Each Friday at Noon St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Salinas, CA, opens its doors to the community at large. The organ is featured in these short concerts. There is no admission charge, but donations are accepted to help maintain the organ and support visiting organists. The organ, Opus 1243, was built by Aeolian Skinner and installed in 1951. It has served the congregation well each Sunday and Feast Day, assisted in community celebrations like weddings and funerals, and entertained and enlightened music lovers. Area organist, Dr. Steve Denmark, usually brings the pipes to life. He enjoys inviting other musicians to play. Last Friday, July 19, 2019, we were treated to an extended recital by returning organist Ethan Haman. When last we heard him play, he was just starting out on his post-Secondary education. I remember hearing that he feels the organ is, “a magnificent instrument” and he “wants to help a new generation see that it is for anything you can play, whether Chinese pop songs or American marches.”
As is the custom for these offerings, Ethan chose a variety of music to demonstrate the organ. He began with Toccata Settima by Michelangelo Rossi. This 17thcentury work was unfamiliar to me listener and sparked my interest in hearing more from this composer. Next, the young organist turned to Johann Sebastian Bach. He played for us Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, BWV 147 as arranged by Harvey Grace, and Praeludium et Fuga in D, BWV 532. His clear pedal technique and registration choice was very appropriate for the building. Ethan then took us to France by playing Cantabile by Cesar Franck and the Allegro from Symphonie No. 6 by Charles-Marie Widor. It was pleasantly obvious that Mr. Haman has studied these composers during his summers in France. We were treated next to an original composition titled Toccata on Hyfrydol based on the hymn tune of that name. To close, our presenter took requests from the audience for themes he then used to improvise a medley. Called out from the pews were suggestions of Theme from Phantom of the Opera; any Spiritual (Ethan chose Deep River); Tune from Thomas Tallis; Amazing Grace; and Lobe den Herren (chorale melody). These breaks in the Friday work-day are a great way to hear the organ and unique organ music.
Thank you, Ethan, for pausing in your busy schedule to bring music to us. We wish you congratulations for finishing your Bachelor of Music and on your honor as a Presidential and Discovery Scholar from the USC Thornton School of Music. That you played a short concert as part of the West Region American Guild of Organists 2019 Convention and will be playing as a substitute organist in the San Francisco and Monterey Bay areas is good news for us. We look forward to following your rising star in the organ world as you continue studies at Yale Sacred School of Music this fall. Please, reader, consider joining us as we listen each Noon on Fridays at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Pajaro St. in Salinas, CA.