The 24th annual Bach’s Lunch Lenten Organ Recitals are underway as I write this on JSB’s 334th birthday. This series is sponsored by the Amarillo Chapter of the American Guild of Organists, and is held at different churches every Friday at 12:05 during Lent.
So far as anyone knows, this series is unique, comporting with the anomalous character of the arts in Amarillo.
St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church hosted the first concert on March 8 with Jim Gardner on a Schantz Pipe Organ.
A select program featured works by Couperin, Franck, Rodrigo and Bach. Of note was an adaptation from the second movement of Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez, played with projected images of the season. This movement is, by turns, pensive, evocative and triumphant, the latter quality played fff.
The second concert in the series was held at First Christian Church with Rev. Dr. Jacob Miller as organist.
Dr. Miller played four works, significant among which was an arrangement of O Sacred Head Now Wounded, originally attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux with harmony by Bach.
This arrangement by Hassler, Hayes and Gaspard included Jennifer Akins on the piano and has a harsh dissonant quality, especially around the first phrases which focus on pain and trauma, but then organ registers and instruments coalesce in triumph.
First Presbyterian hosted the March 28 recital, featuring one of the premier organs in the country which was dedicated only this last December.
Norman Goad, designer of this instrument, played five works, two of them his own compositions. Special features of the organ permeated the pieces as in Bach’s Pastoral in F which resonated with tintinnabula.
In Peter’s Denial, composed by Goad, a soft, almost Bossa Nova beat, signifying the rhythms of daily life, is terminated by three low bells and a crash of thunder. The unchanging has now forever changed.
The organist concluded with the second of his compositions, Meditations on the Cross. This work is a combination of organ and iPad synthesizer with tonal layering in surround sound that enfolds the listener in aural surrealism. This piece certainly will gain a wider audience.
These nationally-unique programs are well-attended, and evince a public spirit, right here in Cowboy Country that is at once aesthetic and ecumenical, and which eagerly anticipates the last two recitals in this series.
For Bach’s Lunch, and all of the other special cultural events and offerings found here, we say with conviction, “Keep Amarillo Artsy! Keep Austin Weird! Keep Lubbock in the Rear View Mirror!!!”