Spotlight Columns

Pull out all the stops for Organ Symphony

By From page A10 | April 05, 2017

And now, for something completely different from the Folsom Lake Symphony … an organ concert on April 22.

Many great works exist for this “King of Instruments,” as Mozart referred to it. But this is an instrument crafted from the woods of the forest and the metals of the earth. In other words, it’s not easily transported.

So, the first curiosity of the evening will be the instrument itself. Will the Harris Center for the Arts boast a digital instrument or a traditional instrument with stops and pipes?

Featured artist
Organist Elizabeth Forsyth joins the Folsom Lake Symphony for a rare evening featuring works by Johannes Brahms, George Frideric Handel and Camille Saint-Saëns.

Forsyth is the organist for the First Congregational Church in Berkeley. She holds academic degrees in organ performance from Brigham Young University. A respected member of the American Guild of Organists, she gave recitals throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and greater Philadelphia. Forsyth is a past guest organist at the Salt Lake Tabernacle and teaches the craft to organ workshop students at BYU every summer.

It’s big
The Folsom Lake Symphony is pulling out all the stops for a great performance, which is entirely appropriate, since that term originates with the organ itself. Pipe organs have valves called “stops” that control the airflow through the pipes. Pulling them out increases the musical volume.

Consider it the thundering rock instrument of another era.

It’s academic
That aside, the first piece on the symphony’s program, the “Academic Festival Overture Opus 80” by Brahms (1833 – 1897), does not feature the organ.

If you hear sweet songs hailing the joys and adventures of academia in the early moments of the overture, you are not mistaken. Brahms wrote the piece as a musical “thank you” to the University of Breslau, which awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1880.

The melodies are so over the top that you will easily recognize the brass section from the opening music to “National Lampoon’s Animal House.”

It’s versatile
There is nearly more music composed for the organ than for any other solo musical instrument. Most of it is sacred music, given the organ’s prominence in worship in Western Europe. Written compositions for organ came on the scene during the Renaissance. The instrument really came into its own during the Baroque Period when Handel (1685-1759) made extensive use of the organ for his oratorios. He was a master organist and his love of the instrument shines through. He even designed much of the “modern” organ as we know it today, specifying the pipes he wanted in the instruments he designed.

Handel is known for his use of improvisation. In fact, this talent led him to create the genre of organ concerto — thus combining his art as a keyboard virtuoso with the orchestra present in the London theaters of his day.

The “Organ Concerto in B-flat major” is composed of six works. Two are on the program: opi Nos. 4 and 6, published in 1735 and 1736.

‘That’ll do’
The “Symphony No. 3 in C minor, ‘Organ Symphony,’ Opus 78” by Saint-Saëns was commissioned by the Royal Philharmonic Society in 1886.

You may recognize it as the theme music to the popular 1995 film “Babe.”

This symphony was heavily influenced and inspired by Saint-Saëns’ friend, Franz Liszt. Both composers were virtuosi of the piano and the organ. Together they discussed Saint-Saëns’ development of Symphony No. 3.

Alas, poor Liszt died two months before the work made its debut in 1886. A heartbroken Saint-Saëns dedicated the piece to his dear friend.

This promises to be an exceptional evening. Don’t miss out; tickets are going fast.

The Organ Symphony concert is 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 22, at the Harris Center for the Arts on the Folsom Lake College campus. For tickets visit, call (916) 608-6888 or visit the theater box office.

Send your event for consideration in Susan’s column to [email protected]

Susan Laird

Discussion | 1 comment

  • Donna SkeenApril 11, 2017 - 11:37 pm

    What type of organ will be played?



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