What is one to do on Super Bowl Sunday if they are indifferent to the teams as well as to the Hip-Hop halftime extravaganza? If they lived in Amarillo, Texas, they attended a world-class organ recital on the world-famous Aeolian-Skinner organ at St. Andrews Episcopal Church..
For the first time in two years, FASO (Friends of Aeolian-Skinner Opus 124), held a public concert. The organist was Clive Dirskell-Smith, one of the most renown young organists on the planet. Educated at Oxford and organist at Christ Church, Oxford from 2001-2018, he is currently organist and choirmaster at All Saints Episcopal in Ft. Worth.
His varied program actualized the capacity of this amazing instrument. Two of his pieces are noted here.
Herbert Howells (1892-1983) had a case of insomnia one night courtesy of a Zeppelin raid, which inspired his Rhapsody in C# Minor. This piece narrates every people under air attack, who endure, persevere, and ultimately claim victory.
The unmistakable low registers prevail in the tumultuous opening, calling to mind the engines of the airships and the explosions of their ordnance.
At approximately 2:45 the music turns eerily soft, perhaps the quiet after battle or the stillness of death.
At 4:30 the piece starts to build assertively, noting that the winds of war are blowing in the opposite direction. Then, at a certain point, the swell tempers, a caution against overconfidence.
But, at 7:30, the volume again starts to build with the piece ending in triumphant crescendo, the composer confident of victory even in the darkest days of WWI.
Howells’ work commands a powerful relevance in the present distress. As the sirens sound in Kyiv and Kharkiv, the brave and defiant Ukrainians know that their endurance will ensure that they will ultimately hear, as Howells’ work promises, the rhapsody of victory.
Georg Frederick Handel first performed his Concerto Grosso in F major, Op. 3 No. 5 in 1735 after he and his company relocated to Covent Garden. The father of the concerto, these pieces were composed partly for the purpose of luring audiences away from the rival venue. So, even the lofty ideals of artistic creation can serve a pragmatic impulse.
Driskill-Smith went full Handel on the Aeolian Skinner, the contrasts in the piece again showcasing the versatility of the instrument.
The opening Larghetto is slow and deliberate, while the Allegro, by contrast bounces with a recurrent theme. The Alla Siciliana is somber, almost morose, while the Presto is bright and alive.
The piece is a real roller coaster brought to its actualized fruition by the magnificence of the Opus 124.
On a personal note, Clive and I reminisced about a Christ Church cleric that I knew when I went to New College and that he worked with. Small world this.
There was a wine and cheese reception in the Fellowship Hall following the concert where all celebrated the world-class artistry, a not uncommon experience here on the High Plains, that we had just heard.
For this phenomenon we, along with Clive, proudly raise our glasses as we toast Keep Amarillo Artsy! Keep Austin Weird! Keep Lubbock in the Rear View Mirror!!!!!