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 can’t 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 3½ minutes long. For these
themes, Fisher chooses "Your feet’s
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". There’s 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.
We’re 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 Fisher’s talent
for careful use of the softest stops
in the organ. The final work on the
CD, "The Colours of Spirit"
also shows the composer’s appreciation
for the colorful, softer stops of the
organ; stops that are frequently overlooked
and overshadowed. Again, while beautiful
in themselves, these tracks don’t uphold
the album title of "Sounds of Celebration".
Having said much about
the composer, I feel there’s little
to say about the organist. Kevin Bowyer
is always a fantastic organist. It’s
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.