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Bask In The Splendor Of The Holidays When Leading Organist Todd Wilson Joins Pacific Symphony Musicians For A Festive Evening Showcasing The Majestic William J. Gillespie Organ
Orange County, Calif. — November 14, 2017
Celebrate the season with the king of instruments! Bringing joy to the world is premier organist Todd Wilson, who returns to Pacific Symphony for a heart-warming night of holiday music featuring the resplendent William J. Gillespie Concert Organ. For this year’s annual endeavor, “Holiday Organ Spectacular,” the color, beauty and versatility of the organ, performed by Wilson, unites with Symphony musicians—Ben Smolen, flute; Elliott Moreau, bassoon; Barry Perkins, trumpet; Mindy Ball, harp; Robert Slack, percussion; and Timothy Landauer, cello—to spotlight a stirring mix of classical and popular Christmas carols. The thrilling sonorities of the pipe organ, along with superb instrumentalists playing a wide variety of holiday music, makes this a festive holiday event for listeners of all ages.
This concert, which launches the 2017-18 Pedals and Pipes series, takes place Tuesday, Dec. 19, at 7:30 p.m., in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. Tickets range from $15-$75; subscriptions for the three-concert series are $35-$155. For more information or to purchase tickets, call (714) 755-5799 or visit www.PacificSymphony.org.
“We’ve planned an exciting and colorful program for this year, including thrilling solo organ pieces and a range of holiday favorites for organ, trumpet, harp, violin, cello, flute, marimba and saxophone!” says Wilson, curator of the E.M. Skinner pipe organ at Severance Hall in Cleveland. “We’re fortunate to have a gifted arranger in Steve Mahpar, who has created gorgeous arrangements for us over the past several years, with new tunes being added every concert. The balance of annual favorites and fresh new songs, combined with the range of talented performers makes this a truly unique holiday program. I don’t know of anything else quite like it anywhere.”
The highly varied musical menu for this year’s concert features beloved Christmas tunes—both well-known and some less familiar—all embodying good cheer and reverence. The program opens with Toccata on “Antioch” from “Joy to the World: Three Preludes for Christmas,” and continues with “The First Noel,” “Sussex Carol” and “Villancico Yaucano,” a Christmas lullaby by Puerto Rican composer Amaury Veray. Concluding the first half are Pastoral on “Forest Green,” Variations on “Adeste Fideles” (better known in English as “Come All Ye Faithful”), “Let it Snow” and the triumphant Hallelujah Chorus from “Messiah.”
“The color, power and tonal beauty of the William J. Gillespie Concert Organ make it the perfect instrument to express the joy and varied emotions of the holiday season,” says Wilson. “In the years that we’ve been doing ‘Holiday Organ Spectacular,’ we’ve built up a large repertoire for organ with other instruments, and we keep expanding it. Fresh items this year include music for organ and marimba, a brand-new arrangement of a Puerto Rican carol for trumpet, cello, harp and organ, and an exciting solo organ piece.”
The myriad musical splendors continue during the second half when toccata from Widor’s “Symphony No. 5” leads the way for “Digression and Dialogue,” “I saw Three Ships,” “The Christmas Song,” “O Holy Night,” “Sleigh Ride” and “Little Drummer Boy,” as well as an opportunity for the audience to sing along during two of the most beloved holiday classics of all: “Silent Night” and “Joy to the World.”
“This pipe organ’s musical personality makes it the ideal instrument for expressing the emotions of the holiday season,” says Wilson, “whether it be the meditative beauty of ‘Silent Night’ or the extroverted happiness of ‘Joy to the World.’ ”
For the concert, Wilson performs on the stunning $3.1 million, 30-ton, four-stories tall, one-of-a-kind and three-years-in-the-making William J. Gillespie Concert Organ, which was designed especially for the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. Built from steel, tin, oak, poplar, maple, cast lead and carbon fiber, the instrument was shipped in pieces from Massachusetts to Southern California in July 2007 and assembled inside the hall. Today it is a visual focal point that rises high above the stage. The organ took 42,000 man-hours of direct labor to build.
“This instrument is unequalled in playing solo literature, is a superbly flexible accompanist for other instruments, and an authoritative leader for our massed audience sing-along,” states Wilson. “It’s a privilege to return year after year; there are always new possibilities to be discovered in this amazing pipe organ, which is also a perfect partner for making music with other instruments. It’s one of my favorite pipe organs to play—all the more so in the excellent acoustics of the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. It’s an absolute joy to make music with musicians from Pacific Symphony, and these annual programs feel somewhat like a musical family reunion each December.”
As a boy, Wilson was fascinated with all the buttons, knobs and gizmos on an organ, and soon after he started to “fall in love with the almost limitless array of tone colors produced by the pipe organ—it is second only to a symphony orchestra in the range of color and dynamic possibilities,” he says. “In my youth, I sang in an English-style choir of men and boys. Our Christmas Eve service was broadcast live (a big deal in those days), and I still recall the adrenaline rush of singing with a great pipe organ under the glare of television lights. Our annual ‘Holiday Organ Spectacular’ concerts have now become a part of my holiday memories.”
Today, Wilson is acclaimed internationally for his virtuosity. In addition to his duties at Severance Hall, he is head of the organ department at The Cleveland Institute of Music and director of music and worship at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Cleveland. He also serves as house organist for the Aeolian organ at the Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens in Akron, Ohio. He has performed in major cities throughout the United States, Europe and Japan. Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer calls Wilson “a fabulous virtuoso with fleet feet, a prodigious memory and technique to burn.”
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