Sunday, November 6, 2016

British Organ Invasion

Fred  J. Cooper Memorial Organ
in Verizon Hall
Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts
Fans of vocal music and organ music alike were enthralled with the British Organ Invasion held in Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts on November 3. Alan Morrison wowed the audience with magnificent solos on the Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ. The Keystone State Boychoir comprised of 200 boys between the ages of 8 -18 performed next. A nine-member ensemble performed the first piece. With quick and quiet precision and just a nod from Steven M. Fisher, their conductor, the nine very young men separated themselves from their fellow choir members to move into their own formation in the forefront. As the piece ended, they reestablished themselves in the lineup to join the other high pitched voices in singing the next piece in unison. The third piece, The Lord is My Shepherd,  had the lower  voices join in a beautiful harmony, while their final selection entitled, Oliver Cromwell, was somewhat of a conversation with the organist; after Alan Morrison played a few bars, the boys rapidly responded in kind. Following the boys’ impressive performance, Alan Morrison played a somber then a joyous solo piece on the organ. With a large console strategically placed on the stage, not only was the organist able to see the conductor, but the audience also had an excellent view of Alan Morrison working his magic on the organ. The Mendelssohn Club, one of the oldest and most prestigious choral groups in the country, provided the pièce de resistance. This group of 150 men and women sent waves of undulating sound vibrating throughout Verizon Hall. Several pieces were accompanied, with great affect, by the organ, Others were sung a cappella. In one such piece, Paul Rardin, the conductor, miraculously became a human pitch pipe and hummed the starting pitch before the group began. Most of the music was intricate and the Mendelssohn Club performed with precision. A central part of the program, Rejoice in the Lamb, is music written by one of Britain’s favorites, Benjamin Bretton. It is a 16 minute cantata set to a poem written by Christopher Smart when he was in an insane asylum. As the text states,”All living things give Glory to God” and the voices of the Mendelssohn Club rose in glorious splendor. The program ended with both choirs joining the organ in a grand finale that was truly majestic. The British Organ Invasion was the first segment of a 4-part organ series at the Kimmel. Three innovative and collaborative programs with film and a brass ensemble remain. The concerts will be held on March 29, April 13 and May 20. Choose two or more performances and save 35%. For more information or tickets, call 215-893-1999 or visit online at

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