World class organist, Dr. Dorothy Young Riess, was born to a musical family and started piano with her mother at age four. Changing to the organ at 16, she played the Hammond at her High School and created her own radio show of pop tunes and news on KTOW, Oklahoma City.
At the University of Oklahoma, she became a protégé of the legendary Mildred Andrews and won numerous awards including First Place in the American Guld of Organists National Competition in 1952. After studying with Marcel Dupré in France, she spent several years playing concerts in the States and Europe.
While serving as Organist at the American Church in Rome, Italy, a visiting Yale professor heard her play and offered a scholarship to Yale University Graduate Music School. She performed her Master's Recital on the great organ in Woolsey Hall including the Reger piece on track 1 of this CD.
A series of life-changing events led her into medicine and she received her M.D. from the University of Oklahoma School of Medicine in 1969. While practicing Internal Medicine in Pasadena, she resumed organ playing and teamed up with jazz drummer, Timm Boatman, to record "Bach With a Beat" at All Saints Episcopal Church, tracks 5-12.
Dr. Dorothy has always enjoyed the dance rhythms in Bach's music. A flawless technique and impeccable sense of rhythm and style make her performances exciting and unforgettable.
THE ARTIST SPEAKS
Track 1 - When I was a graduate music student at Yale University way back in 1959 (I'm ON the hill, not OVER it - yet), I planned my Masters Organ Recital to include three of the most difficult pieces I could find. "Phantasie für Orgel über den Choral: "Hallelujah! Gott zu loben, bleibe meine Seelenfreud'!" (Fantasy for Organ on the Chorale, "Praise the Lord, O My Soul") by German composer, Max Reger (1873-1916), Op.52.No.3., topped the list - 21 pages of glorious music based on an old German hymn tune.
It opens with a loud flourish, big chords, pedal cadenzas and flamboyant finger work, followed by the first variation and hymn tune played on the pedals. In all, Reger wrote 7 variations on this tune, using different registers and moods. Between the 6th and 7th variations he wrote a brilliant fugue, and at the last minute (page 18) announced the tune on the pedals with every stop going. I used the huge 32' Bombarde on 20" wind pressure – a sound you feel in your bones!
The Newberry Memorial Organ at Woolsey Hall, Yale University, is one of the biggest and most glorious symphonic organs in the world. Rebuilt in 1928 by Skinner Organ Co, it has 4 keyboards, 142 stops, 197 ranks, and 12,616 pipes! Reverberation time is about 5 seconds further enhancing the stunning sounds.
The day after my recital, I played the program again and recorded on a professional reel-to-reel setup. I kept that tape in my desk drawer for 47 years! Recently, I asked a friend if he could remaster the tape to CD. He located an old reel-to-reel machine and after many repairs of the fragile tape, transferred it to CD. I then used special editing software to prepare for this CD release. You will hear some variations in sound quality because the tape is so old, but the grandeur of this music played on this organ remains.
Difficult to play? Certainly. Lots of work? Of course. Fun and thrilling? Beyond anything you can imagine!
Tracks 2-12 were recorded at All Saints, Pasadena, on the Schlicker Organ. It is a large instrument built in 1962 with three keyboards and 83 ranks of pipes. My medical office was just a few blocks down the street, so I often walked over to practice during my lunch hour. I played the music on Tracks 2, 3 and 4 for a wedding there and recorded them the day after.
Track 2 "Trumpet Voluntary" is a stirring organ piece written by English composer, Jeremiah Clarke (1674-1707). The original title was "Prince of Denmark March", and many call it the Purcell Trumpet Tune, although Purcell didn't write it. It was the processional for the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana in 1981 at St Paul's Cathedral.
Track 3 "Chorale Prelude, "Blessed Jesus We Are Here" (Liebster Jesu, wir sind Hier) is one of Bach's most beautiful arrangements. First, you hear the opening phrase on a soft flute, then I add to the organ gradually until all the stops are out and full organ fills the sanctuary.
Track 4 "Psalm 19" (The Heavens Declare the Glory of God) is a glorious majestic organ piece written by Venetian composer, Benedetto Marcello (1686-1739). It requires full organ with trumpets.
Tracks 5-12 BACH WITH A BEAT featuring Timm Boatman on drums
J.S. Bach (1685-1750) remains to this day the greatest organ composer in music history. His sense of rhythm and style are unmistakable, and I'm sure he must have loved to dance! He wrote many of his best organ pieces in his twenties while he was organist to the Court at Weimar, Germany.
As I practiced my favorite Bach, I often heard a jazz beat in my head, and thought how much fun it would be to find a real drummer to play with. Through a friend, I located Timm Boatman who surprised me by his ability to read the organ scores and improvise based on the musical lines. We started rehearsing at night when the church was closed, and tossed around a few ideas. We picked up the tempos and literally danced our way through the music. We had so much fun that we decided to make a demo tape and create a big hit record! The record fell through but the tape remained.
During recording sessions, we placed a large beach umbrella over Timm and his drum set to prevent sound from escaping into the large vaulted church. We used only two mikes, one for the organ, and one for the drums, and recorded on high quality Sony equipment. We didn't have access to mixing or sophisticated audio.
The demands of my medical practice soon interfered, but I kept those tapes in closed containers for years. When I learned how to use audio editing software recently, I started revising the tapes and got such a kick out of it that I decided they should be on a CD. And here you have it! Organ Masters Series Volume 1 Including Bach with a Beat.