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What I Do On Sundays: Daniel Sáñez Improvises
Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Richmond, VA
Juget-Sinclair Choir & Continuo Organs, Op. 53 & 54, 2022 - [OAR-188]

Musical improvisation is composing and playing music simultaneously and spontaneously — at the spur of the moment. There is no score. The musician’s imagination, talent, skill, and musical knowledge guide the mind and fingers. Daniel Sáñez indulged his imagination for about 90 minutes on July 20, 2023, and for about 30 minutes on March 19, 2024. He created entirely new music, spontaneously, much as he does in playing for Mass and other liturgies at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Richmond, Virginia.

Tracks on the CD:

Continuo Organ, Op. 53
1 Continuo Flute 81:00
2 Continuo Flute 4     0:51
3 Continuo Principal 8    0:54
4 Continuo Plenum    1:00

Choir Organ, Op. 54:
5 Choir Principal    2:24
6 Early Fragments Suite    4:14
7 North German    5:04
8 Flutes Suite: Flutes I    2:14
9 Flutes Suite: Flutes II    7:22
10 Flutes Suite: Flutes III    3:56
11 Flutes Suite: IV. Lullaby    4:28
12 Großer Gott, wir loben dich (Hymn Improv.: "Holy God, We Praise Thy Name")  3:29
13 Pastiche    13:41
14 Slow    8:44
15 Pseudo Romantic    9:36
16 Postlude    4:07
17 March    5:52

For this album, Daniel Sáñez followed the styles of organ music played and heard in Europe from the Renaissance into the 20th century. The remarkably fine Choir Organ erected in the chancel of the Cathedral in 2022, and the continuo organ also received in 2022, motivate this recording.

The Continuo Organ
Three of the Continuo organ’s four ranks of pipes are heard separately on Tracks 1, 2, and 3. (A “rank“ is a set of pipes, one pipe for each note on the keyboard, activated to play by drawing a “stop“ to the on position.) On Track 4, all four ranks are played together. The names of the tracks are the generic names of the ranks: Flute 8 is the generic name for the Bourdon made of cherry wood and playing at 8’ pitch; Flute 4 is the generic name for the Flûte à Cheminée, also made of cherry and playing at 4’ pitch (an octave higher than the Bourdon). The “cheminée” is literally a chimney emerging from the top of each pipe so as to include more of a certain harmonic than the tone would have without the chimney. Both the Bourdon and the Flûte à Cheminée are in a class of organ pipe construction known as “stopped pipes,” meaning that stoppers are fitted into the opening at the top of each pipe. Stopped pipes have the general tonal characteristics of flutes played at the lips of humans. Construction of flute pipes varies. For instance, the stopper in the top of the Bourdon pipe is solid whereas the stopper in the top of the Flûte à Cheminée is bored hollow to create the chimney.

Track 3 demonstrates the Principal 8. The term “Principal” refers to the characteristic tone that is unique to the pipe organ and not emulating the characteristics of another instrument. In the Continuo organ, this rank of pipes is made of maple wood. Principal pipes in the front of the organ display a beautiful “curly” variant in the grain of the maple. Unlike the two ranks of flute pipes with their stoppers, the Principal pipes are open at the top and thus produce a full range of harmonics whereas flutes gain their characteristic tone by eliminating some harmonics. One other characteristic of stopped pipes: their length is half that of open pipes producing the same pitch; an 8’ stopped pipe is half the length of an 8’ open pipe.

The name of Track 4, Plenum, refers to all of the principal-sounding ranks playing together and includes the fourth rank: the 2’ Doublette. “Doublette” is a French name for a principal rank speaking at 2’ pitch (two octaves higher than the 8’ ranks and one octave higher than the 4’ rank). So, when all of the principal stops are drawn on the Continuo organ, one rank is playing at 8’ pitch (the 8’ Principal), one is playing at 4’ pitch (the 4’ Flûte à Cheminée), and the Doublette rank is playing at 2’ pitch.

The Choir Organ in the Chancel
Track 5 demonstrates the 8’ Montre, which is the French name for an 8’ Principal. (If it were an English or American organ, it may be named Diapason.) Unlike the 8’ Principal made of wood in the Continuo organ, the 8’ Montre in the Choir organ is made of metal. The metals more widely used for organ pipes are tin and lead, usually mixed together, but sometimes one or the other exclusively. The portion of each metal is selected for tonal and structural attributes, and for visual attributes when displayed in the façade. Organ pipes are also made of copper, aluminum, zinc, or wood. The pipes of an historic organ in the Philippines are made entirely of bamboo.

Track 6, Early Fragment Suite, comprises a group of four brief improvisations in the style of 14th- through 17th-century Renaissance music originating in The Netherlands and in Italy and spreading to the rest of Europe and England. Daniel uses many and varying combinations of stops, producing a wide range of colors in these improvisations, mostly set in dance rhythms.

Track 7, North German, is improvised in the style of organ music heard in northern Germany during the 17th and early-18th centuries, the Baroque period. Evolving from the stylus fantasticus that first appeared in vocal and instrumental music, both secular and sacred of mid-16th-century Italy, it migrated north. Dietrich Buxtehude (ca. 1637–1707), born a Dane, developed the pinnacle of this “fantastic” style and played it on the organ at St. Mary’s Church in Lübeck, Germany, where he was organist for 39 years. Famously, in 1705 at age 20, J. S. Bach walked some 200 miles from Arnstadt, where he was music director in a local church, to hear and meet Buxtehude. Buxtehude and others both improvised and, fortunately for us, composed written music in this free-form, episodic, fantastic style.

Tracks 8–11, Flutes Suite: In four separate improvisations, Daniel explores the five flute ranks in the Choir organ, using them in various ways and combinations. Those flute ranks are: three in the Grand Orgue (played on the lower keyboard of two for the hands): 16 Bourdon, 8 Bourdon, 8 Flûte traversière; two in the Récit expressif (played on the upper keyboard): 8 Cor de Nuit and 4 Flûte octaviante. Of these five flutes, three are stopped (as discussed in Tracks 1–4) and two are open flutes. The 8 Flûte traversière in the Grand Orgue and 4 Flûte octaviante in the Récit expressif are both open at the top, unlike the other flutes which have stoppers in the tops of the pipes. Moreover, the two ranks of open flutes are “harmonic,” meaning that they produce strong harmonic overtones that are similar to the mouth-blown traverse flute. A harmonic pipe achieves these overtones by being longer than its pitch would require and having a hole drilled in its body at a critical point to encourage harmonics and to allow the pipe to sound at the pitch of the note it is built to play, despite being too long to play that note. In Track 11, Lullaby, Daniel uses other ranks in the organ along with the flutes.

Track 12 Großer Gott, wir loben dich or “Holy God, We Praise Thy Name,” is a paraphrase of the 4th-century Te Deum with a melody dating to ca. 1774. Daniel improvises on the tune with most of the organ’s resources, including reed ranks (the Pedale 16 Trombone; the Récit 16 Basson, 8 Basson-­ Hautbois, and  8 Trompette).

Track 13 Pastiche engages Daniel’s imagination for nearly 14 minutes, largely employing styles of 20th-century French organ playing. Large churches in France as well as in other European countries usually have more than one pipe organ in the building. In France, a large organ is located in the (liturgical) West gallery (over the main entrance to the building), and another organ, almost always smaller, is located in the front of the church. The front organ is usually used in accompanying a choir or ensemble and sometimes for hymn accompaniments. The large organ in the back of the church may also lead hymns and is traditionally used in musical responses during liturgies. Traditionally, these responses are improvised by organists who are chosen for their skill, though composed music is also played. Preludes and postludes to services are usually played on the rear organ as well.

Track 14 Slow is a mystical improvisation exploring warm and broad sounds of the organ. Especially engaging are Daniel’s uses of the 8 Dulciane in the Grand Orgue and the 8 Gambe and 8 Voix céleste and in the Récit expressif. These ranks repesent the sound of stringed instruments and are often called the “string“ stops of an organ. The Voix céleste is tuned slightly sharp of the Gambe, thus producing an undulating effect when both ranks are playing together. The “Récit” divison of the organ is “expressive” because all of its pipes, played by the top keyboard, are enclosed in a large and somewhat soundproof box which has shutters on the front of it. The shutters are opened or closed via a pedal controlled by the organist’s right foot, thus allowing dynamic effects or “expression” to modify the volume of sound. This becomes most obvious during the last minute or two of this improvisation, though Daniel uses the expression pedal through much of the piece, especially within the first minute. The harmonic flutes are heard in a soaring melody.

Track 15 Pseudo Romantic proceeds freely as generally similar to mid-19th- and 20th-century origins, but not specifically of any particular composer. It is original.

Track 16 Postlude demonstrates the organ with large registrations (groups of stops playing), including the largest possible sound the Choir organ can produce.

Track 17 March evokes the mid-19th-century marches by French composers like Jacques-­Nico­las Lemmens (1823–1881) and Alexandre Guil­mant (1837–1911), and other French and Belgian composers, and also like later British composers crafting marches for processions or for the coronation of a king or queen. Orb and Sceptre composed by William Walton (1902–1983) for the 1953 coronation of  Queen Elizabeth II is widely familiar, as are the six Pomp and Circumstance Marches, Op. 39, of Edward Elgar (1857–1934). The great effectiveness of the Récit’s expression enclosure (also known as a “swell box”) whispers triumphantly about one minute and fifteen seconds into the piece, and several times thereafter.
—William T. Van Pelt

Juget-Sinclair, Op. 53, 2022 Continuo organ
Manual, 54 notes, transposing
8 Principal
8 Bourdon (cherry)
4 Flûte à Cheminée (cherry)
2 Doublette (metal)

The 8 Principal is made of curly maple and is in the façade. The pipes are open at middle c and above. There are eight helper pipes of wood in the tenor octave (thus, two pipes per note for those eight notes). The bass is common with 8 Bourdon. The manual transposes to four positons: A = 392, 414, 440, 465 Hz

Juget-Sinclair, Organbuilders, Op. 54, 2022, Choir Organ
Grand Orgue
16 Bourdon
8 Montre
8 Dulciane
8 Bourdon
8 Flûte traversière
4 Prestant
2 Quinte
2 Doublette
IV Plein-Jeu
II/I 16

Récit expressif

8 Cor de Nuit
8 Gambe
8 Voix céleste
4 Flûte octaviante
4 Prestant
2 Octavin
II-V Plein-Jeu
16 Basson
8 Trompette
8 Basson-Hautbois
4 Clairon

16 Soubasse (G.O.)
8 Basse ouverte (G.O.)
8 Bourdon (G.O.)
4 Prestant (G.O.)
16 Trombone
General Tremblant
Reversed, detached console
58-note keyboards with bone naturals and ebony sharps
30-note pedalboard
Mechanical key action
Electric stop action
Multi-Level Combination Action
Adjustable bench

Daniel Benjamin Sáñez
Daniel Benjamin Sáñez became Director of Music and Liturgy at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Richmond, Virginia, in September 2015. Previously, he served as Director of Music at The Church of Saint Catherine of Siena in New York City 2011–2015, and as Associate Director of Music at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D. C., 2007–2011. Earlier, he was Assistant Director of Music at Holy Trinity Church in Georgetown, D. C. He is a native of Hollywood, California.

He received an undergraduate degree in music performance from Boston College in 2003, then studied on a Fulbright Fellowship in Leipzig at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater. His Master of Music performance degree was conferred by the Oberlin Conservatory in 2006. His study of performing on the organ, harpsichord, and fortepiano, as well as choral conducting and music history brings demand for his talents in all of these roles.

The acquisition of three new pipe organs for the Cathedral arises from an organ committee upon which Daniel has served from its outset. With devoted study of options and the proposals sought from several well regarded organbuilders in the United States, Europe, and Canada, and visits to numerous locations in Europe, Canada, and the United States, and with knowledgable input from Daniel, the committee executed its task.

Daniel Sáñez has performed with conductors Esa-Pekka Salonen, John Williams, Keith Lockhart, and Jeanette Sorrell. He has performed throughout the USA, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Switzerland, and Germany. At the American Guild of Organists Convention in Washington, D.C., Daniel gave the world premiere of James MacMillan’s Tota Pulchra Es with the Choir of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and was a featured recitalist during the National Association of Pastoral Musicians Convention in Chicago. He has performed with the Los Angeles (L.A.) Children’s Chorus, L.A. Master Chorale, Paul Salamunovich, L.A. Opera, Placido Domingo, Kronos Quartet, and the Richmond Symphony Orchestra, as well as for Pope Benedict XVI, the President of the United States, the White House staff, and the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Daniel holds memberships in the New York City and Richmond Chapters of the American Guild of Organists, Conference of Roman Catholic Cathedral Musicians, Organ Historical Society, Church Music Association of America, American Choral Directors Association, and National Association of Pastoral Musicians.

What I Do On Sundays: Daniel Sáñez Improvises<BR>Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Richmond, VA<BR>Juget-Sinclair Choir & Continuo Organs, Op. 53 & 54, 2022
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