Meditations with Organ
What better way to start off a New Year than with an afternoon of inspiring organ music? As part of the Organ Concert Series at St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church (Carmel, CA), organist Jonathan Dimmock presented La Nativitédu Seigneur by Olivier Messiaen. Heard on Monday, January 7, 2019 the Dobson Opus 94 organ was heard in a fine example of French music of the mid-twentieth century.
Subtitled Nine Meditations for organ, Messiaen’s work is his expression of feelings and beliefs. The music lasts for just over 1 hour and is Messiaen’s way of telling the story so familiar at Christmas. He employs cluster chords, polytonality, polyrhythm, and the many colors of organ registrations. It can serve as a fine introduction to this era of French compositions. This is no toe-tapping, hand-clapping dance through a set. This is music to contemplate. Music to experience.
The organ, as an instrument, is rather large; not portable by any means. The performer must bring the composition alive with what is installed in the building. The music will sound different on each unique instrument. For this concert, Jonathan Dimmock used every bit of the Dobson to fill the church. His study with Messiaen and the artistry of Jonathan Dimmock brought the music alive. The variety of timbres at the wide dynamic and pitch ranges were thrilling. He created lines with articulation, dynamic differences with stop selection and swell shutters, and evoked chants and birds all with 18 ranks. Even though this is not considered a large instrument, Jonathan Dimmock expressed Messiaen’s music with wonderful detail and diversity.
In his opening welcome, Rob Fisher, rector of St. Dunstan’s, talked of how listening to music in a group is a transformative experience. The small country church was comfortably filled with an attentive, appreciative audience. One of Jonathan Dimmock’s projects is to use live music to transform conflict and find common ground. This happened on that Monday afternoon. Through Messiaen’s composition of Dimmock’s artistry, we glimpsed through the thin veil that which is difficult to express in words.
I look forward to hearing more from the Dobson organ, Jonathan Dimmock, and more of Messiaen’s compositions. Each experience will be unique. This concert was a wonderful time to mull over music, to set aside differences, and to explore the world. It was a pleasure to experience a bit of French music in Carmel.