Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Simon Leach Plays a Stunningly Modulated Organ Recital at St. Patrick’s Cathedral

It’s good to have the mostly-weekly series of organ concerts at St. Patrick’s Cathedral back again. It took a long time for the church to complete the renovations on the organ there, but in the couple of years leading up to the 2020 lockdown, there were some memorable concerts in that space. Yesterday’s performance, by Simon Leach, was a rewarding continuation of that tradition.

He opened by premiering The Call to Care for Creation, by his wife Helen Leach. It was a shapeshifting, dynamic, sometimes rippling, sometimes strikingly anthemic piece in the Romantic tradition, with a precise, triumphantly spiraling coda

Next he tackled Bach’s Pièce d’Orgue, BWV 572, rising quickly from a lilting, understated introduction to a literally imperceptible build into a resolute, similarly subtle yet powerful forward drive, a march arising from a single casual stroll. Leach continued with an unrelenting power and a sleekly turbulent, impeccably modulated conclusion.

Taken out of context, the Cantabile from Franck’s Trois Pièces pour Grand Orgue was an airy and persistently uneasy change of pace. Where Leach had pursued the preceding piece relentlessly, he pulled back on the reins and let the wistfully wafting, often bittersweet passages in this one speak for themselves.

He closed by launching with a bang into a stampeding take of Dupré’s Prelude & Fugue in B Major, from his Trois Préludes et Fugues, Op. 7. Rapidfire lefthand/righthand fugal moments quickly gave way to concise, brightly translucent chordal riffage, Just as he had done with the Bach, Leach found the piece’s internal swing and rode that with a sine-wave consistency and clarity, at least where the composer’s rhythm was steady. When it wasn’t, he parsed the dynamics for a mutedly cheery chorale before elevating to a clenched-teeth, stabbing intensity.

The next organ concert at St. Patrick’s is April 30 at 3:15 PM, with Clayton Roberts in the console playing works by Bach, Dupre, and David N. Johnson. Admission is free. The sonic sweet spot is in the center pews about three quarters of the way toward the back of the church, where you can watch on one of several video screens.

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April 24, 2023 Posted by | classical music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, organ music, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Ten Best Christmas Songs of Alltime

…heh heh heh…

 

10. Linda Draper – Merry Christmas

The New York acoustic rock siren is typically pensive and hardly festive here: play this one early Xmas morning, hungover. Merry Xmas, not.

 

9.  The Pretenders – 2000 Miles

A reader suggestion, thanks for this! The link is a nice live version on youtube.  

 

8. The Reducers – Nothing for Christmas

Bet these Connecticut mod punks never realized how prescient this snide holiday tune would turn out to be when they originally released it as a vinyl single in 1988. Still available on the excellent Reducers Redux compilation from 1991.

 

7. Stiff Little Fingers – White Christmas

The alltime best version – maybe the only good version – of the bestselling song of alltime, classic funny irreverent punk rock, 1978 style.

 

6. Ninth House – You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch

Back when they were an artsy, Joy Divisionesque band, the New York rockers used to have a great time with this one no matter what the time of year. Never officially released, although there are several excellent bootleg versions kicking around, particularly from Arlene Grocery circa 2000.

 

5.  Tom Waits – Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis

Spot-on. Words cannot describe. The youtube link above is a priceless live version.

 

4.  The Pogues – Fairytale of New York

Shane MacGowan and the late Kirsty MacColl play dysfunctional drunken couple, trading insults and invective in perfect holiday style. This link’s a live version too.

 

3. Amy Allison – Drinking Thru Xmas

If this song isn’t universal, you find one that is. “Twelve shots of liquor lined up on the bar/You’ve got all my money and the keys to the car.” It’s vintage Amy. Nice to see the song up on her myspace again.

 

2. Florence Dore – Christmas

Although first recorded by the Posies in the mid-90s, Dore wrote it, and it’s her version from her lone 2002 cd Perfect City that really provides the chills. Xmas may not be suicide season, but this one makes it seem like it is.

 

 

1. Olivier Messiaen – The Birth of Our Lord

As we’ve noted here before, this piece isn’t titled The Birth of Christ. The great composer always put his Catholicism front and center…but maybe he was working for the other team? Nothing but brooding and hellfire in this macabre multi-part suite. The link above is a youtube clip from one of its quieter sections.

December 16, 2008 Posted by | Music, snark | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments