Organists clamor to pounce on the keys of the organ at First United Methodist Church.
It is, after, all the largest of its kind in Colorado Springs. Built in 1955, and enlarged between 1985 and ’86, and renovated and expanded again in 2014, it boasts four keyboards and 88 pipes, including a large set of trumpet pipes, that give it a stereo sound in the church.
Chamber Orchestra of the Springs will kick off its 2021-2022 season with “Organ Spectacular VI” Sunday at First United. The organ concerts began in 2015 as a way to showcase some of the more than 400 compositions written for an organ and orchestra. Since then, the Chamber and many of the Springs’ organists have performed major works by Guilmant, Saint-Saëns, Schwantner, Handel, Barber, Albinoni, Respighi and others. The series also featured music director Thomas Wilson’s arrangement of Widor’s “Toccata from Symphony No. 5.” A video of the performance has secured 20,000 views on YouTube, and they’ve received requests for the arrangement from groups around the world.
“This concert in our series has grown beyond our dreams, as many of these works are rarely performed because of the requirement to have a space with an outstanding organ that can also hold an orchestra,” said Chamber Orchestra of the Springs orchestra manager Pam Chaddon. “We’d be missing out on some of music’s grandest repertoire by not exploring some of these works in a concert setting.”
This year’s concert will feature four works for organ and orchestra, including the world premiere of organist and composer Roderick Gorby’s “An American Tone Poem.” The piece, commissioned by the orchestra, answers Gorby’s self-imposed question: What kind of place is America?
“The basis for the composition is the tune for ‘America the Beautiful,’” said Gorby, a longtime organist who moved here three years ago and is the organist at First Presbyterian Church.
“The answer to that question is America is a rambunctious and exciting and free place where people can be themselves and be without self-consciousness.”
This will be his first time playing the organ at First United.
“With the organ, bigger is better,” Gorby said. “The organ is like a virtual orchestra.”
Sunday’s concert also will feature Paul Hindemith’s “Kammermusik No. 7,” with organist Simon Jacobs; Padre Bicajo’s “Concerto for Violin and Organ,” with organist Eric Wicks and violinist Elisa Wicks; and Charles-Marie Widor’s “Symphony for organ and orchestra in G minor, op. 42,” with organist Joseph Galema.
“The Chamber Orchestra tries to find hidden gems and voices that have not been heard,” Chaddon said. “There’s all this repertoire and nobody’s playing it. That’s the Chamber’s job.”
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