Organists Rebecca Davy and JanEl Will play recently composed music on the 2019 Dobson organ, op. 96 of 46 ranks on three manuals and pedal, at Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg, Virginia, where Davy is Director of Music and Will is Organist. The 12-page booklet contains notes on the music and extensive notes on the organ and organ history of the church written by John Panning, Vice President and Tonal Director of the Dobson firm.
Works on the CD (*commissioned for the new organ):
Craig Phillips: Archangel Suite
JanEl Will, organist
Aaron David Miller: Suite Nederlandish for Bassoon and Organ
Suzanne Daniel, bassoonist
Rebecca Davy, organist
Carson Cooman: Concerto per organo*
Rebecca Davy, organist
Gwyneth Walker: Sanctuary
All Nature Sings
A Refuge, Peace
JanEl Will, organist
Dan Locklair: Holy Seasons (Four Tone Poems for Organ)*
The Call of Advent
Christmas Lullaby & Pastorale
An Aria for Lent
Rebecca Davy, organist
Bruton Parish Church is very old by USA standards, being located in Williamsburg just 2.5 miles from the first permanent English colony in the Americas, established in 1607 at Jamestown, Virginia. Williamsburg became the capital of Virginia in 1699 and served until 1780. Bruton Parish was founded in 1674 and the current church building was erected in 1715. The first pipe organ in the church was imported from England in 1755 (built by an unknown maker). Subsequent organs were built by Henry Erben (1835), Pomplitz & Rodewald (1856), Hutchings-Votey (ca. 1900), Aeolian-Skinner (1937 2m 13 ranks, 1939 3m 37 ranks), E. M. Skinner (1942 changes), Aeolian-Skinner (1953 4m 80 ranks, 1964 81 ranks), Kinzey-Angerstein (1977 changes and additions), Létourneau (1995 105 ranks).
Notes on the Music
by Rebecca Davy
This recording celebrates the new organ built for Bruton Parish Church, Williamsburg, Virginia, by Dobson Pipe Organ Builders of Lake City, Iowa, and dedicated in 2019 in concerts featuring some of the music recorded here.
Archangel Suite by Craig Phillips was commissioned to be part of the inaugural concerts for Taylor and Boody Organbuilders’ Op. 64 at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Bon Air, Virginia, suburb of Richmond. Bruce Neswick premiered the suite on October 9, 2011, as part of a hymn festival which included a new hymn text, “Hymn for the Angels,” by Angier Brock. Each of the four movements of the suite depicts one of the traditional archangels: Michael, Gabriel, Raphael and Uriel.
Michael, who is first mentioned in the Book of Daniel and again in the Epistle of Jude and the Book of Revelation, is usually depicted as a protector against evil. Phillips quotes Revelation 12:7: “…there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon.” The use of reeds and rising rhythmic figures paints this battling messenger of God.
While the Hebrew Scriptures and the Quran present Gabriel in various roles, Christian Gospels present Gabriel as the Messenger of God in foretelling the births of John the Baptist and of Jesus. Continuously flowing patterns on flute stops over a sustained pedal solo create a tender, soulful movement.
Raphael in Hebrew means “one who heals.” He is mentioned only in the Book of Tobit which is included in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Bibles but not in the Protestant Bible. Raphael is known in Islam and in the LDS Church. Phillips composed this movement for strings with varied solo stops in the right hand and pedal. The mood is appropriately calm and contemplative.
Although mentioned only in apocryphal scriptures, Uriel has held a place as the Archangel of Light, which is what his Hebrew name means. This movement calls for full organ and maintains fiery, nearly constant, 16th-note patterns, bringing the suite to a brilliant, toccata-like close.
Suite Nederlandish for bassoon and organ was composed by Aaron David Miller in 2018. It was commissioned by Paul S. Hesselink of Las Vegas (formerly of Farmville, Virginia) for the 50th anniversary of the Southern Nevada Chapter of the American Guild of Organists. Each of the three movements uses a Dutch hymn tune.
The first is based on the familiar tune Kremser, usually sung at Thanksgiving to the text, “We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing.” The bassoon carries a beautifully ornamented version of the melody over a sparkling organ accompaniment with some of its motives also derived from the tune.
The basis for the gentle second movement is In Babilone, a hymn tune associated with a number of texts. Again, the bassoon carries the melody which is varied rhythmically, melodically and even harmonically, while the organ accompaniment begins with a rocking motive before launching its own countermelody.
Vreuchten, associated with the Easter text, “This joyful Eastertide,” completes the triptych. While the bassoon retains command over the melody, in this final movement Miller develops the melody beyond ornamentation and creates a jaunty, festive setting of this familiar Easter tune. Rhythmic energy and motivic variation in each of the movements creates a fresh setting of familiar hymns and offers repertory for an instrument combination that is in short supply.
Carson Cooman composed Concerto per organo (2019) for Rebecca Davy and Bruton Parish in celebration of its new Dobson Pipe Organ. In the published work’s introduction, Cooman writes that, “the style of this work pays homage to aspects of the neo-baroque style that flourished in Europe (especially Germany) in the early-to-mid 20th century. A ‘look back’ to a certain kind of artistic classicism… seemed very appropriate, given the historic nature of Bruton Parish. Concerto per organo is not intended as a style pastiche; it is a work written by an American in the early 21st century.” While hearkening back to concepts of other eras, the Concerto is stylistically Cooman’s own.
The five movements are varied in the manner of a concerto, from which the work takes its name. Bold, rhythmic movements flank the piece, capturing the listener’s attention in the opening Praeludium and bringing the work to a satisfying, energetic close in the final Toccata. In complete contrast, the Canzone second movement features a singing melody over a pulsing ostinato in the left hand. The internal, aptly named Intermezzo movement is composed with a recurring, varied melodic motive that offers a sense of steady calm. Exercitium, the fourth movement, alternates between harmonically daring pedal solos and tranquil passages for the manuals only, sounding like an unconventional, but skillful improvisation. The varied styles allow for creative registrations that display a variety of possible tonal colors on the organ.
Sanctuary by Gwyneth Walker was commissioned by the American Guild of Organists for the biennial National Convention of 2010 in Washington, D.C. Each of the three movements portrays a different meaning of the word sanctuary, as indicated in Walker’s subtitles: “Reverence,” “All Nature Sings” and “A Refuge, Peace.” In the cover page of the publication she writes the following about each movement.
"Reverence, the worshipful experience one has within a church sanctuary, is expressed gently (in the opening section), forcefully and triumphantly (middle/climactic section) and prayerfully (ending). The musical language is simple and sparse.
"All Nature Sings is inspired by a nature sanctuary, specifically a bird sanctuary. There are many bird calls. One especially “exuberant bird” sings the loudest and most joyfully!
"A sanctuary is also a place where one may go to find refuge—from violence, from enemies, from the outer world. This is a place of peace. And the peacefulness of this third movement may be heard in the opening chords, downward arpeggios falling like grace upon the listener. A theme is then introduced above the arpeggios. Melodic lines are most often descending—settling and resting. A middle section grows in tempo and dynamics, rising perhaps to a light entering the upper reaches of the sanctuary. At the end, one last ray of light (or perhaps a bird call) sparkles and fades."
Dan Locklair composed Holy Seasons (Four Tone Poems for Organ) for the inauguration of Bruton Parish’s new pipe organ. It was commissioned by the music ministry of the Parish to celebrate the culmination of longer than a decade of planning and fundraising for the instrument. Rebecca Davy premiered it on September 28, 2019, in the fourth and final Inaugural Concert, New Music for a New Organ, which included only music written by living composers.
Holy Seasons is a hugely successful new work that can be used in full for concert performances or as individual movements in a liturgical setting. Locklair eloquently describes the work in its 2019 publication.
A genre developed and most often applied to one-movement orchestral works of the late 19th century, a “tone poem” is an instrumental composition inspired by a story, idea or descriptive title. The extra-musical aspect of a “tone poem” is paramount toward the listener understanding both the inspiration behind the composer’s creation and the composition’s ultimate musical impact. While the genre “symphony” has been historically applied to large multi-movement works for both orchestra and organ, the use of “tone poem” for an organ work is not so common. But, the genre seemed appropriate to me for Holy Seasons — a composition that explores, in as many movements, four of the more significant seasons of the liturgical year: Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter. Further, since historic orchestral tone poems are notable for their exploration of color, the limitless color possibilities of the pipe organ seemed to me to be an exciting parallel. Begun late in 2017, Holy Seasons was completed on Good Friday 30 March 2018.
1. The Call of Advent — Reflective of the call in the wilderness (“The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness” – Isaiah 40:3), dialogues between the reed stops open the movement. The dialogues soon lead to music characterized by the pulsating pedal that underpins a chromatic accompaniment on the foundation stops of the organ. A melody, heard on a prominent reed stop, foreshadows what is to come. Symbolic of the foretelling of the coming of Christ as told in the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins in Matthew 25, a spirit of longing prevails, as in the chordal dialogues between the manuals, culminating in a bold major mode pedal statement of the ancient Advent plainsong chant, Veni, veni Emmanuel (“O Come, O Come Emmanuel”). Leading to a chorale-like section, the festive spirit of the Joy that is to come soon begins to melt into a serene and concluding statement of Veni, veni Emmanuel (now in its normal minor mode), as this well-known plainsong melody is heard on a 4' Flute, accompanied by the gentle celeste strings of the organ. A brief return to the movement’s opening dialogue idea, not heard on the strings, brings The Call of Advent to a gentle conclusion.
2. Christmas Lullaby & Pastorale — In three primary sections, a chaconne is at the heart of the first and third Lullaby sections of this movement. A chaconne, a form where variations occur over an unchanging harmonic progression, is used here to symbolically convey the sense of unending Love bestowed to humankind through the Incarnation of Christ. The gentle homage-paying opening section features the diapason [principal] stops, the sound of which is unique to the organ, just as the birth of Christ is unique to human history. A middle section — the Pastorale — is characterized by playful pipings and dialogues between the flutes of the organ. When the chaconne returns for the final Lullaby section of the piece, qualities of praise and thanksgiving are suggested through the fullness and richness of the powerful organ registration.
3. An Aria for Lent — The longest movement of Holy Seasons, an Aria for Lent shares a similarity to the “chaconne” variation form heard in Christmas Lullaby & Pastorale. However, the variation technique used here is more akin to the historic passacaglia, where variations take place over a recurring bass line. In three ongoing sections in triple meter and full of symbolism of the sorrow and grief of Lent, An Aria for Lent contains twelve variations with each variation being thirteen bars in length. Over the course of each variation the pulsating bass line descends chromatically, providing yet another traditional musical symbol of grief. All the while an aria, heard on a solo reed stop and accompanied by the celeste strings, unfolds. Midway through the movement, however, the pitches of the passacaglia change (with all twelve pitches of the chromatic scale now being present) and the music becomes more biting and dissonant as it seeks to convey the agony of Lent. After a large climax is reached, the passacaglia line returns to its original pitches so as to reflect a more restrained sorrow. Soon a portion of the moving Lenten chorale tune Passion Chorale (“O Sacred Head Now Wounded”) emerges in the pedal on a 4' [stop]. An Aria for Lent ends reflectively on the celeste strings.
4. Easter Joy — A dance of ecstatic Resurrection Joy and New Life, Easter Joy opens with exciting fanfares and dialogues reminiscent of the opening of The Call of Advent. But, here, the musical materials are transformed and “made new.” A vibrant and rhythmic melody quickly emerges and serves as the basis for the entire movement. Following a dialoguing middle section over double pedal with reduced registration, the vibrancy of the opening Easter Joy returns with the power of full organ and propels Easter Joy to its exciting conclusion.
Rebecca Davy became Music Director and Organist of Bruton Parish Church in 2004, directing two adult choirs and handbells, planning liturgy, playing for weekly services, and administering the Candlelight Concert series of more than 130 performances annually. Rebecca is also the artistic director of the Williamsburg Women’s Chorus and Choraliers and regularly plays Saturday morning organ recitals on the historic 18th-century pipe organ in the Wren Chapel at the College of William & Mary. Rebecca has concertized widely throughout her career and plays numerous organ and harpsichord Candlelight Concerts at Bruton Parish each year. A native of Washington State, she completed her undergraduate degree in organ performance at the University of Puget Sound with Dr. Edward Hansen. Continuing studies, she earned two masters degrees from the University of Southern California, one in organ performance as a student of Ladd Thomas, and another in music history, with additional postgraduate studies in musicology and music theory. She began playing the organ at age 10 and was playing for services in her home church by age 11. Before moving with her family to the East Coast, Rebecca served as organist and choir director for three prominent churches and a synagogue in the Los Angeles.
JanEl B. Will, D.M.A., Organist of Bruton Parish Church, joined the Music Ministry of the parish in 1995. She plays Sunday services, Evensongs, Rockefeller Concerts, and accompanies the choirs throughout the year. The choirs commissioned an organ work by Carson Cooman, a Boston-based composer, in recognition of her service. She received a doctorate in organ performance from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, as a student of James Kibbie. Her master’s degree in organ and harpsichord performance was conferred by the University of South Dakota, her home state. She has performed for conventions of the American Guild of Organists and the Organ Historical Society as well as at Methuen Memorial Music Hall in Massachusetts. She has performed in France and England, including St. Mary’s Church in Somerset, the home of Bruton’s founders, and has concertized throughout the midwestern and eastern United States. She is a frequent recitalist of the Candlelight Concert series of Bruton Parish Church as organist and harpsichordist. JanEl grew up in a musical family where she first studied organ with her mother as a summer project in junior high. After hearing a recital by the famed David Craighead, she was completely sold on becoming an organist.
Suzanne Daniel plays multiple instruments and loves connecting to people through music. She is an active solo and collaborative performer, as well as a music director and vocal coach in the church and theater. She is the organist and music director at Grace Episcopal Church in Yorktown, Virginia, where she oversees all musical activities. After training in bassoon and woodwinds at East Carolina University and Ithaca College, Suzanne explored central Texas before returning to southeastern Virginia. She has performed at Bruton Parish Church, the Governor’s Palace in Colonial Williamsburg, Busch Gardens, and at churches in Texas, Mississippi, Florida, and Virginia. She is the principal bassoonist with the Virginia Wind Symphony. She teaches at several universities and the Governor’s School for the Arts. When not pursuing musical arts, you can find Suzanne at a sewing machine, refining her lettering skills, or exploring different parts of the world, bonus if there are koalas!
A New Organ for an Old Church
Bruton Parish Church is immediately recognizable as one of the most important buildings among 88 original and intact 18th-century structures in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, where hundreds of other early houses, shops, and public buildings have been reconstructed. In 1699 the city became the second capital of the first permanent English colony in the Americas, established in 1607 at Jamestown, about 2½ miles from Williamsburg. It served as the state capital until 1780.
Founded in 1674, the parish takes the name of the town of Bruton in the English county of Somerset, the ancestral home of several leading Colonial figures. Construction of the present building began in 1712 to a design of Governor Alexander Spotswood and was completed three years later. It was enlarged in 1752, and the tower was added in 1769. It was Bruton’s Rector, the Rev. Dr. Wm. A. R. Goodwin, who first conceived the restoration of Williamsburg to its colonial state. Early in the 20th century, Goodwin championed reversal of Victorian changes to the church; his work was later taken up by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation in its restoration of the building in 1938-41. The church was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1970.
Bruton has a lengthy organ history. In 1729, Governor William Gooch wrote to an unidentified English Lord:
“I am prevailed upon by Gentlemen of the Country to Beg the favor of your Lordship to intercede with His Majesty for an organ for our church at Williamsburg… As such gifts my Lord have sometimes been made by royal Bounty to other places in America; the subjects here most humbly presume to hope, that they may have as just a claim…as any people in any part of his Majesty’s Dominions.”
The parish’s unrequited interest found expression in the 1741 Journals of the Virginia legislature, where it was asked:
“whether an organ, to be bought by the Public, and appropriated to the Use of Divine Service, at the Church where the Seat of Government shall be, will not add greatly to the Harmony of Praise to the Supreme Being?”
Further disappointment followed until finally, in 1752, the Assembly passed an act authorizing “the purchase of a musical organ, for the use of, and to be placed and kept in the said church.”
Still, three years elapsed before an organ was ordered from London, its maker unknown to us today. The new organ was played by Peter Pelham, who was born in England but raised in Boston, where he studied with Charles Theodore Pachelbel. He followed Pachelbel to Charleston, South Carolina, and lived there for several years before returning to Boston and becoming organist of Trinity Church in 1744. Pelham moved to Williamsburg around 1750, where he not only became Bruton’s organist by 1755 but also ran a music store, gave keyboard lessons, supervised the printing of currency, and was appointed keeper of the Public Gaol. He conveniently merged this last activity with his playing, frequently pressing a prisoner into service to pump the organ.
The instrument Pelham knew was replaced in 1835 with an organ by Henry Erben, about which little is known apart from its installation in a newly built gallery in the church’s east end, now the liturgical west after a re-ordering of the space earlier in the decade. In 1856, Erben’s organ was replaced by Pomplitz & Rodewald of Baltimore.
At the dawn of the 20th century, the Hutchings-Votey Organ Co. provided a new instrument, installed in the chancel, which by this time had been returned ad orientem. Some of its pipes were retained in Opus 968 of the Aeolian-Skinner Organ Co. That instrument, rebuilt on six occasions after its construction in 1937 and growing from 12 ranks to 105, was crowded into the attic, into the east galleries (including inside a 1785 organ case by Samuel Green set up there in 1939), and within the church tower. Faced with increasing mechanical unreliability and advised by consultants that a new, smaller organ more advantageously sited would yield musical and maintenance benefits, the parish in February 2016 signed a contract with Dobson Pipe Organ Builders.
The organ, Opus 96 of the Dobson firm, stands in the east gallery, in the space formerly occupied by the Green organ case and multitudes of concealed pipes of the previous organ. It takes its visual cues from the reredos, recreated in the 1939–40 restoration of the church, extending its design upward in a way that honors the older material without copying it. It is built of yellow poplar and painted to match the existing woodwork. The front pipes of 75% tin are drawn from the Great Principal 8' and the Pedal Octave 8', and are overlaid with 22-karat gold leaf.
The organ console, like the pulpit, is constructed of black walnut. Most walnut sold commercially today is steamed to even out its color, a process that trades richness for consistency. Instead, lumber that was dried in the traditional way was obtained by Dobson from a sawmill in Albert City, Iowa. This walnut lumber’s varied colors are complemented by the Carpathian elm burl that enriches the console interior.
The console is movable, supported by an integral dolly that needs no space-consuming platform. It normally lives in the front box on the south side, and it can easily be moved by a single person into the central aisle or transepts for recitals or concerts.
An organ of the size of Opus 96 is anachronistic in a North American Colonial building, as most instruments from that era were modest chamber organs like the 1785 Green organ. Dobson sought to accommodate an instrument of the size expected for a present-day church music program by placing as much of the organ as possible in a traditional, line-of-sight relationship with the nave. Thus, the Great, Positive, and part of the Pedal are located in the new case. The Swell and largest Pedal pipes are in the attic directly above the case and speak through grilles. Portions of the old organ were similarly installed in the attic, but the new organ has much heavier walls around the Swell for more effectiveness when the swell shades are closed and better reflection of sound into the church when they are open. Equally important, a dedicated HVAC system for the attic area containing the organ keeps the temperature up there comparable to that around the pipes in the case below, giving a stability of tuning that was not possible before.
Because the organ so often accompanies historic instruments tuned one semitone below modern pitch, a transposer allows the organ to play at A=415 Hz in addition to the normal A=440 Hz. Four additional A=415 Hz bass pipes provide low C for stops throughout the organ when the transposer is in use. The organ is tuned to equal temperament.
John A. Panning,
President and Tonal Director,
Dobson Pipe Organ Builders, Ltd.
abridged from The Diapason, January 2020
Dobson Pipe Organ Builders, Lake City, Iowa, Op. 96, 2019
II Great 3½" wind
8' Chimney Flute
IV Mixture 2'
Swell to Great
Positive to Great
III Swell (encl.) 5" wind
8' Viole Celeste (CC)
4' Harmonic Flute
IV Mixture 1-1/3'
Tremulant (Sw & Pos.)
I Positive 3½" wind
4' Chimney Flute
II Sharp Mixture 2/3'
Swell to Positive
Pedal larger stops 4½" wind
16' Bourdon (Great)
8' Gedeckt (ext. Subbass)
4' Super Octave
Great to Pedal
Swell to Pedal
Positive to Pedal
Electric key and stop actions
Combination action, 999 levels