Jesu Juva” (help me, Jesus.) At the end, he wrote the initials “S.D.G.” for Soli Deo Gloria” (to God alone be glory.) The brilliance of Bach’s genius has come down to us through the centuries and will live on as each new generation raises musicians to master his music. And, as Bach knew, God deserves all the glory as the complexity and beauty of the music could only have come from Him.
P.S. I wanted to add that so many times in the last year and a half since Will began organ, God has used his music to lift our hearts. The music is a constant reminder to me that God gives light in darkness, beauty for ashes, joy in the middle of sorrow. I remember one time last year when Will and Tom came home with a digital recording of them playing together for the first time. It was like a shaft of light in a very dark place. Through that glorious music, God reminded me that He was there, that He was the author of that beauty and that He would meet our needs. And He does so every day.
Will is playing my favorite hymn, Praise My Soul the King of Heaven. Words are below the video. These words mean a lot to me, “Well our feeble frame he knows…”
Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven;
To His feet thy tribute bring.
Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven,
Evermore His praises sing:
Praise the everlasting King.
Praise Him for His grace and favor
To our fathers in distress.
Praise Him still the same as ever,
Slow to chide, and swift to bless.
Glorious in His faithfulness.
Fatherlike He tends and spares us;
Well our feeble frame He knows.
In His hands He gently bears us,
Rescues us from all our foes.
Widely yet His mercy flows.
Angels, help us to adore Him;
Ye behold Him face to face;
Sun and moon, bow down before Him,
Dwellers all in time and space.
Praise with us the God of grace.
My husband Tom and his organist friend known as “Quasi” light up the night with Emperor’s Fanfare by Antonio Soler. This one will blow your hair back if the volume is turned up. (Audio begins at 14 seconds in.) This sound is why they call the organ the King of Instruments and the trumpet, the Instrument of Kings. You can almost see the Emperor and his train trailing down the aisle…
P.S. To musical purists, I know, I know, you don’t have to tell me that the piece was originally a delicate little Baroque thing until E. Power Biggs got hold of it.