Music review: Demers makes the most of church organ

Isabelle Demers plays organ with such zest that the music seemed to leap off the page Friday night a

Isabelle Demers plays organ with such zest that the music seemed to leap off the page Friday night at the United Methodist Church.

The concert was part of the Frobenius Concert Series.

Demers, who is Canadian and based in Montreal, has been making the rounds in the last three weeks with concerts that have stretched from Alabama to New Hampshire, and at each stop she’s had to play a different organ and different programs. But she was pleasantly surprised when she played the church’s beloved Frobenius organ as it exceeded all her expectations, she said at intermission.

She began with one of her favorites, Bach’s Prelude in E-flat Major. Her style was apparent immediately: forthright, bold, exuberant and even a bit impetuous. The work’s dotted rhythms were tight, the tempo was brisk, the finger and footwork were expert.

It was apparent as she spoke before playing each piece that her musical volubility was reflected in her gregarious personality. The excerpts were a mix of many colors, with sometimes strange harmonic progressions, sudden tonal shifts and various moods from puckish to solemn. Demers made the most of it all.

In Canadian composer Rachel Laurin’s five excerpts from “Twelve Short Pieces” Op. 43, Demers showed off another range of colors. The pieces were all rather sunny, often with bright carnival colors, or were cute or funky. Much of the work was in the treble, a feature that showed off the Frobenius’ pretty high stops, she said.

The first half closed with Bach’s Fugue in E-flat Major (“St. Anne”). Demers began slowly and quietly with the initial statements and then picked up the tempo and built the dynamic levels. Her fingerwork was very sure and she imbued the music with a fiery kind of anticipation to end the piece at glorious full volume.

A question and answer session followed intermission, with Demers fielding questions about her day job (“six or seven hours of practice”); if she liked the Frobenius (“it’s like a gentle, nice, pleasant friend”); and life on the road (“I’ll get home for Christmas”).

Raymond Daveluy’s variations on the French carol “Ca bergers, assemblons-nous” had diverse sentiments, many colors and showed off Demers’ flexibility. Georges Thalben-Ball’s Elegy, which was played at Princess Diana’s funeral, was sweet and evocative.

Demers’ own transcription of four excerpts from Prokofiev’s ballet “Cinderella” were a welcome change of flavor, and Widor’s Allegro from his sixth symphony was sheer drama with never a dull moment. In all these works, Demers was in top form, with strong pacing, musicality and a charismatic style.

Her encore was pure Demers: an excerpt from Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite” played with great flamboyance.

Categories: Entertainment, News

Leave a Reply