Thursday, October 29, 2009

Hymn to Potatoes - Bohemian Rhapsody Sample

We thought we would share a sample from one of the tracks on the album Hymn to Potatoes featuring Garrison Keillor and VocalEssence. For two other sample tracks for now you can go to the VocalEssence website. The song sample we are sharing with you today is "Bohemian Rhapsody."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hymn to Potatoes Review - The Serious Comedy Site

This is a raving review from "The Serious Comedy Site" about our recent release on Clarion Records, Hymn to Potatoes featuring Garrison Keillor and VocalEssence! You can find the review in its original format by clicking HERE, or just read on.

Choral comedy? Listeners of Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor know choral comedy is not an oxymoron when it comes to the Vocal Essence Ensemble Singers. This choir has been regular guests on Prairie Home Companion and even participated in a News From Lake Wobegon story or two over the last ten years or so. Hymn To Potatoes is a 2 CD set that captures these appearances and is something that will definitely please fans of choir music, people who like funny songs, and fans of comedy in general.

Not that the VocalEssence Ensemble Singers only does funny songs. This is a real, genuine, obviously very talented choir that can shift from Ave Maria by Franz Schubert to the traditional Shenandoah (and keep a straight & voice while Keillor rips that old chestnut apart) to very good and very weird choral versions of the Archies'Sugar Sugar, Manillow's Copacabana, and Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody. This is a choral group that takes its serious music and not so serious music seriously without taking itself seriously.

The trick, and Garrison Keillor and the VocalEssence Ensemble Singers conducted by Philip Brunelle master it, is to know your classics so well you can perform them with the proper respect while also poking fun at them. Listeners will definitely enjoy the fake history of Franz Schubert and Johannes Brahms as told by Keillor while the choir performs their greatest hits behind him.

Philip Brunelle also plays a starring role in Holy Trinity Lutheran Seeks Music Director where Keillor tells the story of a church's unsuccessful quest throughout the years for a good Lutheran director. As Keillor tells the story, Brunelle plays Onward Christian Soldier as various conductors like Wagner, Stravinsky, Gershwin, Sousa, Glass, Puccini, and other famous composers. That Brunelle has been able to adapt that hymn to reflect each composer's style is simply stunning.

That there is not one bad track on this two CD set shows how great Prairie Home Companion can be but also the versatile talents of VocalEssence. A personal favorite, aside from the hilarious story The Runaway Choir (with Sugar, Sugar and so on) and The Choral News From Lake Wobegon and its many religious songs is Song of the Sons of Bernie where the SOBs chant a hymn to male liberation.

Hymn To Potatoes is a great 2 CD set to give as a gift for any fan of classical or choral music who has a sense of humour.

You can purchase this album by going to or go directly to the purchase page by clicking HERE.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Facebook/Twitter Name Change

We wanted to let you know that we are moving our Facebook Page and Twitter Feed name under "Gothic Catalog." Please join the new FACEBOOK PAGE and follow us on Twitter @gothic_catalog

Garrison Keillor

Garrison Keillor is the host and writer of A Prairie Home Companion and The Writer's Almanac heard on public radio stations across the country and the author of more than a dozen books, including Lake Wobegon Days, The Book of Guys, Love Me and Homegrown Democrat. He was born in Anoka, MN, in 1942 and graduated from the University of Minnesota. He lives in St. Paul with his wife and daughter. He has two grandsons. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts & Letters and the Episcopal church.

He was born in 1942 in Anoka, Minnesota, and began his radio career as a student at the University of Minnesota, from which he graduated.

In 1969 he began writing for The New Yorker. It was writing an article about the Grand Ole Opry in 1974 that inspired him to create a live variety show for radio. Thus "A Prairie Home Companion" was born on July 6, 1974 in a St. Paul college theatre in front of an audience of 12 people.

In 1987, he ended A Prairie Home Companion and moved to New York where, in 1989, he started a new program, "The American Radio Company", which played to sold-out houses for four seasons. The show returned to the name "A Prairie Home Companion" in 1993 and is once again based in Minnesota. The decision to resume broadcasting under this widely recognized name has reconnected "A Prairie Home Companion" to its midwestern roots.

Garrison Keillor is the author of eight books for adults, and three for children. In addition to his books, he has written poetry and is a consummate story-teller whose voice can be heard on numerous recordings. He is married to violinist, Jenny Lind Nilsson, with whom he has a daughter.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Hymn to Potatoes - Garrison Keillor and A Prairie Home Companion

Hymn to Potatoes and other choral masterworks from A Prairie Home Companion
Garrison Keillor, Philip Brunelle and the VocalEssence Ensemble Singers

Who knew a choir could be this funny? Garrison Keillor, Philip Brunelle and the VocalEssence Ensemble Singers dish up a generous helping of Potatoes a la Schubert, run away to Europe to indulge their “Shenandoah” habit, and enlighten us on the T.U.L.I.P. doctrine. This two-CD set of the best choral skits and bits from 10 years on A Prairie Home Companion includes the often-requested “Julia” (John Lennon) and a rare choral interpretation of “Karma Chamelon” (Boy George). With Charles Kemper and Richard Dworsky at the piano, The Guy's All-Star Shoe Band and guest appearances by Tom Keith and Tim Russell.

Now available nationally for the first time—on Clarion Records from The Gothic Catalog!

Track Listing

Disc one

1 Song of the Sons of Bernie (Franz Schubert, Garrison Keillor)
2 A Word about Schubert (Garrison Keillor)
An die Musik, Hymn to Potatoes
3 Ave Maria (Franz Schubert)
4 Dutch Calvinism: The T.U.L.I.P. Doctrine (Garrison Keillor)
Our Faithful God, We Gather Together, Doxology
5 Come Live with Me and Be My Love (John Rutter)
6 Brahms in Love (Johannes Brahms, Garrison Keillor)
Wiegenlied, Liebeslieder Walzer
7 Two Folk Songs (arr. Mansel Thomas, Anders Öhrwall)
Y Bore Glas (Early Dawning), I Denna Ljuva Sommartid (Song of Summer)
8 The “Shenandoah” Syndrome (arr. Paul Gerike, Garrison Keillor)
9 Julia (Lennon/McCartney, arr. Paul Gerike, Richard Dworsky)

Disc two

1 The Runaway Choir (arr. Paul Gerike, Garrison Keillor)
Spring, the Sweet Spring, Sugar Sugar, Aquarius, Mandy, Bohemian Rhapsody, Karma Chameleon, Copacabana, Sunshine on My Shoulders, Memory
2 Norwegian Independence (Garrison Keillor)
Kan Du Glemme Gamle Norge, Serenade, Landkjenning, Aftensolen
3 Holy Trinity Lutheran Seeks Music Director
Garrison Keillor with Philip Brunelle at the piano
4 Beulah Land (John R. Sweney)
5 The Choral News from Lake Wobegon (Garrison Keillor)
Now Thank We All Our God, Sanctus, America the Beautiful, April Is in My Mistress’s Face, Hymn to the Trinity
6 Something (George Harrison, arr. Paul Gerike)
7 Spring Fever (Franz Schubert, Garrison Keillor)

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Back-Catalog Review - Buxtehude and the Mean Tone Organ

Today we wanted to share some reviews with you from an organ release in our back-catalog. The release is from 2007, and there are Three volumes with Hans Davidsson on the organ.

"Audiophile Best Find" of 2007, "Classical Lost and Found (

Davidsson is a very musical player with a virtuosic flair well suited to this music. The phrasing in the chorale preludes is exquisitely sensitive. His interpretation of the Passacaglia is one of the best I’ve heard. This is an outstanding recording from every point of view. Bravo!
—American Record Guide

STAR RECORDING (Record of the month)
(review of both Volumes 1 and 2)

It is difficult to know where to begin with these four CDs. This is a monumental recording in all sorts of ways. It is special because of the mean-tone tuning and the effect that this has on the music and the way it sounds. While we cannot be sure how the music would have sounded originally, the Baroque Organ project led by GOArt and sited in the Örgryte nya kyrka has done so much to foster interest in, and knowledge of, organ building at the time. It is good that we now have these recordings so that we can hear for ourselves.

There are some delicious sounds throughout – partly the registers, partly the tuning – often challenging the listener, especially when the choice of stops is not what we might think of today – as for example playing fugues on reed stops in a kind of Grand Jeu. But it is the vast range of colour that is most impressive, including a delightful cymbelstern. The CDs use the ULSI recording technique, which certainly gives the listener a feeling of intimacy and contact with player and instrument and adds much to the overall quality of the recordings.

The second two CD set focusses on music which JS Bach and his circle studied, shared and admired. There is thus an added fascination when listening to these pieces for the insight that they give with regard to later organ music.

Hans Davidsson – such a fine player, especially in this context – is to be congratulated, as are all the team involved. The sleeve notes are full and well produced, though there is also a significant amount of additional material, including notes on each piece and a complete listing of all registrations used at (click on the ORGAN REGISTRATIONS tab above...). These CDs are most highly recommended, and have to be a star recording of star recordings as far as I am concerned; they are an absolute must to buy.

—The Organ (UK)

Strange and wondrous sounding things happen when you hear early Baroque organ music performed on a mean-tone tempered instrument like the one here. That's because this method of tuning produces pure major thirds, which were all the rage in Dieterich Buxtehude's day (1637-1707) as they were thought to be the musical equivalent of "heavenly harmony." Not only that, but they intensify the contrast between consonances and dissonances in music thereby giving it greater emotional impact. So it's quite likely this is what you would have heard at the prestigious St. Mary's Church in Lubeck, Germany, when the composer was organist there. However, these "heavenly thirds" come at a cost, because pieces in certain keys can sound harsh or even dissonant on mean-tone instruments. So steps must be taken to ameliorate these incompatibilities. The most radical solution is to transpose the work in question to a more listener-friendly key, and in Buxtehude’s day organists did this all the time. Besides transposition though, there are several other ways to accomplish this. For instance, the organ for this recording has additional sub-semitone black keys and pedals just for this purpose (see the excellent album notes for an explanation and picture of them). These are necessitated by the fact that accidentals like d-sharp and e-flat, which are the same identical note and represented by just one black key on a conventionally tuned instrument, must take on slightly different pitches on a mean-tone one in order to minimize the problems mentioned above. Additionally the performer can downplay dissonant notes by shortening their length, camouflaging them with ornaments and/or even opting for leaner registrations that make them less apparent.

The highly versatile and talented soloist here, Hans Davidsson, uses every trick at his disposal to come up with some of the most colorful Baroque music that ever emanated from an organ pipe. As a matter of fact, after you've heard this album, Buxtehude on a conventionally tuned instrument comes off sounding rather drab! The one Davidsson plays here is located in Gothenberg, Sweden and it’s absolutely spectacular. That’s because it’s a modern day synthesis of the finest North German Baroque instruments from such builders as the great Arp Schnitger. Not only that, but this is one of the best sounding recordings of "The Pope of Instruments" to come along in some time. It utilizes Erik Sikkema's new ULSI recording technology, which does for church spaces what Ray Kimber's IsoMike does for the concert hall (see the 17 February 2007 newsletter). Accordingly, audiophiles who love organ music must have this release, and are encouraged to read about ULSI. (click here for details)

Musically, artistically and sonically producer Roger Sherman has a “Triple Crown” winner with this, the first of three albums from Loft Recordings devoted to the composer's complete organ works a la mean-tone. This one contains all of his better known ones, so it's perfect for those wanting a single highlights album. However, a word of warning, after you hear it, you may well find "you can't eat just one!" Those desiring more detailed information about what’s included can find it on the new, beautifully appointed Gothic Web Site.

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (

Diderich ‘Hansen’ Buxtehude (1637–1707) was born in Denmark, and was active as an organist, composer, and cultural entrepreneur in Denmark and Sweden as well as in Germany, where he became known as Dieterich Buxtehude. He grew up in Helsingør, Denmark, and served as organist in Helsingborg (now in Sweden) and Helsingør before accepting one of the most prestigious musical positions in North Germany, that of organist at St. Mary’s Church, Lübeck, in 1668. During his nearly forty years of service there he achieved fame not only as an organist but also as the composer and director of a concert series known as the Lübeck Abendmusiken. Although he left an impressive corpus of arias, sacred concertos, and cantatas for voices with instruments as well as two printed editions of sonatas for strings, it is chiefly his organ works that captured the attention of performers both in his day and in our own. His organ music appeals to modern listeners because it is full of the fantasy, variety and unpredictability that characterises seventeenth-century music, yet is rooted in the major-minor tonal system familiar to our ears. The works fall into two broad categories, those based on chorale melodies and those freely composed. He set many chorales as short preludes, with a highly ornamented melody to be played by the right hand on one manual, a two-voice accompaniment for a second manual, and a continuo-like bass for the pedal. Despite their unity of style, they show endless variety in their ornamentation. His extensive chorale fantasias, on the other hand, develop each phrase of the chorale in a contrasting style. His free pedaliter praeludia are the works for which e is best known, demonstrating his virtuosity as both a composer and a performer. The large organ that Buxtehude played in St Mary’s in Lübeck had fifty-four stops on three manuals and pedal. Recent research suggests that it may have been in mean tone, a tuning in which the tonal excursions that Buxtehude included in some of his praeludia would have been difficult to play. Hans Davidsson’s bold undertaking of the recording of Buxtehude’s entire organ repertoire in mean tone gives us startling new insights into how this ‘heavenly harmony’ might have sounded in the seventeenth century. This beautifully produced double-CD is the first in a projected three-volume series from Loft Recordings and is essential listening for anyone interested in early organ music.

-- John Pitt, New Classics (UK)

Hans Davidsson has recently released a recording called ”Dieterich Buxtehude and the Mean-Tone Organ”. It is a double CD and the first of three sets that will cover the complete organ works of Dietrich Buxtehude. It is not merely another recording of the complete organ works of Buxtehude, but a recording with a vision and a pedagogical design.

The idea is to record Buxtehude on a large organ in mean-tone, something that has never been done before. The reason it hasn’t been done before is that that there has been a belief that the music of Buxtehude has been intended for well-tempered organs – but convenience has probably also played a part. Newer research has shown that the organ works of Buxtehude were written in a context where mean-tone temperament was an important ingredient. A counter-argument based around the existence of pieces in remote keys- such as the preludes in f#-minor and A major – is not sustainable since the keyboard compositions of Buxtehude’s time didn’t have the same function as they began to have around hundred years later in music history. Composing and improvising were still two parts of the same practice, so a composition lived a life that probably consisted of a large number of improvised versions and one or several written down versions (perhaps even in different keys). The written notation of a piece was a tool to develop and spread (to colleagues and students) that organ playing that was mostly improvised.

“Pedagogical design” is a somewhat clumsy way to say that Hans Davidsson’s recording is so much more than a recording. The buyer gets a richly illustrated booklet, and if he or she is not content with the exciting essays there are even more detailed program notes and registration indications of the record label’s website. The program notes are excellent examples of texts that contain a good balance of facts, speculations and explanations of musical choices.

I suspect a larger ambition behind this very complete production. The aurally and visually magnificent organs, the important role of the organist in both church service s and local musical life and a music making where composition, improvisation and interpretation were different sides of the same practice: all these aspects of the North German Baroque organ art can be made into a story about the golden age of organ art. And that is what Hans Davidsson achieves with rhetorical power in both playing and texts. The story of the golden age makes us question our present but also- paradoxically – enables us to shape our future. Presumably that is the intention, and I think that is excellent.

This is a double CD that can be recommended in every respect to be bought, listened to, studied and challenged by:

Buy this record if you are interested in sound recording and are curious about what Erik Sikkema’s USLI-technique means. It is enough to listen to it with just open ears to realize that organs seldom sounds this good on records, you can hear both the room and the details.

Listen to this music if you, in an increasingly more noisy, more tone deaf and more insensitive world are in need of good examples and inspiring role models to be able to continue your work as a church musician, organist or pedagogue! Here is a story from the golden age of organ art, from the 17th century North Germany where the bourgeois proudly invested in magnificent organs and where the organist was a kind of musical preacher.

Study this production even if you have heard all earlier and current recordings of Buxtehude’s organ works, and even if you have played them all! There are new details to discover, new relationships to understand and new interpretations to experience. Hans Davidsson has begun a rereading of the musical heritage of Buxtehude; a rereading that surprises, challenges and pleases. It is for example an excellent idea to use the history of David and Goliath as an interpretive pattern for the battered Prelude Fugue and Ciacona in C-major. To play Buxtehude in mean-tone is a risky decision, but here it is so well argued and convincingly done that all you can say is: of course, this is the way it must be. It must be impossible not to be seduced by the lovely principals and flutes of the Örgryte organ.

Be challenged by this record if you think that music can’t be talked about. It is reasonable that you sometime not speak instead of playing or listening. But there is a rich tradition, at least within what is nowadays called western art music, to talk about music, and to let that speaking and knowledge enrich the interpretation and the listening. Hans Davidsson shows with his interpretation of the Preludium in D-major (BuxWV 139), that there is instrumental music that is so close to speech that even if it doesn’t speak, it can be understood clearly.

Hans Davidsson’s ”Buxtehude and the Mean-Tone Organ” is a brilliant combination of musicality, fantasy, learning and pedagogy. Buy it! Since both the musicianship and program notes are so rich in information the record should be enjoyed in small doses, but that is a good thing: it lasts longer!

Hans Hellsten, Swedish Church Music Journal
Professor of organ at the School of Music in Malmö, Sweden
Translation Fredrik Tobin

Köp den här skivan, ni som är intresserade av ljudteknik och är nyfikna på vad Erik Sikkemas så kallade ULSI-teknik innebär! Det räcker dock med ett par öppna öron för att upptäcka att så här bra låter orglar sällan på skiva, här hörs både rum och detalj.
—Hans Hellsten, Sweden

I bought your registration Dieterich Buxtehude and the Mean-Tone Organ employing the ULSI technique. It’s really fantastic the high level of quality you are able to extrapolate from the true sound of the organ.
—Gianni Movia, Italy

I just heard the Buxtehude. It’s incredible! Wow! The music, performer, organ, room and recording are perfectly matched with the highest quality. The sound of the organ came to the point of the true reproduction of the reality.

—Munetaka Yokota, organbuilder

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Evensong: Of Love and Angels by Domick Argento

A couple of days ago we shared a review of the performance of Dominick Argento's new piece Evensong: Of Love and Angels, so today thought we would give you the program details of this piece!

Dominick Argento: Evensong: Of Love and Angels
The Cathedral Choral Society
Washington National Cathedral, Washington, D.C.
Elizabeth Futral, soprano
Nelson James LePard Reed, treble
The Very Reverend Samuel T. Lloyd III, reader
J. Reilly Lewis, conductor


Commissioned by the Society in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Washington National Cathedral, this piece also serves as a moving tribute to the memory of Argento's wife, Carolyn Bailey Argento, who died in 2006.

Threnody—orchestra prelude
Preces: Phos Hilaron—treble (an Angel), chorus (the Afflicted)
Psalm 102—chorus a cappella
The Lesson—reader
Sermon—solo sprano (Homilist)
Meditation—orchestral intermezzo
Canticle: Nunc Dimittis—chorus
Prayer/Lullaby—solo treble (the Angel)

Program Details
The Music, by Dominic Argento


In the summer of 2005, my wife, Carolyn, was hospitalized with an undiagnosed neurological ailment. After several months in an intensive care unit, she spent the following six months in a Bethesda Rehabilitation Center in Minnesota. During this period, I was contacted by Reilly Lewis, who wished to commission a work to commemorate Washington National Cathedral’s 100th anniversary. Highly flattered, I nevertheless replied that I intended to spend every day at my wife’s bedside until she recovered, and thus had neither will nor energy to compose music. Persistence by Dr. Lewis and others did not change my mind.

What did change it was Carolyn herself. When she was a young child, her father had taken her to visit the Cathedral, an experience she had never forgotten. Largely because of this wonderful memory, she wanted me to accept the commission. I told her that I would consider the commission after she recovered and was back home. She never recovered.

After her death in February 2006, Dr. Lewis renewed his request. I told him that I probably would never compose again, least of all a celebratory kind of work that the Cathedral’s 100th anniversary seemed to call for. He astutely turned the tables on me: What about a work honoring your late wife? I concluded it would have pleased Carolyn to know that I had accepted the commission.


On the 180 consecutive mornings I walked into the Rehabilitation Center, the name Bethesda above the entrance brought to mind the passage in John 5 which speaks of the angel that troubled the water and the sense of hope it quickened in the afflicted who surrounded the pool waiting—like me—for a miracle of healing. Angels were Carolyn’s favorite icon, and she collected them wherever we traveled. Throughout her illness, I kept remembering that angel and hoping for a miracle. When I felt I was ready to write Evensong, I wanted it to be, as the title says, Of Love and Angels.

Normally, a choral Evening Prayer service is a hodgepodge of musical pieces— some old, some new, nothing standard except the traditional order or sequence of its parts. I wished to compose an evening service unified from beginning to end with recurring themes and motives. This even entailed writing the texts of the nonliturgical pieces (Sermon and Anthem) and altering the Phos Hilaron and Prayer texts. The first three notes heard are C, B, and A (Carolyn Bailey Argento).

The final three chords concluding the piece fifty minutes later are also based on those letters. These and other variants of them are used throughout the work although not always in recognizable forms.
The Composer: Dominick Argento

One of America’s leading composers and librettists, Dominick Argento has been hailed as the most eminent creator of lyric opera in the United States. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1975 for the song cycle From the Diary of Virginia Woolf commissioned by the Schubert Club of St. Paul. In 2004, he received a GRAMMY® award for best classical contemporary composition for Casa Guidi, five songs for mezzo-soprano and orchestra, recorded by Frederica von Stade and the Minnesota Orchestra.

Argento earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Peabody. He went on to receive his Ph.D. from Eastman School of Music, where he studied with Alan Hovhaness and Bernard Rogers. After a year in Florence, where he studied with Luigi Dallapiccola on a Guggenheim Fellowship, Argento accepted on three days’ notice what he expected to be a temporary post teaching music theory and composition at the University of Minnesota. During his four-decade tenure there, he was named Regents’ Professor, the university’s highest honor.

Over forty years, in which he has written more than sixty works, he has been commissioned by nearly every arts organization in Minnesota, most notably the Plymouth Music Series (now VocalEssence) founded by his former student Philip Brunelle.

Evensong: Of Love and Angels is a crypto-memorial to his beloved Carolyn. He began work on September 6, 2006, their wedding anniversary; he put on the finishing touches exactly one year later. “I suppose it was inevitable I would get back, even after vowing not to write anymore,” he said. “It fulfills something in me.”

C-B-A: Remembering CAROLYN BAILEY ARGENTO (1930-2006)

For fifty-one years, Carolyn Bailey Argento was her husband’s most influential adviser and critic. She studied voice at Peabody, where she was the youngest student ever to receive a personal scholarship. There she met and married fellow student Dominick Argento. In 1958, they moved to Minneapolis, where he taught at the University of Minnesota.

“When I would go off to the university,” Argento recalls, “Carolyn would practice in the studio and my notes were on the piano there. When I’d come back in the evening, on the margins of all these pages would be: “Too high,” “Where does she breathe?” “How many times are you going to ask for that note?” And I would ask, “Was anybody in my studio today?” “No,” she’d say.

“In a way, that’s how I learned to write vocal music. I never intended to write for voice. I started out to be what I thought would be an instrumental composer. And she made a vocal composer, an operatic composer out of me.”

Carolyn premiered many works by her husband before retiring in the 1970’s. She died after a long struggle with an
indeterminate neurological illness.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Evensong: of Love and Angels - Minnesota Public Radio

Today we thought we would share with you a review/write-up by Alison Young with Minnesota Public Radio about the featured piece on a new album that will be released from the Gothic Catalog this month! Thank you to: for this article.

Click Here for the Purchase page for "Evensong: Of Love and Angels"

Dominick Argento's Memorial: 'Evensong: Of Love and Angels'
by Alison Young, Minnesota Public Radio

May 22, 2009

For this Memorial Day, the premiere of Pulitzer-Prize winning composer Dominick Argento's memorial for his wife and muse of 51 years, soprano Carolyn Bailey Argento. "Evensong: Of Love and Angels" from the National Cathedral performance in 2008.

St. Paul, Minn. — Memorial Day has been celebrated in the United States since the Civil War to provide a public means of mourning those lost in battle.

This Memorial Day we're sharing a work written as a memorial for a civilian, a casualty of nothing spectacular except the end of her life.

But with her passing and a means to express his grief musically, she inspired her husband composer to not collapse into despair, but to continue his life's work.

Dominick Argento considers "Evensong: Of Love and Angels" his best work. Most of the text is original, but includes words from the office of Evening Prayer, the service for the close of day.

Premiered in March of 2008 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Washington's National Cathedral, J. Reilley Lewis leads the Cathedral Choral Society Chorus and Orchestra; Elizabeth Futral, soprano; Nelson James LePard Reed, boy soprano and Cathedral Dean Samuel T. Lloyd III, reader.

Elizabeth Futral, soprano

Nelson James LePard Reed, treble Cathderal Dean Samuel T. Lloyd III, reader

Cathedral Choral Society chorus and Orchestra

J. Reilly Lewis, Music Director

Recorded March 2, 2008, National Cathedral, Washington, DC

Guess the Artist Answer

We had a winner in our Guess the Artist contest on Facebook! The answer was A Prairie Home Companion's host, Garrison Keillor!

Today, though we want to share a little bit about the ensemble that is performing with Mr. Keillor, VocalEssence. VocalEssence and Garrison Keillor will be on two albums released this month!

Founded in 1969, VocalEssence is recognized internationally for innovative exploration of music for voices and instruments. Each year the organization presents an engaging collection of concerts featuring the 125-voice VocalEssence Chorus, the 32-voice Ensemble Singers, famous guest artists and instrumentalists. In addition to championing lesser-known works of the past, VocalEssence has an unwavering commitment to today’s composers, and has commissioned well over 120 new works and given more than 130 world premieres. VocalEssence has received the ASCAP Award for adventurous programming of contemporary music an unprecedented five times, and has been awarded the once-in-an-organizational-lifetime Margaret Hillis Achievement Award for Choral Excellence.

VocalEssence Artistic Director and Founder Philip Brunelle is renowned internationally for his work as a conductor and clinician. He has guest conducted the New York Philharmonic, Berkshire Choral Festival and Minnesota Orchestra, and was selected to preside over the Sixth World Symposium on Choral Music, which took place in Minneapolis-St. Paul in August 2002. Brunelle has served on the Minnesota State Arts Board and the National Council on the Arts and is a current member of the St. Olaf College, Chorus America and the International Federation for Choral Music Board of Directors. He is the recipient of many awards including the Kodály Medal (Hungary), the Royal Order of the Polar Star (Sweden), the F. Melius Christiansen Award (American Choral Directors Association) the Michael Korn Founder’s Award for Development of the Choral Art (Chorus America), and is an Honorary Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).

Friday, October 16, 2009

Guess the Artist Contest

So, yesterday we gave you some clues to an artist that will be featured on 2 releases on our label Clarion Records. The first person to post an answer to this question either in the comments on this blog, or in a message to us on Twitter via @loftrecordings or on our Facebook Page will win a copy of one of those 2 releases! Legal Free Music!!!

Here are some more clues:

His radio program is heard by more than 4 million listeners each week on some 590 public radio stations, and abroad on America One and the Armed Forces Networks in Europe and the Far East.

He is an American author, storyteller, humorist, columnist, musician, satirist, and radio personality.

In 2008 he appeared at the Oregon Bach Festival.

In 1994, he was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame.

Good Luck!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Guess the Artist

In preparation for our October Releases, we thought it might be fun for you to try to guess the artist on TWO albums this month!

So here are your clues:

He is famous, but not necessarily for music. He made his name on NPR. His NPR show was recently made into a movie of the same name. There is music on the show. He is a prolific writer about a certain Lake.

Leave your guesses in the comments section!

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Fantasy Through Time - Program and Notes

A Fantasy Through Time: Five Centuries of Organ Fantasies
Richards-Fowkes organ, Pinnacle Presbyterian Church, Scottsdale, Arizona
Kimberly Marshall, organist

Free bonus DVD! This compact disc includes a DVD of Kimberly Marshall playing the tracks from the CD on the Richards-Fowkes organ; also included are interviews with Dr. Marshall about the music, the organ, and the composers.

The new Richards-Fowkes organ in Scottsdale provides a wide variety of tonal resources for this historical exploration of Fantasies for organ on this, its premiere recording. Kimberly Marhsall is internationally known as an organist, and scholar. She currently is the Director of Arizona State University School of Music.

Fantasy in G Major (“Pièce d’Orgue”), BWV 572—Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Fancy—Alfonso Ferrabosco (1543-1588)
Fantasia chromatica—Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562-1621)
A Fansye (from the Mulliner Book)—Newman (fl. c.1583)
Fantasy in C Minor, BWV 562—J. S. Bach
Fantasy in D Minor, K. 397—Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Fantaisie in C Major (Version III)—César Franck (1822-1890)
Première Fantaisie—Jehan Alain (1911-1940)
Deuxième Fantaisie—J. Alain
Fantasy in G Minor, BWV 542/I—J. S. Bach

Program Details

The new organ at Pinnacle Presbyterian Church in Scottsdale, made by master builders Ralph Richards and Bruce Fowkes, was conceived as an eclectic 3-manual organ, with special emphasis on some of the timbres that J.S. Bach would have known on central German baroque organs. This recording exploits the full resources of the organ with a program of fantasies, from the earliest English “Fancys” of the 16th century, with Baroque examples by Sweelinck and Bach, including classical and romantic examples by Mozart and Franck, and culminating with the exotic Fantaisies of the early 20th-century French composer Jehan Alain. The recording is framed with Fantasies by J. S. Bach, showing the different ways in which he developed the genre.

Bach’s Fantasy in G Major, BWV 572, is entitled “Pièce d’orgue” in its principal manuscript source, suggesting French connections. The sectional structure and rich harmonic language are reminiscent of French Classical Offertoires and Plein Jeu movements. The work is in three main sections, each with a distinctive musical texture. The opening features a single line of virtuosic writing that incorporates sequential figurations; the majestic middle section creates a sense of tension and release through the resolution of suspended harmonies; the final part contains a series of rapid arpeggiations over relentlessly repeated notes in the pedal.

Composers in Elizabethan England wrote pieces of imitative polyphony entitled “Fancy” that are some of the earliest examples of the keyboard fantasy. The Fancy by the Italian Alfonso Ferrabosco was composed while he was working at the English court and is found in a 16th-century English manuscript. The piece begins in duple meter with a point of imitation treated in four voices, leading to a chordal section that erupts into fast scale passages in both hands. The closing section, in a contrasting triple meter, suggests contemporary dance pairs, such as the Pavane and Galliard, where a dance in duple meter is followed by one in triple.

Sweelinck’s Fantasia chromaticais a masterpiece of counterpoint. The main theme is a descending chromatic line which the composer manipulates to create a sectional work of large scope and aesthetic impact. The imitation heard in the early English Fancies is here taken to a new degree of complexity. Sweelinck treats the theme in both augmentation and diminution, combining it with itself as well as with new countersubjects in a gradual build-up of intensity. For two of the bass entries I employ the Pedal Trompete, one of two pedal stops that Sweelinck had on the large organ at the Oude Kerk in Amsterdam where he served as organist for most of his life.

Little is known of the English composer Newman except that some of his keyboard music was included in the Mulliner Book, an important collection compiled around 1683 for the eponymous nobleman. Newman’s Fansye is a short piece comprised of several points of imitation, where a theme is repeated in the four voice parts of a composition. To reflect the use of small organs at the Elizabethan court, I selected high-pitched principal registers for this piece on the Richards-Fowkes instrument, adding short ornaments to accentuate the melodic lines.

J. S. Bach wrote two C-minor Fantasies that reflect his study of the classical French composer, Nicolas de Grigny. In the Fugues of his Livre d’orgue (1699), Grigny used a 5-voice texture, with two parts in the right hand, two in the left, and one in the pedal. The Bach Fantasy recorded here (BWV 562) exhibits the same distribution of parts, with themes treated imitatively between them. The highly ornamented first theme incorporates the pincé and descending coulé of French embellishment practice; Bach’s choice of C minor may also refer to French classical music that employs this key for its melancholy character.

Mozart composed two fantasies for a small player organ, and these are often performed by organists on larger instruments. These well-known works have been recorded numerous times, so I thought it might be more interesting to adapt one of Mozart’s pianoforte fantasies to the Richards-Fowkes organ. We know that Mozart greatly admired the organ—in a letter dated Oct 17, 1777, he wrote: "When I said to Herr Stein that I should like to play on one of his organs, as the organ was my passion, he seemed surprised, and said "What! a pianist like you to play on an instrument devoid of expression, no piano and no forte, but always going on the same?" Mozart's reply was that "lack of that sort of expression does not matter, the organ always was, both to my eyes and ears, the Queen of Instruments." Organ timbres can be used to great effect to “orchestrate” keyboard music, as heard in Mozart’s Fantasy in D minor, K. 397. The juxtaposition of flutes and principals from different divisions provides dynamic contrast, and the pedal is used to reinforce the bass line.

Moving to the romantic music of the following century, the French composer César Franck wrote several Fantaisies, including onein C Major, published in 1868 as part of his Six Pièces pour orgue. It seems to have been a personal favorite because he used the same musical material in several different versions, adapted for different contexts. The version recorded here may have been conceived for Frank’s performance during the inauguration of the new Cavaillé-Coll organ at Notre-Dame Cathedral in 1868. The opening is identical to the published fantasy, but Franck composed new material for the following section, which later accompanies one of the earlier themes. A gradual crescendo and acceleration leads to a thrilling climax, and the fantasy quickly recedes back into calm to end softly. The great dynamic contrast in this version may have been intended to demonstrate the vast resources of the new Notre-Dame instrument and to show how quickly sounds could be added and taken away thanks to Cavaillé-Coll’s windchest design.

A contemporary of Olivier Messiaen, Jehan Alain was killed while working for the French Resistance during WWII. Despite his short life, he developed a very personal style of composing for the organ that is exemplified in the language of his Two Fantaisies. The first fantasy opens harshly, with dissonant chords on the reed stops and an angular pedal line. Harmonic sequences then pass between keyboards, with occasional eruptions of fast passagework. These short sections build in sound, leading to penetrating chords that are reminiscent of the work’s beginning. To this, Alain appends a simple lullaby on single stops that brings the piece to an ethereal close. Alain’s much younger sister, the noted organist Marie-Claire Alain, recalls hearing this lullaby as a small child, perhaps as her brother composed the piece.

The sectional structure, theatrical pacing and innovative use of keyboard writing in Alain’s Second Fantaisie suggest a 20thc response to Sweelinck’s essay in the genre.

The fantasy is in arch form, beginning and ending quietly like the Franck example on the program. Several themes are treated in discrete sections with distinctive colors; especially prominent is a sinewy melody first heard on the crumhorn that returns towards the end of the work. The contours of this theme suggest north-African music, which fascinated Alain with its chromaticism and pungent instrumentation. Alain increases the registration to explode in a powerful central section where the pedals play a new motive on the reeds accompanied with exotic figuration in the manuals. From this climax, the piece recedes in tension, returning to the opening texture. This fantasy could be a musical depiction of Victor Hugo’s poem “Les Djinns,” where the length of each line increases to create a crescendo representing the onslaught of the genies as they overtake the town, after which each line decreases in length to reflect their gradual departure.
The Djinns
Victor Hugo (1802-1885)

Town, tower,
Shore, deep,
Where lower
Cliff's steep;
Waves gray,
Where play
Winds gay,
All sleep.

Hark! a sound,
Far and slight,
Breathes around
On the night
High and higher,
Nigh and nigher,
Like a fire,
Roaring, bright.

Now, on 'tis sweeping
With rattling beat,
Like dwarf imp leaping
In gallop fleet
He flies, he prances,
In frolic fancies,
On wave-crest dances
With pattering feet.

Hark, the rising swell,
With each new burst!
Like the tolling bell
Of a convent curst;
Like the billowy roar
On a storm-lashed shore,--
Now hushed, but once more
Maddening to its worst.

O God! the deadly sound
Of the Djinn's fearful cry!
Quick, 'neath the spiral round
Of the deep staircase fly!
See, see our lamplight fade!
And of the balustrade
Mounts, mounts the circling shade
Up to the ceiling high!

'Tis the Djinns' wild streaming swarm
Whistling in their tempest flight;
Snap the tall yews 'neath the storm,
Like a pine flame crackling bright.
Swift though heavy, lo! their crowd
Through the heavens rushing loud
Like a livid thunder-cloud
With its bolt of fiery might!

Ho! they are on us, close without!
Shut tight the shelter where we lie!
With hideous din the monster rout,
Dragon and vampire, fill the sky!
The loosened rafter overhead
Trembles and bends like quivering reed;
Shakes the old door with shuddering dread,
As from its rusty hinge 'twould fly!
Wild cries of hell! voices that howl and shriek!
The horrid troop before the tempest tossed--
O Heaven!--descends my lowly roof to seek:

Bends the strong wall beneath the furious host.
Totters the house as though, like dry leaf shorn
From autumn bough and on the mad blast borne,
Up from its deep foundations it were torn
To join the stormy whirl. Ah! all is lost!

O Prophet! if thy hand but now
Save from these hellish things,
A pilgrim at thy shrine I'll bow,
Laden with pious offerings.
Bid their hot breath its fiery rain
Stream on the faithful's door in vain;
Vainly upon my blackened pane
Grate the fierce claws of their dark wings!

They have passed!--and their wild legion
Cease to thunder at my door;
Fleeting through night's rayless region,
Hither they return no more.
Clanking chains and sounds of woe
Fill the forests as they go;
And the tall oaks cower low,
Bent their flaming light before.

On! on! the storm of wings
Bears far the fiery fear,
Till scarce the breeze now brings
Dim murmurings to the ear;
Like locusts' humming hail,
Or thrash of tiny flail
Plied by the fitful gale
On some old roof-tree sere.

Fainter now are borne
Feeble mutterings still;
As when Arab horn
Swells its magic peal,
Shoreward o'er the deep
Fairy voices sweep,
And the infant's sleep
Golden visions fill.

Each deadly Djinn,
Dark child of fright,
Of death and sin,
Speeds in wild flight.
Hark, the dull moan,
Like the deep tone
Of Ocean's groan,
Afar, by night!

More and more
Fades it slow,
As on shore
Ripples flow,--
As the plaint
Far and faint
Of a saint
Murmured low.

Hark! hist!
I list!
The bounds
Of space
All trace
Of sound.

-Les Orientales, 1929

English translation by John L. O’Sullivan

The recording ends with a return to J. S. Bach, in one of his most famous pieces, the Fantasy in G Minor, BWV 542. Like all of the fantasies included here, this is in a sectional form; here Bach intersperses passages in improvisatory style with strict points of imitation, a structure favored by composers in northern Germany to demonstrate their large instruments. The freedom of the florid melodic writing and the drama of the punctuating chords harken back to the Italian stylus phantasticus, used to great effect by Dieterich Buxtehude, whose music Bach emulated during the early part of his career. This fantasy is considered to be a somewhat later work, probably towards the end of Bach’s time in Weimar, because of its harmonic experimentation. The composer pushes the modulations far away from the G-minor tonal center, increasing the dissonance created by the remote chords in the organ’s tuning. He ultimately pivots back towards the home key through an enharmonic relationship between E# and F, gradually returning to a final cadence in G Minor. The technical bravura and narrative tension of this fantasy make it a classic of the organ repertoire, and it has been adapted in piano and orchestral versions.

The wide survey of the fantasy genre recorded here suggests the wealth of invention expressed in the work of European composers for the organ over five centuries. No other instrument can claim such a vast heritage, and very few single organs could render so eclectic a program so convincingly. Ralph Richards and Bruce Fowkes are to be commended on their exceptional achievement, and the congregation of Pinnacle Presbyterian Church should be congratulated for making this significant commitment to the organist’s art in the Valley of the Sun.

-Kimberly Marshall

Friday, October 9, 2009

Jehan Alain - Kimberly Marshall

We thought we'd share with you a very interesting clip from the "A Fantasy Through Time" Bonus DVD, where Kimberly Marshall talks about the 20th Century French composer, Jehan Alain (1911-1940).

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Kimberly Marshall plays "Fancy" by Alfonso Ferrabosco

In this clip from the Bonus DVD from the Kimberly Marshall album "A Fantasy Through Time" (LRCD-1108), Kimberly Marshall performs Alfonso Ferrabosco's (1543-1588) piece, "Fancy" on the Richards-Fowkes Organ at the Pinnacle Presbyterian Church in Scottsdale, AZ.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Richard-Fowkes Organ

This video comes from the Bonus DVD that is included with the album A Fantasy through Time - Five Centuries of Organ Fantasies on the Richard-Fowkes Organ featuring Kimberly Marshall.

The clip is Kimberly Marhshall talking about the Richard-Fowkes Organ that is in the Pinnacle Presbyterian Church in Scottsdale, AZ.

For more videos see our new YouTube Channel!

We hope you enjoy!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Kimberly Marshal Rosales Opus 14

Do to the popularity of posting the last Kimberly Marshall organ demonstration, we thought we would share another part of that performance.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Kimberly Marshall Demonstration

Check out this very neat video of Kimberly Marshall demonstrating an organ and giving a short lecture and recital. This is just one clip of many!