Pipescreams! Turns 30
Review by Ray Giolitto
How fitting is was to have Ed Clark play the “required” first piece at the October 25th Pipescreams, Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.” Ed began Pipescreams with the same piece thirty years ago. Adorned with black cape with a red lining (was Virgil’s ghost present?) and black top hat, Ed’s nimble fingers and toes gave us a rousing start to the yearly spooktacular Halloween concert.
Our longtime Mistress of Sorrow-moan-ees, Meg Smith, as Sister Benedict, treated us to her attentive introductions of each piece and organist, and included her always-entertaining metaphors and comments along the way.
With Jim Barry on the program, we always wonder what obscure and entertaining piece he will find each year. With his skeleton mask facing the audience as he played, we were treated to a bit of nostalgia with the “Fugue in F minor,” commonly known as the theme from “The Munsters,” composed by Jack Marshall. Many in the audience were smiling and humming along, including those that remember the original television production and the little folks that have now been treated with the movie revivals of that madcap family.
The first of three “cat” organists, Susan Carroll, expertly showed off the St. John organ’s beautiful Vox Humana stop, with tremolo, of course, to present Anton Heiller’s “Tanz-Toccata.” This piece, not familiar to many, had the purr-fect scariness, with crashy-clashy chords, unpredictable shifting of meter and, surprisingly, some “sing-able” tunes. It was quite a trick to play with some fabulous treats as a result.
Mr. “Quid pro Quo,” Peter Niedemann, with his “de Bergerac” mask, played “Pickled Boys” from Benjamin Britten’s St. Nicolas. In this movement of the piece, Saint Nicolas stops a group of travellers and the bishop from eating at an inn, knowing that the meat is the flesh of three boys murdered and pickled by the butcher. Nicolas calls to the three boys and they come back to life and sing an “Alleluia.” This was an appropriate piece for our young and young-at-heart to parade around the church, throwing candy to the crowd and, thankfully, all remained unscathed after their march!
Our second “cat” organist, Cheryl Wadsworth, expertly played the “Intermezzo” from Symphony I of Charles-Marie Widor. The pedal line, supported with the dark harmonies of the constant 16th notes on the manuals, was another purr-fect Pipescreams piece. Indeed, I’m sure that I was not the only one to have an earworm with Widor’s pedal tune.
“Cat” number three, Kari Miller, entertained us with Domenico Scarlatti’s “Cat Fugue,” (Fugue in G minor). It is no wonder that the motif of the piece is a bit unusual. His cat, Pulcinella, who enjoyed walking on the harpsichord keyboard, supposedly inspired Scarlatti. Needless to say, Kari was quite cat-like with her deft performance.
Vaughn Mauren dedicated the final piece to our Mistress of Sorrow-moan-ees. Vaughn played another seemingly “required” piece for Pipescreams, the “Toccata” from Suite Gothique by Léon Boëllmann. The piece was played beautifully, with a bit slower tempo than typical, which, in my opinion, gave the listener greater appreciation of the rhythmic intracies of the second theme of the piece. This was a truly fitting close to the 30th Pipescreams!
A very nice reception followed with lots of goodies and social time.
Special thanks to St. John’s and host Scott Lamlein, the organists, lighting, decorations and reception volunteers.