Noontime Organ Recital

Noontime Organ Recital
October 23
12:30 PM to 1:10 PM

October 23 Organist:  Michael Ferguson

Prelude and Fugue in G Major                                                                         J.S. Bach (1685-1750)
                        Blithe Bells                                                                      Percy Grainger (1882-1961)
                        Suite in D Minor, Op. 14                                                  Edward Elgar (1857-1934)
                        (or: “Vesper Voluntaries, No. 26”)

Every so often, a great artist creates a gem that somehow gets lost in the shuffle. Overlooked and mis-appreciated, Elgar’s so-called “Vesper Voluntaries” are just such an item. Overlooked—not least for being originally published (by Osborn & Tuckwood) as volume 26 of an undistinguished series, every one of them entitled “Vesper Voluntaries,” consisting of “the best and cheapest” church voluntaries, by a long list of perfectly obscure composers, the likes of Beazly, Greenish, Carnall, Boggetti, Horspool, and—as of then—Edward Elgar. Overlooked also, for being out of print for most of the 129 years since appearing in 1890. And mis-appreciated, mostly because the publisher’s vague and in this case misleading title is definitely the wrong setting for this gem.
   When the work was republished c. 1910 by Ascherberg, Hopwood & Crew, Elgar took the opportunity to reset his lost gem as “Suite in D Minor, Opus 14.” This title gives a much better idea of what he had created: a continuous suite of pieces, framed with an introduction and coda, artfully varied by mood and color, and unified by key and the use of cyclical themes.
   Since Elgar only ever composed one other organ work, the later Sonata, this “new” organ work makes a most welcome addition to the repertoire. Though the “orchestral” sonata, so very grand and expansive, easily dwarfs the “chamber music” of this new suite, it in no way transcends the intimate warmth of the suite’s brilliantly paced set of miniatures. Written by a just-married young man of 32 about to leave his native Worcestershire for the wider world, this Suite—perhaps better than other of his works—reveals the “dreamy child” who used to sit in the reeds by the Severn River with his paper, trying to compose, all the while “longing for something very great—source, texture and all else unknown.” Indeed, great things came to him later on: a Coronation Ode for his king, the Symphonies, the Sea Pictures, and The Dream of Gerontius. And yet that unknown source and texture proved to be Elgar’s own great heart and soul, already evident in this overlooked gem, refracting the scenes of river and sky, trees and wind, so dear to that boy.  —MF

Michael Ferguson is an organist, teacher, writer, and composer.  He is Music Minister of Saint John in the Wilderness Episcopal Church, White Bear Lake, where he directs and accompanies the choirs.  He studied piano with Marcia and Bernhard Weiser, organ with Edward Berryman, and composition with Jean Langlais.  A St. Paul native, Michael’s compositions have been performed worldwide, including at Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris.  He has performed as organist in recital at Westminster Cathedral, London.  His compositions and performances can be heard on YouTube, and scores of his music are available through, including his organ transcription of Blithe Bells, featured on today’s program. 

At St. Olaf, we are blessed to have a magnificent 67-rank pipe organ. This fall, it will be showcased in a series of recitals on Wednesday afternoons, immediately following the noon Mass.
Come hear the organ thunder with might and whisper gently as talented organists showcase a variety of repertoire.

Wednesday Organ Recitals run from September 18 through December 4, and will be approx. 30-40 minutes long.
Freewill donation.


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