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Recital, a musical treat

Kean Springer

Recital, a musical treat

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THE STORMY, rainy weather on the evening of Sunday, June 20, did little to deter music lovers from venturing out to St Mary’s Anglican Church, where under the patronage of Prime Minister David Thompson and in the presence of many distinguished people including Canadian High Commissioner Ruth Archibald and Secretary of the Barbados Cancer Society Dr Dorothy Cooke-Johnson, the first annual International Benefit Organ Concert for Children was held.  The programme featured two organists of high international repute, Dr Sean Jackson and Dr Justin Bischof from Barbados and Canada, respectively. For Master of Ceremonies Mr Colin Jackson, the occasion appeared to be an ideal Father’s Day gift as he proudly introduced these young musical ambassadors to the audience.  The programme commenced with the Allegro con Brio movement of Beethoven’s best known symphony – No 3 in C Minor, Op. 6. The orchestral version of this work would have been compulsory listening for many an advanced music student. To listen to Beethoven’s spiritual struggle performed by 20 fingers and four feet on the same organ would have been an entirely new experience of the composer’s solemn and weighty journey through personal tragedy to reconciliation, without the buoyancy of strings and the solemnity of trombones in a full orchestra. This was no easy challenge, but Sean and Justin confidently and admirably escorted listeners through the most tragic parts of the movement right on to the composer’s moment of triumph in facing the world with courage and conviction. Sean’s interpretation of  Marcel Dupre’s  Prelude in B Major Op. 7 No. 1 was predictable, especially since he mentioned in his remarks that he regarded it more as a Toccato. With manuals and pedals, he played alternating sections in imitative style, and the dexterity of his pedalling was most impressive. On the other hand, his handling of Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in D Major BVW 532 depended almost exclusively on his fingering in highlighting the subtleties of counterpoint. Needless to say, he still managed to convey a feeling of beauty and passion in this work.  Justin Bischof next offered an improvisation which he described as weather appropriate. With a Christmas feeling, he delighted in the music of Let It Snow and Happy Holidays with some lively and racy interpretations punctuated with chromatic runs and symphonic touches. In another improvisation featuring requests from the audience like Beautiful Barbados, and Belle Plaine, he cleverly transformed these themes into variations of differing tempos and dynamics. I warrant that the possibility of writing a folk opera must have entered the mind of some young Barbadian composer in response to his excursions. Following intermission, Sean again betrayed his admiration for the French composers, this time in selecting the final movement of Louis Verne’s Symphony No. 6 in B Minor, Op. 59. The almost weird harmonic progressions of this work were offset by the intricate and effortless pedalling which we have grown to expect from Sean. Justin’s subsequent improvisation, again with suggestions from the audience, was a bit more melodious, and even though one missed the rhythmical impact of classics like Pan In A Minor and Emmerton, he acquitted himself fairly well with some dazzling glissandos and riffs in journeying through unfamiliar territory. Sean’s favourite repertoire item – a medley of folk tunes like See Me Little Brown Girl, Island In The Sun and Nobody’s Business was as usual well received. For the finale item, Pictures At An Exhibition by the Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky 1839 – 1881, Sean and Justin changed positions at the organ to present this unique instrumental work, considered by Ravel to display all the vitality and vivid characterisations of an orchestral piece, but which lacked nothing in terms of its regal splendour and elegance in the capable hands of these brilliant organists. The standing ovation was well deserved.