Exploring the Pipes - September 27, 2021

The Office of the Chaplain 
Presents Organ Concert Series
Exploring the Pipes
Recorded in Gunnison Memorial Chapel and the Van Epps/Proctor studio
Virtual Recital featuring Ad Hoc Singers - Alexandra Jacobs Wilke, Jennifer Blewett, Julia Pomainville, Chris Rediehs, and Galen Pletcher
with Laura Rediehs, flute
Sondra Goldsmith Proctor, organ, piano, and director
Monday, September 27, 2021
James Wildman, recording engineer
Daniel Lemieux, organ technician

Let There Be Peace on Earth     Sy Miller (1908-1971) and Jill Jackson (1913-1995)                                                                                            arr. Hawley Ades (1908-2008)

The 23rd Psalm     Herbert Fromm (1905-1995) 

Peace     Martin J. Wimmer 
     Hoc Singers and Laura Rediehs, flute

Nimrod from Enigma Variations      Edward Elgar (1857-1934)   
                                                          arr. Robert 

Toccata und Fuge in d moll, BWV 565     Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Litanies     Jehan Alain (1911-1940)
Sondra Goldsmith Proctor, organ

Thank you for joining us for ‘Exploring the Pipes.’ We use the word ‘pipes’ to discuss many different kinds of sound producing instruments. Vocal pipes, instrumental pipes and organ pipes  all produce sounds in different ways.  Each pipe uses air to emit the sound/pitch.  In this video you will see Ad Hoc Singers producing sounds supported by the air flow over their vocal cords. The flautist will blow into the flute to create a variety of sounds. The organ is powered by a blower that is in the lowest level of the chapel that is connected to the wind chests in the chambers that support the pipes and open and close the pipes to produce sounds. You will see photos of the interior of the organ chambers. Many sizes and configurations of pipes are in the chambers of the organ to provide the sounds when the four manuals (keyboards) and pedal board are activated by pressing the keys of the organ. In addition there are tabs on the organ that couple one keyboard to another. It is a complex instrument that has functioned for almost 100 years in Gunnison Memorial Chapel.

The Estey Organ which was built in Brattleboro, Vermont was installed in Gunnison Memorial Chapel in time for the dedication of the building in 1926. Owen D. Young, Trustee of St. Lawrence University, invited his friend Charles A. Coffin, co-founder and first president of the General Electric Company, to donate the organ to the new chapel.  The organist of the chapel engaged by the university awaited with great anticipation the new sounds that the instrument would produce.

During the video you will see not only photos of the inside of the organ chambers, you will be able to view some of the beautiful stained glass windows that make the building a teaching chapel. When we enter the chapel, pause for a moment to view the small window on the right in the alcove: ‘Enter to learn’ is The Alpha Window. In the sanctuary, each lower window quotes a Beatitude with a depiction of a person who has reflected the essence of the Biblical text of that Beatitude.

From the center aisle, look up to your right through the grillwork in front of the organ chamber for the Celestial Division to see a beautiful window with the text ‘Peace I leave with you.’ In the very front of the chapel are the two windows originally installed in 1926. The remainder of the windows were designed, created and installed by the Willett Studios in the late 1970’s and 1980’s. As you are seated to listen to the concert, look around at all the beauty in the room. The clerestory windows (upper windows) demonstrate the facets of a liberal arts education. Each is dedicated to a particular field of study: Science, The Study of Man, The Arts, Religion, Athletics, The Environment, Language, Education and Law; each is worthy of study.  At the conclusion of the concert as you turn to face the great North window, note the inscription : ‘We have lit a candle in the wilderness which will never be extinguished.’ Returning to the narthex turn to the right and view the Omega window: ‘Go forth to serve.’

The Ad Hoc Singers begin the program with ‘Let There Be Peace on Earth’ which was originally written for an International Children’s Choir in 1955 by Sy Miller and Jill Jackson. Today, the composition is used  in many settings worldwide.  

 ‘The 23rd Psalm’ by noted composer Herbert Fromm was the winner of the Ernest Bloch Award in 1945. Using traditional Hebrew chant combined with an expressive counter melody from the flute, Mr. Fromm brought a new passion to an ancient text. Herbert Fromm is recognized as one of the early musical leaders of Reform Judaism.

 ‘Peace’ by New York composer, Martin J. Wimmer, used the English text of ‘Dona nobis pacem’ (Give us peace) combined with a Chinese proverb to create a beautiful teaching about the search for inner peace and world peace. Mr. Wimmer taught in the Depew Union Free School District for many years before teaching locally in the Norwood-Norfolk High School. The composition was commissioned by the Cheektowaga Music Boosters. Here the flute introduces the melody before the singers enter. Mr. Wimmer was given first prize in the Unitarian Universalist Musicians’ Union Network Competition in 2010.

‘Nimrod’ from Enigma Variations, originally titled simply ‘Theme and Variations,’ Opus 36, is the ninth movement of the fourteen variations. Sir Edward Elgar, the British composer, originally wrote this composition for full orchestra. In his revision of the work a year later, he added an organ part. Robert Gower, an editor for Oxford University Press, wrote this arrangement for organ. The theme of the original variations was based on his relationships with a series of friends who mostly remain unnamed except for A. E. Jaeger, his publishing editor and very close friend. Since we do not know the substance of the conversation, every time I play ‘Nimrod,’ I muse about the different discussions they might have had.

How many times have you heard ‘Toccata und Fuge in d moll?’  Johann Sebastian Bach’s familiar piece is used in movies and for Halloween and for serious concerts. You will note his incredible teaching skills as he expected the organist to move over at least three manuals and the pedal board throughout the work. The opening is improvisatory in nature as the organist connects with the acoustic of the space in which the organ is placed. Each organ has a characteristic response to the acoustic of the space. The fugue allows the organ to begin more quietly and then mount a crescendo to the end of the piece. Use of the pedal for thematic development along with the hands is an important development towards the end of the Baroque period (1600-1750). J.S. Bach was a master in allowing the pedal to have melodic prominence.

Elgar and J.S. Bach are known masters of composition. I believe that Jehan Alain had the same creative genius in his music. His death during World War II came much too early. Jehan Alain was heir to the French organ tradition. His father, Albert Alain, was an organist and composer; his brother, Olivier Alain, was an organist, pianist, musicologist and composer; his sister, Marie-Claire Alain, was an internationally acclaimed organist who recorded her brother’s  music. She also made three separate recordings of the complete organ works of J.S. Bach. Only 29 when he was killed in battle, Jehan Alain had already created a substantial body of distinctive music. Composed in 1937, Litanies is probably his best-known work. “You must create an impression of passionate incantation,” Alain counseled the would be player of this piece; “Prayer is not a lament but a devastating tornado, flattening everything in its way. It is also an obsession. You must fill people’s ears with it, and God’s ears too! If you get to the end without feeling exhausted, you have neither understood it nor played it as I would want.”

Come visit the chapel when we are all allowed to be present in the beautiful space. Look up and around at the beautiful windows, listen to the glorious sounds of the chapel and sit quietly for a few moments to allow your being to become part of the beauty.

Thank you for viewing this video. For comments or requests, please email chapel@stlawu.edu.