Monday, July 5, 2010

AGO Convention, Day Two

Ohhhh, I am so very exhausted. It was a packed day.

I didn't have time to find breakfast; luckily, Mila came to the rescue and gave me her sausage biscuit.

We were bused off to the Washington National Cathedral early in the morning for a convocation that started at 8.30 am.

It was wonderful. The Washington Symphonic Brass under the baton of A. Scott Wood joined organist Scott Dettra in a couple of pieces: Passacaglia and Arie di Corte from Ottorino Respighi's Ancient Airs and Dances, Suite No. 3 and the Finale: Allegro from Carl Nielsen's Symphony No. 3, Op. 27.

This was followed by a work commissioned for AGO 2010: Theme and Variations on "Le P'ing". It was the 2010 AGO/Holtkamp Award in Organ Composition. And it was lovely. There were six movements, and I really loved how the subtitles described the music very well! It also sounds accessible to the intermediate to advanced organist. (The last movement, Carillon, might be a bit challenging for me...) It's a piece I'll definitely be looking up.

Phil Snedecor had arranged hymns anthems, and the like for this Convocation. It was really nice hearing the brass and the voices and the organ. It was particularly satisfying to hear all sing joyfully "All creatures of our God and King" (Lasst uns erfreuen). I was rather lukewarm towards the commissioned anthem, "Exultate iusti" by Rihards Dubra. Dubra is a Latvian composer. There was an interesting mix... including one section where the choir was rapping the lyrics, accompanied by the brass. At that point, people were picking up their programs, wondering what that was. It was jarring, to say the least.

I am running out of energy, so I'll do a very brief summing up of the "Highlights of My Day" (with apologies to Mike Kuypers for steal—, erm, I mean, borrowing your line. ;)

Paul Jacobs was *amazing*, and he performed his program entirely by memory. You can see the joy he exudes when he plays.

Kimberly Marshall—with the exception of one piece I wasn't so keen on, I really loved her program and the way she related it to kings and the King of Instruments. Hers contained a lot of early Spanish and Italian composers. I really loved it. And she played on a Flentrop at St Columba's Episcopal Church.

The Bach Vespers Service... wow. That's all I can say. I was exceedingly disappointed the clergy creature did not chant the verse and collect nor the benediction in German.

Opening Concert featuring Barber's Toccata Festiva, Op. 36 and Paray's Messe du Cinquième Centenaire de la mort de Jeanne d'Arc was wonderful. Organist Dettra certainly earned his rest as he was involved with the opening convocation, the vespers service, and the opening concert.

More highlights: meeting Joe Scolastico and seeing Nick Basehore. Durham-Chapel Hill people I've seen: Van Quinn, Tim Baker, Mila Karamushka, Lewis Moore, Jacob Reed and his mother, Bob and Kathy Parkins, Andrew Pester (from a distance), Robin Arcus (also from a distance)... Still hoping to meet more of my Facebook f-list at this convention...

Major Lowlight of the Day: the bus service. Honestly: you promised smooth bus service from venue to venue, Organisers. Many people missed one concert or two because of your exceedingly unorganised service. I missed a workshop I really wanted to attend on Effective Conducting and Preparation of Amateur Choirs. That really made me feel very, very disappointed. Also, thanks to lack of time, I didn't have a chance to have a proper lunch, either. By the end of the second workshop, I felt I was ready to faint. Thanks to a couple of hard candies from the hospitality table, three pieces of pineapple from Tim Baker, and a small container filled with gummi bears, I was able to manage until I went off to dinner with the very delightful Tim Baker and Mark Gourley.

Last observation. I was really chuffed to see the churches here and their architecture, but most importantly, the inside of these churches. They look like churches, and you have the sense you are in a sacred space. Even in a more "contemporary" space like St. Columba's, you still know you are in a sacred space. I was drooling over St. Ann's Catholic Church: it really looks like a church, and I was happy to see that there was nary a Gather or any Oh-See-Pee products in the pews. That tells me they do excellent music at that parish.

I had immediately thought of my less than inspirational time at a Durham, NC Catholic Church that shall remain nameless. When I compare that church interior that looks more like an office cubicle than it does a sacred space to the churches I've seen here, there is absolutely no comparison whatsoever. That space pales volumes in comparison to what I see here.

If I feel up to it, I'll post concert programs here. I'll admit to being very amused to the pre-concert announcement of no pictures or audio or video should be taken: even the admonishment against recording to upload to Facebook or YouTube was emphatically expressed.

Bedtime. Another early morning tomorrow.

No comments: