1867 Sanctuary at Ewing
Preservation New Jersey • 1867 Sanctuary at Ewing • PO Box 7815• West Trenton, NJ 08628
Physical address: 101 Scotch Road, Ewing, NJ 08628 Map and Directions

Grand Opening Festival

Classical Music Series:
Philip Fillion, Organist, in Recital
on the Newly Refurbished
Pipe Organ
of the 1867 Sanctuary
Philip Fillion

Friday, July 22, 2016, 8:00 pm
at the 1867 Sanctuary at Ewing

Philip Fillion (b. 1993) is pursuing a master's degree in sacred music and organ at Westminster Choir College, in the studio of Daryl Robinson. He accompanies Westminster's early-music choir Kantorei, who will perform in England and France in summer 2016, including in the cathedrals at Chartres and Ely, at La Madeleine and St.-Louis-en-Île, Paris, and in England at Eton College and St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle. Most recently, his church positions have included serving as interim organist of the Cathedral Basilica of Ss. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia, and as interim organist and choirmaster at Grace Church, Newark, where he directed both the professional and volunteer choral ensembles responsible for singing Gregorian chant and polyphony at the weekly High Mass. In 2015, Fillion earned a BMus. in organ performance at Wheaton College (Ill.), where he studied organ, improvisation, and harpsichord with Edward Zimmerman, John George, and David Christiansen. A native of Rochester, N.Y., in high school he studied organ with Stephen Kennedy and counterpoint with Margaret Henry at the Eastman Community Music School. Fillion lives with his wife Melody and two cats in Princeton, N.J.

The one hour concert program currently includes the following:
1. Prelude and Fugue in E, BWV 566 – J.S. Bach (1685-1750)

The Prelude and Fugue in E, also known as the Toccata and Fugue in E, is one of Bach's early works, composed in 1708. I am fond of this piece because Bach wrote it when he was my age, and it shows exactly how young students ought to apply their learning. You may recall that Bach's teachers and predecessors followed an older North German form in the compositions they called præludia: they strung together short sections of music, each with a different texture and theme. And so here in BWV 566, Bach follows suit and writes a traditional five-sectioned piece, but ends up expanding it in a foreshadowing of his mature style. We begin with the prelude – opening with a dramatic flourish, then establishing the tonal center for all that follows. Then there is a very strict fugue, demonstrating his disciplined mastery of the art of counterpoint, followed by a page of flashy runs, showing off his personality and just how fast he could really play. The fifth and final section is most unique, opening with a fugue that this time is a dance, but suddenly breaks free to imitate a chorale, and then a violin concerto! A pedal solo, hearkening back to the opening flourish, leads into perhaps the most joyful concluding cadence in the organ repertory.

2. Sonata in C, Op. 65, No. 2 – Felix Mendelssohn (1809-47)

Mendelssohn was highly regarded as an organist during his lifetime, and he is largely responsible for the fact that any of us know who Bach is today. He was the first to perform Bach's organ music in England, to demand that English organbuilders add pedals to their organs so that they could play Bach, and to edit much of Bach's music so that it could finally be published. This is the second of his six sonatas, published in 1845. It is in four sections, covering nearly the entire range of human emotions: the Grave is a solemn introduction, establishing the key and a sense of somber introspection bordering on despair. The Adagio is one long and beautiful melody, running throughout the range of the keyboard, with the same lyricism and expression characteristic of his Songs Without Words. The clouds part and the heavens open with the glorious shift to C Major in the Allegro, which, he asks, to be played both maestoso – majestically – and vivace – with life! The sonata closes with a fugue, in which he shows off all he has learned from studying Bach, and what a virtuoso organist he was.

3. Biblical Sonata: The Combat of David and Goliath – Johann Kuhnau (1660-1722)

Johann Kuhnau was Bach's predecessor at St. Thomas's Church, Leipzig, where Bach spent the last twenty-seven years of his life. He composed six of these “Biblical Sonatas,” each of which portrays a story from the Old Testament in musical rhetoric. In the program, you will find the titles of the eight movements, which follow the biblical narrative in order. In registering this piece, I have tried to use as many colors of the organ as possible, to bring out the humorous and touching moments in the score, for example, in the second movement, where the Israelites are shaking in terror when they see the giant, Kuhnau has them singing the German version of Psalm 130, De profundis: “Out of the depths I cry to you; O Father, hear me calling.” In answer, God sends David, a country shepherd, dancing with youthful energy and hope. The battle begins in the fourth movement: listen for the moment when David winds up his slingshot and takes the shot, and Goliath falls to the ground. Once the Philistines have been chased away (movement 5), we have back-to-back celebrations for the hero: Israel's army rejoicing over the victory (#6), a Concerto Musico given by the ladies to honor David (#7), and the dancing and rejoicing by the whole nation (#8).

4. Sonata in d minor, op. 148 – J. G. Rheinberger (1839-1901)

The first two movements of Rheinberger's eleventh sonata. He lived in Munich, where he was the director of music at the royal chapel. He worked for the reintroduction of Gregorian chant into Germany's churches, and, motivated by his piety, composed twelve masses, a Requiem, a Stabat Mater, and several motets. His twenty organ sonatas were regarded in his time as the most valuable addition to organ music since the time of Mendelssohn. They are characterized by a holistic blending of the modern Romantic spirit with masterly counterpoint and dignified organ style. The first movement, marked Agitato, shows the influence of Wagnerian harmony and orchestration, as nearly every voice of the organ is heard from pianissimo to fortissimo, while the melody and bass of the second movement, the Cantilene, could have been composed by Bach himself, but they are colored by harmonies that are both tender and stirring, without being overly sentimental.

5. Elegy in B-flat, George Thalben-Ball (1896-1987)

George Thalben-Ball was the organist of the Temple Church, London, for nearly sixty years, yet led a life full of achievements, including playing the piano for the English premier of Rachmaninoff's Third Piano Concerto in 1915, and being the second classical artist (following only Van Cliburn) to have a million-selling record, in 1962. This Elegy was originally an improvisation of his, added to fill time at the end of a BBC religious broadcast. The studio received so many calls asking just what piece had been played, that he decided to write it down as best as he could remember. It has remained popular since then, even being performed at the funeral of Princess Diana, and makes a lovely conclusion to a summer evening.

An archive of the video stream of the concert, provided by Philip Fillion, is below.

Return to Grand Opening Festival Calendar

July 22, 2016

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