Monday, November 29, 2010

Advent Music!

If you missed Sunday's Organ Loft broadcast, you missed us kicking off the official beginning of the Advent Season! So today we want to highlight the albums featured on the show to kick off the Christmas celebrations!

Advent Procession Based on The Great "O" Antiphons
Choirs of St. Mark's Cathedral, Seattle, Washington
J. Melvin Butler, organist/choirmaster
Peter Hallock, choirmaster (Compline Choir)
Roger Sherman, organist

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Praise the Spirit: Sacred Music of David Ashley White
Alan Austin, violin
Martha Chapman, violin (track 3 only)
Brady Knapp, baritone
Garrett Martin, trumpet
Patty Moeling, flute
Sarah Oldrin, soprano (track 22 only)
Johanna Peske, oboe
Celeste Proffitt, percussion
Laurie Robertson, soprano
Mitzi Storey, recorder
Brian Vogel, percussion
David Ashley White, keyboard (track 1 only)
Laura Witt, harp
The Choir of Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church, Houston, TX
Brady Knapp & Courtney Daniell-Knapp, directors

David Ashley White is one of the most popular composers in the Episcopal Church today. From anthems to hymns, this recording offers a variety of music and texts. The Choir of Palmer Church has long been associated with White's music, and gives the program a polished performance in a reverberant setting. Recorded by the legendary John Proffitt.

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Christmas in the Grand Tradition
The Wanamaker Organ at Macy’s Center City
The Philadelphia Brass Ensemble
Peter Richard Conte, Grand Court Organist

Christmas carols on a grand scale! Under the dazzling fingers of organist Peter Richard Conte, the world's largest musical instrument teams up with the Philadelphia Brass in this program of Christmas favorites. A sonic spectacular!

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The Leipzig Chorales of J.S. Bach
Flentrop Organ of Duke Chapel
Joan Lippincott, organist

When Bach died in 1750, he left behind an incomplete manuscript that was perhaps being prepared for future publication. The intent of the collection, or the organizational scheme are difficult to discern, but Bach may have been planning something on the same scale as Clavierübung III (the "German Organ Mass"). Whatever the intent, these enlargements and revisions of earlier chorale preludes contain some of Bach's most sublime musical moments.

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving - Harvest Home

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today we wanted to help you celebrate by featuring our quintessential Thanksgiving album, Harvest Home, and giving you samples of all the tracks on the album!

Harvest Home: Songs From the Heart
The Dale Warland Singers
Dale Warland, conductor

Exquisitely sung and beautifully recorded, this CD offers some of the most heartfelt singing we’ve ever heard. Perfect intonation, sumptuous sound, and familiar tunes---this is Dale Warland at his best. Includes “Deep River,” Simple Gifts, “The Water is Wide,” Beautiful River (“Shall we gather at the river”) “We gather together,” and many more.

Click the play button to listen:

Beautiful River (Shall We Gather at the River), Rev. Robert Lowry arr. William Hawley
Simple Gifts, Elder Joseph Brackett, arr. Dale Warland
She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain, arr. Emma Lou Diemer
Peace, arr. Kevin Siegfried
McKay, Carol Barnett
A la claire fontaine, arr. Norman Luboff
Deep River, arr. Norman Luboff
We Gather Together, arr. Stephen Paulus
Not One Sparrow is Forgotten, arr. William Hawley
Cindy, arr. Carol Barnett
Gentle Annie, Stephen Foster, arr. Edwin Fissinger
We Shall Walk Through the Valley in Peace, arr. W. Applings
The Water is Wide, arr. Jeffrey Van
By and By, arr. Carol Barnett
The Old Church, Stephen Paulus
Lay Me Low, arr. Kevin Siegfried
The Road Home, arr. Stephen Paulus

Purchase this album and give your Thanksgiving day the perfect soundtrack! Purchase the CD from The Gothic Catalog, or download it today from!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Complete Your Garrison Keillor Thanksgiving!

On Monday we reminded you of our album "Over the River and Through the Woods" and today we want to remind you of its companion album "Hymn to Potatoes"! Also, we want to let you know that you can get them both together and save!

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.

Click the Play button to listen to samples:
Hymn to Potatoes
Bohemian Rhapsody

Get your copy of Hymn to Potatoes from The Gothic Catalog or download the album today from!

Or save and get "Over the River and Through the Woods" and "Hymn to Potatoes" together!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving Music - Over the River and Through The Woods

Last year we had the distinct pleasure of releasing the fantastic Thanksgiving album "Over the River and Through the Woods" featuring Garrison Keillor, VocalEssence, and The Hopeful Gospel Quartet. So today we thought we would remind you of this release that makes for a perfect soundtrack to your holiday celebration! Also remember that we now have our music available for instant download on so it's not too late to get the perfect music for Thanksgiving!

Over The River and Through the Woods:

On a chilly November evening, the Hopeful Gospel Quartet — Garrison Keillor, Mollie O’Brien and Robin & Linda Williams — traded musical moments with the VocalEssence Chorus and Ensemble Singers in a concert at Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis. The evening seamlessly blended American folk traditions with choral masterpieces old and new, from “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” to “Now Thank We All Our God.” Garrison Keillor shared his Thanksgiving memories in a hilarious yet poignant monologue. Thanks to Minnesota Public Radio, the evening was captured for posterity in this charming two-CD set.

Garrison Keillor weaves together familiar melodies and his own observations into this charming and unique celebration of Thanksgiving. Keillor is joined by Prudence Johnson, Rich Dworsky, the VocalEssence Chorus & Ensemble Singers, Charles Kemper and Philip Brunelle in musical renditions of traditional hymns and humorous adaptations of songs for the season. Keillor guides us through the hour with his renowned story telling ability and reminds us of the treasures of Thanksgiving with his remarkable perceptions of American life.

Here are some samples from the album to really get you in the mood for the Holiday. Click the play button to listen to them:

Will the Circle Be Unbroken
An Anthem for Thanksgiving
Thanks Be to God
Thanksgiving Recollections

Purchase the album direct from The Gothic Catalog, or get immediate downloads today from!

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Organ Loft - Thanksgiving/Advent Mix

The Organ Loft - November 21, 2010
Thanksgiving/Advent Mix
Webcast and Broadcast Schedule

Program: Thanksgiving/Advent Mix
  1. J.S. Bach: Sinfonia to Cantata 29 “We Thank Thee, Lord”1
  2. J.S. Bach: “Now Thank We All our God” from Cantata 791
  3. Danish melody, arr. Stephen Paulus: “We Gather Together”2
  4. Carol Barnett: McKay, from “An American Thanksgiving”2
  5. Shaker Hymn, arr. William Hawley: “Not One Sparrow is Forgotten”2
  6. J.S. Bach: Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme3
  7. Mendelssohn: Overture from the oratorio, “Paul”4
  8. Louis Vierne: Solemn Mass5

Recordings Used: Click Links to purchase these recordings
  1. “Music of Jubilee”, E. Power Biggs, organ; Columbia Chamber Symphony, Zoltan Rozsnyai, conductor; CBS Records MK 42646
  2. “Harvest Home”, The Dale Warland Singers, Dale Warland, conductor, Gothic G49243
  3. “J.S. Bach: Clavierűbung III & Schűbler Chorales” Joan Lippincott, organ, Gothic G 49242-2
  4. “Mendelssohn: Paulus” Collegium Vocale, La Chapelle Royale, Orchestre des Champs Elsees, Phillipe Herreweghe, dir; Harmonia Mundi France HMC 901584.85
  5. “Praise Parisienne” National Lutheran Choir, David Cherwein, director, Gothic G-49257

Find the Broadcasts online from:

KING-FM Seattle's Classical Choice — Sundays at 10:00 PM


OREGON: KWAX-FM and the University of Oregon radio network — Sundays at 8:00 AM and 6:00 PM

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Celebrating Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is only a week away, and the perfect soundtrack can make cooking for the meal, and enjoying the meal that much better. And now that we have all of our albums available for download on you can purchase one of these featured albums and don't have to wait for shipping. So we're going to be featuring albums we believe are the perfect soundtracks to help you celebrate the holidays!

When you start getting ready for Thanksgiving, what comes to your mind? Do you think of the first Thanksgiving and early America? It's something that we definitely think of at this time of the year. Can you just imagine the images of Pilgrims and old wood houses and log cabins? Music can do a lot to take you back into that time and mindframe, it can also enrich the imagery and even evoke the smells of Thanksgiving. We have many great albums for Thanksgiving, but today we wanted to highlight an album that isn't normally thought of as "Thanksgiving" music, but easily calls all of the early American imagery to mind. When we listen to the Shaker songs performed by The Tudor Choir, the sound of those melodies and folksongs immediately whisks us away to those early and "simple" times. A perfect mood-setter for gathering together our families and thinking of all that we are thankful for. So today we highlight the album Gentle Words and give you some history of Shaker Tunes from the arranger himself.

Gentle Words
Shaker songs arranged by Kevin Siegfried
The Tudor Choir, Doug Fullington, director

Click here to download this album on and listen to samples of all the tracks! Or click the album title to purchase directly from The Gothic Catalog.

"Gentle Words is another treasure by Loft Recordings, and excellent little independent label based in Seattle that specializes in organ music. If you care about American music or the art of sublime choral singing, I implore you to buy this recording." - Fanfare

Shaker music is one of the richest bodies of folksong in American history and Kevin Siegfried's arrangements follow Shaker aesthetics of beauty, simplicity and utility. Sung by The Tudor Choir, this recording incorporates a variety of original choral arrangements, including unison singing and antiphonal performances.

Booklet contains full texts and commentary on each tune, and an introduction to Shaker music.

This is one of our favorite CDs...

I will bow and be simple * In yonder valley * All is summer * O Lord make me pure * Love is little * The burning day * Circular march * Help me, O Lord * Heavenly display * Followers of the Lamb * Come to Zion * We must be meek * Lay me low * Solemn song * Beautiful treasure * Peace * Angels of heaven * Hunger and thirst * Dismission of Great I * Revelation * Prayer for the captive * Gentle words * Beautiful valley * Jubilee * Ezekiel's vision * Almighty Savior * Cords of love * I will go on my way

The Shakers, or United Society of Believers, originated in England around 1747. In 1770, the charismatic Ann Lee became the acknowledged leader of this small, spirited band. Their animated and ecstatic worship practices incorporating dancing and singing gave rise to their common name. Directed by a revelation, nine Shakers, including Mother Ann Lee, departed for America in 1774, to escape persecution and spread their unique message.

"Put your hands to work and your hearts to God," Mother Ann told her followers, and this they did. Shaker communal societies spread throughout the eastern United States and west to Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana, with a total estimated population of 6,000 at its peak by the 1840s. Guided by the principles of celibacy and devotion to the gospel, these societies were characterized by pacifism, gender/racial equality, and an astounding industriousness and invention. With one society still remaining today in Maine, the Shakers have outlived all other "utopian" religious communities, leaving an indelible mark on American culture.

The visionary and original Shaker spirit perhaps found its greatest expression in music and dance. As a result, Shaker music represents the largest body of folksong in American history with approximately 10,000 songs in existence. Seeking separation from the world, the early Shakers avoided all harmony and instrumental accompaniment in their music, and created their own musical notation to record their unique, unfettered songs. These melodies reveal an inspired imagination and strong sense of musical line and proportion.

Because Shaker music is undeniably important to American musical history and culture, my goal in arranging these Shaker melodies for choirs is to make them accessible and useful in modern worship and concert settings. Central to all Shaker art and music is the theme of functionality, defined by use. It is my hope that these arrangements will move the Shaker songs from historical text into living musical settings. They seek to combine the Shaker themes of beauty, simplicity, and utility.

As a composer and arranger, my approach to these songs grew out of an intense involvement with the material, rather than a preconceived idea rooted in my particular musical style. I have attempted to maintain the simplicity and directness of the original, unison melodies, with an emphasis on unison singing and antiphonal performance which were at the very heart of Shaker musical practice. The majority of Shaker songs still remain hidden from public view, requiring a massive effort of compilation and transcription. I am most grateful to the scholars and performers whose passion and activity in the realm of Shaker song study and transcription have brought so much to light: E.D. Andrews, Mitzie Collins, Harold Cook, Randy Folger, Roger Hall, and Daniel Patterson.

My first introduction to Shaker music came through reading E.D. Andrews’ famous book The Gift to be Simple. The man who brought Shaker music alive to my ears and imagination was Randy Folger, who performed daily in the meeting house at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill in Kentucky. Randy’s position as Music and Special Programs Manager at Shaker Village gave him the opportunity to establish a deep, intimate relationship with Shaker music. As anyone who heard him knows, he gave himself wholly to the songs, resurrecting the power and spirit of an inspired Shaker singer. It was Randy who first encouraged me in this project of arranging Shaker songs. Sadly, his life was taken in an auto accident in 1999. This recording is dedicated to him, in gratitude for his friendship, encouragement, and inspiration.

To Randy – your voice breathed life and goes on singing.

- Kevin Siegfried

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Kicking off the Holiday Season

We are getting extremely close to Thanksgiving (only 9 more days), and then three days after that will be the beginning of the Advent season. What it really means to us is that we get to highlight some of our favorite music! So today we are going to kick off this fantastic musical season with an album that encompasses both Christmas/Advent and Thanksgiving (as well as a little Easter even) - we're talking about the album "Let Us Sing Sweet Songs" by Bern Herbolsheimer!

Let Us Sing Sweet Songs
Music for choir, brass, organ, harp, organ, and percussion by Bern Herbolsheimer
Opus 7 Vocal Ensemble, Loren Pontén, director

Listen to samples of the album at!

World Premiere Recording

A major collection of never-before-recorded music by Northwest composer Bern Herbolsheimer, performed in the beautiful acoustical setting of St. James Cathedral in Seattle. These lyrical works are interpreted with reverence and clarity by Opus 7 vocal ensemble under the direction of Loren Pontén. Opus 7 specializes in the performance of modern and contemporary works, and their previous recordings have received national praise.

1 Ave Regina (2001)
2 “Gloria” from St. James Mass for Peace (1982)
3 ‘Let Us Sing Sweet Songs” from St. James Mass for Peace (1982)
4 Thanksgiving Day, 1861: One Vacant Chair (2003)
5 “We Praise Thee O God” from Te Deum (1981)
6 Blessed (1992)

Seven Last Words (2002)
7 Father, forgive them
8 Amen dico tibi
9 Mulier, ecce filius tuus
10 Eli, lama sabatani?
11 Sitio
12 Consummatum est
13 Father, into thy hands

14 O come, O come (1999)
15 Silly Shepherds (1999)
16 Stille Nacht (2000)

Program Notes:

Seattle-based Bern Herbolsheimer is a cosmopolitan composer who chooses a wide variety of subjects for his work. A considerable portion has been dedicated to choral music, and of that a considerable number are sacred. This can be attributed in part to the rich choral culture in Seattle, which has emerged in the past few decades. Also significant is Herbolsheimer’s long-time collaboration with Dr. James Savage, who, as director of music at Seattle’s St. James Catholic Cathedral, was responsible for commissioning many works for performance there. As a result of his relationship to that Cathedral, the composer took part in a cultural and musical environment that gave precise significance to his creations. In addition to being a pianist, he is a vocal coach and accompanist, and as such has a particular sensitivity to the human voice: its possibilities and its limitations. He carefully judges the skills of the singers involved in his projects and provides them with challenges as well as satisfactions.

Ave Regina (2001)
Herbolsheimer has called his Ave Regina "a tribute to Verdi.” He writes, "Most opera-goers know [Verdi’s] haunting “Ave Maria” from Otello; most choral aficionados know his Ave Maria written 'on an enigmatic scale.' Few people, however, know his Ave Maria for soprano and strings. I have taken this third text (by an unknown writer from fifteenth- or sixteenth-century Italy) and set it, using an unusual scale (Aeolian with a flat fifth), which, due to its construction, is closely related to both the octatonic and whole-tone scales. I chose this text as an alternative to the usual Latin prayer because the Italian text is more personal, and, at the same time, more visceral."

Let us sing sweet songs and Gloria from St. James Mass for Peace (1982)
Both "Let us sing sweet songs" and "Gloria" are from the St. James Mass for Peace, the result of a commission by St. James Cathedral that was inspired by Archbishop Raymond G. Hunthausen’s concern for America’s dependence on weapons of mass destruction and his call to peace. The Gloria, scored for choir with brass, organ and percussion, is upbeat, rhythmic, even jaunty with its alternating 6/8 and 3/4.

The text of “Let us sing sweet songs” is by Irvine A. Huck, a former English teacher at Bellevue Community College in Bellevue, Washington, and currently principal accompanist for the Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle. This is a work of major dimensions, both in size and content. The text evokes the redemptive beauty of the Northwest: “Like fire on the mountain, fire in the lake…your careful orchards, 0 your deer foot seasons.” But the music is brooding and episodic, with instrumental and choral statements strategically balanced in importance. Ascending walking bass lines lend a processional splendor and extended organ pedals hint at vast, cloud-obscured landscapes. There is foreboding in the plaintive call of the oboe, recalling the image of the prophet lamenting the desolation of Jerusalem destroyed. There is redemption, though inconclusive, in the pedal of the extended final measures, a suspension of tension and a plea for peace in the words “dona nobis pacem.”

Thanksgiving Day, 1861: One Vacant Chair (2003)
The text of Thanksgiving Day, 1861: One Vacant Chair is from the Ozark folksong book that Herbolsheimer was using for some folksong settings. This text, which had no accompanying tune in the book, was written on Thanksgiving Day, 1861, during the American Civil War. Herbolsheimer comments, "Since the text refers to "breathing our evening prayer" I think it falls into the category of hymn. Considering the state of our country right now, the text is timeless, as well as appropriate."

We Praise Thee O God from Te Deum (1981)
The Te Deum, scored for piano, four hands plus percussion, originated as a joint project between two Seattle Presbyterian churches. Motif development is often the structural agent of Herbolsheimer’s style, and the first choral statement in the first movement, "We praise Thee, O God," is the melodic key of that entire movement. This text has often elicited a bombastic response from composers (witness settings by Bruckner and Verdi), but here, the mystical opening—with softly chiming piano chords reminiscent of Messiaen—is more personal and meditative. As we are encouraged, in the text, to praise, the intensity and fervor of the music increases.

Blessed (1992)
The setting of the familiar text of the beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-9) is scored for women’s voices and piano. Quiet, open chords from the piano set a mood for the profound simplicity of the words, and the mostly unison line for the voices has the dignity of eternal truth.

Seven Last Words (2002)
The text of Seven Last Words is taken solely from New Testament accounts of the crucifixion. It is a composite of the four Gospel records, as no one Gospel contains all seven utterances. Although since the eighteenth century, the Seven Last Words text has been used liturgically in the Good Friday midday prayer called Tre Ore, is a text that has not often been set but is contained in a few notable versions. The setting by Heinrich Schütz, a tiny chamber oratorio with choral and instrumental interludes, is a gem of the early Baroque. Franz Joseph Haydn’s setting was written for chorus and orchestra. Théodore Dubois’s version for choir with organ or orchestra was very popular in the early part of the twentieth century.

Herbolsheimer’s setting was commissioned by Seattle’s Cascadian Chorale, and is written for a cappella choir. The seven motets making up the work use both Latin and English words in what must be judged a most successful combination. Unlike Schütz, Herbolsheimer does not identify the seven statements in their specific contexts: what is heard are only the words of Christ with no context included. This allows Herbolsheimer to concentrate specifically on the words and to repeat them with great freedom.

The unrelieved somberness of this text could present problems for a composer interested in setting it. Using a dark palette, Herbolsheimer infuses it with great harmonic richness, rolling resolutely through sharp dissonances to unexpected resolutions on brightly hued consonances. Melodic patterns coalesce into tightly spaced chords, which become ostinato lines supporting the ongoing melody. These motets are not unlike the famous Rothko paintings whose brooding color schemes seem static, but are actually controlled turbulence. Here the text is not as important as what is being said musically about the text. Listeners should note the text, and then allow the music to shape their response.

O come, O come (1999)
Silly Shepherds (1999)
Stille Nacht (2000)

The three carol settings included here reveal a different aspect of Herbolsheimer, whose arrangements of folk songs, as these are, are a delightful contrast to his serious sacred works. His setting of “O come, O come Emmanuel” is of crystalline simplicity, the harp discreetly decorating the solo line. He presents a luxurious setting of ”Stille Nacht”, whose gentle downward curve of harmony links each verse into a single phrase. And how refreshing to hear a lighter note between the other more sober pieces, particularly when the “Silly shepherds” need rousing from sleep!

-- Robert Scandrett

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Organ Loft - A Pair of Fifths

The Organ Loft - November 14, 2010
Widor's Fifth and Beethoven's Fifth
Webcast and Broadcast Schedule

Program: A Pair of Fifths
  1. WIDOR: Toccata from Symphony No. 51
  2. BACH: Passacaglia and Fugue, c-minor, BWV 5822
  3. BEETHOVEN (trans: Stender): Symphony No. 5, c-minor, Op.673

Recordings Used:
  1. “Easter Music 2002 St. Mark’s Cathedral, Seattle” J. Melvin Butler, organ OREM 2002
  2. “Great Organ Music” Tong-Soon Kwak, organ KBS-FM MIDAS CLASSIC
  3. “Ludwig Van Beethoven” Ernst-Erich Stender, organ ORNAMENT RECORDS 11457

Find the Broadcasts online from:

KING-FM Seattle's Classical Choice — Sundays at 10:00 PM


OREGON: KWAX-FM and the University of Oregon radio network — Sundays at 8:00 AM and 6:00 PM

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Joan Lippincott 30th Anniversary Release - J.S. Bach Concerto Transcriptions

J.S. Bach: Concerto Transcriptions
Paul Fritts Organ at Princeton Theological Seminary
Joan Lippincott, organ

This recording celebrates 30 years of Joan Lippincott's Bach recordings on Gothic, and includes her own dazzling transcription of the Bach/Vivaldi concerto for four harpsichords.

List Price: $18.98 
Our Price:$14.98 
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Concerto in G Major, BWV 592
1 (Allegro)
2 Grave
3 Presto

Concerto in A Minor, BWV 593
4 (Allegro)
5 Adagio
6 Allegro

Concerto in D Minor, BWV 596
7 (Allegro)
8 Grave - Fuga
9 Largo e spiccato
10 (Allegro)

Concerto in C Major, BWV 594
11 (Allegro)
12 Recitativo Adagio
13 Allegro

Concerto in C Major, BWV 595
14 (Allegro)

Concerto in A Minor, BWV 1065, transcribed by Joan Lippincott
15 (Allegro)
16 Largo
17 Allegro
18 Allabreve in D Major, BWV 589

Program Notes:

Johann Sebastian Bach’s stay in Weimar as Court Organist to Dukes Wilhelm Ernst and Ernst August has been described as the golden period of his organ writing. There is certainly truth to this, for his tenure in Weimar (1708-1717) directly followed his initial organist positions in Arnstadt (1703-1707) and Mühlhausen (1707-1708), during which he cut his teeth in organ playing and composition. In Arnstadt and Mühlhausen he produced “the first fruits of his efforts at organ composition,” as the writers of his obituary later put it. In Weimar, his organ writing reached maturity, and it was there that he wrote most of the works that established his reputation as the greatest organist and organ composer of all time: the Orgelbüchlein ("The Little Organ Book"), the first versions of the “Great Eighteen” Chorales, the bulk of his large preludes and fugues, and the concerto transcriptions heard on the present recording. The success of these pieces and the brilliance of Bach’s playing attracted students and brought invitations to test and inaugurate new organs in neighboring towns. Indeed, it was during this time that word began to spread throughout Germany about the organ virtuoso from Thuringia.

Bach was encouraged in these activities by his principal employer, Wilhelm Ernst, a great lover of organ music. Moreover, he had at his disposal an organ of sufficient (if not luxurious) resources located in the magnificent space of the Court Chapel. There were still other reasons that his talents flourished in Weimar, however. The first was the presence of his cousin Johann Gottfried Walther, organist of the City Church of St. Peter and St. Paul located just across town from the court complex. Walther was also an organist of considerable skill, and his settings of chorale melodies and his transcriptions of instrumental concertos clearly spurred friendly competition with Bach. Walther’s wide-ranging interests in music (he later published one of the most important German music dictionaries of the time, the Musical Lexicon of 1732) and his extensive library of German, French, and Italian music opened new vistas for the ever-curious Bach.

A second catalyst in Weimar was the presence of Prince Johann Ernst, the young nephew of Wilhelm Ernst. Ernst, a gifted violinist and keyboard player, studied composition with Walther and owned an extensive library of contemporary instrumental music. The Prince traveled frequently in Europe to hear new music and purchase copies for his collection, and it was on a trip to the low countries in the spring of 1713 that he brought back to the court a large quantity of printed music that seems to have included Antonio Vivaldi’s latest set of violin concertos, L’Estro armonico (“The Harmonic Whim”), op. 3, of 1711.

Bach’s encounter with Vivaldi’s concertos, courtesy of Johann Ernst, was a life-changing experience. Vivaldi’s compelling instrumental idiom with its incisive themes, clear harmonic direction, strongly wrought forms, and motor rhythms offered Bach an attractive alternative to the North-German style that he had espoused in his early works, and it was not long before his organ compositions began to take on Vivaldian features. And in what appears to have been a friendly competition, Bach and Walther arranged a series of fashionable instrumental concertos by Vivaldi, Johann Ernst, and other progressive composers for organ and harpsichord, producing a body of transcriptions that testifies to an unusually exciting period of organ playing and composition in Weimar.

Johann Ernst died prematurely in 1715 at the age of nineteen, and it is possible that Bach and Walther intended their transcriptions as gifts to the Prince during his lifetime or as memorial tributes after his death. On the present recording organist Joan Lippincott performs Bach’s five surviving concerto transcriptions for organ, two of works by Johann Ernst and three of works by Vivaldi. She also adds for good measure her own transcription of Bach’s four-harpsichord arrangement of Vivaldi’s Concerto in B Minor for Four Violins, Strings, and Continuo as well as the Allabreve in D Major, BWV 589, Bach’s transcription-like homage to the Renaissance vocal motet.

The Concerto in G Major, BWV 592, is a transcription of Johann Ernst’s Concerto in G Major for Violin, Strings, and Continuo, a work that Bach also transcribed for solo harpsichord, BWV 592a. Ernst’s concerto survives as a set of handwritten instrumental parts, and a comparison of the original music and the organ arrangement shows that Bach tightened and improved the score as he transferred it to the organ. The music follows the traditional three-movement sequence of the Late Baroque Concerto: Fast—Slow—Fast. In the opening movement Bach assigns the solo violin episodes to the Rückpositiv, or secondary manual, and the tutti sections to the Oberwerk, or primary manual, and Pedal. At times he calls for double pedal, taking both viola and continuo parts with the feet in order to free the hands for the two violin lines. In the Grave middle movement a forte unison theme frames a melodic central section. And in the Presto finale, which like the first movement capitalizes on the alternation of a tutti ritornello theme and episodic segments, Bach adorns the music with 32nd-note scalar flourishes here and there to further animate the score.

The Concerto in A Minor, BWV 593, is a transcription of the Concerto in A Minor for Two Violins, Strings, and Continuo, RV 522, from Vivaldi’s L’Estro armonico. Bach arranged the concerto for two manuals and pedal, assigning the tutti sections to the Oberwerk and the solo violin sections to the Rückpositiv, much in the manner of the Johann Ernst transcriptions. He also enriched the texture everywhere, adding new counterpoint to Vivaldi’s lines. The ingenuity of Bach’s adaptation is present everywhere, from the inventive and carefully notated manual changes of the first and third movements to the inversion of Vivaldi’s motives in the middle movement to make the original parts more playable on a keyboard. In the final Allegro Bach utilizes double pedal once again, assigning the unison line of violins 3 and 4 of Vivaldi’s score to the right foot and the continuo part to the left foot. The two hands play the solo violin parts. The boldness of this passage must have greatly impressed Bach’s listeners, for there was nothing quite like it in the organ repertory before this work.

No less magnificent is the Concerto in D Minor, BWV 596, a transcription of Vivaldi’s Concerto in D Minor for Two Violins, Cello, Strings, and Continuo, RV 565, from L’Estro armonico, once again. Its formal design is somewhat different from that of the A-Minor Concerto: a 32-measure-long Allegro introduction leads to a 3-measure Grave bridge, which is followed by an extended and commanding fugue. This leads to a slow movement, Large e spicatto (slow and unslurred), and an Allegro finale. Bach once again shows remarkable invention in adapting Vivalid’s instrumental score to the keyboard. In the Allegro introduction, for instance, he notates the opening solo violin lines an octave lower than written on separate keyboards, Oberwerk and Brustpositiv, with a 4’ Principal stop on each. In this way he was able to include the critical top note d’’’, which was not available at 8’ pitch on his Weimar organ (the manuals extended only to c’’’). Under the two violin lines Bach adds a pulsating solo pedal point that does not exist in Vivaldi’s score. It serves to ground the harmony and increase the dramatic tension of the opening. Just as inventive is Bach’s call for a change of registration on the Oberwerk and Pedal during the course of the introduction—a procedure that could be carried out smoothly only with the aid of an assistant. While the fugue that follows is performed on one manual throughout with the full organ, the concluding Allegro calls for the type of rapid manual changes found in the A-Minor Concerto and the Johann Ernst transcriptions. So impressive was the D-Minor Concerto arrangement that Bach’s oldest son Wilhelm Friedemann claimed the music as his own on the original score. It was accepted as such until 1911, when a comparison with Vivaldi’s L’Estro armonico revealed the true source of the music.

The Concerto in C Major, BWV 594, after Vivaldi’s Concerto in D Major for Violin, Strings, and Continuo, RV 208, known as the “Great Mogul,” is less frequently performed than the A-Minor and D-Minor Concerto arrangements. This is due in large part to the single-line effects that work well only in a space with reverberant acoustics. In addition, Bach appears to have chosen as his model an early manuscript version of the concerto, RV 208a, that includes extended single-line cadenzas in movements 1 and 3 (the cadenza for movement 3, which occurs just before the short closing tutti, is 93 measures long!) and a middle movement that differs from that of Vivaldi’s printed score in opus 7 of 1720. The cadenzas may represent an addition by Bach’s friend and colleague Johann Georg Pisendel, concertmaster of the Dresden Court orchestra.

Despite these eccentricities, Bach’s organ arrangement creates a great effect, capturing and heightening, through adroit manual changes, the exotic nature of Vivaldi’s score. The opening and closing movements are animated ritornello forms. The middle movement, marked “Recitativo Adagio,” consists of a rhythmically free, florid cantilena melody against simple accompanimental chords.

The Concerto in C Major, BWV 595, is a transcription of the first movement of a lost instrumental concerto by Prince Johann Ernst. The concerto is also mirrored in full three-movement form in Bach’s harpsichord arrangement, BWV 984. The most prominent feature of the organ transcription is Bach’s generous use of manual change to highlight the dynamic contrast between tutti and solo passages. Indeed, during the course of the piece’s eighty-one measures Bach asks the player to switch keyboards sixty times—more than in any of his other organ works. The result is an exhilarating, if technically challenging, organ arrangement.

Some twenty years after crafting the Weimar organ transcriptions Bach returned to Vivaldi’s L’Estro armonico collection, arranging the Concerto in B Minor for Four Violins, Strings, and Continuo, RV 580, as the Concerto in A Minor for Four Harpsichords and Strings, BWV 1065. Bach most probably created this harpsichord extravaganza for himself and his three oldest sons, Wilhelm Friedemann, Carl Philipp Emanual, and Johann Gottfried Bernhard, who were all gifted keyboard players. The work would have been performed before an audience of coffee-drinking, tobacco-smoking patrons at Zimmermann’s Coffee House in Leipzig, as part of Bach’s weekly concerts with the University Collegium Musicum. On the present recording, Joan Lippincott plays her own organ transcription of Bach’s collegium arrangement, aptly demonstrating the versatility of this extraordinary music.

In the opening movement tutti segments of the four harpsichords and strings alternate with solo segments pairing the harpsichords in different combinations. In the middle Adagio, short segments of music in dotted rhythm frame a middle section based on arpeggios in the harpsichords. In the spirited finale tutti passges alternate with solo episodes once again, this time within the context of a dynamic dance in 6/8 meter.

Joan Lippincott concludes her recording with the Allabreve in D Major, BWV 589, Bach’s homage to the Renaissance vocal style of Palestrina. The allabreve meter, the conjunct white-note theme, the numerous suspensions, and the seamless forward motion all point to Renaissance rather than Baroque writing. Also typical of early vocal music is the tightening of the imitative entries, or stretto, towards the end. There is nothing else quite like the Allabreve in Bach’s oeuvre. As a vocal motet written for the organ, it is a unicum, and it is possible that Bach composed it during the last two decades of his life, when he was intensely involved with the study of Latin-texted church music from the Renaissance Era.

The Allabreve, like the concerto transcriptions, once again shows Bach as the supreme master of organ arrangements, be they of popular instrumental concertos or of a cappella church music.

—George B. Stauffer

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What the Press say about Joan Lippincott

As you should know by now, we are celebrating the phenomenal Joan Lippincott this week! So today, we wanted to let you know what critics have to say about this legendary organist.

Concert Quotes:

“Most important perhaps, is her way with rhythm … the mighty Toccata in F had an irresistible and wonderfully humanizing swing about it.” - The New York Times

“Bach’s Canonic Variations on Vom Himmel Hoch displayed an uncommon level of technique, registrational imagination and musical understanding. Bach’s D-minor Toccata and Fugue … she played with the dazzling solidity and simplicity of the laws of the universe.” - Boston Globe

“A large audience gathered last night at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. … Ms. Lippincott rewarded them with a varied program, given with a mixture of consistently high musicianship and disciplined playing.” - The Evening Star

“Almost everything about Joan Lippincott`s organ recital proved first class ... The organist displayed a strong architectonic flair in both programming and performance, a penchant for detail and more than ample technical facility to realize her interpretative goals.” - The Los Angeles Times

2000 Bach Festival, First Congregational Church – “… a balanced wonder of rigorous freedom and grace – the great Bachian paradox of metaphysical abstractions given exuberant musical life.” - The Los Angeles Times

“She is an exacting musician, intense, positive, and forthright.” - Seattle Post-Intelligencer

“Ms. Lippincott’s dazzling recital was … the kind of performance a man is prompted to admiringly call ‘virile.’ The highlight of the afternoon was the performance of the Alain Trois Danses. Ms. Lippincott’s recital was an auspicious opening to the convention.” - Music

“Those who attended the recital can certainly verify why critics have acclaimed Ms. Lippincott as one of America’s outstanding organ virtuosos. The final number was the Prelude and Fugue on BACH of Liszt. It was a tour-de-force and superbly played.”
Worship and Music Notes

“She applied herself with exhilarating effect. … Her stirring performance of the Grande Pièce Symphonique brought the large audience to its feet.” - St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Lippincott gave the great Toccata in F an extremely fluid touch and the lines sang. I heard new things in the music because of her way of playing it.” - Grand Rapids Press

Recording Review Quotes:

“…a recording of absolute musical success. Joan Lippincott never overwhelms with the sound of the organ, and the Camerata is a splendid musical group. This recording could convert even a person who thinks he does not care for Bach’s music, should such a benighted soul exist anywhere on the planet.” — The Diapason

"Joan Lippincott performs some familiar preludes and fugues by Bach on the Paul Fritts Organ at Notre Dame University. The organ is said to resemble the sort of organ on which Bach would have performed. Ms. Lippincott’s registration, while adhering to the notion that the preludes and fugues were to be played “full plenum” (full organ), are varied and tasteful and rarely overwhelm the music. Her interpretations are those of a seasoned player, and, even if one doesn’t agree with them, they are difficult to disrespect." - The Living Church

View the Joan Lippincott collection on the Gothic Catalog

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Joan Lippincott and the Art of Fugue

We are still celebrating the magnificent career and recordings of Joan Lippincott on Gothic Records, and we have a wonderful video to share with you as part of the celebration! This video is from the New Jersey Network Public Television station and presents Joan Lippincott performing one of Bach's most famous pieces — The Art of Fugue. We hope you enjoy this as much as we did. Make sure to visit our site to pick up any of Joan's fantastic albums that you don't already own.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Organ Loft - Celebrating Joan Lippincott

This week on The Organ Loft, we will be featuring the phenomenal organist Joan Lippincott and celebrating her 30 years of distinguished recordings on Gothic Records!

Click play to listen to a preview of the Sunday program!

Click for the Webcast and Broadcast Schedules

Joan Lippincott has been acclaimed as one of America’s outstanding organ virtuosos. She performs extensively in the United States under Karen McFarlane Artists and has toured throughout Europe and Canada. She has been a featured recitalist at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center in New York City, at the Spoleto USA Festival, at The American Bach Society Biennial, at the Dublin (Ireland) International Organ Festival, and at conventions of the American Guild of Organists, the Organ Historical Society, and the Music Teachers National Association. She has performed on most of the prominent organs in churches and universities throughout the United States, including Yale, Harvard, Duke, Stanford, Columbia, and Princeton. She has traveled widely in Europe, studying, playing, and performing in recital on historic and contemporary organs in Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, and France.

A graduate of The Curtis Institute of Music and Westminster Choir College, where she was a student of Alexander McCurdy, she also studied at Union Theological Seminary and Princeton Theological Seminary. She is on the Advisory Board of The American Bach Society, an honorary member of Sigma Alpha Iota, and has received the Alumni Merit Award, the Distinguished Merit Award, and an Honorary Doctorate from Westminster Choir College.

Mozart and the Organ/Lippincott
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The Fisk organ of Old West Church in Boston is an ideal match for the lyrical sounds of Mozart. Certain stops from older organs were incorporated into the instrument giving it an antique sound that is unique in Fisk's works.

Joan Lippincott plays some of Mozart's best known works, and a few that rarely heard on organ. Includes notes of Mozart and the organ.

Lippincott/Philadelphia Brass
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The virtuoso brass ensemble, Philadelphia Brass join organist Joan Lippincott at the large Mander organ of Princeton University Chapel in this grand recording, animated by a large acoustical space.

Toccatas & Fugues by Bach/Lippincott
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The large Flentrop organ of Duke University Chapel is the venue for the latest in Lippincott's Bach organwork series. Those works entitled "Toccata" are among Bach's most famous and best loved works. Notes by Bach scholar George Stauffer, and a description with complete stoplist of the Flentrop organ are included in the booklet.

Bach: Leipzig Chorales/Lippincott
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When Bach died in 1750, he left behind an incomplete manuscript that was perhaps being prepared for future publication. The intent of the collection, or the organizational scheme are difficult to discern, but Bach may have been planning something on the same scale as Clavierübung III (the "German Organ Mass"). Whatever the intent, these enlargements and revisions of earlier chorale preludes contain some of Bach's most sublime musical moments.

Bach Trio Sonatas/Lippincott
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Not all great organ music is big and bombastic—as these sonatas prove! Requiring flawless technique on the part of the player, these three-movement chamber works are delightful pieces on the surface; deeper analysis reveals marvelously constructed compositions that could only spring from the mind of J.S. Bach.

Lippincott plays the perfectly-suited Taylor and Boody organ at St Thomas Church, NY. Extensive notes by Bach scholar, George Stauffer.

Sinfonia: Organ Concertos and Sinfonias by J.S. Bach/Lippincott
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Bach concertos for organ and orchestra? Joan Lippincott makes a compelling and logical case for constructing organ concertos from the "organ sinfonias" of Bach's cantatas. Booklet includes essay on these organ solo+orchestra pieces by noted Bach scholar, George Stauffer.

Bach: Preludes & Fugues/Lippincott
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Of the many musical forms that J.S. Bach cultivated during his lifetime, none has enjoyed more lasting influence than the prelude and fugue. In this recording, Joan Lippincott provides us with a beautifully rounded survey of Bach's mature preludes and fugues, from the Pièce d'Orgue, BWV 572, one of his boldest independent preludes, to the Prelude and Fugue in E Minor ("Wedge"), BWV 548, one of his most ambitious compostions for the organ. To round out the recording, Lippincott also includes the Canonic Variations on Vom Himmel hoch, a very late work, written at the same time Art of Fugue and the Musical Offering

Bach: Clavierübung III & Schübler Chorales/Lippincott (2 CDs!)
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Joan Lippincott continues her Bach series with two of the most substantial collections published during Bach's lifetime. The Clavierübung III follows Book I (Italian Concerto) and Book II (Goldberg Variations) and precedes Book IV (Art of Fugue), and altogether represents Bach’s highest achievements in the art of writing for the keyboard. Clavierubung III, sometimes called “The Organ Mass” begins with settings of the Kyrie and Gloria, but is structured after the German Lutheran catechism. Included in this recording are both the large chorales, the alternative chorales for manuals only and the four duetti. Bach’s collection of cantata movement transcriptions for organ published by Schübler in 1742 includes the famous “Wachet Auf!”, and rounds out this two-CD collection.

Program notes by noted Bach scholar, George Stauffer.

The Fenner Douglass Organ/Joan Lippincott
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Joan Lippincott plays "The Bach Legacy," a program based on music by Bach and those inspired by him, on this new Taylor and Boody organ of Bower Chapel in Naples, Florida. Named for organist and scholar Fenner Douglass in November 2006, this three-manual organ is perfectly voiced for the beautiful acoustics of the chapel, and Lippincott’s registrations demonstrate some of the organ’s most compelling sounds.

The Uncommon Bach: Variants, Rarities and Transcription
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This out-of-print recording has recently become available once again. State of the art recording technology, superb acoustics, a landmark organ and two American titans of Bach organ performance (Joan Lippincott and George Ritchie) tackle an unusual repertoire. You may think you know these works, but these versions are different – sometimes significantly different– from the versions most often recorded. A delightful recording that is well done in every aspect.

J.S. Bach: Weimar Preludes and Fugues/Lippincott
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Bach's prelude and fugue compositions reached an extraordinary peak of sophistication and virtuosity during his tenure as court organist in Weimar (1708-1717). Joan Lippincott plays the Paul Fritts organ in a highly reverberant room that is not unlike the court chapel in Weimar.

J.S. Bach: Concerto Transcriptions/Lippincott
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This unusual recording celebrates 30 years of Joan Lippincott's Bach recordings on Gothic, and includes her own dazzling transcription of the Bach/Vivaldi concerto for four harpsichords.

Favorite Hymns and Anthems/Westminster Choir College
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If you love to sing along with the great classical hymns of the church, this CD is for you! "Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones", "Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah," "For All the Saints," "Holy, Holy, Holy" and many others. Also included are some of the choir's favorite anthems, including the Vaughn Williams setting of Old Hundreth ("The Doxology").

The Joan Lippincott Bach collection on Gothic!
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The Complete Joan Lippincott on Gothic! Includes all ten albums.

Find the Broadcasts online from:

KING-FM Seattle's Classical Choice — Sundays at 10:00 PM


OREGON: KWAX-FM and the University of Oregon radio network — Sundays at 8:00 AM and 6:00 PM

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Peter Richard Conte and the Wanamaker Organ Take Part in a "Random Act of Culture"

On October 30th, the Wanamaker Organ and organist Peter Richard Conte joined with the Opera Company of Philadelphia and 28 other organizations to present a "Random Act of Culture" in the Philadelphia Macy's store. Peter Richard Conte played the organ and led over 650 voices in the "Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's Messiah! Though most of the bottom of the store was filled with the Choristers, there were plenty of shoppers that were quite startled and then incredibly surprised at the sudden outburst of singing. The event was extremely moving, and in the video you can even see some tear-filled-eyes as well as some of the shoppers joining in on the singing! What a wonderful combination of what we (The Gothic Catalog) stand for — choral and organ music! We are very proud to have fantastic recordings of this organ and organist! Check out the video here:

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Scott Dettra Playlist

Here are a few videos of Washington National Cathedral organist, Scott Dettra in performance. Mr. Dettra performs on The Great Organ of the Washington National Cathedral in the Loft Recordings album Majestus.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween Organ Loft Recap!

In case you didn't tune into the Organ Loft program yesterday, here is a little taste of what you missed! Check out how to listen next week!