Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Dr. Joanna Elliott Plays the Organ at St. Thomas Church, NYC 4/27/08

Yet another attempt on the part of Lucid Culture to encourage adventurous listeners to investigate the fascinating, emotionally rewarding subculture of pipe organ music and the world-class performers who come through New York to play it. Not for the faint of heart. Then again, nothing you’ll find here ever is.

Galveston, Texas organist Joanna Elliott is a highly respected talent in the fanatical organ music demimonde, a student of Marie-Claire Alain and Joyce Jones, also adept at the concert harp. Tonight was a riveting, spectacular performance, even more than one would expect from a musician with the subtle sense of touch that comes from playing the harp. She opened with the famous Bach Toccata and Fugue in F Major (BWV 540), which begins all happy and upbeat before the demons start to filter in during its second part, the fugue. Literally pulling out all the stops, she managed to get the newer organ here, the smaller of the two, to sing. There was a triumphant sway in her playing, imbuing the piece with special optimism while remaining true to Bach’s clockwork rhythm.

Switching to the big, beautiful main organ here, she pulled out all the stops again for Marcel Dupre’s Prelude and Fugue in B Major, Op. 7. Dupre is one of the great exponents of French romanticism: his Stations of the Cross is one of the standard works in the organ repertoire and quite the showstopper, as was the piece Elliott had selected for tonight. Ablaze with purpose, melodies spinning from the pedals, it’s a hard piece to play and Elliott’s interpretation was both passionate and seemingly effortless.

Next on the bill was a duo of Louis Vierne compositions, Clair de Lune and the Toccata from his 24 Fantasy Pieces. The first is all quiet, eerie ambience, atmospheric sheets of ominous sound: Vierne’s moon here is completely phantasmagorical. The Toccata, by contrast, is all fire and brimstone, yet imbued with the same macabre feel, and Elliott sprinted through it as if someone was chasing her. And the unusual pace actually enhanced Vierne’s dark ambience, making it an apt counterpart to what had just preceded it. She closed with long-tenured Notre Dame organist Maurice Durufle’s famous Chorale on the theme of the hymn Veni Creator (Op. 4), another big warhorse, a suite whose brief, opening parts foreshadow absolutely nothing of the fireworks to come. Elliott set them off with unabashed joy, all the way through to the wall-rattling crescendo at the end.

April 27, 2008 Posted by | classical music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Concert Review: Melomane at Union Hall, Brooklyn NY 4/25/08

While Lucid Culture takes pride in spreading the word about the best under-the-radar happenings around town, it’s always fun to revisit the A-list, to catch a show by one of New York’s most exciting, popular acts. Tonight’s show strikingly reaffirmed what a great band Melomane is, not just one of the best in New York, but in the entire world. And also a reminder of how much fun and visually entertaining their live show is, with everyone trading off licks, throwing in silly quotes from pop songs, orchestrating a little mayhem into their impeccably crafted tunes. And tonight they did it mostly with songs about the end of the world. The only bad thing about this show was that it ended: they called it a night after fifty minutes onstage, perhaps because their sizzling new three-piece horn section doesn’t know any more songs.

Forget the Melomane you might have known when they first started out, the artsy, Mediterranean-inflected, somewhat Roxy Music-ish pop band they were around the turn of the century. This band is a whole lot darker, a LOT louder, more powerful than ever. They hit the ground running with the title track from their second album Solresol, a scorching, fast minor-key anthem that takes flight on one of frontman Pierre de Gaillande’s signature eerie guitar hooks, anchored by multi-instrumentalist Quentin Jennings’ ominous organ. Then they took a lengthy excursion through Gaillande’s ongoing “disaster song cycle,” including new songs about apocalypse by never-ending solar eclipse, flood, volcanic eruption, collision with an asteroid and more. The volcano song, Vesuvius was a gleefully morbid, cabaret-inflected number. Their sky-is-falling song caught the audience completely off-guard with two dramatic, false endings to its incongruously Stonesy boogie blues outro, capped by a dark minor chord that rang out majestically at the end. Two more of the end-of-the-world songs were blackly humorous, slow 6/8 numbers. In the country band that shares with her husband Jack, bassist Daria Grace is all about the swing and the sway: in this unit, she gets to play a lot of melody, including one gripping, soaring solo, a lot of slides and chords for extra impact. The horn section, whose name is still up in the air – the Brassholes? The Brass-ieres? The band can’t decide – gave the crescendos extra fire and bite. They also played what was ironically the first song Paris-born Gaillande ever wrote in French – an amusing tune about the relationship between a cigarette and a match – bouncing along on Grace’s Motown bassline. They closed with the weird, multi-part, Skyhooks soundalike This Is Skyhorse from their most recent and best album, Glaciers, one of our picks for ten best albums of 2007. Melomane plays June 13 at BAM Café: if you like sweepingly orchestrated art-rock, or just plain good fun, you would be crazy to miss this show.

April 27, 2008 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment