Nashville truly is the Music City, and it's not all country! The city is home to many fine organs, organists and choirs working in splendid architectural and acoustical environments. There are also a surprising number of fine mechanical action organs. This recording features approximately half of them.
The questions, "Why Nashville?" and, "Why all mechanical action organs?" should be answered. Taken together, those are one long story. On my website you will find an expanded narrative of this recording project, full specifications of the organs, a plethora of photos and other graphics, and some bonus tracks that do not appear on the recording, as well as an ongoing blog of organ-related topics and a podcast section under development.
"Music City Mixture" features the unmistakable grandeur of the Fisk organ at Covenant Presbyterian, the sheer elegance of the Beckerath at First Presbyterian, the breathtaking charm of the Juget-Sinclair at Second Presbyterian, the unassuming, historically informed grace of the Wolff in the chapel at First Lutheran, the customarily well-proportioned presence of the Visser-Rowland at St. Andrew's Anglican, and the boldness of the Casavant in Wightman Chapel at Scarritt-Bennett Center.
With a handful of organs and a larger handful of music awaiting a voice on them, how does one choose what to record where? Some decisions were easy. I knew that Harris and Vierne would come to life on the grand Fisk at Covenant Presbyterian. The Harris Flourish for an Occasion opens this recording (and some of my recitals) with a most satisfying authority, particularly when played on such an authoritative instrument. The Vierne Clair de lune sails smoothly and lovingly from beginning to end. The Vierne Toccata blazes as expected, and the bass response from the room seems to know no bounds. I expected the Rheinberger Fantasia-Sonata to scintillate on the Beckerath at First Presbyterian, and I was not disappointed. Finally, I knew that the Sweelinck Variants on "Est-ce Mars" would spring into new life on the Visser-Rowland.
Beyond that, the decisions were not so easy. Which Bach should go on the Wolff at First Lutheran, and which on the Juget-Sinclair at Second Presbyterian? I knew that Bach would take on fresh charm and sparkle at both, and I could still be sitting at either of those organs today, happily exploring their tonal palette. Ultimately, I was drawn to the Juget-Sinclair's ebullient reading of the Toccata in E and to the Wolff's somewhat tangy singing of the Prelude and Fugue in A. The Juget-Sinclair also kept coming up as a candidate for Dan Gawthrop's Three Floral Preludes. We recorded the first two of those on the Juget-Sinclair and the third on the Beckerath. You'll find a full explanation of why (with appropriate apologies) on my website. The Buxtehude Praeludium in F found perhaps an unlikely champion in the Casavant in Wightman Chapel, as did an extra reading of the Sweelinck Variants, which you will find on my website.
Finally, four additional pieces were recorded, but the CD did not have room for them. They include Len Bobo's rousing Appalachian Prelude, recorded on the Beckerath, the Bach "Gigue" Fugue recorded on the Juget-Sinclair, the d'Aquin Noël "Ètranger" recorded on the Fisk, and a Froberger Canzona recorded on the Wolff. It is too difficult to "cut" deserving pieces, and so all four of these have been included among the supplemental materials on my website.
These organs have said on my behalf just what I wanted to say through this music. Taken together, I hope the selection of instruments and the selection of repertoire for each will stir up just the right "Mixture from the Music City!"
Recorded October 11-13, 2011
Produced & engineered by Rich Mays, Sonare Recordings
Special thanks: Paul Magyar, Rhonda Swanson of First Presbyterian Church, David Bridges and Sarah White of Second Presbyterian Church, Mark Beall of First Lutheran Church, Carl Smith of St. Andrew's Anglican Parish, Sally Cornell of Scarritt-Bennett Center, Jennie Lou Smith, James Gooch, Dan and Jane Gawthrop, Bradley Gawthrop, Susan Murphey