Organist Diane Keller
On Sunday, September 23, 2017, St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church on Robinson Canyon Road in Carmel Valley invited us to their beautiful Sanctuary to hear a recital on their two-year-old new organ.
Diane Keller from the First United Methodist Church in Palo Alto had called her concert “The Romantics meet the New Age.” She is a young very tall, handsome woman who came forward introducing all her pieces in a charming manner, and then went back to swing her legs over the organ bench to play. She was assisted by another woman, who turned the pages of the huge sheets of music and pulled out some of the stops.
In St Dunstan’s Sanctuary we have a view of the metal pipes in front of us, while the keyboard manual is on the right hand side, which permitted us see the organist’s hands and feet.
Probably because the weather was so fine that day only a handful of people filled the little church. But those who were not here missed a wonderful opportunity to hear the new organ, and most of all, this very skillful artist. From the title of her presentation you might guess, there were no works by Bach, Handel or Buxtehude, but rather composers of the 19th and 20th century from several European countries.
The lively and welcoming first piece, Sortie, (by French composer Lefébure Wély, 1817-69) sounded a little like circus music. The second one, Andante was serene and beautiful. “With Jesus I Will Travel” is based on an old Norwegian folk song (by Norwegian composer Mons Leidvin Takle, b. 1942). This was followed by a piece called “Power of Life,” which was definitely New Age and not to my taste. In Elfes, by French composer Joseph Bonnet, 1884-1944, in which we were told that the elves were very well behaved, we heard a variety of unusual and seldom heard organ pipes. In Scherzo and Chant du soir (by Enrico Bossi, 1861-1925), the Scherzo was amusing and playful, while the Evening Song very beautiful and definitely romantic. In a large piece called Symphony Vl with Scherzo and Finale (by French composer Louis Vierne, 1870-1937), Ms Keller had to jump hopping from one foot to the other on the pedals while still controlling her flying fingers on three manuals was no less demanding. The music by this part of the program had become more chromatic. She called the composer even “a little crazy” but in an admiring way. The last piece Toccata on “All You Need Is Love” (by English composer Paul Ayres, b. 1970) used every possible feature of this fine instrument, and it reminded the mature audience of their youth and passion for the Beatles. It was just wonderful!
We were all very happy and enthusiastic after the one-hour concert; we showed our appreciation and admiration for her masterful playing with heartfelt applause. The Rector, Rev. Rob Fisher also thanked her and invited us to a friendly reception. We had cheese, wine and chocolate cookies.
I would have loved to ask Ms. Keller more about the music and feelings about the new organ. However, so many others wanted to talk and thank her that suddenly it was time for her to have a bite to eat and drink before driving back to Palo Alto.
I walked home really glad to have enjoyed this lovely afternoon concert.