Local Culture: The Organ Is Dancing

When I think of organ music two things have always come to mind: traditional hymns and Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor (a.k.a ‘that piece the Phantom of the Opera plays, you know, the really creepy-sounding one’), so when internationally-recognised, New Zealand-based organist Kemp English came to Whanganui recently I just had to go along and check it out.

Kemp English

Although English performed at Whanganui’s Christ Church, which has its own organ (he was in fact invited by the ‘Friends of the Organ of Christ Church’), he performed most of the pieces upon his own travelling electronic organ, an amazing piece of technology about which sadly I failed to note down any details. Suffice it to say it sounded like the ‘real thing’ but has the advantage of being something which can be transported to places which don’t have an organ of their own (as well as places which do).

Bach’s Toccata and Fugue was indeed on the programme, but most of the performance was a mixture of nineteenth century and contemporary pieces. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as contemporary organ music, but the three works by Norwegian composer Mons Leidvin Takle (1942-) were particular favourites of mine, possibly because the clear melodic influence of the minimalist music tradition appeals to my twenty-first century tastes (and my apologies: I don’t know when I started speaking like that, but I think that says what I want to say). Anyway, if you get a chance to check out Takle’s work, I’d thoroughly recommend it.

20160807_140814Other highlights were Scott Joplin’s ‘Maple Leaf Rag’, which is normally performed on a piano but definitely works on an organ, and the ‘Invercargill March’ by New Zealand composer Alex Lithgow (1870-1929).

English himself was an engaging performer with that distinctive understated British humour and earnest desire to inform which I always seem to relate well to, and he introduced each piece as though it were an old friend. The whole concert was a treat, and yet another of those thoroughly enjoyable experiences that The Culture Project has brought me.

Have you had any significant new experiences lately, artistic or otherwise? Tell me about it!

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