Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Around the world in 400 years: Jonathan Ryan at the organ

“Tonight, you will hear all the sounds of the organ, a wide range of hues from the tonal palette as I put the instrument through its paces.” So Jonathan Ryan said as he welcomed the audience. The Lincoln Organ Showcasepresented the concert last night, Sept. 19, O’Donnell Auditorium, to an audience of music-lovers, music students, and many organists from the Lincoln area.
Ryan continued, “I am happy to share the gift of music with you on this King of Instruments.” He explained that the many different musical styles and sounds that the audience would hear came from the fact that he was performing pieces from nearly every period of musical history and from all around the world. “The only period missing is ancient Greek!”
From Sweelinck to Shearing, Ryan gave the audience the sounds of Dutch Renaissance, German Baroque, French Impressionism, American jazz-influence, Romanian-Hungarian-Austrian minimalism, and music from two British composers. More impressive than the thrilling crescendo and climax of Bach’s Sinfonia from Cantata 29 or the virtuosic Etude Coulee of Gyorgy Ligeti, was the intimate, emotional phrasing of the Bach Fourth Trio Sonata’sAndante movement. Ryan referred to this movement in his program notes as “justly...among the most memorable movements from Bach’s hand.” Certainly, it was one of the most memorable movements from Ryan’s performance.
Virtuoso as he is, Ryan programmed many reflective pieces, and one such was George Oldroyd’s chant and psalm based piece which “create[s] seamless harmonies, easily evokes perhaps the rolling hills of the English countryside at dusk.” Surely Ryan’s performance evoked the peaceful countryside for as the piece ended, a sigh escaped from the audience as everyone came back to reality.
The second half featured the monumental work of Maurice Durufle, Prelude, Adagio, et Choral-varie sur le theme du “Veni Creator.” This piece, 22 minutes or more in length, Ryan likened to a 700-page novel, you sit down to read knowing its length and ready to invest your time to follow its development. To assist the audience in understanding this work, Ryan shared his own interpretation of it: “I think that it depicts a journey through life. At first, trying different things, passing on to parts of exquisite beauty, then a struggle.” He identified the Adagio as having one of the most memorable climaxes in 20th-century music, which spirals down, thrust into a new world of a simpler, clearer life, yet still profound and ending with peace, prayer, and ultimately triumph.
After two curtain calls, Ryan gave an encore of a newly composed piece by Arizona resident, Ken Yukl, another piece of exquisite beauty at the hands of Ryan.
The evening of music from different countries and centuries came to a close, and Ryan had given the Lincoln audience exposure to the perfect shaping and expressiveness of his performance—he made the organ speak, and it spoke to everyone’s lives and hopes.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sneak preview of Jonathan Ryan in concert

Right here in Lincoln, on Monday, September 19th, at 7:30pm, Jonathan Ryan will perform at O'Donnell Auditorium at Wesleyan University. From an 8-year-old in awe of the organ to the First Prize winner of international and national organ competitions, Ryan has loved the great instrument.
For $15, anyone can enjoy a wonderful performance accompanied by detailed program notes so that you not only hear the music, but really understand what it means.
Here is a sneak preview of the program and program notes from Ryan:
· I will open with one of my very favorite pieces of music in the world: the Sinfonia from Cantata 29 by J.S. Bach, one of the most energetic, vivacious musical celebrations of life I've ever heard.
· We'll continue with a set of delightful late Renaissance dance variations by the then-equivalent of a Dutch rock star, Jan Sweelinck, and the sublime Trio Sonata No. 4 in E Minor by J.S. Bach, a work particularly known for its transcendent, beautiful middle movement.
· Two English selections will close the first half: a serene free-work inspired from a Psalm verse by George Oldroyd, and the dramatic, profound Rhapsody in C-sharp Minor written during a sleepless night amid a WWI air raid by perhaps England's most celebrated 20th-century composer Herbert Howells.
· The second half begins with one of our own country's finest, Calvin Hampton, a New York City organist and choirmaster, with two movements from his work Five Dances. Based on a rhythmic ostinato, they showcase Hampton's unique, and, I think, enticing, musical voice.
· A rarely performed truly extraordinary piece by György Ligeti follows: the Etude coulée. Written in 1969, it could hardly be a more virtuosic test of technique as its 3.5 minutes require the organist to play nearly 13 notes per second in each hand without ceasing. Minimalistic in character, it also creates a rather intriguing mesh of musical color that, in my experience, has never failed to captivate audiences.
· I enjoy including organ pieces by the legendary jazz pianist George Shearing, and we will have two selections from him based on early American hymn tunes after the Ligeti.
· The "main course" of the second half, however, constitutes one of the most sublime major organ works from the 20th-century, the Prelude, Adagio, and Chorale Variations on Veni Creator by the Parisian organist-composer Maurice Duruflé. It is truly a masterwork, and, to me, a profound journey. Despite its advanced technical difficulty, it's one of the most emotional and deeply satisfying works I've ever played.
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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Jonathan Ryan shares music for the King of Instruments

The Lincoln Organ Showcase is presenting the first of its organ concert series with Jonathan Ryan in recital. Jonathan Ryan is a young organist who holds the distinction of having been honored with six First Prize awards at major international and national competitions. His performance in Lincoln will take place at 7:30, Monday, September 19, in Wesleyan’s O’Donnell Auditorium, tickets are $15 regular, and $10 for seniors.
He has agreed to share some of his personal experiences, memories, and inspirations with Lincoln readers in preparation for this recital and said that one of his most gratifying experiences comes when “I sense that an audience, regardless of its size, is moved by the music. It inspires me both during the performance and also afterward when I continue practicing and preparing for other concerts.”
Where it started
At 8 years old, Ryan was “captivated” by one of the largest organs in the country being installed in his hometown of Charlotte, NC. “There were so many different sounds from the instrument and a complex, intriguing console with more buttons, lights, switches, and dials than I could count.” After attending the inaugural concert on that organ, “I was absolutely hooked. The rest is history!”
In preparing for recitals like Monday’s recital in Lincoln, Ryan considers the uniqueness of each instrument in its own acoustical environment. “After that, my first consideration is the audience: I spend as much time as it takes to create a program that is enjoyable, substantial, architecturally sound, and fitting.” He also takes into account cultural and contemporary life elements, “sometimes certain pieces seem to speak in a needed way at certain times.”
In preparation for competitions, particularly the Jordan II International Organ Competition, Ryan had this to share: “It was the most intense preparation in my life! For the 14 months prior to the last two rounds of the competition, my first professional/musical priority was preparing for the competition...this kind of focus was absolutely necessary. While it was a tremendous challenge I enjoyed, I won't lie: I have never been stretched so far as a musician as in that competition. “
Some of his preparation for the competition involved learning about the music, composers, and styles, recording himself, conducting from his scores, and coaching, as well as playing many recitals of his repertoire.
Favorite Memories and Experiences
Besides the inspiration that Ryan receives every time that he can sense that the audience is moved by his performance, he holds dear memories of certain places that he has been able to perform. Having just finished his debut concert tour of Germany, he remembers meeting many wonderful people and performing in wonderful spaces “perhaps the most memorable of which was the Nikolaikirche in Leipzig, where J.S. Bach spent many years making music.” Back in the states, a wonderful space that Ryan played at was the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland, CA. “The beauty of the Bay Area was equaled by the stunning acoustics of the new cathedral and its remarkable architecture.”
The Recital in Lincoln
Besides the wonderful programming that Ryan will bring to his Lincoln audience, he will also provide program notes that will “help guide the audience through the music.” Ryan’s hopes for Lincoln’s audience on Monday night are that “although different people respond differently to the same experience, I hope that everyone has an enjoyable evening, hear something they've never heard before, are led to think and contemplate, and hopefully are moved and inspired. I love playing concerts because I love giving. I'm truly delighted to have the opportunity this Monday, and I hope it will indeed be an occasion for us all to share and enjoy music by great composers for the King of Instruments.”
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Monday, September 12, 2011

Cirque de la Symphonie: Lincoln's Symphony Orchestra opens the 2011-2012 season

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Music and dance to commemorate 9/11

On September 11, 2001, the world watched in shock and horror as the terrorists attacked our great nation. Ten years have gone by, although for some, it still feels like it was yesterday for the loss and grief never quite go away. For the first anniversary, the Lincoln community remembered and honored those who died with a tribute in music at Kimball Recital Hall, and this year, on Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011, St. Mark's-on-the-Campus will host a service in memory of the event.

St. Mark's-on-the-Campus is located at 13th and R Sts. at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln campus, and the event is set for 8:00pm. Many people are collaborating to bring this together including Lincoln's own Dulces Voces, the UNL Dance Department, UNL viola professor and LSO member, Clark Potter. The first movement of Kurt Knecht's newly commissioned piece, "Ordo Rachelis," will be performed by Dulces Voces, and the composer's piece "Meditation" will be performed by Clark Potter.
This will be a time for the Lincoln community to gather together, regardless of religious affiliation, and join together in memory, reflection, and prayer--much as we all did 10 years ago on September 11th.

Friday, September 2, 2011

MUSIC Endowment kick-off

The Governor's Mansion was the gathering site of Lincoln Music Teachers and friends on Wednesday, August 31, for the kick-off fundraiser for the MUSIC Endowment. The MUSIC Endowment allows the Lincoln community to be a part of providing music lessons to children in financial need. Details on how to give can be found in this Examiner.com article.
Introductions and ice-breakers included a delightful game of singing and guessing the melody and were followed shortly by a lovely lunch catered in the lower level of the mansion. The atmosphere was delightful, surrounded by Nebraskan history and art. Dr. Valerie Cisler of University of Nebraska at Kearney gave a thought-provoking talk about "Music Mastery = Motivation."

Following lunch, LMTA Treasurer, Jessica Freeman, thanked those who have contributed already to the MUSIC Endowment. "We have not quite met our goal, so please keep spreading the word!" All the contributors present who have helped start the MUSIC Endowment were awarded with a certificate thanking them for being "Charter Members" of the MUSIC Endowment.

Although the kick-off meeting has passed, it is not too late to contribute. The MUSIC Endowment will provide funding to the LMTA Music Outreach Program for years to come.