Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The building's shaking, and we're happy

When the organ's being played at Spivey Hall, everyone here knows it. The three-manual, 77-rank, 4,413-pipe Albert Schweitzer Memorial Organ, built by Fratelli Ruffatti of Padua, Italy, sets the whole building shaking. In the back offices of the Hall (a space no longer given over to dimly lit storage and a lonely marketing manager's desk after this year's refurbishment), conversations are covered by the constant whoosh of air through the adjacent blowers and wind chambers. In other offices next to the recording control booth, closest to the auditorium itself, it's hard sometimes to hear yourself think, far less talk. The roar of the organ pipes comes straight through my walls, too, particularly the lowest notes that make lots of ordinarily quiet objects (including the windows) shudder. In big climaxes, it feels as if Spivey Hall is about to launch into outer space.

I'm not complaining -- it's magnificent! And this week, the forces are even mightier, since the organ is augmented by more musical star-power: the Atlanta Symphony Brass Quintet. As I type, the brass players -- trumpets Tom Hooten and Michael Tiscione, horn Richard Deane, trombone George Curran and tuba Michael Moore -- are rehearsing with Spivey Hall's organist-in-residence Richard Morris. Truly, I have not heard a more robust or glorious sound in this hall!

The six will be playing together in such varied works as Salvum fac populum tuum by Charles Widor, Rolf Smedvig's arrangement of "Sheep May Safely Graze" from Bach's Cantata BWV 208, "A Mighty Fortress is Our God" as arranged by Vaclav Nelhybel (a book fell from one my shelves just a minute ago during that one), Gary Olson's setting of "Let Nothing Ever Grieve Thee," Brahms' Op. 30 (of a quieter, more contemplative nature, comparatively speaking), and the Grand Choeur Dialogue by Eugene Gigout, in Rich Mays' arrangement. Plus there's the sprightly Voluntary No. 1 by William Boyce for two trumpets and organ, with all its buoyant ceremonial splendor.

Talk about BIG! This is a larger-than-life experience that will have music surging through every member of the audience, and may actually lift some of them off their seats. (And in a strange way, it's somewhat consoling to know that the acute annoyance of any errant and disruptive @#&$ 7$*&! cell phone left on by its inattentive and inconsiderate owner, should this wretched device happen to ring during the performance [unpublishable invective from the Executive & Artistic Director deleted], may be utterly swallowed up by the sound of what people REALLY want to hear.)

In addition to the arrangements, there are works for solo brass (Anthony DiLorenzo's Fire Dance and "Londonderry Air" in Robert Hepple's setting) as well as for solo organ (Bach's G-major Prelude and Fugue, BWV 550 and the lovely Aria by Charles Callahan, which highlights the diverse tonal character of Spivey Hall's organ so attractively).

Richard Morris and the ASBQ perform this Saturday, March 15th at 3 PM. The organ also gets another workout this weekend when the Southern Crescent Symphony gives an afternoon concert featuring three local organists -- Ann Manuel, Rick Massengale, and Jackie Reed -- performing highlights of the repertoire for organ and orchestra, including the third movement of Copland's Organ Symphony, the Poulenc Organ Concerto for String Orchestra and Timpani, and the very popular concluding Maestoso from the Saint-Saens "Organ" Symphony, all under the direction of conductor Richard Bell. Concert time on Sunday, March 16th is 3 PM.

Of distinctively different character (and not requiring the organ) will be our kick-off of St. Patrick's Day festivities with the all-star Irish instrumental quintet, Lunasa. Throughout the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, Europe and beyond they win accolades as one of the finest, freshest Irish bands to reach international prominence in recent years, taking traditional Irish music in new directions to new audiences. Inspired by Ireland's great 1970s group, the Bothy Band, Lunasa uses melodic interweaving of wind and string instruments, pairing flutes, fiddle, whistle and pipes. Check out their website, http://www.lunasa.ie/. The boys in the band are celebrating their 10th anniversary as Lunasa, and we'll be having a good time with them this Friday (March 14th, 8:15 PM) -- hope you can join us.


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