Dr. Jeannine Jordan, Concert Organist

Posts tagged ‘arts’

An interview with Robert Ampt

Jeannine:  Please share anything else from your life story that would be of interest to our readers.
Mr. Ampt:  Three things come to mind:
1. American organist and carillonist Amy Johansen (who in now my wife) came into my life around thirty years ago following our initial meeting in the bar of Kings College, Cambridge.  Amy was, and still is, a startlingly brilliant organist who was soon to make her first CD – the music of Naji Hakim, with whom she had been studying, and who recommended her for the CD. Amy has an impeccable sense of rhythm and some splendid practice techniques which were passed on to her from Naji.  I have benefited from both of these aspects.

2. For around three decades I have been the organist/choirmaster of Sydney’s German Lutheran Church.

 

 

The church is very small, has zero acoustic and houses a very fine seventeen-stop mechanical action organ from Schuke of what used to be West Berlin.  All hymns are played and harmonized from just the melody, and each hymn is introduced by an improvised prelude.  This process has been a marvelous and rigorous teacher.     Before each prelude, decisions need to be made so that not only the music, but also the text, is introduced.  Decisions to be made include volume (loud/soft), form (duo, melody in which voice, melody in pedal on 16′, 8′ or 4′, fugal, melody ornamented or unadorned, chorale prelude with interludes, melody in octaves, harmonic language (tradition/modern), one or more keyboards …  An important aspect is that these preludes are always performed with a listening audience, so that every note played (even the surprises!) must be considered correct and part of the music.
Improvising these thousands of preludes has had a direct influence on the forms and styles of my composing.  Some movements are quite short and could be considered similar to “chorale prelude” styles, including sets of variations. Overall I have learnt both fluency and consistency of style/language within pieces from my service playing.

3. Finally, it is impossible to be playing one of the world’s great organs without being influenced by it.

 

The magnificent Hill organ in the Sydney Town, the largest in the world at the time of its opening in 1890 (5 mans/ped, 126 speaking stops with no borrowing or extension and a true 64′ pedal stop), has taught me that great organs can convincingly play all music from all periods.  At a “toccata” concert last year, for example, the music ranged from Frescobaldi (elevation toccata) to Messiaen (Dieu parmi nous) with Bach (T & F in F major) and Widor in between. If I fail to play this range of music, many, even if they attend a church regularly, will be totally unaware of its existence.
Although the organ dates from 1890 and is obviously ideally suited for the music of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the splendid 16′ Principal Chorus on the Great, which includes almost a dozen ranks of mixtures, is the thrilling heart and soul of the instrument, and splendidly suitable for the great northern repertoire of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.  This organ has taught me about the spaciousness and majesty of this music – which, in its turn, is the heart and soul of our instrument’s repertoire.
This organ has also taught me how a great organ should look.  Too many large organs, including in civic situations, have uninspiring facades often designed by architects. The case of the Sydney organ was designed by an organbuilder who was also the foremost authority on historic organ cases – Dr Arthur Hill. Based on some of the greatest organs of his time – St Bavo in Haarlem and St Jakobi in Stralsund – the Sydney case is simply breathtaking with its size, its perfect balance of towers and flats, and its beautiful detail.

Jeannine:  Thank you for sharing the intriguing story of your life as an organist.

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Excerpted from an interview published in 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.

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An Interview with Jackson Berkey – Present Soundscapes

Present Soundscapes

J: You have so many “soundscapes” in your amazing career including your work as a composer with over 300 compositions in your oeuvre. You are described as a “21st-century Romantic” with your own writing style.  How do you describe your style and what can one expect to hear in your keyboard music?
Mr. Berkey: First, I do not describe myself in this way.  I hold a great amount of respect for all of the composers whose music I grew up studying and performing.  Here in the 21st-century I believe I’m one of few composers actively continuing patterns set by Liszt, Rachmaninoff, Chopin, Prokofieff … composers who wrote and performed their own works.  I guess the “21st-century Romantic” moniker comes from the influences of those composers in my music.  Some of it is immediately obvious;  and at other times, it simply seems to be my style of writing.  All of it is also influenced by my many years of playing the music of Mannheim Steamroller — most especially the rhythmic aspects which permeate my music.

J: Of course I am intrigued by the Organ Concerto.  Please describe this work for the organists among our readers.

Mr. Berkey:  My Organ Concerto from 2004, was written on commission from John Friesen who, at the time, was principal organist at St. Paul United Methodist Church in Lincoln, Nebraska.  It is in three movements of equal length, written in a “Handelian” style with much interplay between the reeds of the organ and the flute and oboe of the orchestra.  The concerto is about 26 minutes in duration and is scored for solo pipe organ with solo flute and oboe.  The score also calls for 4 percussion (including two mallet players), timpani, and strings.  The middle movement is a “Fantasy of Amazing Grace” and may be extracted if desired.  For those interested in the work, the score and a recording are available through our website, http://www.berkey.com.

J: The 24 Nocturnes for piano are simply divine.  What an amazing group of pieces you have added to piano repertoire.  Please tell us about this ten-year project.

Mr. Berkey:  The 24 Nocturnes are now complete and in print from SDG Press (SDG 15-200).  These solo piano works are available separately, or in a single-book collection including extensive performance and background notes for all 24 works.  They are also now available as a 2-CD set from SDG records, “Jackson Berkey’s 24 Nocturnes” (SDG DC15 1-2).  Performance time of the complete set is about 2 hours.

J: One of your newest compositions, Piano Concert Easter 2015 was premiered in April in Omaha, Nebraska by Anne Madison. Please tell us more.

Mr. Berkey: I offered to write this work as a gift to a friend, pianist Anne Madison, head of piano at the Omaha Conservatory of Music.  I had heard Anne play the Rachmaninoff 2nd concerto about 6 years ago and she was invited again to perform with the same orchestra and conductor in the spring of 2015.  Anne often visits my studio in Omaha and has always shown an interest in my piano writing, both through her performances and by teaching my music to her students.  She was searching for a concerto that would be suitable to perform with this good community orchestra and was “undecided” as to the work that would hold her interest for the time period required to learn and memorize it.  I suggested a few concertos for her to consider and, when meeting her later and discovering that she was still undecided, I offered to write one for her.  She was immediately intrigued and secured permission from the conductor of the orchestra to proceed.  I presented her with the 2nd half of the concerto in the summer of 2014, and with the 1st half “Fantasy on Hymn Tunes” in January of 2015.  I made the entire first half of the concert a “Fantasy on Hymn Tunes” because I knew of Anne’s deep love for Christ and her strong Christian witness.  As it turns out, it is a perfect vehicle for her artistic temperament, her technique and her passionate performing spirit.

J: What sets this piece apart from the myriad of piano concertos in the repertoire?

Mr. Berkey: It is an individual work having an individual voice and strong evangelistic affect on its listeners.  Initially, let it be said that technically this concerto has pianistic demands that are the equal of many works in the standard concerto repertoire.  The detail and high level of interplay between the piano and orchestra is a challenge happily achieved in a minimum of rehearsal with a professional orchestra.  A concert artists approaching this work will find much challenge and reward.  For audiences it is fully listenable from beginning to end with many moments that are deeply emotional and moving.  Perhaps one of its most important characteristics is the immediate connection that it makes with a listening audience.  Especially in the first movement, which seems immediately familiar, the music is a mixture of older hymn tunes of the church, not often heard today.  These are combined with some of the deepest expressive elements from my earlier Easter cantata, A Messenger Named John.  The artistic pacing of the concerto was given great consideration.  The placement of a five and a half minute cadenza near the end of the work is an almost magical experience for the audience.  Unlike most cadenzas, the orchestra re-enters and accompanies the last quarter of the cadenza prior to a rousing “maestoso” which eventually unwinds, relaxes, and brings the concerto a quiet end.

J: An interview with Jackson Berkey would not be complete without talking about your choral compositions and your work with your wife, Almeda and the choir, Soli Deo Gloria Cantorum.  Especially intriguing to me is the Carnegie Hall Series.

Mr. Berkey: Almeda and I received an invitation through Jonathan Griffiths, then with MidAmerica Productions of New York City, to perform our Easter celebration, Come, Follow Me! for the first appearance at Carnegie Hall.  I expanded the existing instrumentation (Pf, Org, Perc I-II-III) to full symphony orchestra, expanding the organ part to full orchestral winds, brass, and strings; and reducing the piano part to a more appropriate “orchestral” piano part.  This has been my procedure for each of our concert at Carnegie Hall.  Works later performed there include South Dakota Shadows, Crucifixus & Cantate 2000, American Journey, Thoughts and Remembrances.  Performances of these works took place over a period of ten years, with a presentation occurring every other concert season.  We are hoping in the future to present our Christmas cantata, The Glory of His Majesty.
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Dr. Jeannine Jordan, concert organist with David Jordan, media artist are the creators and performers of two organ and multi-concert experiences, From Sea to Shining Sea and Bach and Sons.

What Do The Arts Teach Us?

  • The arts are about imagining beyond the bounds of the known.
  • The arts embrace the past and the future of the human mind and soul.
  • Playing music can be both a model and a metaphor for important aspects of the life we are called to lead.
  • Music stresses individual practice and technical excellence.
  • Learning to play or paint, dance, sing or act, means constantly being refashioned, constantly demanding risk.
  • Dealing with one’s inevitable mistakes is a part of an artist’s education.

These are lessons for how we all can grow throughout our lives.  We must teach our children to be ready for a world we cannot yet know, one that will require the attitudes and understanding sparked and nurtured by the experience of the arts.  These are the qualities by which the future will measure us.”

Excerpted from The Art of Learning by Faust and Marsalis.

Dr. Jeannine Jordan, concert organist

We Need Learning That Incorporates What The Arts Teach Us

A New Year has begun.  The “season of intense musical activity” — the end-of-year academic concerts, student recitals, Christmas concerts and church services — is past.  But, before we forget those glorious moments of music-making and music-sharing, let’s start the New Year by taking a moment to examine why music is important and what benefit making music has in our lives

Reading through a copy of the January 2, 2014 issue of the USA TODAY newspaper, I came across a thought-provoking article espousing the importance of education based on “what the arts teach us.”  The authors, Harvard President Drew Faust and Wynton Marsalis, noted composer and trumpeter, join forces in presenting an argument for the importance of an arts education.

“We need education that nurtures judgment as well as mastery, ethics and values as well as analysis.  We need learning that will enable students to interpret complexity, to adapt, and to make sense of lives they never anticipated.  We need a way of teaching that encourages them to develop understanding of those different from themselves, enabling constructive collaborations across national and cultural origins and identities.  In other words, we need learning that incorporates what the arts teach us.”

I encourage you to read this excellent article, The Art of Learning, by Faust and Marsalis in its entirety.

Dr. Jeannine Jordan, concert organist

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