WEST HARTFORD — On Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, at 12:30 p.m., Music at the Red Door will present a solo recital by organist Kari Miller, according to an email from organizers. The concert continues this season’s Pipes Alive! series of organ recitals given by regional artists performing on the celebrated Austin pipe organ at St. John’s Episcopal Church in West Hartford. The free concert will be live streamed only, and may be viewed via St. John’s YouTube channel and on St. John’s Facebook page.
Miller’s program embraces music by organist-composers from five centuries, beginning with the “Toccata and Fugue in E Major,” BWV 566 by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750).
“This program speaks to where we are as we turn to a New Year,” said Miller. “Bach’s ‘Toccata and Fugue,’ written when he was just 20-years-old, is a young and fresh work that isn’t played as often as many of his other preludes and fugues. And it’s always good to start the New Year with Bach.”
The program continues with the meditative Soliloquy on “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child” by Dennis Janzer (b. 1954); the chorale “Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan” (“What God Ordains Is Always Good”) in a setting by Johann Peter Kellner (1705-1772); and closes with “L’Ange a la trompette” by Jacques Charpentier (1933-2017).
“The New Year, of course, offers an opportunity to look back on the old year even as we anticipate what lies ahead,” Miller continued. “With that in mind, the remaining selections could be considered as three very different perspectives on the pandemic experience, which defined 2020 and looms large in the coming year. Certainly, there has been overwhelming sorrow and loss (“Motherless Child”) but also calm acceptance of reality (“Was Gott tut”) even if we sometimes feel that the whole world is going crazy (“L’Ange a la trompette”).
During the 2020-2021 season, Music at the Red Door is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the installation of the renowned pipe organ at St. John’s, built by Hartford-based Austin Organs.
“The marvelous pipe organ at St John’s, which was built by Hartford-based Austin Organs, serves not only the church and its congregation, but the whole community,” said Scott Lamlein, who is director of music and organist for St. John’s and artistic director of the Music at the Red Door concert series. “Through this celebratory season, we invite everyone to experience the amazing sonic experience of a pipe organ in live performance.”
The organ, known as Austin’s Opus 2761, resounds with 51 stops, 64 ranks, and 3,721 pipes. Since its installation in 1995, this renowned instrument has been featured often in concerts and recitals, providing opportunities to share with the greater community the beauty and triumph of organ music.
“The pipe organ at St John’s is remarkably versatile in its range of color and sonic power,” said Lamlein. “Our year-long celebration of this instrument will include solo recitals by several fine organists from across the region. We’ve expanded the popular Pipes Alive! recital series to seven concerts this season, and we are especially thrilled that David Hurd, one of the most highly-respected of American organists, will offer a full-length solo recital on March 6.”
Inaugurated in 2015, the Pipes Alive! organ recitals are given at 12:30 p.m. on the first Sunday of selected months, drawing enthusiastic audiences to hear the region’s finest organists play on one of the most versatile pipe organs in the area. Performers on the 2020-2021 series include Kari Miller (Jan. 3), Scott Lamlein (Feb. 7), Carolyn Craig (March 7), Edward Clark (May 2), and Sean McCarthy (June 6).
Each year, Music at the Red Door presents a wide array of musical and cultural events, including celebrity organ recitals and the Pipes Alive! organ series; choral and chamber music concerts; guest choirs and ensembles; and special events such as the annual Lessons and Carols service and in most years a major choral concert, Choral Music for the Soul.
After the coronavirus pandemic closed down concert venues in March, Music at the Red Door launched a new online music series, with more than a dozen weekly “pop-up” recitals featuring local and regional musicians. These informal recitals have attracted a wide viewership and raised much-needed donations for local agencies serving the homeless and hungry, who have been especially affected by the pandemic.
The full 2020-2021 season continues online. Each of the twenty or so concerts in the upcoming season will be livestreamed; as soon as it is safe to do so, the series will also welcome in-person listeners back to the spacious, acoustically vibrant sanctuary at St. John’s.
“Since we are not able to welcome music-lovers to the beautiful St. John’s building for live concerts during this time of social isolation, we invite everyone to join us online,” said Lamlein. “We are hopeful that later in the season, we will be able to invite a live audience back to St. John’s, with all precautions are in place for a safe experience. In any case, we will continue to live stream all events for the entire season.”
Admission is free to all events presented by Music at the Red Door; free-will donations in any amount are accepted.
The 2020-2021 Pipes Alive! series presents a 30-minute organ recital at 12:30 p.m. on the first Sunday of most months through June.