The AGO 33rd Choral-Organ
Festival at St. James'
Episcopal Church, with the
Millsaps Singers and
Friends, directed by
Jonathan Trotter, and
organist Kenneth Miller,
April 26, 2019


The Millsaps Singers and Friends, 20 singers, opened the program with "Hymn
to the Trinity", by Gabriel Jackson (b 1962), sung a capella and in a well-suited
choral style, yet harmonically distinct idiom. In this and the the rest of the
program the choir sang flawlessly, so that more attention could be paid to subtle
expressive details such as dynamics.

Next was "All Wisdom Cometh from the Lord", by Philip Moore (b 1943), with baritone
Riley Smith, and with organ. Here the balance between choir, soloist and organ was
always appropriate. Overall there were exciting rhythmic elements, and some effective
contrapuntal passages nearer the end.

Now it was time for a solo organ piece, Mendelssohn's Sonata in f, Op. 65 #1.
Organist Miller played with confidence & vitality.
I. Allegro moderato e serioso - very big and exciting
II. Adagio - calm, quiet and familiar
III. Andante recitativo - contrasting colors
IV. Allegro assai vivace -with a dazzling pedal cadenza at the end.

Two a capella pieces by Anton Bruckner followed:
Locust iste - moving but more traditional harmony
Os justi - with a high soprano line & passionate sound.

Brahms' Geistliche Lied was next. Again, the balance between choir and organ was
good, at times quiet and meditative, and at the end the "Amen" was contrapuntal,
somewhat reminescent of the "Amen" chorus at the end of Handel's "Messiah".

Returning to the organ, Miller played Bach's Partita on Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele
(BWV654), full of exquisitely done ornaments, especially in the solo line.

The last organ piece followed, Lionel Rogg's Partita on Nun freuet euch, lieben
Christen g'mein
in 7 movements:
I. Chorale - unique but pleasing harmony
II. Bicinium - solo with running accompaniment
III. Canon - big, entrances easily heard
IV. Presto - fast
V. Recit - softer
VI. Passacaglia - begun low pitched, later higher voices added
VII. Toccata - frenzied throughout, ended very big with 32' pedal.

Another choral work: an a capella setting of Ubi Caritas, by Paul Mealor (b 1975). Low
pitched sections, with rich harmonies.

The program closed with Benjamin Britten's Te Deum in C, with soprano Perry Leffler.
The organ added underlying excitement, with echoes (on the organ) of some
of the choral sections intermingled, and some conterpoint with simple arpeggios.
The ending was quiet and peaceful.

This was a memorable event; Kenneth Miller gave a fine performance, and Jonathan
Trotter's leadership of the choir was inspired. It was a night to be treasured.

Here is a quote from a review of the Millsaps Singers's program on March 4, 2011
(from The Continuo):
"Maurice Duruflé's Requiem Mass (was) a gift of incalculable beauty, one that spoke to
the deepest of human emotions".

Glenn A. Gentry