reviewBY LEAH HARRISONSpecial to The Post and Courier
WHAT: Last recital, featuring Yun Kyong KimWHEN: 10 a.m. todayWHERE: St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church, 405 King St.Cost: Free
On Thursday morning, St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church hosted the penultimate concert in Piccolo Spoleto’s L’Organo concert series. David Runner and Carlene Eastridge performed organ duets on the 1967 instrument, providing an eclectic sampling of musical styles written for the beastly pipes and manuals.
The two performers, hailing from Tennessee, opened with John Rutter’s “Variations on an Easter Theme.” The 16th-century tune “O Filii et Filiae” was published in Paris, and its 20th-century variations range from that of contemporary ornamentation to jazz and blues influence.
The church organ provides a difficult challenge in relating the angst and melancholy central to the blues; notes don’t bend easily and syncopation lacks swagger.
This may not have been the fault of the performers though, as Rutter’s music often incorporates cheap sounds, usually coming up lame.
The syncopation in “Max Cat Rag” was more successful. This circus-worthy rag featured one of many feet-only sections, Eastridge’s feet moving in characteristic parallel thirds. The piece was fun and jaunty for everyone, not least of all Eastridge and Runner.
Sticking with the fun and simple melodies, the duo played Borroff’s “An American Olio,” a piece featuring American folk tunes like “Pop Goes the Weasel,” “Oh Susannah,” and “Daisy Bell.”
The melodies were accompanied in a different key, creating a tonal clash. This compositional method was common to Charles Ives, who brought polytonality to the attention of the American classical community. Runner and Eastridge played with commitment and cheek, and the audience giggled throughout.
Most likely to be heard in a church service was “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty,” Michael Burkhardt’s five-part offering on the popular German tune used by J.S. Bach. Part Two was a canon, both performers appropriately articulating heavily, like with any counterpoint.
The Siciliano, Part Four, was docile and sweet, and the brilliant Carillon showed off Runner’s sparkling technique over Eastridge’s bass melody. This final movement contains the grandeur for Easter morning.
Kenneth Leighton’s “Martyrs” was the most difficult to hear, featuring octatonic and modal harmonies. Written for the Organ Club of Great Britain on its Golden Jubilee, this tedious, dirge-like piece hardly seems appropriate for an anniversary, or celebration of any kind.
A somewhat stiff, dissonant and rhythmically challenging piece, it would have benefited from more forward motion.
In a grand finale, Runner and Eastridge played an arrangement of Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries.”
On an instrument equipped to represent the sounds of an orchestra, the glistening wind parts were played on treble manuals while the bass melody found its voice in the pedals.
Ending a concert that exposed the organ’s range of abilities, this bold favorite brought audience members to their feet.
Leah Harrison is a Goldring Arts Journalist from Syracuse University.