Vater unser im Himmelreich

Georg Böhm wrote three settings of the chorale Vater unser im Himmelreich. This past weekend at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, I played the first one as prelude. With a rhythmic repeated chord accompaniment and ornamented solo presentation of the melody, it has inspired many of my improvisations.

The other two settings could also be models for improvisations, though the last is much more complicated. The second setting is a duo while the last one presents each phrase of the chorale in quasi-fugal imitation.

Psalm 47 – Ascension of the Lord

One of the refrains that has survived from my first set of psalms written in 1995 with psalm tone and verses from the new Revised Grail Psalter. The choir is in a new location for this Mass, just over my right shoulder in the front area of the upper sanctuary. We have previously been in the back area of the upper sanctuary much closer to the organ.

The music for this piece is found in Audubon Park Psalter – Solemnities, Feasts and Holidays.

Psalm 145 – Fifth Sunday of Easter Year C

Recorded 24 April 2016 (iPhone) at the 11am Mass
Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, Baltimore MD

Psalm 145 – I Will Praise Your Name Forever
for the Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year C

The music for this piece is found in Audubon Park Psalter – Year C.

Psalm 118 for Easter Day

Recorded with my iPhone, this performance of Psalm 118 – This Is the Day – is from the 11am Mass at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Baltimore. Brass quartet plays the choral parts on the refrain.

The music for this composition is included in the Feasts and Solemnities volume of the Audubon Park Psalter.

Psalm 89 Chrism Mass

The Chrism Mass is the annual celebration where the archbishop blesses the oils for use throughout the archdiocese and the priests renew their vows of service. It is one of the events that generally fills the Cathedral every year. As with other special diocesan celebrations, these are people that have chosen to be here, so are willing to sing and participate. Here’s the responsorial psalm (from the Audubon Park Psalter)recorded by my iPhone placed on the organ console in the balcony. Brass are to my right. Choir is on the left, and the cantor is in the pulpit half-way down the building.

The music for this composition is included in the Feasts and Solemnities volume of the Audubon Park Psalter.

Pachelbel Canon in D

During a wedding consultation this week, a bride asked to record her selection for the entrance procession in order to play it for her mother. Rather than have her record just the audio, I quickly set up my mini-tripod and made a video. The aisle at the Cathedral is rather lengthy, so this is a popular choice for weddings here. I could have done more with the registration, and you don’t catch all the differences because I’m recording near the front organ, but I’m happy to share this impromptu performance of a popular work.

Videos and Concerts

AllSaintsAisle2Duets and Pedal Fun

Preparing for the two organ duet concerts with Jaime Carini created a very intense week. I hope you enjoyed the video from our first day of practice in the last newsletter. ( Click here in case you missed it or to see it again.) We also posted Promenade by Dello Joio from our practice session in Daytona here. By far, the most popular piece on the program was the set of waltzes by Johann Strauss Jr. transcribed for four feet. These were very challenging to learn as we often found ourselves playing the exact same notes right after each other. We had to practice slowly and watch where and how we moved to each note in order to make sure we didn’t step on each other or keep the other person from getting to the proper location. We even took a little video to see if we could spot any better ways to stay out of each others way. Have a look and see for yourself: Pedal Practice for Strauss Waltzes.

Naji Hakim – The Apostles

It was a great joy to play the US premier of movements from The Apostles by Naji Hakim. We have audio and video from both concerts, and I hope we will receive permission from Hakim to post a couple of excerpts on YouTube. We enjoyed doing these concerts together, and we both hope to be able to play the pieces again in other locations as well as actually learn all the movements of The Apostles.

John Stainer – The Crucifixion

After putting Jaime on the plane early Monday morning, I went up to Leesburg that evening to play for a rehearsal of The Crucifixion by John Stainer at Morrison United Methodist Church. When I last played the piece, I burned my hand the week before the concert, so had to play the piece using basically only my right hand and pedal with a few single notes by my left hand and a little assistance from my page turner for a couple of passages where Stainer requires the organist to play on two separate manuals. The concert is tonight at 7:30 pm. I am looking forward to it as not only a wonderful musical event for the Lenten season, but also as a chance to finally play the piece uninjured and pain free!

Even though I know many of you are not able to attend these events in person, I hope that the clips on YouTube provide some entertainment. Once this set of concerts is over, I hope to be able to post more videos of performances and improvisations in the next few months. I also wish to continue exploring how music gets both to and from the written page.

Hoping spring arrives in April!


Newsletter Issue 18 – 2014 03 31
See the complete list of newsletter issues here.

Dilexisti Justitiam Video

With additional orchestration, this is a live performance of Dilexisti Justitiam at the Missa Pontificalis in honorem Sanctae Venerandae (Virgin and Martyr).
Performers: Coro e Orchestra della Cappella Musicale della Venerabile Reale Cappella di Santa Venera, Acireale
Conductor: Alessandro Maria Trovato

Merkel Day 1

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! While everyone was out celebrating, Jaime and I were working on our program for our concerts this weekend. We still have some polishing to do, but here is a little teaser so you can see a little of what happens when two people sit down at the organ.

Naji Hakim – The Apostles

Because our concert in Winter Park is the same weekend as the Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival, we chose to include as many art-inspired music selections as possible. While looking for repertoire, I discovered a set of pieces for organ duet by Naji Hakim inspired by wood carvings by Lucas Cranach the Elder. The Apostles presents a series of short movements based upon the artwork but also making use of Gregorian chant and other chorale themes. As the composition was only written in 2011 and not that many people perform organ duets, I recently contacted Dr. Hakim and was informed that we would be doing the US premier! We are super excited to be the first American performers and hope you will be able to come hear it at one of the concerts on Friday or Sunday!

Wishing you all the luck of the Irish!


Newsletter Issue 17 – 2014 03 18
See the complete list of newsletter issues here.

Music doesn’t exist on paper

worksgrafThe Printed Page

For hundreds of years, people have been searching for ways to write music down on a piece of paper. While there have been great advances from the squiggles above the text in early chant manuscripts, enabling us to become more and more precise about how to replicate music, I believe that it is not possible to confine music to black and white notation.

While everyone generally acknowledges that information, thoughts and feelings can be conveyed in written words, how many people have had the joy of having an email or text message misunderstood? Even with the spoken word, tone, volume, inflection, and even body posture can add or completely change the meaning of a group of words. One of my favorite stories is about a language teacher who is explaining that in some languages double negatives make a positive while in other languages, a double negative remains negative, but there is no language where two positives make a negative. From the back of the room, a student pipes up, “Yeah, right.”

Tone and inflection can make a huge difference in the message conveyed with words. I even understand there are some languages where the same combination of sounds pronounced with different inflection become completely different words! While our music notation has become more precise over time, I do not believe we will ever manage to capture all the intricacies of tone and inflection on the printed page.


Since it is impossible to capture all the details of a piece of music and put them on a piece of paper, we have to make some form of interpretive judgment. This is where performance practice applies, but also where taste and personal judgment enter the scene. In the realm of classical music, we have scholars who research the instruments and writings of the era in order to offer opinions and guidance about how a performer of that time period would have interpreted the page of a musical score. We can choose to follow their guidance, or choose our own path. Leopold Stokowski adapted Bach for orchestra. Did he follow proper performance practice? No, but did he make music? Yes. One of the organists causing a bit of controversy with his use and view of the organ is Cameron Carpenter. He just unveiled a new touring instrument at Alice Tully Hall earlier this month. While I haven’t yet seen a video of him playing the new instrument, you can watch him play the Bach Toccata and Fugue:

Making Music

Regardless of how you might feel about Cameron Carpenter’s interpretation of J.S. Bach, he uses the printed page and the instrument available to him to convey his artistic decisions. Would these be the choices I would make? If I had his technique, maybe. Will he always play it this way? I doubt it. One of the points I believe I’ve heard him make in an interview is that often organists are more concerned about the instrument they are playing than about how they are playing the instrument, and this may be the reason why so many people have lost interest in the organ. If we pay more attention to getting off the printed page and actually conveying thoughts or emotions through music, perhaps there would be more enthusiastic supporters of organ music in the world.

I’ll be doing my part over the next few weeks to make music and keep up interest in the organ. Coming up next are a set of two organ duet concerts. The same program featuring art-inspired organ music will be performed in both Winter Park and Daytona. After that, there are several choral concerts with prominent organ parts. If you are not able to come and hear one of these concerts, I hope you will be able to enjoy some live music making in your own neighborhood!

Wishing you all the best,


Newsletter Issue 16 – 2014 03 12
See the complete list of newsletter issues here.