Jeannine: As a concert organist and recording artist, I’m always impressed with your themed recital series programs. Please tell us the reasons, the thoughts behind the ideas for these concerts.
Dr. Archer: I started as a concert organist about 15 years ago. I started very modestly by playing noon recitals in my own church and going up to Boston and down to DC playing little noon concerts with no real view that I was going to do this in any serious way.
Then I played in the summer series at Riverside Church in NYC in summer 2002 where I played a Messiaen cycle, Les Corps Glorieux. That performance got reviewed in the New York Times and nobody was more shocked, surprised and delighted than me. So I said, “Oh my goodness maybe I ought to do this seriously”.
As a result, I went to the Boston Conservatory and worked with James David Christie and then to Paris to work with Jon Gillock on Messiaen. Over a five-year period I learned the complete works of Messiaen and played them for the 100th anniversary of Messiaen’s death in 2008 here in NYC. That was the real turning point for me. I was the first American woman to play Messiaen’s complete organ works and it got a lot of wonderful press. At the end of 2008, Time Out New York, the culture magazine, recognized it as the Best of the Year in Classical Music and Opera.
My concert career has continued to grow since then. I have a publicist and a recording company, but I do all my own bookings and am now playing fifty concerts a year at home and abroad.
Jeannine: You have several CDs to your credit. What are some of your most recent recording projects?
Dr. Archer: I am always making recordings. A recent CD is one of the music of women composers, The Muse’s Voice, which got excellent press. My newest recording is the result of a Russian project, A Russian Journey. I’ve been to Russia three times where I investigated organ literature by Russian composers. The premise of my research was that there has to be organ music by Russian composers even though the organ is not found in churches (the Russian Orthodox tradition is a sung tradition) but organs are found in small recital halls associated with the Philharmonic in every city. So, I discovered music by the Russian Five, lesser known composers plus music by living Russian composers. This disc has gotten beautiful reviews including one in the January 2018 issue of Gramophone.
I am going to now do more music of Eastern European composers because so many of colleagues play the French Romantic literature or, of course, Bach, but we as artists need to find corners of repertoire where light needs to be shed so that we hear music by other people. As a result I will be doing another CD in the Ukraine during the summer of 2018 of Ukrainian contemporary composers.
Because of my interest in Eastern Europe, I was elected a member of the Harriman Institute here at Columbia where I now have access to grant monies and support for this work. The Harriman Institute promotes scholarship and the arts to bridge the gap between the East and the West.
Excerpted from the Guest Artist Interview of the February 2018 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.