From Bach to the Future! Leading Organist Monte Maxwell and an Afternoon of Organ Favorites

Monte MaxwellHear the mighty, one-of-a-kind William J. Gillespie organ in all its acoustic wonder, when the U.S. Naval Academy’s Chapel organist and outstanding virtuoso Monte Maxwell performs an eclectic program of organ favorites so diverse it includes something for everyone. The renowned organist—who has played for diplomats and national leaders from around the world—travels to Pacific Symphony for the first time to showcase the organ’s stunning palette of sounds, often adding his own twist to classic arrangements. This matinee recital includes the best of organ music—from Wagner to Bach, Widor to Bizet, Vierne to Yon and far beyond! The concert, part of the Symphony’s Pedals and Pipes series, takes place Sunday, April 30, at 3 p.m. in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. Tickets are $10-$50. For more information or to purchase tickets call (714) 755-5799 or CLICK HERE.

The program includes works from Wagner operas, Fanfares from “Parsifal,” the composer’s final and most uncompromising opera, and his enchanting “To the Evening Star” from “Tannhäuser.” From there, the recital travels many directions including Bizet’s saucy Suite from “Carmen”; Bach’s harmonic “Fantasy and Fugue” in G Minor; Yon’s swift and playful “Humoresque L’organo Primitivo”; Widor’s gentle and best-known work, “Andante Cantabile” from Organ Symphony No. 4; Sousa’s rousing “Stars and Stripes Forever”; Maxwell’s “A Military Salute;” Russell’s dramatic musical picture, “The Bells of St. Anne de Beaupré” from “St. Lawrence Sketches,” featuring handbell ringers from the All-American Boys Chorus; Williams’ light-hearted “Major Something, Non Fat Latte!,”; plus, Vierne’s Finale from Symphonie No. 6, with it’s complex, large-scale score.

Monte Maxwell“This is a very eclectic program, indeed,” concedes Maxwell, who makes his Pacific Symphony debut. “After many years of performing for audiences, I have come to appreciate the fact that many different types of music speak to many different types of people. Everyone is coming from such a variety of backgrounds and musical exposure that I believe it’s important to offer a diverse and interesting program."

Organ music has at times been overshadowed by ignorance and gained a reputation of being melodramatic or boring, while in fact the organ has a very long and successful history; its repertoire spans a period of more than 400 years. Certainly Johann Sebastian Bach is the most famous composer for the organ, but there are many others from the same period in Germany as well as France, and there are modern composers writing for the organ today, such as British-born Carol Williams, whose work is featured on the Symphony’s concert. Many great composers over the centuries have contributed to a wealth of literature including Pachelbel, Bach, Handel, Mozart, Lizst, Reger, as well as Couperin, Franck, Vierne, Widor, Dupré, Langlais and Messiaen—to name some of the better known.

Monte Maxwell“As an organist,” Maxwell says, “I have witnessed too many programs that were seemingly too heavy and filled with one large work after another, so much that the listener’s ear becomes overwhelmed, and in the end, the overall experience loses musical and aural satisfaction. And, in recent years, attendance at many organ concerts has declined, and I believe it is in part due to a lack of thoughtful and creative programming. I hope that this audience will take away a melody in their ears and will have had a refreshing musical experience!”

As his two hands and two feet work rigorously across the keyboards, expression pedals and the full pedal board, expect to be stunned by this organ marvel as he sets about pulling and pushing stops and flipping couplers, delivering the might and majesty of the four-story high concert organ for all its worth. High trills, steady pedal tones, ascending and descending melodic riff, it’s a visual as well as an aural treat. Additionally, Maxwell will be making innumerable decisions on how to present each work, utilizing the full array of options of this particular organ, delivering a sound unique to Maxwell’s interpretations of the music and mechanics of the instrument.

“Obviously, all musicians have their personal favorite pieces to perform. I have many!” exclaims Maxwell. “I love the 19th-20th century French school of organ playing, so Widor and Vierne are personal composer favorites. I do enjoy transcriptions from other idioms as well; hence, the Sousa and Wagner works. I also really like to explore and try to utilize as many colors

of the organ as I can, which also drives me to play a variety of music and musical styles. I am looking forward to taking the resources of the instrument and offering a musical soufflé of sorts!"