The 115-rank organ built in 1921 by E. M. Skinner for the municipal auditorium in St. Paul, Minnesota, was relocated 1981-85 to Old South Church, Boston, saving it from destruction, the decision to acquire it having been made very briefly before the auditorium was to be razed. This CD by Harry Lyn Huff of organ works by Carson Cooman is the first CD of the organ in solo organ repertoire.
Toccata-Fantasy on a Medieval Welsh Carol
Trio: in memoriam Dirk Flentrop
Exaltations: I. Heralding; II. Reflective; III. Joyous
No Darkness at All
Toccata: Homage to Buxtehude
Ab ortu Solis
Make Glad the City of God
Jubilee-Postlude on Converse
Reviews James Reed in The Diapason, June, 2013
If you enjoy modern organ music and the roaring sound of the great American symphonic/romantic organ-building period, then this is the disc for you. Harry Lyn Huff presents a program of organ music composed in the first decade of the 21st century by the contemporary American composer Carson Cooman (b. 1982). It was recorded on the sanctuary organ of Old South Church, Boston, Massachusetts, where Huff presides as minister of music and organist. The organ, built in 1921 by the Skinner Organ Company for the Municipal Auditorium in St. Paul, Minnesota, was rebuilt by Casavant Freres in the Old South Church (1982-84) and was again rebuilt and modified tonally by Nelson Barden Associates (1987-90).
It would be fair to say that much of Cooman's music owes something to the harmonic language of Kenneth Leighton and Judith Weir, the best of the rhythmic language of William Mathias and Christopher Steele, and the deep spirituality of Naji Hakim and Olivier Messiaen, for there is nothing superficial about the majority of this music, despite the occasional almost-flippant treatment of material (such as in What a friend we have in Jesus.} Although much of the music is fast, dramatic, and loud with an inner rhythm that drives the music forward, the Berceuse and Reflective Exaltation stand out, along with the Trio: In Memoriam Dirk Flentrop, as three beautiful, soft, slow meditations (which will certainly be finding a place in my communion repertoire in the near future). Much of the music does exactly what would be expected from the title, in terms of thematic word-painting, and there are informative and insightful booklet notes by the composer himself concerning his compositions (although I doubt any amount of background could prepare you for the funky, rhythmic heralding of the first piece from the Exaltations bearing the same name!).
This is not a disc for the faint hearted, but those who like their music composed "outside the box" (in all possible senses) will appreciate this recording enormously. Huff's playing is assured and controlled, bringing Cooman's music bursting to life in full bloom.
Carson Cooman (b. 1982) is an American composer, organist, and writer on musical subjects. He composes in many forms, from opera to solo instrumental works, and the works are widely performed on six continents, with recordings on seven CD labels including Naxos, Albany, Raven, MSR, Zimbel, and others. He studied composition with Bernard Rands, Judith Weir, Alan Fletcher and James Willey and holds degrees from Harvard University and Carnegie Mellon University. As a concert organist, Cooman specializes exclusively in the performance of new music. More than 130 new works have been created for him by composers worldwide, and his performances of the work of contemporary composers can be heard on a number of CD recordings.
Harry Lyn Huff is Minister of Music and Organist at Old South Church, Boston and Music Director and Lecturer on Ministry at the Harvard Divinity School and organist in The Memorial Church. For two decades ending in 2004, he was Director of Music at Calvary Episcopal Church, New York, and Organist and Artist-in-Residence at Union Theological Seminary, New York. His other New York positions have included Adjunct Organist in St. Paul’s Chapel, Columbia University, Organist of Temple Shaaray Tefila, Director of Choral Activities at the Aaron Copland School of Music, Queens College, CUNY, and Artistic Director for the St. George’s Choral Society. A native of Sevierville, Tennessee, he studied in the 1970s at the North Carolina School of the Arts and later at Yale University, and won organ competitions sponsored by the American Guild of Organists, the Royal Canadian College of Organists, the National Society of Arts and Letters and the Music Teachers National Association.
The organ now at Old South Church, Boston, was built in 1921 by the Skinner Organ Company, op. 308, for the Municipal Auditorium of Saint Paul, Minnesota. It was purchased in 1981 by Old South Church and was rebuilt 1982-84 for Old South by Casavant Frères, Ltée., and Hokans-Knapp Associates. In 1987-1990, the organ was again rebuilt by Nelson Barden Associates, Inc., in conjunction with Austin Organs, Inc.. The organ contains 7,625 pipes in 115 ranks, 110 stops, on four manuals and pedal