Every year the members of the RCCO Vancouver play in a recital together. This year I participated with seven other organists. It is a great opportunity to meet other musicians, talk about what it means to be a church organists, and just have a wonderful time. At the same time we listened to great music, played on a wonderful instrument.
One thing that was changed over the years is the console. Recently Michael Dirk, the church main organist, was able to secure the 4-manual console of Casavant’s Opus 400, built also in the early 1900′s. It is the plan to replace the “replacement console” for this Casavant console in the near future, and also add an antiphonal organ in the front of the sanctuary. At this time both consoles are positioned in the front of the church, which is a unique situation.
The characteristic church has a wonderful acoustical qualities. The 100 year old dark-oak church pews definitely play a role in this, but one should not discount the absence of fabric and the hard floor and straight wall surfaces.
The program for the evening contained a nice variety of music. James Loeffler, a 10 year old (!) student who only takes music lessons for 6 months, played the toccata in d minor by J.S. Bach. It is wonderful that young talent can participate on an evening like this, and together with his parents, interact with the crowd. Susan Ohanessian played two pieces by Denis Bedard, that she had commissioned for the 100th anniversary of her church, St. Mary’s Anglican. Then Rachel Alflatt played another pieces by her husband (Denis Bedard) and Sortie by Dubois. Henry Hageman continued with some choral preludes by Max Reger, and Frank Ezinga closed the first part with Regers toccata in d minor (Opus 59).
After the intermission David Poon improvised on a given theme, after with Patrick Maniura played a piece by Vierne. Michael Molnar presented a triology with Bruckner, Durufle, and Widor. The evening was closed by Marc d’Anjou with Widor’s famous toccata from the Fifth Symphony.
It was so wonderful to hear everyone presenting different works, and getting different sounds out of these 100 year old pipes. The old pipes sang wonderfully, for me the most impressive was the soft part of Widor’s toccata: this organ is truly like an orchestra!
There was a good crowd. We talked organs, churches, and congregations. It is stricking that every time again there are inquiries about our own church: it is known that we have full churches, with nurseries and many young families. It is mind-boggling for many that we have relatively full churches in the second service, with primary the same people as in the morning worship service. A guests said: “Frank, I am jealous…” Among fellow believers it is difficult to understand how this is possible, yet many have their opinions.
One is that we have consistent and substantial preaching of the Word and don’t cater to the desires of the people in the pew. Another commented that we maintain high quality church music and don’t fall in the trap of Christian Contemporary with use drums, guitars, and bands (which younger generations don’t appreciate anymore). Someone commented that our liturgy is consistent, so that people know what to expect when they come to our church services, which is appreciated especially be people that have experienced the opposite in contemporary services. Another person thought that the absense of the use of projection screens in our church buildings increases the participation and involvement of the congregation, maintaining the use and knowledge of Scripture and Book of Praise alike.
Indeed stricking, that many people have an idea what has happened (failed) in their churches. They understand, but it is too late. Here in Holy Trinity (…what a wonderful name…) we have a nice organ that lasted 100 years - and could last much longer - but the number of church goers has dropped from 1,500 to 60! And this is not the only church where this happened.
We must be thankful for God’s grace and his blessings over our churches, which are his churches. It is not approriate to compare ourselves to other churches, although the difference is stricking. It is time to remember Paul when he wrote in 1 Corinthians 3:6 “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.”
Have a blessed Sunday!