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Paul FISHER (b. 1943)
Bradford (2004) [10:41]
Three Fancies for Pedal and Left Hand: Your Feetís too big [2:10], Misty [3:10], A Yorkshire Christmas [3:24]
The Shadow of the Sun [7:13]
For Helen [5:42]
Wild Spirits [22:02]
Noel Nouvelet [6:57]
The Colours of Spirit [11:18]
Kevin Bowyer (organ)
Claudia Lashmore (flute) (The Shadow of the Sun, For Helen)
Rec. Blackburn Cathedral, Blackburn, England, 2-3 November 2004

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This album brings us two unique personalities: composer Paul Fisher, and organist Kevin Bowyer. Paul Fisher is a bright newcomer to the music scene, having only begun composing for organ in 1996. His music is very improvisational in nature, often taking the listener in unexpected directions. He uses the sounds of the organ well to weave great tapestries of musical color. Throughout the wandering phrases, Fisher, using various methods, weaves in familiar melodies that reveal themselves like the sun appearing from behind the clouds. Also relatively new to the organ, Fisher understands the instrument and its capabilities very well, writing music that sounds and feels very natural. One canít imagine a transcription of these works succeeding on any other instrument or group of instruments. The very first track, Bradford, sounds much like a talented organist improvising on a hymn tune, although with a harmonically complicated fugue developing on the simple theme. The end makes grand use of the entire tonal resources of the organ. The only criticism I feel this album deserves is in its titling. While the spirit of celebration exists in some of this music, much of it exceeds such a simple description. In fact, if I had obtained this CD expecting a full hour of sound of the organ most often thought of as celebratory, I would have been disappointed.

Standing alone here is a group of pieces titled "Three Fancies for Organ Pedal and Left Hand." Fancies is a good word for these three, short works, the longest being not even 3Ĺ minutes long. For these themes, Fisher chooses "Your feetís too big" in tribute to Fats Waller, the popular tune "Misty", and "On Ilkley Moor" the original tune to "While Shepherds Watched" for the third piece, titled "A Yorkshire Christmas". Thereís not much repertoire for any keyboard instrument utilizing only one hand, and composing within these limits must be challenging. Fisher succeeds in giving us three very interesting adaptations of these tunes.

Weíre also treated on this album to two works for flute and organ, again, sounding very improvisatory, but with the flute carrying a clear and familiar tune above the noise. The enigmatic work "For Helen", written in memory of a girl killed in an accident at the age of one, is beautiful and moving, and shows Fisherís talent for careful use of the softest stops in the organ. The final work on the CD, "The Colours of Spirit" also shows the composerís appreciation for the colorful, softer stops of the organ; stops that are frequently overlooked and overshadowed. Again, while beautiful in themselves, these tracks donít uphold the album title of "Sounds of Celebration".

Having said much about the composer, I feel thereís little to say about the organist. Kevin Bowyer is always a fantastic organist. Itís very hard to put him in a comparative light because there is little to compare him with. Few organists are willing to tackle as much new music as Bowyer does, while still retaining such a great knowledge of the classic repertoire. His playing is seamless and moving. A listener could easily believe that the organist himself is improvising these works. He gives them great expression and color, and does a wonderful job of bringing this unique music to life.

The organ at Blackburn Cathedral was an excellent venue for such a recording. This versatile English organ with its multitude of stops of full-foundation power, and its brilliant reeds allows both organist and composer many musical freedoms. The resonant space gives the organ room to breathe and allows the music to grow and fade just as intended. The recording engineers did a wonderful job of capturing the sound of the instrument and the room. The works for flute and organ find both instruments speaking clearly. This is a unique album of beautiful music. I highly recommend it for the true enthusiast of the sounds of organ music.

Brent Johnson

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