An “Organic” Christmas From Jacaranda

For 15 of its 17 seasons acting at First Presbyterian Church in Santa Monica, Jacaranda Music, based on its cofounder, Patrick Scott, had been cajoling the powers that be to rectify what he described as “an architectural fake pas” concerning the set up of the church’s organ.

For no matter cause, as an alternative of inserting the organ’s tallest pipes of their logical location, adjoining to their fellow ranks, the architect selected to put them horizontally on their aspect and conceal them behind a display screen. As well as, because the expertise of recent organs advanced, the church’s organ’s console was sorely in want of an improve.

Now all of the enhancements are in place: The pipes have been positioned of their correct verticality, and the newly improved console is a mannequin of high-tech modernization. To have a good time, Jacaranda has launched an “Natural” collection of recital concert events, the second of which passed off Sunday.

Architecturally, First Presbyterian is something however gothic. It’s extra a citadel of mid-sixties modernism, all clear traces and arduous surfaces, the organ loft is above and to the left of the parish; the console is ready amid the primary rows of seats.

Sunday’s program featured all kinds of music for the season carried out by organist James Walker, who from 1983 – 2018 was director of music and choirmaster at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena.

For the spotlight of his recital, Walker was joined by Felicity Robles, whose excessive, youth treble voice intoned the vocal a part of David Lang’s Sleeper’s Prayer.  Cocommissioned by Jacaranda and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the work was premiered Oct. 1, 2016, at Walt Disney Live performance Corridor as a part of its marathon new music occasion “Midday to Midnight.”

That performance featured the Disney Corridor organ, nicknamed “Hurricane Mama” by Terry Riley. The organ at First Presbyterian is significantly extra modest, extra a brisk breeze than a hurricane. Sleeper’s Prayer, nevertheless, is so spare and minimal in its use of the instrument and vocal line that it forged a spell as Robles, whose excessive notes have been like clear water, sang a textual content about earthly aspirations and a hopeful, ongoing rebirth of the spirit.

As in Lang’s 2008 masterwork, The Little Match Lady Ardour, Sleeper’s Prayer is the essence of delicacy and seeming simplicity constructed on refined variations and repetitions of the melodic theme. Walker and Robles made the efficiency a transferring expertise.

Of the opposite works on this system by J.S. Bach, Hugo Distler, Gary Bachlund, Charles Ives, and Bach/Gounod (Ave Maria) practically all have been miniature in scale and in a number of miniature-scaled actions. One in every of Bach’s Christmas chorales from Orgelbüchlein BWV 603–612 lasts barely a minute. These 10 chorales did, on the identical time, supply Walker the prospect to (fairly actually) pull out all of the stops and let the organ’s voice fill the church’s sanctuary in a mighty method.

Hugo Distler (who dedicated suicide in Nazi Berlin in 1942 on the age of 34) composed three partitas for organ. His 1933 Partita Op. eight, No. 1 Nun Komm, der Heiden Heiland (“Now come, savior of the heathens”) supplied an interesting introduction to the composer’s distinctive melding of recent and baroque buildings and melody.

In distinction Charles Ives’s Adeste Fidelis in an organ prelude supplied a predictably quirky tackle the normal carol, “Come all Ye Trustworthy.” It was additionally the one recognizable Christmas carol on this system. No sing-alongs.

Ultimately, regardless of Walker’s apparent skills, I discovered the sweet sampler variety of this live performance unsatisfying, like a meal made up of appetizers. The organ was most spectacular at full quantity, however at different occasions its dry and somber tones made me really feel like I used to be in a funeral parlor.

The expertise that lingered was the gorgeous simplicity and innocence of Lang’s Sleeper’s Prayer set off towards the passages of J.S. Bach that allowed the organ to achieve an aura of magnificence.

Strolling again to my automotive alongside the Palisade, watching the solar glistening off the ocean, a boombox on the hood of a pickup truck was belting out Christmas songs. By some means it appeared like an ideal Santa Monica coda.

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