On Telling Stories Through Music
All pieces of music tell stories. They evolve from a variety of historical and cultural settings. At the very least they describe the stories of their own creation. Some are composed with the intention of setting a mood or creating a certain impression; some are not. This program contains pieces of both genres, put here in a larger context – an entertaining journey through the history of organ music. It is a story which expresses a yearning for peace.
The narrative involves a mythical place called Europa, a global village which keeps going to war. Eventually, exhausting all reasons for warring. its people conclude that peace must be earned. The story alludes to history, though nothing depicted is purely historical. The story-line both informs and creates a context for the various pieces, all perfectly delightful in and of themselves, now enhanced by their new placement within ideas quite relevant to our current lives. Do these pieces need the story to be effective? Certainly not. Can they speak to modern ears, with new meaning? Yes, absolutely.
Thanks are due to the Episcopal School of Dallas, Father Stephen Swann, Headmaster, to Choirmaster and Organist, Joseph Snyder, and organ builder, Fritz Noack, for their kind support of this project, as well as to Charles S. Brown, Craig Ferguson, and Miryam Hammond for their stories and inspiration.
Susan Ferré maintains an active concert career, having performed widely in Europe (including three visits to Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris), Scandinavia, Brazil, Canada, and throughout the United States. She has served the faculties of Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington, Southern Methodist University, Perkins School of Theology, University of North Texas and the University of Paris at Vincennes. For more than twenty years Miss Ferré directed the Texas Baroque Ensemble, which brought distinction to performances of little known works on original instruments. She holds degrees from Texas Christian University and the Eastman School of Music. A Fulbright Scholar, recipient of the Diplome d’Orgue et Improvisation from the Schola Cantorum in Paris, as well as the Doctor of Musical Arts degree from University of North Texas, Susan Ferré was honored with a Distinguished Alumna award from that university in 2001. She is married to Charles Lang, a physician and musician, dividing time between Lake Texoma and New Hampshire. Their musician son, Carl, makes a brief appearance on this CD.
CD Review from The American Organist, January 2009, p. 97:
Stories From the Human Village: War and Peace (etc.)
This delightful recording demonstrates both the musical and the literary talents of Susan Ferre. She has conceived an imaginative original story about a mythical global village, Europa. Over an extended period, the characters, including royalty and common folk, experience times of tranquility and harmony, punctuated by times of war. The underlying themes of religion and music (especially organ music!) are the driving forces. Ultimately, a consensus is reached that peace must prevail; war is futile. In a pleasant, engaging manner, Dr. Ferre narrates each segment of the fictional story, which is inspired by history without quoting any particular event. She has selected a wide range of repertoire to aurally portray her tale, thus effectively transforming "absolute" organ works into program music. She has also provided a short historical survey of organ literature. Early music by ....... are balanced by music of Langlais ... and Vierne.... Each piece aptly describes the previously narrated event or amplifies the corresponding emotion. Dr. Ferre was the consultant for the lively, colorful organ in All Saints Chapel. The voicing is incisive, bold, and musical, enhanced by the excellent acoustics. The instrument is most effective in the early works, less so (as may be expected from an instrument this size) in the two large French works. Dr. Ferre's son, Carl Ferre-Lang, assists in two of the pieces by winding the "bird" stop (Pajarito), borrowed from a Regal built by Susan Tattershall. Susan Ferre is to be commended for her creativity in exploring new ways to present organ literature. By connecting organ music with human events (fictional or otherwise), it becomes relevant to new audiences. It is an effective way of introducing the organ and its literature to young and old alike. This would be an excellent tool for use by AGO chapters, schools, and others looking to win new friends for the organ. - -James Hildreth