October 23, 2014

WPI Brass Ensemble to Perform at Rededication of Worcester Organ


It is the centerpiece in the Great Hall at Mechanics Hall and this year marks its 150th anniversary. Built in 1864 by the E. & G.G. Hook brothers of Boston, it was first known as the “Worcester Organ,” because the people of the city raised the funds to build it.

As legend and lore have it, when Mechanics Hall was first built in 1857, an area on stage was set aside for such a grand instrument. Unfortunately, the Worcester County Mechanics Association, which built the magnificent Main Street venue, ran out of money. It wasn’t until 1864 that the new instrument was finally installed. To the rescue came Ichabod Washburn, who challenged his fellow industrialists to step up to the plate and raise the necessary monies to purchase the pipe organ.

Mechanics Hall, in association with the American Guild of Organists, has designated 2014 as the “Year of the Worcester Organ.” To celebrate the rededication of its century-and-a-half-year-old home, a gang of local, regional, and nationally acclaimed organists will gather to play the mighty Hook. The list includes Malcolm Halliday, Lucia Clemente Falco, William Ness, Peter Krasinski, Robin Dinda, Renea Waligora, and Will Sherwood.

Who: Guest organ soloists and the WPI Brass Ensemble

What: The Rededication Concert in Honor of E. & G.G. Hook Organ’s 150th Anniversary

Where: Mechanics Hall, 321 Main Street

When: Sunday, October 26, 3 p.m.

See: mechanicshall.org

Dinda, a notable educator, organist, and composer, has written a piece especially for the occasion. The composition is called The Harmonious Blacksmith, which is a nickname for the popular Air with Variations from the harpsichord suite in E Major by G. F. Handel. “I took Handel’s theme and wrote a set of six variations for two organists at one organ, four hands and four feet. The piece was written specifically for this concert, and is designed to demonstrate many of the sounds of the Mechanics Hall organ.” Dinda is performing the work with his wife, Renea Waligora, with whom he has performed many organ duo concerts.

The program:

Gigout: Grand Choer et Dialogue for Organ and Brass (William Ness, WPI Brass Ensemble); Bach: Toccata in F Major, BWV 540 (Cornils); Mussorgsky: Pictures: Great Gate of Kiev(Sherwood, Clemente-Falco, Brass); Rimsky-Korsakov: Procession of the Nobles (Malcolm, Sherwood, Brass); Improvisation (Krasinski); Buck: Concert Var Star Spangled, dedicated to Eugene Thayer (Halliday); Guilmant, arranged by Cornils: March on a Theme of Handel(Cornils, Brass); Guilmant: Final (Cornils). The finale will be The Battle Hymn of the Republic(Clemente-Falco, Brass).

A couple of items on the program to note: The performance of the Guilmant at a Worcester Music Festival in the 1880s was its American premiere. And, at the time of the Worcester Organ’s creation, it was the largest American-made organ and the first in this country enabling it to accommodate such large scale works as the Toccata in F.

The WPI Brass Ensemble is the only one of its kind in the city. In addition to accompanying the various organists, the ensemble will perform Triumphal March for the Centenary of Napoleon I by Louis Vierne. Professor Douglas Weeks is the ensemble’s director.

“There is a large repertoire of music written or adapted for the combination of instruments in conjunction with the organ,” he says. “The music is traditionally festive, generally quite exciting, and is a perfect fit.”

John Walker, the national President of the American Guild of Organists will be in attendance. “I am not planning to make a formal speech as such,” he says. “I plan to make welcoming remarks and to deliver the congratulations of the National Council of the AGO.”

According to the Mechanics Hall website, the Worcester Organ is a 52-stop, 3,504-pipe instrument and the oldest unaltered four-keyboard organ in the Western Hemisphere. “Since its restoration in 1982, the Hook Organ has become one of the most popular and respected organs in the United States.” It has been used in several recordings, motion pictures, as well as in a music video starring Michael Crawford, the original Phantom of the Opera.