Zach Hemenway, music director of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Chestnut Hill, presented the annual Ann Stookey Memorial Organ Recital Sunday afternoon, January 26, on the church's magnificent Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ.
The performance focused a spotlight on the $250,000 matching grant Stookey's family established shortly after her death in 2012, creating the Ann Stookey Fund for Music at St. Paul's Church.
The fund's purpose is to raise sufficient money to maintain the 110-rank instrument, whose replacement value is set at $3 million and whose tuning costs $1,100 three times a year.
Stookey was a member of St. Paul's Church
and its choir, and she
had a particular fondness for and appreciation of the church's pipe organ.
program to showcase the instrument's incredible range by assembling a roster of music dating back to the late 16th century and reaching up to contemporary times, and covering may different national styles of writing for the organ.
opened the program with Cesar Franck's "Piece Heroique," a darkly chromatic score that proffered the opportunity to show off the instrument's symphonic potency as well as its chamber music intimacy.
followed the Franck with three selections from the "Suzanne van Soldt Manuscript" of late 16th century Dutch keyboard music, using only the stops of the original 1956 organ, flawlessly calibrated for the music's gentle counterpoint.
Still relying on only the 1956 stops, Hemenway
then played Jean Alain's Variations on a Theme by Clement Janequin, adding on more and more tart registrations.
Moving into the 1989 additions, Hemenway
then played the Praeludium in E minor of Nicolaus Bruhns, a northern German baroque composer and predecessor of Johann Sebastian Bach.
chose lush registrations that caressed the ear.
Two stunning pieces by Marcel Dupre brought the recital to a scintillating close, reminding the large and enthusiastic audience of the superb qualities of St. Paul's organ and establishing Zach Hemenway
as very possibly Greater Philadelphia's premier church organist.