Dr. Jeannine Jordan, Concert Organist

Archive for the ‘From Sea to Shining Sea’ Category

Dr. Damin Spritzer Interview – Part 3

J:  Your summer performance tour recently took you to historic German cities playing incredible organs.  What is it about performing on notable instruments in a place such as the Predigerkirche in Erfurt that is so moving and memorable?

Dr. Spritzer:  Giving performances in Europe is one of my greatest joys! It makes me feel so profoundly connected to the history of the organ. This has been an amazing year of travel, and I pray that it will continue in the years to come.

As I tried to describe earlier , I am deeply moved by how truly ancient our instrument is. This past summer in particular, I played organs that are older than the founding of America. That really, really, really makes you stop and pause, and think about the generations of scholars and artisans and builders and composers that have all come before us, and that are among us right this minute, and who are yet to come in the future. The beauty of Europe and historically-treasured instruments is so special, it moves me to tears to hear those sounds and be in those places. Thinking about Bach’s children being baptized a few feet away at the Herderkirche, or Liszt giving lessons to Reubke at the Nicolaikirche, or Cavaillé-Coll climbing the steps to the organ to keep voicing…It always feels new, and yet it’s not, and I’m certainly not the only one to experience this happiness and sense of connection! But I love every single experience.

It’s a serious privilege and a gift to have those opportunities, and to walk where so many of the musicians we revere lived their lives. For me it adds a level of gravity to my own preparation and scholarship, as well as a deeply emotional appreciation for being able to do what I do. It’s tremendous to experience such incredible history and diversity (and food, and wine, and culture!) by only taking short train rides, as well. That’s something I really love about traveling in Europe and work hard to take advantage of when there.

J:  As a recording artist you have introduced us to the music of Rene Louis Becker.  Why is his music important in the organ and music world?

Dr. Spritzer:  René Becker is a perfect example of a recently-living composer who gave his life to church music and composing and teaching, but through no fault of his own was not remembered right away by subsequent generations. And it’s lovely, lovely music, and he represents both the European and American schools of composition and performance.  (Click here for Dr. Spritzer’s recordings of Becker’s music.) I was very fortunate to be able to work with his music and his lovely descendants who were so gracious to me.

I hope to find more composers and pieces that similarly can be restored to a place in our larger body of repertoire. The discovery process can be time-consuming but so satisfying. I’m not a composer, but if I were, I would hope to be remembered similarly, and to feel that my contributions were of lasting value. So since I do not create new music, I can promote the music of our wonderful colleagues who do! I have several upcoming projects in that vein about which I am very, very hopeful.
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Excerpted from the Feature Article of the September 2017 Pro-Motion Music e-newsletter.  Dr. Jeannine and David Jordan are the creative artists of Pro-Motion Music LLC.  Jeannine, a concert organist, with David, a media artist, are the creators and performers of three organ and multimedia concert experiences, Around the World in 80 Minutes, From Sea to Shining Sea, and Bach and Sons.

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Guest Interview with Dr. Damin Spritzer


Jeannine:  Our newsletter readership includes not only organists, but educators, historians, and music-lovers as well.  For those who do not know you, would you kindly introduce yourself?

Dr. Spritzer:  Thank you so much for thinking of me for this interview! It’s an honor to be included. Well, I’m not sure where to start – like so many of us, I wear many musical hats and love them all. I’ve been a musician since I was quite small and studied piano, violin, cello, recorders, and flute; a recitalist and church organist my entire adult life; and a music teacher and ultimately a professor for most of that span as well. My degrees are from Oberlin, Eastman, and UNT, and though I held church positions throughout college, my full-time church positions were in Atlanta, Georgia (Peachtree Presbyterian, as their Organ Intern) and Dallas, Texas for several years (St. Rita Catholic Community with Joel Martinson, University Park United Methodist with Jody Lindh, and now St. Matthews Episcopal Cathedral with Michie Akin and Keith Franks, though that is not full-time).

It’s been my privilege to make three world-premiere CDs of the music of René Louis Becker, on whom I wrote my doctoral dissertation. A fourth disc that is collaborative with my good friend and colleague Dr. Donald Pinson (trombone) is slated for release later this year as well. My Becker research led to my multi-volume critical edition of Becker’s organ works that is published by Wayne Leupold (volume I was last year, volume II is underway, and volumes beyond that are mapped out, etc.), and a monograph is also awaiting final editing.

I absolutely love to travel and perform, and I love to teach. I have several recording projects in the works and am grateful that I can make those contributions for our instrument. I spend a great deal of time writing and researching and practicing, and seek particularly lesser-known Romantic organ music. I’m beginning my third year as a professor at the University of Oklahoma in the organ department, and am daily happy and thankful to drive up to this beautiful, beautiful campus to be part of this university and our studio.

J:  What was the moment you knew you wanted to become an organist?

Dr. Spritzer:  I always loved organ music since I was very small and my father used to play organ recordings for me (E. Power Biggs, the Poulenc concerto…) records for me, but it was honestly and literally the very first time I sat down at an organ console. I was 16 and had won a scholarship to take a year of free lessons from the Portland, Oregon AGO. The second I sat down, I just knew. It was a startling moment of clarity for me as a teenager, actually. There was nothing like it that I had experienced, even having played instruments my whole life: the glorious sounds, the touch, the aesthetic beauty of the room and stained glass…even just the physicality of the use of my whole body to play…I just knew! I loved it. And I knew nothing, and it’s only gotten better.started violin and piano fairly young, after my kindergarten teacher called my parents to make sure they knew that I would not leave the classroom piano alone. So I’d been a pianist and accompanist (choral and theatre) for years, and I had long studied violin as well as played in both major youth orchestras in the area (the Portland Youth Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra). I sang in the choirs in all my schools and often accompanied, and worked with a chamber ensemble in high school as well…but the organ was something entirely different that went straight to my heart and hands.
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Excerpted from the Feature Article of the September 2017 Pro-Motion Music e-newsletter.  Dr. Jeannine and David Jordan are the creative artists of Pro-Motion Music LLC.  Jeannine, a concert organist, with David, a media artist, are the creators and performers of three organ and multimedia concert experiences, Around the World in 80 Minutes, From Sea to Shining Sea, and Bach and Sons.

Practicing music has an impact on how our memory systems work

Thank you Anita Collins from TED-Ed.

The ideas found in this superb TED-Ed talk could make you want to practice more just because practice helps your brain to such a great degree. 

The ability to simultaneously analyze both cognitive and emotional aspects also has an impact on how our memory systems work. Indeed, musicians exhibit enhanced memory functions creating, storing and retrieving memories more quickly and efficiently. Studies have found that musicians appear to use their highly connected brains to give each memory multiple tags, such as a

conceptual tag, emotional tag, an audio tag, and a contextual tag — like a good internet search engine.

How do we know that all these benefits are unique to music as opposed to say sports or painting?  Could it be that people who go into music were already smarter to begin with? Neuroscientists have explored these issues but so far they have found that the artistic and aesthetic aspects of learning to play a musical instrument are different from any other activity.

They studied other arts. Several randomized studies of participants who showed the same levels of cognitive function and neural processing at the start, found that those who were exposed to a period of music learning, showed enhancement in multiple brain areas compared to the others.

 

This recent research about the mental benefits of playing music has advanced our understanding of mental function, revealing the inner rhythms and complex interplay that make up the amazing orchestra of our brain.

This is an encouragment to practice just to help keep all those areas of the brain active and “lit up.”

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Excerpted from the Feature Article of the August 2017 Pro-Motion Music e-newsletter.  Dr. Jeannine and David Jordan are the creative artists of Pro-Motion Music LLC.  Jeannine, a concert organist, with David, a media artist, are the creators and performers of three organ and multimedia concert experiences, Around the World in 80 Minutes, From Sea to Shining Sea, and Bach and Sons.

Comparing the brains of music listeners to those of musicians

Thank you Anita Collins from TED-Ed.

The ideas found in this superb TED-Ed talk could make you want to practice more just because practice helps your brain to such a great degree

When scientists turned from observing the brains of music listeners to those of musicians, the little backyard fireworks became a jubilee. It turns out that while listening to music engages the brain in some pretty interesting activities, playing music is the brain’s equivalent of a full-body workout.

The neuroscientists saw multiple areas of the brain light up simultaneously processing different information in intricate interrelated and astonishingly fast sequences. But what is it about making music that sets the brain alight? The research is still fairly new, but neuroscientists have a pretty good idea playing a musical instrument engages practically every area of the brain at once especially the visual, auditory, and motor cortices.

As with any other workout, disciplined, structured practice in playing music strengthens those brain functions allowing us to apply that strength to other activities.

The most obvious difference between listening to music and playing it, is that the latter requires fine motor skills which are controlled in both hemispheres of the brain. It also combines the linguistic and mathematical precision in

the left hemisphere while the right is more involved with the novel and creative content. For these reasons playing music has been found to increase the volume and activity in the brain’s corpus callosum,
the bridge between the two hemispheres, allowing messages to get across the brain faster and through more diverse routes. This may allow musicians to solve problems more effectively and creatively in both academic and social settings. Because making music also involves crafting and understanding its emotional content and message,  musicians often have higher levels of executive function.  This category of interlinked tasks includes planning, strategizing and attention to detail. It requires

simultaneous analysis of both cognitive and emotional aspects.
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Excerpted from the Feature Article of the August 2017 Pro-Motion Music e-newsletter.  Dr. Jeannine and David Jordan are the creative artists of Pro-Motion Music LLC.  Jeannine, a concert organist, with David, a media artist, are the creators and performers of three organ and multimedia concert experiences, Around the World in 80 Minutes, From Sea to Shining Sea, and Bach and Sons.

How Playing an Instrument Benefits our Brain 

Thank you Anita Collins from TED-Ed.

The ideas found in this superb TED-Ed talk could make you want to practice more just because practice helps your brain to such a great degree. 

Did you know that every time musicians pick up their instruments there are fireworks going off all over their brain?  On the outside they may look calm and focused, reading the music and making the precise movements required, but inside their brains, there’s a party going on.  How do we know this?  Well in the last few decades neuroscientists have made enormous breakthroughs in

understanding how our brains work by monitoring them in real time. With instruments like MRI and PET scanners people are moitored while doing various tasks. Tasks such as reading or doing math problems each have corresponding areas of the brain where activity can  be observed. But

when researchers got the participants to listen to music, they saw fireworks in multiple areas of their brains. They took the sound apart to understand elements like

melody and rhythm, then put it all back together into a unified musical experience.  Our brains do all this work in the split second between when we first hear the music and when our foot starts to tap along.

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Excerpted from the Feature Article of the August 2017 Pro-Motion Music e-newsletter.  Dr. Jeannine and David Jordan are the creative artists of Pro-Motion Music LLC.  Jeannine, a concert organist, with David, a media artist, are the creators and performers of three organ and multimedia concert experiences, Around the World in 80 Minutes, From Sea to Shining Sea, and Bach and Sons.

Robert Ampt Interview continued

Jeannine:  Your extensive performance career includes solo concerts as well as those with your wife, organist Amy Johansen.  Together you have developed two specialties – the playing of organ duets, and the presentation of children’s ‘Introduction to the Organ’ programs.

What are the challenges/joy of performing duet concerts?  What repertoire is included in these concerts?
Mr. Ampt:  Duet playing is surprisingly different to solo playing.  For a start many, particularly American, consoles are deliberately designed for the convenience of a single player on the middle of the bench.  Any departure from this position makes the pedalboard, in particular, quite uncomfortable to play.  For duet playing a flat/straight pedalboard is definitely the easiest. On the other hand, ample and convenient registration aids together with the presence of fanfare reeds make many American organs well suited to duet playing.  Compared to solo playing registration for duets is significantly more complicated, particularly when playing transcriptions. And of course both players must agree on the choices.  We find that preparation time on an unknown instrument is approximately doubled for duet programs. And there will be no point in being shy about occasional close physical contact.
We perform a mixture of original organ duets (eg Merkel, Beethoven, Hakim, Mozart, Bedard, Ampt), and transcriptions (eg William Tell Overture, Saint Saens III, 1812 Overture, Mid-Summer Night’s Dream overture).
Playing in time together raises an interesting issue.  Playing metronomically accurately is the easiest was to stay together, but it also produces the most heartless and empty performances. So a definite challenge in duet playing is to be able to play together while still allowing rhythmic flexibility to colour and enliven the music, just as with the performance of chamber music.
Jeannine:  Please describe your “Introduction to the Organ” programs.

Mr. Ampt:  The aim of these presentations is to offer approximately 25 unbroken minutes of total fun and enjoyment in a situation where the organ is the centre-piece, followed by all children having a play.  Those who have brought (usually piano) music can play their whole piece while non-players are encouraged to simply “improvise”.
The actual presentations give the impression that Amy (on the organ) and I (writer, arranger and narrator) are just having a good time imparting lots of information.  But in reality the presentations are tightly organized and fully scripted, with most of the narrations delivered by memory to give the impression of spontaneity.  We have often performed Daniel Burton’s Rex, The King of Instruments (with changes appropriate to the local instrument and culture), and frequently use 5 – 10 minute segments using TV, film and football club themes presented in appropriately varied ways, for which I have write narratives.  There may also be an “I spy…” segment and a quiz Yell-a-thon.

 

Jeannine:  I recently learned your delightful yet challenging organ composition, Concert Etude on an Australian Folk-Tune.  Do you often use indigenous Australian melodies in your composition?

 

Mr. Ampt:  My first published music – Australian Christmas Suite for Organ – treats, somewhat as chorale preludes, five of the Australian Christmas Carols (Wheeler/James) which were published in the 1940s.  The texts of these delightful carols mention the heat, dust and fires of Christmas time and allude to Australian flora and fauna. Definitely no snow in the paddocks. In addition to the Concert Etude you mentioned (based on “Pub with no Beer”), there is also a set of concert variations for four feet on Waltzing Matilda.  Audiences seem to find this piece quite entertaining, with several American organ duet teams having it in their repertoires.
  Many seem to think that my most successful solo organ work is “Elijah on the Mountain”, inspired by the passage in Kings II where Elijah recognizes his god in the “still, small voice”. The first in a recently published set of Three Trumpet Pieces is also proving popular. Besides the organ music, there is also music for oboe/organ and piano/organ.
I have also arranged and written a considerable quantity of Christmas music for choir.  Some of this is a capella, but most is with organ accompaniment. All of this music was originally prepared for the annual Christmas at the Sydney Town Hall concert – a very traditional Christmas celebration based on the Nine Lessons and Carols which always sells out. For this event I have also arranged several of the well-known carols with organ/brass fanfares and accompaniments which can be used with large choir and congregation.  I would classify the style as traditional and harmonic. All of this music is published.
Although I have never had formal composition lessons, I do consider my learning in this area to have come from three sources. The first was the playing, in my early years, of countless high quality hymns harmonized by properly trained musicians.   A natural feeling for good and correct harmonisations is now normal for me.  The second was/is the music of the great composers; those whose music exhibits both form and passion.  These composers extend from Bach to Hakim. The third will be mentioned below in regard to my church-playing requirements.

 

Jeannine:  Where can one find your compositions, recordings, other publications?
Mr. Ampt:  The website “Birralee Publishing” has a sadly incomplete list of my works. Best to email direct to robertampt@tpg.com.au  Most of the CD recordings can be found on the Move Records site, including “Joy to the World”, which contains much of the Christmas music already referred to, and “Organ at the Opera” which includes the Waltzing Matilda duet.

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Excerpted from the June 2017 Pro-Motion Music newsletter.

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.

What is Around the World in 80 Minutes?

… the exciting title of this new show by Jeannine and David Jordan keeps its promise: as spectator and listener I was taken on a trip around the world that provided glimpses of the beautiful rolling hills of England and its Roman churches, majestic cathedrals in Paris, allowed me to feel part of a procession during Passion Week in Spain, invited me into Johann S. Bach’s Germany, took me into the somber atmosphere of a Polish orphanage during World War II .. and this was only the first part of the ‘trip’ that went on to Nigeria, Lebanon, Israel, Taiwan, Australia… the list goes on! The blend of carefully selected and masterfully played pieces of music and visuals that reflected the music and the characteristics of the countries – or that were simply entertaining and humorous – made the journey enjoyable, fun and unforgettable. This show will undoubtedly be a favorite for many! The organ shines in its seemingly infinite musical expression and potential – who associates ‘La Bamba’ with the organ? From now on – I will! When the journey is over you sit back and think: “I would like to do this again!”   Ulla Mundil, concert attendee

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Dr. Jeannine Jordan, concert organist, and David Jordan, media artist, are the creators and performers of three organ and multi-media concert experiences, Around the World in 80 Minutes, Bach and Sons, and From Sea to Shining Sea.  Contact Dr. Jordan at jeannine@promotionmusic.org for information.

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