Organ Works You Should Check Out

For those who may not know, the organ is my primary instrument. The organ was the first musical instrument I played (well, technically that instrument was a reed organ, not a pipe organ, but still…). Among my other professional capacities, I serve as organist at Dueber United Methodist Church, in Canton, Ohio, and official organist of Canton Lodge #60 (F&AM) in Canton, Ohio, at the beautiful Canton Masonic Temple.

Prior to this year, the majority of my compositions were organ works. At this time, as I’m wrapping up the previously mentioned collaboration project – and having decided to put on hold indefinitely any further work on the Caligari score recording – I’m considering what might be my next creative endeavors. Composing more organ music is among those which I’m considering.

(The Rodgers Model 840 organ at Dueber United Methodist Church, in Canton, Ohio)
(The Scottish Rite Cathedral Room, in the Canton Masonic Temple, seen from the organ loft. I took this photo a few weeks ago, while I was preparing the organ music for the 21st Masonic District’s One Day Grand Master’s Class)
(The wonderful Schantz pipe organ in the Canton Masonic Temple’s Blue Lodge room)

With this in mind, I’ve recently revisited some of my organ works, and I’d like to share with you some of these works, with the hope that they will interest you in checking out my other organ works. The pieces are listed by date of composition, starting with the earliest.

IN NOMINE (2015)

I composed In Nomine in early 2015. It was the first of my organ works to be published.

In Nomine is an unusual piece, to say the least. It’s set in the Phrygian mode, and this, combined with its rather free, plainchant-like character, imbues the piece with a sense of mysticism. The title refers to a genre of instrumental works popular in England during the Renaissance Era. Despite its title, this piece was not inspired by early music.

THIRTY-FOUR (SONG WITHOUT WORDS) (2019)

I composed Thirty-Four (Song without Words) the day before my thirty-fifth birthday. At that time, it certainly felt that, at turning thirty-five, a major period of my life had come to a close; and it had, in many ways.

Thirty-Four is both a musical reflection on my life, and the events that preceded it in the previous year or two, as well as a depiction (as it were) of the bittersweet feeling that one often has when looking back on a time in one’s life when one had one’s heart broken; that mixture of affection, regret, and sadness.

BYZANTINE MEDITATION (2020)

Byzantine Meditation (originally entitled Meditation (According to Byzantine Modes)) was composed in early 2020, and dedicated to James Flores.

As the title indicates, this piece was inspired by Byzantine Orthodox chant. The piece actually quotes a couple Byzantine chants; most notably the Evlogitaria of the Resurrection.

FIVE VOLUNTARIES (2020)

My most substantial organ work published to date is Five Voluntaries, a work I composed for Carson Cooman in autumn, 2020.

For those who may not be familiar, a “voluntary” is a traditional designation for a freely composed liturgical organ work. In earlier periods of Western church history, as today, organists were expected to improvise music, usually at the beginning and end of the service. A voluntary was/is a composition that had/has the character of an improvised work.

Of these five voluntaries, the first, third, and fifth are are grand in scope (all are given the tempo designation, “maestoso”), while the second and fourth have a slower, quiet, mysterious character. With the exception of the fourth voluntary, these pieces employ one or more of the traditional Latin church “modes” (Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, etc.).

LITTLE PRELUDE IN THE CLASSICAL STYLE (2021)

Little Prelude in the Classical Style was the first work I composed in 2021. It is my take on the grand organ works of the Baroque Era. There is, of course, more than a hint of the influence of J.S. Bach in this piece.

Despite its taking as its model an earlier musical style, Little Prelude is not mere pastiche. It’s metrical changes, phrase structure, and modulations are very much modern.

THREE DIAPASON MINIATURES (2021)

Three short, melancholy, manuals-only pieces composed on January 7th, 2021. I consider Three Diapason Miniatures to be among my best compositions for organ.

CLARINET TUNE (2021)

The Klezmer-inspired Clarinet Tune is perhaps my most unusual organ work to date.

This piece is my unique addition to a well-established tradition of organ music that includes such genres as “trumpet tune,” “tuba tune,” etc.

A solo clarinet naturally (for me, anyway) brings to mind Klezmer music – hence, the approach I took to this piece.

IN IDLE DAYS, LONG AGO (2021)

Harmonically, In Idle Days, Log Ago is probably the most complex of my published organ works.

The title – and the rather haunting character of the piece – are reminiscent of Edvard Grieg’s “lyric pieces,” for piano. When I was a kid, I loved playing Grieg’s lyric pieces. At this point in my life, I have some difficulty listening to Grieg’s lyric pieces, because the emotions and memories some of them evoke are so powerful and overwhelming; so tied are they to certain earlier times/episodes in my life.

As the title indicates, this piece is a meditation on childhood – or, more precisely, on one’s late teenage years.

DAYDREAMING (2021)

Daydreaming is a transcription of an improvisation I recorded in late August or early September, 2021. Prior to transcribing it, I used the original improvisation recording in October Bells I & II, from my Electronic Music (Volume IV) album.

The original improvisation was inspired by a situation in my life at that time that caused me considerable sadness. Daydreaming was/is a meditation on that experience; hence why the video featured here is the original recording I made of the piece (performed on the Rodgers organ at Dueber UMC).


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