By Sam Balden
In our Centre’s past, the predominant force for the organization and administration of our annual Members’ Recitals has been our longest-serving and indefatigable Executive Member, Susan Ohannesian. Susan’s then church, St Mary’s Anglican, Kerrisdale hosted many of these events.
In this year’s case, PJ Janson, Assistant Organist at St James Anglican, agreed to take on this role, with the recital to be held at his church. As a result, and in a first ever collaboration with the Centre and the St James’ Anglican Church Music Series, a Members’ Recital was held on Saturday, May 13, with impressive results. These included a widely-distributed advertising poster (“Nine Organists pulling out all the stops!”) and an extensive programme featuring a description of the College, the concert pieces and their performers, and additional narrative about the music and the artists. To quote Susan, she felt the evening was “fabulous and very successful!”, a reaction shared by many fellow musicians in the audience, including this scribe.
St James’ Anglican Church is an historic building designed by the famed British architect Adrian Gilbert Scott. Constructed in 1935, its style is a combination of Art Deco, Romanesque Revival, Byzantine Revival, and Gothic Revival architecture. In 1938 St James’ Church signed a contract with Casavant Frères of St Hyacinthe, Québec for a new 3- manual, 31-stop organ of 1760 pipes and electro-pneumatic action. The organ itself was located in the north transept of the church, formerly the choir gallery, which was lowered to make room for the instrument, with the console on the west gallery. In 2003 Casavant replaced the console with one that provides the organist with enhanced combination controls for registration, which was an added benefit for this year’s performers.
With an audience attendance of 200, this was a high-water mark for our Centre. Besides the host’s administrative and presentation skills, credit must be also be given to Michael Dirk for the camera and screen which allowed us to view the recitalists performing in the gallery behind us. In talking with PJ, he expressed the need for the church to use their pipe organ for such events (and this being carried out through the Music Series). He felt that the selection of pieces to be performed was very appropriate for their instrument, offered a good variety, and each organist utilized the palette of organ colours available to good advantage.
Pieces and performers were:
Dupré – Cortège et Litanie – PJ Janson
Alain – Introduction et Variations – Angelique Po
Bédard – Cat Duet Suite – Rachel Alflatt and Denis Bédard
J.C. Bach, arr. F. Wagner – Chromatic Fugue on BACH – Cindy Ma
Bédard – Rondeau sur un thème rwandais – Michael Dirk
Franck – Chorale No. 2 in B Minor – Isaac Howie
Dalton – Improvisation: Casavant 1605 – Christopher Dalton
Willan – Introduction, Passacaglia and Fugue – Gerald Harder
M. Bédard’s Duet, played by him and his wife, was for pedals only (!), or as he described it with a twinkle in his eye, “pieces for organists without any hands”!! The other Bédard composition and Michael Dirk are referenced in the latest (Summer 2023) issue of Organ Canada. And Mr. Dalton’s homage to the instrument befits the man who wrote the book Pipe Organs of British Columbia. Kudos to Gerald Harder for his excellent performance of Healey Willan’s magnum opus. This piece was his undergraduate Senior Recital piece, from 38 years ago!, and, as he said to me, needed a lot of dusting off. Let me just say that we should all be able to do that kind of dusting job with our organ playing after 38 years.
A fine reception in the church hall followed, where the audience was given the opportunity to meet the recitalists.