November 15, 2019

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The pipes are calling at national organ festival

Organizers aim to 'shred' instrument's stereotypes

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 4/7/2015 (1595 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 4/7/2015 (1595 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Scores of organ lovers will be in Winnipeg beginning this weekend to celebrate the "king of instruments," a.k.a. the mighty pipe organ.

The Winnipeg Organ Festival that kicks off today and runs until Thursday offers a musical feast of solo recitals, collaborative concerts, workshops and master classes along with an organ-playing competition. Presented in conjunction with the Royal Canadian College of Organists' annual national convention, it also marks the first time the festival has been held in Winnipeg since 2004.

Boston organist James David Christie will perform four solo concertos at Westminster United Church on Thursday at 8 p.m.

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Boston organist James David Christie will perform four solo concertos at Westminster United Church on Thursday at 8 p.m.

"It's just huge for us, but it's also a huge opportunity for audiences to hear what this amazing instrument is capable of," says Winnipeg organist Lottie Enns-Braun, who along with Linda Fearn are the festival's artistic directors.

One can't-miss concert is the gala finale showcasing acclaimed American organist James David Christie, who is hailed as one of the top players of his generation.

The Boston artist — who notably also performed at Sen. Edward Kennedy's memorial service in 2009 — will perform four solo organ concertos at Westminster United Church (745 Westminster Ave), on Thursday at 8 p.m. He'll be accompanied by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, led by Alexander Mickelthwate.

"James David Christie is brilliant," says Enns-Braun, who first met the artist while attending one of his master classes at McGill Summer Organ Academy four years ago in Montreal. "His playing is clean, it's energetic. He also takes a very poetic approach that makes the music come alive. You always hear things you've never heard before whenever he plays."

Christie also performs a solo recital of Baroque works on Monday at 8 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church (61 Picardy Pl.), and gives a morning master class for conference registrants on Tuesday at Young United Church (222 Furby St).

Another festival centrepiece is a collaboration between city organist Jenny Vincent and choral ensemble Canzona on Tuesday at 8 p.m. at Westminster United Church.

The 25-voice choir, led by Elroy Friesen, performs three commissioned world premières inspired by the tenets of human rights. Canadian composers Timothy Corlis, Leonard Enns and Stephanie Martin will attend at the concert that also includes works by Arvo P§rt, Mendelssohn and others.

"Audiences will experience a musical journey from darkness and despair to light and hope," Friesen promises. "They will also experience the power of these profound texts sung by the choir, as well as the power of the organ with all its different colours."

Enns-Braun performs her own concert of contemporary works with Winnipeg saxophonist Allen Harrington on Monday at 3:30 p.m. at Young United Church.

The affable musician points out that while the pipe organ has deep roots in sacred music, her instrument of choice is also a musical chameleon.

"People often assume that the organ is a church instrument, and the saxophone is only for jazz — we're here to blow that stereotype to shreds," she says.

The festival also features the National Organ Playing Competition with six semifinalists selected from across Canada vying for cash prizes at two free concerts today at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. at Young United Church. The finals are scheduled for Tuesday at 2 p.m. at St. Luke's Anglican Church (130 Nassau St. N.) — also free.

Hymn fans will be given their chance to join in on a variety of contemporary and traditional hymns during Hymn Festival with a Difference, slated for Sunday at 8 p.m. at Knox United Church (400 Edmonton St.). Leader Christine Longhurst will guide singers through the program accompanied by organist Richard Greig.

Toronto's Patricia Wright joins forces with poet Patricia Orr, who has created reflective texts responding to J.S. Bach's chorale preludes titled Bach in Time: Let There be Beauty, on Wednesday at 2 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church.

Finally, Montreal Symphony Orchestra organist Jean-Willy Kunz performs a program of French romantic repertoire, including his own transcription of Saint-Saens' charming Carnival of the Animals at Holy Trinity Anglican Church (256 Smith St.) Wednesday at 8 p.m.

For festival tickets or further information, call Karen at 204-453-6962 or visit winnipegorganfestival.ca. Tickets/passes ($80) are also available at McNally Robinson or at the door.

holly.harris@shaw.ca

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