ABOUT THE ARTIST
Jelani Eddington has easily established himself as one of the most prominent concert theatre organists in the world. He has performed in most of the major concert venues throughout the United States, has toured extensively abroad, and has received numerous awards and recognitions, including his selection as the 2001 Theatre Organist Of The Year.
At the age of 13, Jelani won the American Theatre Organ Society’s Young Theatre Organist Competition, prevailing over competitors ages 13-21 from the United States, England, Australia, and New Zealand. Jelani remains the youngest competitor ever to win this title. Jelani went on to graduate with degrees from Indiana University and from the Yale Law School.
ABOUT THE ALBUM
\"Phoenix Renaissance\" is an album featuring one of the largest and newly rebuilt pipe organs in the world. From Stephen Sondheim and Duke Ellington, to Richard Purvis and Sergei Rachmaninoff, the instrument (built originally by the Midmer-Losh company) interprets each of these varied musical styles effortlessly and masterfully.
The musical content of this album has been carefully selected to demonstrate, not only the unparalleled versatility of the instrument, but also the vast tonal variety contained within the organ’s 105 ranks. The album begins with a rousing arrangement of Put On A Happy Face. This bright song was written by Charles Strouse and introduced by Dick Van Dyke in the musical, Bye Bye Birdie. Although Put On A Happy Face was composed in the 1960s, the featured arrangement borrows musical ideas from the big band swing era.
Many composers have used the title Marche Militaire, but Franz Schubert’s Opus 51 No. 1, composed in 1818 (Schubert wrote three works by that title). remains by far the best known. The arrangement uses the organ’s orchestral as well as classical ensembles throughout, as well as occasional use of the triangle during the trio section of the march. Returning to the music from Broadway, Lionel Bart’s 1963 musical, Oliver, contains a very enchanting ballad, Where Is Love? This ballad gives voice to the theatre organ sounds in the organ, particularly the many lush ranks of strings found throughout the organ.
The “English cathedral organ” voices of the Midmer-Losh are prominently featured in the Rondo In G—a piece frequently offered as an encore by classical and theatre organists alike. English composer John Bull is credited with the work, although Richard Ellsasser is often thought to have recast this composition for modern performance.
One of the most influential twentieth-century vocalists of popular music was Ella Fitzgerald (1917-1996). “Lady Ella” (as she was affectionately known) had an unmistakable voice and uncanny ability to sing any song with an irresistible charm, which made her a household name for decades. The Ella Fitzgerald Retrospective features some of the highlights of her prolific career. The retrospective begins with A-Tisket A-Tasket, which Ella co-wrote in 1938 and helped to launch her career. The other works include various “classic Ella” standards, as well as selections from her series of “songbooks” (such as the George Gershwin, Rodgers & Hart, and Duke Ellington songbooks).
Richard Purvis (1913-1994) was one of America’s leading organists and composers. Purvis enjoyed a highly successful composing career, and his stately Fanfare, the finale to his suite, A Trio Of Contrasts, is among his most enduring works. Fanfare, as its title suggests, showcases a series of bravura fanfares by the various chorus reeds of the instrument, beginning with the Tuba Magna and ending with the Tuba Sonora, the organ’s en chamade rank (installed outside the chambers in the music room). The center section features a rondo during which some of the quieter reeds in the instrument can be heard in “question-and-answer” format.
In 1973, Stephen Sondheim composed Send In The Clowns for the musical, A Little Night Music. This popular ballad has been recorded many times by vocalists and instrumentalists alike. The arrangement on this album is an attempt to walk the listener through some of the more delicate orchestral ranks of the instrument, as well as some of the more traditional theatre organ sounds.
Without a doubt, the magnum opus of this album is Sergei Rachmaninoff’s complete Piano Concerto No. 2 In C-Minor (Op. 18), in three movements. In this album, Jelani Eddington performs both the full orchestral score and the piano score. The purpose of including the concerto on this album is to demonstrate forcefully the organ’s ability to render orchestral music to an absolutely stunning degree of realism.
Recording an extended work for piano and orchestra by a single musician is no small endeavor. Indeed, the completion of the Rachmaninoff project took no less than fourteen months to complete—from the beginning of January 2007 through the end of February 2008.
The first step in a project of this magnitude is to undertake a painstaking measure-by-measure reduction of the full orchestral score (which, in the case of the Rachmaninoff concerto, was well over 100 pages in length). During the process of writing out the orchestral reduction, all of the orchestral parts from all the instruments are condensed into a format that can be performed by a single musician at the organ. Next, the orchestral parts are recorded on the organ with the assistance of the organ\'s computerized relay system which allows the organist to record his performance into the computer\'s memory and then play it back at a later time. Finally, with the organ recording complete, the orchestral parts are played back while Jelani simultaneously records the piano score. In order to remain faithful to Rachmaninoff’s score, Russ Peck, principal percussionist of the Tifereth Israel Community Orchestra in San Diego, recorded the tympani, bass drum, and cymbal parts.