Suite for Organ (2021)
Performance by Valerie Harris, on Berghaus opus 224 (electric stop action), at La Casa de Cristo Lutheran Church, Scottsdale, AZ
Performance by Valerie Harris, on Paul Fritts opus 12 (mechanical stop action), at ASU Organ Hall, Tempe, AZ
The fifth movement Fugue, performed by Huijuan Ling.
Suite for Organ is a musical commentary of the year 2020. It expresses loss, separation, remembrance, frustration, hope, and irony, all embedded in the baroque/classical forms of toccata, waltz, elegy, and galop. The theme of the second movement of Dvořák Ninth Symphony surfaces among the busy, exuberant running notes of the toccata, intertwined with another theme that is somewhat similar - American composer John P. Ordway’s Dreaming of Home and Mother. A popular song during the American Civil War era, it holds extra-musical meanings for people from Japan and China: Dreaming of Home and Mother later became Ryoshuu (literally "loneliness on a journey" in Japanese), and Song Bie (literally "farewell" in Chinese). To this day, they remain very well-known songs. The structure of the toccata is inspired by Zhu Ziqing’s essay Moonlight Over the Lotus Pond:
“Loudest are the cicadas in trees and the frogs in the water. The jollification belongs to them - there is nothing for me.”
The second movement is a dance of absurdity. Variations of the Dies Irae motif support the entire waltz. The organist’s breathing cycles control the tempo and rhythm of the third movement, and the instrument breathes with it - its stops are pushed and pulled gradually, coinciding with the organist’s inhalations and exhalations. The Chinese Elegy, a national funeral march adapted from a folk tune and popularized during the 1950s, serves as a musical vessel. After a series of struggles and beeps, it ends in a gasp. The fourth movement is a forcefully coordinated galop, a chaotic jubilee. The music intensifies with a Shepard tone effect towards the end, and a bright, loud, and grandiose chorale brings the suite to its denouement.
Suite for Organ was commissioned by the American Guild of Organists in 2020, and premiered by organist Valerie Harris.