Marc Cerisier at St. Peter Catholic Cathedral, January 10, 2019.
Cerisier opened the program with the Ceremonial March, by Herbert
Sumsion (1899-1995). It was lively and included some fanfare-like
passages - a perfect choice for a program opener. A congregational
hymn followed - "How Can I Keep from Singing?", no. 684 in the
Worship IV hymnal in the pews. Sadly only the melody is shown in
the hymnal; but this is not unusual in today's churches - Protestant
as well as Catholic.
Craig Phillips'(b. 1961) setting of the familiar hymn "If Thou But
Suffer God to Guide Thee" was next, with the melody played first on
the Great Cornet and then the Ruckpositiv 8' Flute, an effective
interplay. Two movements from Dupre's "Vespers of the Common of the
Blessed Virgin Mary" followed: "III. I Am Black But Comely, O Ye
Daughters of Jerusalem", featuring the 8' Flute with Tremulant,
and "V. How Fair and How Pleasant Art Thou", a larger sound on the flues,
appropriate to the title.
Then "Kleine Suite in 5 Satzen", by Jan Janca (b. 1933) was played:
I. Entree, full and moderately dissonant, still very much tonal;
II. Cantilene, with a flute solo;
III. Danse Lente - a full sound in slow 3/4;
IV. Choral - a milder sound in 4/4;
V. Final - a big sound.
Movements III, IV, and V made use of 4-note themes that were repeated
with variations: III. la-do-mi-re; IV. sol-la-sol-mi; V. do-sol-la-mi
After an intermission, the music moved from recent to baroque, with
Buxtehude's Passacaglia (BuxW161;1637-1707). In this form a simple
theme is repeated in the pedal, and here the intensity increased
gradually by the addition of various stops, with the pedal reeds
at the end, a satisfying crescendo on an organ without a swellbox.
Bach's music was next, "Der Tag der ist so freudenreich (BWV 605;
1685-1750), from the Liturgical Year. Here the cantus firmus is a
soprano solo and the piece reflects the emotion of the title "The
day that is so joyful."
Next the congregational hymn "O God Our Help" (tune St. Anne, no.
689) was sung. Again, only the melody was printed in the hymnal,
but as this hymn is fairly well embedded in my memory, I managed
the bass part without difficulty. While there are 6 verses, each
one was somewhat varied by registration, although the harmony
remained the same (as the standard bass-line fit). There were
passing notes added in verse 6. It was sung with enthusiasm.
The program closed with Bach's Prelude and Fugue in Eb, with the
contrasts required in the Prelude provided mainly by changing
manuals. In the triple fugue, part 1 is an elegant elaboration
on a 1/4 note theme borrowed from the hymn just sung (St. Anne)
followed by part 2, a fugue on a different theme, in 1/8 notes,
and ending on an acrobatic theme which, at the end, is matched
with the theme from part 1, for a glorious climax. Curiously,
while the registration for part 2 is often played on much lighter
stops, here there was no apparent change for part 2. I suspect
this was due to the lack of combination pistons on the St. Peter
organ. Nevertheless the change in tempo did provide sufficient
contrast between the sections.
The Rieger organ in the warm acoustics at St. Peter makes a
very compelling sound. Years ago I recall walking into the church
while another visiting organist was practicing for a recital; the
sound was so compelling that I had to pause and sit down; I do
mean compelling, and while full, not overloud. I had a similar
feeling when Cerisier began to play, and it is a great gift for
the cathedral to share the organ with the community.
Glenn A. Gentry