Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Organists reprise regal music

Organ F�te 2012 offers selections from reign of Queen Elizabeth

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If you are a Royal Family watcher and have been following the various celebrations for Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee, you'll be happy to know about a special event taking place tonight at 7 p.m. right here in Winnipeg.

The local centre of the Royal Canadian College of Organists (RCCO) is presenting Organ F�te 2012 -- Queen Elizabeth II -- Diamond Jubilee.

The concept for the RCCO's seventh annual organ f�te sounds like lots of fun, with seven local organists performing music played throughout the Queen's reign for her coronation, weddings and other important royal events.

"Last year we celebrated the royal wedding, "said Russ Greene, local RCCO vice-president and organist/choirmaster at St. Andrew's Anglican Church Woodhaven. "We thought we've got a big English church and a big English organ, so why not?"

Greene was referring to the event venue -- Holy Trinity Anglican Church, 256 Smith St. (at Graham Ave.) and its Canadian Organ Company pipe organ that has seen several reincarnations since its installation 100 years ago. It was rebuilt in the '50s by Casavant (Quebec), and then later renovated by Hill, Norman and Beard (London, England.)

The organists who are playing come from churches across the city and include Dorcas Windsor of Westworth United, Peter Fyne of Emmanuel United, Tom Packham of St. John's Anglican Cathedral, Lottie Enns-Braun of Young United, Lynne Mavins of Transcona Memorial United, Richard Greig of Holy Trinity Anglican and Greene himself.

In previous years, the event saw audience members walking or busing it to different venues, but this year, we can all stay put as the musicians come to us with a variety of majestic musical selections. On the program are well-known works like The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba by Handel, Imperial March by Sir Edward Elgar, Crown Imperial by Walton, with clarinetist Rev. Tony Harwood-Jones, and Rhosymedre by Vaughn Williams.

Don't worry if the names sound unfamiliar -- chances are you'll be nodding your head in recognition after just a few bars of music.

The evening will also offer some opportunities for audience participation in the form of a few hymns, including the Queen's Coronation March, Praise the Lord the King of Heaven. And just a hint: you might want to brush up on the words to God Save the Queen.

"The British tend to use hymns for processionals," said Greene. "We've had a good response to inviting our audiences to sing a few hymns. They like to get up in the middle and do this."

Greene will also supply the audience with a few informative and humorous tidbits about organs and royal music. There will be a traditional English tea served after the concert. Scones, here I come!

A portion of the $15 admission fee ($5 for students) supports the RCCO's scholarship program, which helps pay for lessons for local organ students. Greene admits that there are fewer students interested in studying organ these days. "It's a hard sell for a couple of reasons," he explained. "Kids are not exposed to the instrument as much because they don't go to church. And if they don't see it, they don't think of playing it."

The thought of a dwindling population of organists is a sad one. Nothing can beat the power, the versatility or the stateliness of this potent instrument. When you sit in a church or concert hall and the organist begins to play, not just the sounds, but the vibrations envelope and touch your entire being. It is overwhelmingly moving.

Events like the Organ F�te are important because they provide a different perspective on this instrument that many mistakenly consider to be relegated to playing at funerals and weddings. "People will have a good time," said Greene. "There will be good fellowship and it will be very entertaining, not esoteric. It's not for organists only."

Tickets are available at the door.

-- -- --

And now I sign off for the season. Here's wishing everyone a wonderful summer, filled with beautiful music (remember the Millennium Centre Noon Hour Summer Concerts on Tuesdays until the end of August and the Clear Lake Chamber Music Festival, Aug. 21 - 26).

Watch for the return of Music Matters in September.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 21, 2012 D4

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