Dr. Jeannine Jordan, Concert Organist

Archive for April, 2018

David Stabler – teacher

Jeannine:  You’re now teaching a series of music appreciation classes called The Infinite Power of Music. It’s my understanding that they are live, in the classroom classes – not online, but interactive instructor-led, student-involved classes. Would you please tell us why this adventure is important to you – to your students – to us?

Mr. Stabler:  I never knew I would love teaching like this! Writing music criticism is a form of teaching, but standing in front of people is a different form of it and I love the immediacy and hearing people’s reactions and questions about music I love. I probably should video the classes, but those are complications I haven’t addressed. I usually speak for 15 or 20 minutes, then we watch and talk about YouTube videos that illustrate points I want to share. My subjects have included Great Endings, Weather Wonders (how composers write about storms, rain, oceans, sunsets), Timeless Symphonies (Mahler 2), Mavericks (composers who disrupt and change music), why some melodies grab us and the Mysteries of Conducting — comparing leadership styles among conductors, from dictatorial to collaborative. The list of classes this year is on my website: davidstabler.net.  My most popular class so far was Music of Healing — the music we turn to when we seek solace.

Jeannine:  Last summer, you and your brother embarked on a journey few in this world will experience – a 3,600-mile 50-day bike ride across the United States of America. Astounding! Just one question (and for those who have many more, please direct us to your blog) – what music did you discover on your ride?

Mr. Stabler:  I didn’t discover any music on the ride, but I will tell you what music got me through those relentless headwinds across the plains of Wyoming and South Dakota. I would sing to myself anything with strong rhythms to keep the pedals turning: “Waltzing Matilda,” Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, the Toreador song, the Overture to “Marriage of Figaro” and, of course, “America, the Beautiful” because we saw it all: amber waves of grain, purple mountain majesties, fruited plains and sea to shining sea.

Jeannine:  Thank you, David.  It was wonderful to learn of your world.

Dr. Jeannine Jordan, concert organist with her husband David, media artist, are the creators and performers of Bach and Sons, From Sea to Shining Sea, and Around the World in 80 Minutes — live organ concerts with multi-media.


David Stabler – music critic

Jeannine:  Your writing career spans several decades as the classical music critic for The Oregonian. As an organist, I always admired and was extremely thankful for your unwavering publicity for organists, organ concerts, and new organs in the Portland area. This is rare. Why were you drawn to our little niche of the world?

Mr. Stabler:  You’re too generous. Right after I arrived at The Oregonian in 1986, John Strege, then the organist/choirmaster at Trinity EpiscopalCathedral, called to say they were building a new organ. I agreed to take a look. Days later, he picked me up and took me to the church where we watched Manuel Rosales and his colleagues put this incredible instrument together. I returned every few weeks to document their progress and then watched in awe as Strege dedicated Op. 11 with a concert to a standing-room crowd. Organs, organ music and organ players fill their spaces with glorious, complex, astounding music, so I was irresistibly drawn to it.

Jeannine:  Would you share with us one – or two or three – favorite stories from your music critic days?
Mr. Stabler:  So many stories. I remember a Russian pianist whose cummerbund snapped apart during Ravel’s “Gaspard de la nuit” and landed on his lap. Instead of letting it sit there, he tried to fling it away, but it landed on the piano strings, buzzing and jumping. Still playing, he half stood and swiped at it, but it wouldn’t move, so he gave up and finished with John Cageian flourishes.

But seriously, I learned it’s easier to write about a really bad or a really good concert. The ones in the middle are death to write about. The best concerts stay with me — a Schubert piano trio at Chamber Music Northwest that made us swoon, and not because of the torrid summer night in the old Reed College Commons. It was the kind of performance where I felt connected to everyone in the room, and to the players, almost as if we were breathing together. And the night Leontyne Price sang art songs and spirituals to a quarter-filled house at Schnitzer Hall. “We love you!” someone shouted. “I love you, too!” she said.

I also loved writing a series called “The Sounds of Oregon,” where I recorded and wrote about iconic sounds of the state: a thunderstorm above the Snake River Canyon, a wildfire in Roseburg, water falling at Multnomah Falls, a Friday night jam session in Burns.

I would just like to add that I’m terribly sad that newspapers around the country — and the world — have decreased their arts coverage so quickly and decisively. Just a few years ago, The Oregonian had 15 full-time critics on staff, covering Portland, mostly, but also festivals and events throughout the Northwest. Now, the paper has a TV critic, a food critic and an arts editor who writes mostly about books and oversees freelance coverage. The Oregon Symphony hasn’t had a newspaper review in several years. I remember one summer, I covered the “Ring” Cycle in Seattle, then flew to Medford to cover the Oregon Music Festival in Coos Bay, and music events at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

What we lose when a mass media publication decreases arts coverage is the chance to extend our thinking and conversation about art beyond the experience itself. Most of us are naturally curious to know what others thought about a play, a dance, an exhibit.

On the plus side, we are lucky to have Oregon ArtsWatch, 

an online, non-profit arts journal that dispatches dozens of freelance writers to cover the arts, mostly in Portland.

Dr. Jeannine Jordan, concert organist with her husband David, media artist, are the creators and performers of Bach and Sons, From Sea to Shining Sea, and Around the World in 80 Minutes — live organ concerts with multi-media.

Meet David Stabler

Guest Artist Interview 
with David Stabler

Jeannine:  Our readers are from all parts of the US and World and through this brief interview will get to know an amazing man, musician, and writer. Would you please give our readers a brief introduction to David Stabler.

Mr. Stabler:  I didn’t get serious about the piano until I didn’t have one. When I was 16, I spent a summer volunteering at a youth center in afishing village near Prince Rupert, way up the coast of British Columbia. No pianos, but the church we lived in had a pump organ, so in my spare time, I played hymns and the only two pieces I could remember: A Bach two-part invention and Solfeggietto. That summer, I decided I had to become a pianist, and can happily say I have expanded my repertoire.

I earned piano performance degrees from the University of Western Ontario, the Royal College of Music and the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y. I spent two years living in London and Vienna, taking piano lessons and attending as many concerts as my meager budget allowed.

I he performed as a soloist, accompanist, chamber musician — you

name it — and starred in an award-winning film about Robert and Clara Schumann for Alaska public television. I had moved to Anchorage to teach at a private music school and I fully intended to be a pianist forever — the idea of working in journalism never occurred to me — until I filled in for a music critic at the Anchorage Daily News. Writing about music hooked me as strongly as the piano, which I play daily.

In 2000, my wife, Judi and I spent a year impressed and intimidated by smart kids at Stanford University, where I was a journalism fellow for a year. In 2007, I was a member of the press jury at the International Cliburn Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs — a wonderful experience captured in the documentary “They Came to Play.”   I have written for several national publications, including the New Grove Dictionary of Musicians, Opera News, Sunset and American Record Guide.

I retired from The Oregonian in 2015, having enjoyed 29 years learning from some of the best arts writers in the country. My story about a gifted, but troubled, young cellist in eastern Oregon was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize.  To read more, click here.

Jeannine:  You certainly have had a multi-faceted music career with your extensive work as a pianist, writer, and now as a teacher. So where to begin…Let’s look first at your work as a pianist – why were you drawn to this instrument and how has it survived the “test of time” in your life? Why is it still important to you to play every day?

Mr. Stabler:  I don’t know why we are drawn to the instruments we love and devote our lives to, but the piano goes to the root of who I am. It gives me the most encompassing way to express what I can’t say in words. How lucky we are to be able to grapple with the great composers every day, to hear what they heard in their innermost imaginations and to trace on the keyboard the same movements. It’s a gift I never get over.

Dr. Jeannine Jordan, concert organist with her husband David, media artist, are the creators and performers of Bach and Sons, From Sea to Shining Sea, and Around the World in 80 Minutes — live organ concerts with multi-media.


Twists and turns

Ahhhh…the twists and turns of a life!   For me, of course, music and the organ play a huge role in my life.  My music and playing the organ have literally taken me around the world and introduced me to an incredible group of people — people who cross your path in one moment of your life and then reconnect in later years.

In 1993, Martin Pasi built a stunning two-manual, 12-stop organ for my home.  It was a treasure and the culmination of a life-long dream to have a pipe organ in my home.  (The dream that was instilled by taking lessons as a high-schooler on the pipe organ in my teacher’s home.)  At the time of its completion, David Stabler, music critic for The Oregonian wrote a feature article about my marvelous new instrument.  What an honor it was for me to have Mr. Stabler, a proponent of the organ, share my story.

I’ve never forgotten how Mr. Stabler joined in the celebration of my new instrument.  Over the intervening years, I’ve followed David’s journey from music critic to teacher to cross-country bike adventurer.  What a joy it is to share David Stabler’s story with you in this month’s Guest Artist Interview.

Please peruse our list of upcoming Pro-Motion music events.  Please join us when we are in your part of the world.  We’d love to make a new connection, a new contact, a new friend.                                                             …Jeannine

Dr. Jeannine Jordan, concert organist with her husband David, media artist, are the creators and performers of Bach and Sons, From Sea to Shining Sea, and Around the World in 80 Minutes — live organ concerts with multi-media.

Soli deo Gloria

Soli Deo Gloria – To God alone the glory

Where have you seen this Latin phrase, Soli Deo Gloria?  We worship weekly at St. Bede Episcopal Church in Forest Grove, Oregon with these words in front of us.  Have they blended into the fabric of our worship space?  Where are they?  This Latin phrase is emblazoned in gold near the top of the organ case.  Why is this phrase on the organ case?

It all goes back over 333 years ago to Johann Sebastian Bach, arguably the greatest organist and composer in the history of Western music.  You see, this man of faith believed that music was a “refreshment of spirit”, and a powerful tool for the proclamation of the gospel.

Johann Sebastian routinely marked the tops of his scores with the initials “J.J.” and ended his compositions with the initials, “SDG”.  Let’s take a minute to look at these two sets of initials.

The initials, JJ were for, “Jesu, Juva” or “Jesus, Help”.   This man, with amazing talent and ability, was praying for help from the very beginnings of his creative impulses. His work was underscored by his deep need and faith.  The humility of a great artist towards his Creator God, knowing that he was watched over, heard, and loved.  God was intimately involved in his work (and more importantly ~ in him).   What a powerful testament for everything we do – Jesu, Juva!
Lord, help me make this my prayer.

And what about the letters, SDG?  Ultimately, Bach believed that music brought glory to God.  At the end of most of his scores, Bach bearing witness to his faith and humility, left the initials SDG, the abbreviation for Soli Deo Gloria, or “To God alone be glory”.  What a powerful testament we have so prominently displayed before us in our sanctuary.

Dr. Jeannine Jordan, concert organist with her husband David, media artist, are the creators and performers of Bach and Sons, From Sea to Shining Sea, and Around the World in 80 Minutes — live organ concerts with multi-media.

Carson Cooman – performer

Jeannine:  Your work as a concert organist has taken you in a unique direction – that of specializing primarily in new music and often performing programs that include a world premiere.  Why is this type of program important?  How do audiences react to such concerts?

Mr. Cooman:  I have been interested in contemporary music from the very beginning of my organ performing life. I focus on this repertoire because this is the world that I as a composer live in most often and because working with new works by living composers in a wide variety of styles is what excites me the most. I also have little interest in duplicating the repertoire and programming that so many other concert organists play. I want to offer something different, and thus I have continued to focus exclusively on recitals of contemporary music. Even though the music all comes from the 20th and 21st centuries, the styles vary considerably, so the programs are balanced and varied much in the way that many organ recitals are (or should be). We live in a period where the diversity of styles being employed by composers is truly enormous: everything from historical style pastiche through the most avant-garde forms of expressions. Most of the repertoire I play lives between those two extremes, in which there is a wide variety of styles possible.

In my early recital years, I focused primarily on playing American music. However, in recent years, I have focused on performing and recording a great deal of contemporary music by European composers, as most contemporary organ music by European composers is completely unknown in the USA. Every few years aspects of my focus change (though still within the broad umbrella of “contemporary music”), which also helps keep things interesting to me.

In 2012, I also started more actively recording contemporary works by a wide variety of composers, initially focusing especially on practical pieces that I thought many organists could actually use themselves, rather than exclusively big “recital” repertoire. As of early 2018, I’ve recorded and posted (on YouTube) recording of more than 1,700 contemporary works for organ.

Jeannine:  You also have a keen interest in music for chamber organs.  First, please tell our readers something about chamber organs and why/what you are doing to develop repertoire for small organs.

Mr. Cooman:  In the USA, the baroque “revival” and historically informed performance movement of the last number of decades have seen an increase in the availability of chamber organs. Many churches, universities, and ensembles now either own them or rent them routinely. However, at least in the USA, these lovely small instruments tend only to be used for playing continuo parts in baroque music. (Europe has had and still retains a greater tradition of using chamber organs for a wide variety of purposes.) I feel it is a missed opportunity not to explore what is possible with solo music for these instruments. Often an intimacy and special character is possible in a way that might not be as easily achievable on the “large” organs.

So I have commissioned works and encouraged the creation of new pieces that are suitable for performance on chamber organs. While many pieces from the baroque and pre-baroque eras can, of course, be played very effectively on these instruments, and while there have been other pockets in organ music history with attention to repertoire for small organs (such as the many harmonium/choir organ pieces by French composers in the early 20th century), few composers today were producing much music for them.

Dr. Jeannine Jordan, concert organist with her husband David, media artist, are the creators and performers of Bach and Sons, From Sea to Shining Sea, and Around the World in 80 Minutes — live organ concerts with multi-media.


Carson Cooman – composer and editor

Jeannine:  You are the Composer in Residence at The Memorial Church, Harvard University.  What does this position entail? 

Mr. Cooman:  I compose works for the church’s and university’s musical ensembles, advise on new music-related repertoire, act as the liaison for projects where outside living composers are involved, and work with my conductor and organist colleagues in the running of the university church’s extensive music program. I do also play some services as organist since we have many (including a daily service that dates back to the university’s founding).

Jeannine:  Since early 2015, you have been the organ editor for the Lorenz Publishing Company.  Can you give us an insight into your role as editor of the three Lorenz organ magazines/periodicals — (The OrganistThe Organ Portfolio, and The Sacred Organ Journal)?  How is music chosen?  What is the criteria for inclusion?

Mr. Cooman:  I have worked in music publishing since 2000, initially directing publications for Zimbel Press and in a freelance advisory capacity for a number of publishers. In 2015, I was very pleased to join the staff at the Lorenz Corporation to direct the Lorenz Publishing and Sacred Music Press organ catalogs, organize our Sacred Music Press choral imprint, and edit our long-running organ periodicals. It has been a pleasure to work for a company that is so supportive of the breadth of contemporary church music that I am interested in myself. We strive to have organ and choral publications that cover whole gamut in every respect: difficulty level, purposes, denomination/worship style, and musical style. I thus aim in the organ catalog for a great variety of material and creative expression across the works and composers whose we publish.

The primary use of much of the music published is church service playing (and singing), and so a large degree of practicality, accessibility, and general usefulness is important. Personally, I am always most interested in music where the composer’s individual voice is allowed to flourish, rather than being edited into a homogenous “commercial” style. Thus across the publications for which I am responsible (including the organ periodicals), I seek to showcase a variety of distinct musical voices who are writing compelling music each in their own way. It would be impossible to have each piece be everybody’s personal favorite, given the wide variety of tastes, abilities, and interests. So I strive for a variety with the belief that everybody will be able to find things within the catalog that are especially appealing to them.

Dr. Jeannine Jordan, concert organist with her husband David, media artist, are the creators and performers of Bach and Sons, From Sea to Shining Sea, and Around the World in 80 Minutes — live organ concerts with multi-media.


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