Organ Splendor Program Notes, Feb. 4-6 cover

Organ Splendor Program Notes, Feb. 4-6


Two of the world’s finest organists deliver music filled with sublime beauty, luminous textures and sacred spirit. From the glory of “Pilgrim’s Hymn” — performed at funerals for Presidents Ford and Reagan — to the poetry of “Lux Aeterna,” enjoy the splendor of the William J. Gillespie Concert Organ.
Join us for a Preview Talk with host Alan Chapman at 7 p.m. on the Orchestra level.
This concert is part of Pacific Symphony’s American Composer Festival 2016, highlighting works for the organ. Learn more about the Gillespie Concert Organ here, and Meet the Artists here. To Learn more about the Pacific Chorale, please click here.
This is Part 1 of the Program Notes for February 4 - 6. You’ll be automatically linked to the next NoteStream at the end.
To learn more about Music Director Carl St.Clair, click here
Program Note Annotator
Michael Clive is a cultural reporter living in the Litchfield Hills of Connecticut. He is program annotator for Pacific Symphony and Louisiana Philharmonic, and editor-in-chief for The Santa Fe Opera.

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Resilience for Organ and Orchestra

(b. 1977)

Resilience for Organ and Orchestra

Wayne Oquin

Instrumentation: 3 flutes (third doubling on piccolo), 2 oboes, english horn, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 2 trombones, bass trombone, tuba, timpani, 3 percussion, harp, celeste, strings, organ

Performance time: 12 minutes

In His Own Words: Wayne Oquin

In His Own Words: Wayne Oquin

By age 15, I knew I wanted to be a composer. As a young musician I wrote, played, studied and listened to music day and night. Among countless recordings, one that I wore out was a CD of Pacific Symphony with contemporary American composers, John Corigliano and Frank Ticheli. Never had I heard new music interpreted with such passion and zeal. Little did I know that one day I would be asked by this very conductor, Carl St.Clair, to write a celebratory work for this splendid orchestra featuring such a preeminent organist as Paul Jacobs.

In His Own Words (Cont.)

I began composing in June 2015.

Though I had written for orchestra and had even collaborated with Paul on a previous piece for solo organ, I had never combined these two immense forces. At the outset, I knew this would be a challenge.

The work would become a 12-minute exploration of two seemingly limitless spheres: organ and orchestra. From the first note, the organ asserts its place of strength. The orchestra answers immediately. This use of call and response is the basis of the piece. With each subsequent statement, the organ elicits a new orchestral response.

In His Own Words (Cont.)

These replies—sometimes short, but frequently more extended, often exuberant, but at times reflective—are as wide-ranging as the organ itself.

While composing, I was always mindful that this music would be interpreted by a conductor whose commitment to new music is unlimited and by an organist whose breadth of expression, as with the King of Instruments, knows no bounds. Resilience, meant to convey what is among the very best qualities of the human spirit, is dedicated with admiration to Paul Jacobs and Carl St.Clair

What to Listen For

Critics praise Oquin for his spiritually intense musical expression, which connects listeners with inner emotions while reaching outward for the eternal.

The San Francisco Examiner, in a review of Oquin’s Reverie, noted that “The dreamlike spirit of the title was established by the composer through tones and chords sustained for considerable duration. Above these sustained sounds the score then wove melodic fragments of increasing complexity, allowing this work to emerge as another reflection on the past.

This time, however, the past was far more distant, drawing upon the melismatic organa of the 12th century for models…”

What to Listen For (Cont.)

Oquin’s compositions frequently engage the grave issues and events of our times in ways that enable listeners to find personal and spiritual meaning, as in his A Time to Break Silence, which reflects on the life and words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In reviewing A Time to Break Silence, the magazine Opera Britannia called the work “strikingly beautiful,” and described the passage I See the Promised Land as “heart-stopping in its unaffected simplicity.”

What to Listen For (Cont.)

In a review of the same work, Classical Source noted that “Wayne Oquin’s setting of lines from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s final speech stripped away the familiar accompaniment of black and white images, pressing supporters and crowd noises, leaving only the words, after a long introduction of bare note clusters from the piano.

The singer created an overwhelming sense of King’s vision and the inspiration which resulted from it in this fine setting.”

Lux Aeterna

Lux Aeterna

Morten Lauridsen (b. 1943)

Instrumentation: strings, organ, chorus

Performance time: 28 minutes

What to Listen For

Lauridsen’s musical approaches are very diverse, ranging from direct to abstract in response to various characteristics (subject matter, language, style, structure, historical era, etc.) of the texts he sets.

His Latin sacred settings, such as the Lux Aeterna and motets, often reference Gregorian chant plus Medieval and Renaissance procedures while blending them within a freshly contemporary sound, while other works such as the Madrigali and Cuatro Canciones are highly chromatic or atonal. His music has an overall lyricism and is tightly constructed around melodic and harmonic motives.

What to Listen For (Cont.)

Referring to Lauridsen’s sacred music, the musicologist and conductor Nick Strimple said he was “the only American composer in history who can be called a mystic, (whose) probing, serene work contains an elusive and indefinable ingredient which leaves the impression that all the questions have been answered...

From 1993 Lauridsen’s music rapidly increased in international popularity, and by century’s end he had eclipsed Randall Thompson as the most frequently performed American choral composer.”

Background: Morton Lauridsen

The composer on Waldron, a remote island in the San Juan Archipelago. Image by Mstillwater, (CC BY-SA 3.0 US)

Background: Morton Lauridsen

A visit to the website of American composer Morten Johannes Lauridsen transports the viewer to a realm of serene timelessness and natural beauty. Its images of the sea, sky and water-washed rocks are at one with Lauridsen’s music; many were captured from the 2012 documentary film Shining Night: A Portrait of Composer Morten Lauridsen and were photographed at the composer’s Waldron Island retreat in San Juan County, Wash.

Background (Cont.)

A native of the Pacific Northwest, Lauridsen was born in 1943.

He worked as a Forest Service firefighter and lookout (on an isolated tower near Mount St. Helens), and attended Whitman College before traveling south to study composition at the University of Southern California with Ingolf Dahl, Halsey Stevens, Robert Linn and Harold Owen. He began teaching at USC in 1967 and has been on the faculty ever since.

In 2006, Lauridsen was named an “American Choral Master” by the National Endowment for the Arts and received the National Medal of Arts in 2007. In the White House ceremony bestowing the award, Lauridsen’s presidential citation noted “his composition of radiant choral works combining musical beauty, power and spiritual depth that have thrilled audiences worldwide.”

Background (Cont.)

He was composer-in- residence of the Los Angeles Master Chorale from 1994 to 2001, and has been a professor of composition at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music for more than 40 years.

A recipient of numerous grants, prizes and commissions, Lauridsen chaired the composition department at the USC Thornton School of Music from 1990–2002 and founded the school’s advanced studies program in film scoring.

He has held residencies as guest composer/ lecturer at over 70 universities and has received honorary doctorates from Whitman College, Oklahoma State University, Westminster Choir College and King’s College, University of Aberdeen, Scotland. Lauridsen now divides his time between Los Angeles and his summer residence off the northern coast of Washington state.

Lux Aeterna - Morten Lauridsen

I. Introitus

II. InTe, Domine, Speravi

III. O Nata Lux

Complete: Running time 27.35


Humoresk for Organ and Orchestra

Image by Peter Smith

Humoresk for Organ and Orchestra

William Bolcom ( b . 19 38)

Instrumentation: 2 flutes (second doubling on piccolo), 2 oboes (second doubling on English horn), 2 clarinets (second doubling on bass clarinet), 2 bassoons, 4 horns,

2 trumpets, 2 trombones, bass trombone, tuba, 2 percussion, piano (doubling on celeste), strings, organ;

Performance time: 12 minutes

What to Listen For

Bolcom has credited another innovative American composer, Charles Ives, as his greatest influence, but his work is exceptionally wide- ranging in style and avoids categories of compositional style, whether European or American.

Bolcom’s pieces are frequently inspired by sources in American culture and literature, incorporating idioms such as ragtime and jazz. His pieces show a sense of humor that has been called “trenchant” for their ability to amuse and provoke simultaneously.

What to Listen For (Cont.)

Throughout their stylistic range, Bolcom’s works display a singing line that is especially fitting for the voice and for organ—a reflection of his lifetime’s work with some of the greatest vocal artists of our times. His commissions include works for Plácido Domingo, Marilyn Horne and Catherine Malfitano.

Since 1973, Bolcom has taught at the University of Michigan, where he was named the Ross Lee Finney Distinguished University Professor of Music in 1994.

William Bolcom (b. 1938

William Bolcom (b. 1938

Image by Katryn Conlin


The American composer and scholar William Bolcom is expert in more different aspects of music than any one person has a right to be.

Many listeners first gained familiarity with Bolcom through his hugely popular recital tours with his wife, lyric mezzo-soprano Joan Morris, whom he accompanied in programs of 19th-century American songs. But Bolcom has proved equally adept in vocal and orchestral composition, and has written some of America’s most important operas, including A View from the Bridge and McTeague.

Named 2007 Composer of the Year by Musical America, and honored with multiple Grammy Awards for his setting of Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience, Bolcom has also earned acclaim for his cabaret songs, concertos, sonatas and symphonies.

Background (Cont.)

He was awarded the 1988 Pulitzer Prize in Music for his Twelve New Etudes for piano.

Bolcom began his studies in composition at age 11 under the tutelage of John Verrall, an important composer and teacher on the faculty of the University of Washington. After receiving his bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington, Bolcom studied at Mills College with the French composer Darius Milhaud, who took him to Paris, where he also worked with Olivier Messiaen.

Still in his early 20s, Bolcom returned to the U.S. and studied with Leland Smith at Stanford, earning his doctorate in composition there in 1964. His award-winning early composition Dynamite Tonite shows the influence of Milhaud and the Parisian cabarets.

Stephen Paulus, (1949 – 2014)

Pilgrim’s Hymn

Instrumentation: chorus only;

Performance time: 3 minutes

Concerto No. 4

Instrumentation: 3 flutes, 3 oboes, 3 clarinets, 3 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 2 trombones, bass trombone, tuba, timpani, 3 percussion, strings, organ

Performance time: 29 minutes

Stephen Paulus

Stephen Paulus

Photo credit Sharolyn Hagen Photography

What to Listen For

Paulus’ fearless emotionalism is demonstrated in what may be his best-known work: his 1982 opera The Postman Always Rings Twice, a sizzling setting of the 1934 crime novel by James M. Cain that became a classic of film noir. Postman, one of several successful operas Paulus composed for the Opera Theatre of St. Louis, attracted widespread media attention and prompted The New York Times to call him “a young man on the road to big things.”

His compositional style has been described by The New York Times as “lush and extravagant” and The New Yorker called him “a bright, lyrical inventor whose music pulsates with a driving, kinetic energy.” His music has a distinctively American sound—at times rugged and angular, at times lyrical. Generally lean and rhythmically aggressive, it is especially well suited to choral music and to the breadth and vigor of the pipe organ.

The Pilgrims’ Hymn

“The Pilgrims’ Hymn,” one of Paulus’ most widely performed works, shows us Paulus’ music in a movingly elegiac mood.

It is excerpted from his opera The Three Hermits, an adaptation of a short story by Leo Tolstoy.

Scored for eight-part mixed chorus, the hymn evokes the rich tradition of Russian choral singing in a prayer adapted from the Russian Orthodox Church, with sacred verse by librettist Michael Dennis Browne. In its lyrics we can discern similarities to the Lord’s Prayer and references to the Holy Trinity, but the emotional pull of this poignant hymn is universal.

Pilgrim's Hymn - Stephen Paulus

University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire

Milwaukee Art Museum, 2014

Dr. Gary R. Schwartzhoff, conductor

Video length 4.04



As an organ composer, Paulus possessed an understanding of the instrument’s quirks and capabilities that was truly remarkable in someone who did not himself play it.

But Paulus’ father, a researcher at 3M, played the organ as an avocation, and that gave his son a window on its workings. As the younger Paulus admitted to the American Public Media’s Pipedreams, “I knew enough to be dangerous. But actually, I was confident in being able to use the organ idiomatically without being so immersed in its repertoire to be caught in the usual sorts of organist clichés.


And, as I was writing the piece [in this case his Concerto for Organ, Strings and Percussion], actually at the organ at Trinity Church in Atlanta. . .with Norman [his father] coming into the church sanctuary every morning to see how things were going… he began to tell me that the Concerto was ‘unusual,’ that it did things with the organ that were not common in other pieces from the repertoire.

Which surprised me, but made me happy, too.”

Concerto No. 4

Paulus’ organ concertos have achieved a lasting place in the organ repertory.

His Concerto No. 4, scored for organ and orchestra, was commissioned for the Phoenix Symphony by Peggy and Jerry Schuld, and received its premiere in 2003 at Symphony Hall in Phoenix with Paul Jacobs at the organ. Its three movement titles tell us much about its vigorous sound; they are marked “Robust,” “Soaring” and “Whirling; with Agitation.”


The untimely death of Stephen Paulus in October 2014 silenced one of America’s most valued and prolific composers.

Writing more than 600 works for organ, chorus, opera, orchestra, chamber ensemble, solo voice, concert band and piano, Paulus reached a wide variety of audiences and performers, and was an ardent advocate and mentor to many young composers.

In 1973 he co- founded the American Composers Forum, the largest composer service organization in the world. Paulus’ compositions received premieres and performances throughout the world, as well as four Grammy nominations. This year, his Prayers and Remembrances is nominated for Best Contemporary Classical Composition, and last year, his Concerto for Two Trumpets and Band was nominated for the same award.

Stephen Paulus

Photo credit Greg Helgeson, Minnesota Orchestra

Stephen Paulus

Stephen Paulus with son Greg at Timepiece Performance

Background (Cont.)

A native of Summit, N.J., Paulus grew up in Minnesota.

In 1979, with his newly minted doctorate in composition from the University of Minnesota, Paulus scored an early success with a commission from the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. He later went on to compose a total of 12 operas performed in Saint Louis and at other leading American companies including the Boston Lyric Opera, Washington Opera, Minnesota Opera, Sacramento Opera and The Berkshire Opera Company.

Background (Cont.)

With 55 orchestral works to his credit, Paulus served as composer- in-residence with the orchestras of Atlanta, Minnesota, Tucson and Annapolis.

Conductors who premiered his works include Osmo Vänskä, Christoph von Dohnanyi, Kurt Masur, Sir Neville Marriner and Leonard Slatkin.

Orchestral commissions include a violin concerto for the Cleveland Orchestra and William Preucil, a jazz concerto co-written with his son, Greg, for the Minnesota Orchestra, as well as organ concertos for the Phoenix Symphony and the Portland Symphony in Maine.

Background (Cont.)

Paulus wrote over 400 works for chorus, ranging from his Holocaust oratorio, To Be Certain of the Dawn, recorded by the Minnesota Orchestra, to the poignant anthem “Pilgrims’ Hymn.” This moving, elegiac work was performed at the funerals of Presidents Reagan and Ford. Both works were written with his frequent collaborator and friend, librettist Michael Dennis Browne.

Paulus’ works have received thousands of performances and recordings from groups such as The New York Choral Society, L.A. Master Chorale, Robert Shaw Festival Singers, VocalEssence, Dale Warland Singers and countless others.

Notable works for vocalist and orchestra include commissions for Thomas Hampson, Deborah Voigt, Samuel Ramey and Elizabeth Futral. Instrumental soloists who have performed Paulus’ works range from Doc Severinsen and Leo Kottke to Robert McDuffie, William Preucil, Lynn Harrell and Cynthia Phelps.

Learn More

This concert is part of Pacific Symphony’s American Composer Festival 2016, highlighting works for the organ.

Program Notes continue here: About The Artists.

To learn more about the Pacific Chorale, please click here.

To learn more about the Gillespie Concert Organ here.

To learn more about Music Director Carl St.Clair, click here.