Upcoming Performances

August 20, 3:00 pm Central
Inaugural recitalist, Christ the King Lutheran Church, Enterprise, Ala.

September 10, 5:30 pm Eastern
Guest recitalist, First United Methodist Church, Charlotte, N.C.

October 1, 4:00 pm Eastern
Guest recitalist, First Presbyterian Church, Gainesville, Ga.

October 15, 4:00 pm Eastern
Guest recitalist, First United Methodist Church, Gastonia, N.C.

March 9, 2018, 12:15 pm Eastern
Guest recitalist, National City Christian Church, Washington, D.C.

March 11, 2018
Guest recitalist, Waldensian Presbyterian Church, Valdese, N.C.

May 13, 2018, 5:00 pm Eastern
Guest recitalist, First Presbyterian Church, Wilmington, N.C.


The Theory of Evolution

I now find myself in the middle of a recording project of the complete Widor Symphonies, plus his Suite Latine, Trois Nouvelles Pièces, and Bachs Memento. I am having the time of my life. Recording is an expensive habit, but it works for me.

My recording process is evolutionary. I think, "Gee that's a wonderful piece. I should record it." Or I think, "Gee, that's a wonderful organ. I should record on it." Once I get those two ideas into the same sentence and have rep matched to an instrument, then I call my producer, and we start looking into it. He and I and the recording engineers he calls "the secret weapon" have already recorded three times together. Our first was the Widor Sixth and Romane Symphonies on the landmark Aeolian-Skinner at St. Mark's Cathedral in Shreveport, detailed here. That organ needed recording, and the Romane needed to be recorded on it. A few months later, the four of us met in Houston and recorded Jongen, Brahms, and Reubke on the Fritts organ at St. Philip Presbyterian, detailed here. That recording is done and on the Centaur label, entitled "Sonatas and Variations." Our third project was an all-British program recorded on the landmark Aeolian-Skinner at First Baptist in Longview, Texas.

It wasn't long after that that we just HAD to get our hands on my beloved Aeolian-Skinner at First Presbyterian in Houston, where I "presided" from 1997-2005. Our first thought was all-Howells, but then the idea of doing two more Widor Symphonies presented itself, and then Evolution took over, and the complete Widor project was officially born.

This post appears in the "News" tab of this website, and so the news is that I'll be heading to Houston on June 12 to record Widor Symphonies I and V. That will leave only six Symphonies to go, plus the three extra pieces. We have already received clearance to record on the E. M. Skinner at First Presbyterian in Wilmington, N.C., and we have received clearance to record on another landmark Aeolian-Skinner in the Midwest.

Evolution also struck in the selection of instruments to record Widor on. As it turns out, Aeolian-Skinners, E. M. Skinners, and maybe even an Aeolian have become our instruments of choice. At first, that was coincidental. Now it's deliberate. Now I'm on a mission. And I believe in evolution.


Birthday gigs

My 49th birthday was this past weekend, on March 4. As usual, I was working. But also as usual, I was working on MUSICAL matters, a happy occurrence for someone who was trained in MUSIC. I thought I would list the various ways I have spent a few birthdays:

2017: judge and accompany two students in the annual Hayes Young Artist Competition, which seeks to award $7500 annually, renewable, to an incoming Freshman to the ASU Hayes School of Music;

2016: Lenten recital, Corinth Reformed Church, Hickory, N.C.;

2012: accompany the Brahms Cello Sonata No. 1 with our Tuba (yes, Tuba) professor at ASU.

In other years, I have been on recital trips during my birthday. I celebrated two birthdays -- 30 and 43 -- on recital trips to San Antonio. Mexican food, birthdays, and recitals are a winning combination, almost better than a margarita made in Texas. Can't wait for the next one there.


A Roanoke gig

I'm just back to my hotel after having conducted the Poulenc Concerto and played the chamber version of the Duruflé Requiem. Tidbits:

-- This was at St. John's Episcopal, Roanoke, Va., where my friend David Charles Campbell serves as director of music.

-- His choir and friends made up the chorus, and several members of the Roanoke Symphony and other Virginia musicians were the orchestra.

-- This was my first invited conducting gig.

-- This was the first time I had played the chamber version of the Duruflé. I have lost count the number of times I have played the solo organ version.

-- I'm playing the solo organ version of the Duruflé in two days!

-- I have never played the Poulenc.

-- Up until recently, I had never liked the Poulenc.

-- The Poulenc is a masterpiece.

-- The Duruflé is a major masterpiece and probably my favorite choral piece.

-- I could go on and on. Thank you, Roanoke friends old and new! This was a treat. Back to the grind tomorrow morning.



This rather busy summer 2016 was nicely capped by a studio trip to Washington, DC. Seven of us climbed onto Amtrak on August 4 and made our way from Salisbury, N.C., to Union Station, D.C., where awaited us a week of beautiful organs and lots of delicious food in all corners of the city.

We visited the rather stunning Möller at Capitol Hill United Methodist (Jon Kalbfleisch), the rapturous Schoenstein at St. Paul's K Street (John Bohl), the ever-changing Skinner/Aeolian-Skinner at the National Cathedral (Benjamin Straley), the treasured Austin at First Baptist (Lon Schreiber), the mighty Möller at National City Christian (Michael McMahon), the sumptuous Lively-Fulcher at the Franciscan Monastery, the myriad treasures at the National Shrine (Benjamin LaPrairie and Nathan Davy), and the exquisite Aeolian-Skinner at National Presbyterian (access courtesy David Lang). See lots of photos HERE.

To a person, our church hosts were gracious, welcoming, and most hospitable to allow us to play and play and play as long as we liked. We marveled all week at how UN-gracious organists in many cities can be, but Washington was by far the friendliest town of organists we had ever encountered. Thank you to all of them.

We also enjoyed the hospitality of one student's sister, who was serving an internship in a Senator's office for the year. She took us through the Capitol, where we learned a wonderful amount about that splendid building.

And the FOOD. Where do we begin? Italian, Mexican, Hard Rock, Asian, Tapas, we had it all. Then there was Amtrak food.


AGO Houston recital, June 23, 2016


Greetings from hot, humid Houston, the city of my greatest period of growth as a musician, 1990-2004. I miss it here.

Currently (June 2016), I’m attending the national convention of the American Guild of Organists, during which I’m also playing a recital. Program book limitations prohibited lengthy program notes, but space here on my website is unlimited! The following program notes are provided for attendees' use during the recital and otherwise for the enjoyment of faithful jobybelldotorg readers:



Final, from Six Pièces

César Franck (1822-1890)

A description of Franck’s twelve works for organ solo might include phrases such as ‘harmonically rich,’ ‘serious,’ and ‘grand forms.’ The exception might be the Final, arguably the least complex and most ebullient of the twelve.

The Final makes a fairly traditional excursion through sonata-allegro form. The energetic main theme holds the entire work together with frequent appearances and fanfares:

The piece maintains its lively tempo in the background even while the lyrical second theme is holding forth with its longer note values:

There is a third motive melodically related to the main theme but more often used as a rhythmic undergirding or “glue:”



Partita on “Comfort, comfort ye my people”

Georg Böhm (1661-1733)

Although usually included among the dramatic “third-generation” North Germans, Böhm exhibits substantial French and Italian influence in his writing, with heavy ornamentation and somewhat reserved changes of texture within a piece. As a result, despite their obvious church connections, his chorale partitas seem intended for – or at least better suited to – the harpsichord. The present partita of twelve variants on “Comfort, comfort ye my people” is full of rapid-fire ornaments and considerable filigree work. The twelfth and final variant is sometimes omitted in performance: it is the only one using pedal, and its relative placidness might appear a bit of an afterthought to the grandeur of the eleventh variant. For this performance we will hear all twelve partitas, framed at the beginning and end by J. S. Bach’s harmonization of the chorale. The melody:




The Moonpiper

Ivan Božičević (b. 1961)

Most recitals during an AGO convention include a world premiere. I have the honor of premiering The Moonpiper, the winner of the 2016 AGO/Marilyn Mason Award in Organ Composition, composed by Ivan Božičević of Croatia. The Moonpiper is inspired by the sound of bagpipes and of an irresistible invitation to dance, all within a general minimalistic style. The composer says:

“Bagpipe imitation has a long tradition in Western keyboard music ... [T]he [early] Pastorale was one of my starting points. Another of my interests is the bagpipe folk music of the Balkans, which features livelier dance rhythms than its Western counterparts: 9/8, 11/8, 13/8, or even more complicated uneven meters are common. Although I have used neither rhythmic nor melodic formulas that stem from actual folk music, I hope that the spirit of the country piper summoning everybody out to dance the night away is demonstrably present in my piece ... Listeners will hear the tradition of the 19th-century keyboard toccata with 16th-note perpetuum-mobile. Additionally, there is the contemporary reductionist/minimalist procedure: the whole piece unfolds itself using only one short motif (7/16) and its variation (7/16 + 5/16). The two motifs vary throughout the piece with subtle changes of harmony, mood, and color … The challenge is solid articulation and dance-like rhythmic suppleness of constant 16th-note motion in a fast tempo.”

Here are the rhythmic and melodic "germs" from which the entire piece is built:



Prelude and Fugue in A-flat, Op. 36, No. 2

Marcel Dupré (1886-1971)

One might call the typical prelude and fugue ‘well written,’ ‘structured,’ ‘severe,’ or ‘clever.’ But how often do you get to call it ‘beautiful?’ Dupré’s music often bespeaks a certain dark quality of the high Gothic architecture of Parisian churches and instruments in which much of it was conceived. But in the A-flat Prelude and Fugue, after a fairly dark prelude we are treated to one of the loveliest fugue subjects this organist has ever heard, finished off by a rapturous conclusion. Dupré develops the same musical themes in both prelude and fugue.

Fugue subject 1:

Countersubject 1:


Fugue subject 2: 

Countersubject 2: 


The Prelude is surprisingly contrapuntal, though without relinquishing its status as a true prelude to what follows it. Treatment of the subjects in the Prelude include:







The masterful double fugue follows all the “rules” by working out the two subjects and their attending counter-subjects in turn, then combining all these in several heavy stretto sections. This extraordinary piece is clearly an artistic nod to the genius of Bach, while remaining genuinely beautiful music.