Dr. Jeannine Jordan, Concert Organist

Posts tagged ‘Bach’s organ music’

Whose Legacy Is It Anyway?

Let me share a legacy with you. Let’s see “when” you guess who left us this legacy.

Orphaned at 10, he and his younger brother walked 30 miles to live with their older brother for two years. He then needed to move on because his older brother and wife were expecting yet another baby. From the age of 12 he made his way on his own, singing in church choirs, playing music as a street musician.  Determined, persistent.

He did not have a formal education but learned composition by “reverse engineering” music scores. Needless to say, he was pretty intelligent, and independent.

It was expected in his country that once you were selected as organist for a church, you would stay there your entire life. He didn’t. He went on to several different positions and butted heads with much of the leadership of towns, churches, courts, and choirs. Patience was not one of his virtues.

He had one job interview that promised fame, comfort, money, and security. One catch: he would have had to marry the boss’s daughter. Okay, well…he walked 200 miles back home to work out plan B.

He was 18 years old when he landed his first choir job and had choir boys older than himself. He ended up in a street brawl with one of them,  a bassoonist, and allegedly drew his sword and cut the vest of his opponent to shreds.

One of the things he did throughout his career was focus on creating glorious music for the church and court. There is no indication that he was hoping for some kind of legacy that would live on forever. He was doing his job. Competitive? I would guess. But consumed with leaving a legacy? No, just truly absorbed with doing his job really well. And his focus was certainly Soli Deo Gloria.

Yes, Johann Sebastian Bach left what we consider a substantial legacy of highly intelligent instrumental music, oratorios, motets, and dedication to his art, and  well, you know: “Soli Deo Gloria.”

Most of his legacy is the great music we enjoy, some of his legacy is the tattered vest of the bassoonist.

When he died, his music was on the wane in deference for more “singable” popular music. Hmm. But there was truth and a  foundation in his music that has driven and inspired us for centuries.

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Dr. Jeannine Jordan, concert organist with David Jordan, media specialist are the creators and performers of two unique audience-engaging organ and multi-media concert experiences, Bach and Sons and From Sea to Shining Sea.

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Dr. Jeannine and David Jordan

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Have You Found Something Amazing Today?

“If you haven’t found something amazing in music you experience during the day, it hasn’t been much of a day.”

How did you play the piece for the hundredth time and still feel amazed by its power?    For me, that piece is Johann Sebastian Bach’s Fugue in E-flat Major (The St. Anne).  I am and always will be in awe of this profound and amazing music expressing so completely the mysterious and awesome power of the Holy Trinity.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJmxQ7zYcow&feature=related

The implication here is that we must pay attention to the everything in each piece of music being practiced, performed, listened to, or taught.  We must actively engage in the work of making music as a participant, not as a spectator. We must bring all our senses into play in each encounter and every circumstance.

Jeannine Jordan, concert organist

You Mess Up, You ‘Fess Up–a Trait of a Musician with Integrity

A musician with integrity will follow another “rule” of creating and running a music studio–“you mess up, you ‘fess up.” You disclose both good news and bad. You acknowledge mistakes, apologize and make amends.

I recently had the humbling experience of having to reschedule an entire week of lessons. I “messed up” and scheduled lessons for a week I would be out of town. I had to “‘fess up” and disclose the news that no matter how carefully I had planned the lesson schedule, it just wasn’t going to work. I apologized and asked to reschedule the week’s lessons. Thankfully, most of my wonderful students changed their schedules to accommodate mine.

For me, a person who likes order and works to pay attention to details, this was a difficult lesson in integrity.  However, because I do respect my students’ time and their need to rely on a set schedule and I rarely make the mistake of having to change their lesson times, all of us made it through a challenging week.  One of us learned that she is less than perfect (again), and the students had the opportunity to show their support of their teacher by reworking their own schedules.

Dr. Jeannine Jordan, organ and piano instructor with studios in Lincoln City and Hillsboro, Oregon.

What are the Traits of a Forward-thinking Musician?

Recently I had the opportunity to interview James Thomashower, Executive Director of the American Guild of Organists for our Pro-Motion Music newsletter.  Mr. Thomashower and I shared ideas and views on the difference between being a forward-looking and a forward-thinking musician (organist). 

Most musicians and organists in particular are primarily forward-looking people with prepared music required either Sunday after Sunday and season after season or concert after concert. With Mr. Thomashower’s role as a visionary for the AGO, I asked him to share some of his and the organization’s forward-thinking ideas that could help organists (and musicians)  grow beyond being only a forward-looking group?

Mr. Thomashower:  I think the best strategy organists can follow to ensure career stability and growth is for them to be

  • less rigid,
  • more flexible,
  • and constantly willing to learn.

I am not suggesting at all that they should ever lower their standards, but the world is changing every day, and organists need to look ahead at the directions in which their employers are headed musically and liturgically.

Organists must be

  • constantly attuned to what’s happening in their places of employment,
  • be prepared for change,
  • and learn to adapt to new kinds of services with different types of music than they are accustomed to playing.

The organists who will flourish are those who can most effectively adapt to the changing demands that they may face. That may mean

  • learning new music
  •  accepting a new role, perhaps as a back-up musician in a blended service
  • graciously accepting an opportunity to play a digital instrument if a job with a pipe organ is not readily available.

Organists know more about their instrument than anyone else.  Regardless of the particular circumstances they may face in a given church, they have a responsibility to be the best advocates for the organ and organ music in our society.  That role is thrust upon them by virtue of their extraordinary musical skills, competence, and professionalism. They should embrace it with pride and joy.

Interview by Dr. Jeannine Jordan, concert organist

Being Honest But Modest–Trait of a Musician With Integrity

You’re honest but modest. You let your actions speak louder than words.

I frequently talk about and write about the two “P” words—Practice and Performance. However, it is important that I do more than talk and write about this subject; I also practice, create and perform new programs hoping that my example will encourage my students to work toward their practice and performance goals.

Creating programs takes sometimes months of research. Programs with a theme are always audience pleasers.  Discovering that theme can take many twists and turns:  an article read, a new piece performed, a thought from a student, an idea found while walking the beach or walking through an art gallery all can lead to that “new” program.  Sometimes the “discovery” phase can take weeks or even months.  Once the theme is solidified though, the creation of the program can begin.

For a program such as my organ and media event, Bach and Sons, the idea came from a series of solo organ concerts I presented at the Abbey Bach Festival where I played on one night the secular organ music of Johann Sebastian, Carl Phillip Emmanuel, and Wilhelm Friedemann Bach and on the second night the sacred organ music of those composers.  These programs planted the seed for Bach and Sons.

Eighteen months later, after extensive research, practice, and preparation and with the help of an eight member focus group the concert was premiered in Anchorage, Alaska to an enthusiastic audience.  Since then it has enjoyed many performances.

My students are well aware that I not only talk the talk about practice and performance, but spend hours a day in practice for those many performances throughout the year as a concert organist.

Mindful of the Past

The Church Music Institute of Dallas, Texas sponsored a day-long workshop for musicians and pastors in the Pacific Northwest in mid-August.  CMI, while dedicated to the practice, advancement and stewardship of the best of liturgical and sacred music for worshipping Christian congregations, is also about sharing the joy and power of music.

CMI summarizes their work in three ways.  They encourage church leaders to be mindful of the past, to strengthen a their commitment to the present and to prepare for the future.  It was my privilege to not only serve as the organ clinician but to revel in this day of joyous music making and music sharing.  Organists, choir directors, and pastors began and ended the day in rousing worship and song.  Interspersed throughout the day were those opportunities to not only hear new music but to share ideas and the joy of music with colleagues from around the country.

As the organ clinician, I presented one session on organ repertoire for the church year.  It was not difficult to the follow the CMI guideline to be “mindful of the past” in this workshop.  There is a wealth of wonderful organ repertoire from the past four centuries which can enhance today’s worship.  For example, chorale preludes by Buxtehude, Bach, Telemann, Scheidt, Brahms, and Pepping can be found for any liturgical season and for an organist of any skill level.

Some of the best of liturgical and sacred music for worshipping Christian congregations was composed centuries ago.  Being “mindful of the past” in choosing organ music for worship is a concept that should be eagerly embraced and explored by every church organist.

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