Hear rare, 2-organ works for free at Peace Lutheran
Camp Fire victims benefit from the unusual pairing of two organs in a free concert at 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 25, at Peace Lutheran Church in Grass Valley.
Admission to “Dueling Organs and More!” is free. A free wine-and-cheese reception will follow the concert. PEACE gratefully dedicates any donations received to benefit victims of the Camp Fire, still raging in nearby Butte County.
This production comes from Arts @ PEACE, the church’s outreach offering high-quality cultural events. Find PEACE at 828 W. Main St., near downtown Grass Valley. Plenty of parking surrounds the church. Drive around the building to the carport for easy handicapped access to the concert venue.
Various musicians perform. They include nationally acclaimed Peace organist Walt Strony. Also performing: celebrated Emmanuel Episcopal Church musician Thomas Greathouse and the choirs of both churches.
“Sierra Suite” will be performed by Strony on his own personal instrument, and by Greathouse on a Steinway grand piano. Both instruments, as well as a second organ, will be at the front of the sanctuary. All can see the musicians at work!
Choir members from the two churches combine for nearly 30 voices to sing an inspiring arrangement of “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” “It really sounds beautiful!” said Peace Choir Director Myrna Heppe. Reformer Martin Luther first penned this rousing hymn of trust amid adversity.
This concert appears to be the first time “Sierra Suite” has been offered in the Sierra Nevada region that inspired it, said Strony. It was composed by the late Richard Purvis. He was the organist at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco and composed “Sierra Suite” in 1970.
“The more we rehearse this piece, the more I fall in love with it,” Strony wrote. “I hear something different and new each time we play it!”
Greathouse is a renowned Las Vegas entertainer. He plans to perform classical works and sing some popular tunes, to his own accompaniment on piano. He also is the music directs at Emmanuel Episcopal in Grass Valley, directing the choir and performing at both masses.
Strony will perform solo works by Johann Sebastian Bach and theater organ standards, including Broadway tunes. He will play his own personal instrument, a four-manual Walt Strony Signature Series organ, which he has loaned to the church. Strony designed the series for the Allen Organ Co. of Pennsylvania.
“This organ is unique in that it’s actually two organs in one,” Strony wrote. For Sunday morning worship, Strony uses the organ’s classical sounds, which include samples of organ pipes that Bach himself played. Other samples include the sounds of pipe organs from famous builders around the world.
Strony’s organ also offers the sounds of a theater pipe organ, a uniquely American instrument built specifically to accompany silent movies and to perform orchestral transcriptions and popular music, Strony said.
Each aspect of the organ sounds “very different and quite unique,” Strony wrote.
Twice, the American Theatre Organ Society voted Strony “Organist of the Year,” in 1991 and 1993. In 2011, the Society inducted him into its Hall of Fame, making Strony the youngest to receive that honor. He has recorded nearly 30 albums and authored a popular book on playing the organ.
Purvis: Composer for dueling organs
Purvis is among the few composers to write for two organs, Strony said. He and Greathouse will perform a second work by Purvis, this time both on the organ.
Purvis (1913-1994) played organ at the famous Grace Cathedral in San Francisco for many years, Strony said. “He also played the organ on radio, broadcasting from the Julia Morgan-designed Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland,” Strony wrote. “During World War II, he saw battle and apparently penned his most famous composition, a setting of ‘Greensleeves,’ while in a foxhole! A San Francisco newspaper erroneously published his obituary, after a report mistakenly listed him killed during battle. Mark Twain’s line, ‘news of my death has been greatly exaggerated,’ certainly applies to him!”
Purvis published “Sierra Suite” in 1970. “It is rarely performed and, as far as I know, has never been performed this close to the Sierras,” Strony wrote.