Organist Adam Scott Graham
kicks off historic church recital series
Patrick D. McCoy – DC Performing Arts Examiner
The Washington Redskins may have had a kick-off on Sunday afternoon, but that by no means was a deterrent for the large audience that came to hear Adam Scott Graham’s fall organ recitalat historic Saint John’s Church, Broad Creek-Ft. Washington, MD. A variety of composers were represented on the program, notably J. S. Bach, Cesar Franck and Samuel Barber. The church’s custom designed Allen digital organ was named the Thornhill-Ulrich Organ, in memory of deceased members of the family of the principal donors to the organ fund.In particular, the organ registrations for the performance of the Bach adaptation of Vivaldi’s “Concerto in A minor” were the perfect vehicle for the bright, shimmering sounds of the organ. Often, organist get accused of playing too loud. To quell that stereotype, an transcription of Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” summoned the warm strings of the organ and an occasional solo stop. This work was a showcase for Graham’s interpretive instincts, bringing life to a somber work thought to be solely that for orchestral performance. It was like a reunion of sorts. The full church sanctuary represented colleagues, friends and former churches at which Graham served as music director. A wonderful reception followed the program in the church’s social hall.
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Organ Recital Review in newsletter
Sunday, October 20, 2013
In Concert – St. John’s
On a very chilly Sunday night at St. John’s Church the Sanctuary was full of music lovers. We were all there to hear our Minister of Music, Mr. Adam Graham in concert on the Thornhill-Ulrich organ. The evening was hosted by Ms. Karen Chapman who served as our guide through the program. I won’t go into Adam’s musical accomplishments for they are many and varied…except to say that he is respected in the music community and loved at St. John’s. As I reviewed the program I was impressed by the variety of music Adam selected. From Bach to Barber, it promised to be a very entertaining evening. Two of the seven listed selections were personal favorites and I was pleased to see them both.
“Fantasie in E Flat” is one of Saint-Saëns most well known organ works. The highly animated piece, which seems to use every pedal, stop and key, on the organ, put both Adam and the instrument through their paces and both excelled. On to my other favorite…I must admit I was a little concerned when I saw Samuel Barber’s “Adagio For Strings”. I get worried when I hear that this favorite has been “transcribed for” whatever instrument…other than violin. I am not alone, Barber refused to transcribe the piece for organ, and only warmed to one of the transcriptions ever proposed during his lifetime – William Strickland’s 1949 version. To illustrate how much I love the piece, I choreographed my senior final to it, and have commissioned a very good friend to fly in from Arizona to play it at my funeral (every time he comes to town he gets in touch and ask “Are you ready…” (By the way he will use Strickland’s transcription.)
Ultimately Adam did not use anyone’s transcription; instead I heard Toscanini’s breathy pauses, Strickland’s tender moans, and Bernstein’s powerfully tight harmonies. While strings will always be my preference for this American favorite, our Minister of Music did us proud on a very worthy instrument. This brings me to the instrument…
While I was present at the dedication of our Allen organ (christened the Thornhill-Ulrich), and heard Mr. Adam Koch put it through it’s paces, I still found myself saying “WOW, didn’t know it could do that”, several times during Adam’s concert. I have owned a few sport cars in my day, and I know that they perform better when they are occasionally “blown-out”. Thanks for the ride Adam, the evening was a musical tour de force.
The evening was punctuated with memorable moments and another came when Adam played (the much ignored) Hilbus organ. I am very happy when someone sits at this beautiful instrument and blows out the pipes. I am very glad Adam gave it a moment in the light. While it does not have the range or capabilities of the Thornhill-Ulrich, it does produce a rich “piped” tone that still reaches the rafters and stirs the soul.
I look forward to the upcoming Evensong Series, Sunday, November 3rd and Sunday December 15th, and of course the continuation of this concert series, January 26th Jerrod Coates (Organist), February 23rd, Schauntice Marshall (Soprano), and March 23rd Justus Parrotta (Organist). If this performance is any indication of what this series has yet to produce, I whole-heartedly invite all who love good music to mark the dates on your calendar and be blown away.