Music review: Penhorwood Birthday Concert

Concert a wonderful 75th birthday tribute to organist Penhorwood

By Peter Jacobi


The person or persons that dreamed up Tuesday night’s birthday party in Auer Hall deserve praise. So do the musicians, faculty and students, who carried it off.

Those that performed “Organ Works of Edwin Penhorwood, in Celebration of His 75th Birthday” offered a wonderful tribute to that fine and gifted gentleman while providing the gathered audience a heartwarming musical event.

Edwin Penhorwood

Edwin Penhorwood

Penhorwood, while on the Indiana University Jacobs School faculty, gained fans when IU Opera Theater produced his uproarious opera, “Too Many Sopranos.” I also recall a rewarding recital of his lyrical songs. Tuesday’s fare was written for church services.

Five distinguished organists divided the critically important organ duties. Charles Webb, Janette Fishell, Marilyn Keiser and Colin Andrews each performed four of composer Penhorwood’s works for the church: toccatas, a fanfare, a prayer, transcriptions and adaptations of hymns, anthems and spirituals. Bruce Neswick lent his talent to the closing item on the program, a Fantasy on “Praise to the Lord” that involved just about the whole lineup of performers, including a chorus.

The organ music one heard, written between 1966 and 2014, was steeped in church traditions and yet often had harmonic updates, even dissonances, and touches of contemporary development that added surprise and interest to the listening. Familiar titles appeared in the printed program as sources for Penhorwood’s imagination and religious zeal, among them “In the Cross of Christ I Glory,” “Christ the Lord Is Risen today,” “All Glory Laud and Honor,” “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” “There Is a Balm in Gilead” and “Crown Him with Many Crowns.”

One jubilant piece called for organ and vocal soloist. Charles Webb and soprano Riley Swatos rousingly presented a setting of Psalm 47 (“O clap your hands all ye people: Shout unto God with the voice of triumph”). Another celebratory hymn, “All Creatures of Our God and King,” required organ (Marilyn Keiser), soprano (Shannon Love), and trumpet (John Rommel), and they certainly stirred the air.

The concert-closing Fantasy on “Praise to the Lord” brought a student chorus of 23 to the Auer Hall balcony, Bruce Neswick to the organ, and to the stage a lengthy list of faculty friends: John Rommel and Joey Tartell, trumpet; Dale Clevenger and Jeff Nelsen, horn; Carl Lenthe, trombone; Daniel Perantoni, tuba; John Tafoya, timpani; and Dominick DiOrio to conduct. Mighty sounds they made in honor of a friend’s 75th birthday, one he’ll remember a long time, one that surely satisfied an audience of friends and other music devotees, including the writer of these words.


© Herald Times 2014


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Upcoming recital to celebrate Edwin Penhorwood’s Birthday

Birthday celebration will be a musical treat for all

By Peter Jacobi


He must be well pleased. Edwin Penhorwood is marking his 75th birthday, and to help him celebrate the occasion, the event, a lengthy list of colleagues from the Jacobs School of Music has readied a recital of his works for organ.

Edwin Penhorwood’s 75th birthday will be marked with a concert featuring his organ music. The concert is 8 p.m. Tuesday in Auer Hall.

Edwin Penhorwood’s 75th birthday will be marked with a concert featuring his organ music. The concert is 8 p.m. Tuesday in Auer Hall.

To be precise, here is the cast for what looks like an extravaganza to be performed in Auer Hall on Tuesday evening at 8: starting with five organists: Colin Andrews, Janette Fishell, Marilyn Keiser, Bruce Neswick and Charles Webb. Add two sopranos, Shannon Love and Riley Svatos; two trumpets, played by John Rommel and Joey Tartell; two horns, Dale Clevenger and Jeff Nelsen; Carl Lenthe on trombone; Daniel Perantoni on tuba; and John Tafoya on timpani. Add a chorus called Lobe den Herren and conductor Dominick DiOrio. It’s a distinguished lineup.

Birthday boy Penhorwood’s compositions, those to be performed, cover a range of decades, from “Psalm 47,” written in 1966, to several written this year. His organ works, he says, are based on well-known hymn tunes, African-American spirituals, and toccatas. The concert concludes with a festive Fantasy on “Praise to the Lord” for organ, brass, timpani and chorus.

The whole event sounds festive and serves as a deserved tribute to a gifted and giving musician: a rich array of local talents and the great Seward Organ paying homage to the man and his music.

A few recordings

I’ll be discussing CDs more extensively in weeks to come, but for now, let me mention three with local ties.

• There’s the CD titled “Joshua Bell BACH,” the violinist’s first major effort to capture on records the music of “the composer who got me hooked on music in the first place” and one of whose concertos was the choice when, as a 7-year-old, he made his first appearance with an orchestra.

Purists seeking a historically informed performance on period instruments will probably not be satisfied with the new recording.

The soloist explains his approach: “I believe that the early music movement has revolutionized the way the world listens to Baroque music, in a very good way. While I have incorporated in my musical philosophy much of what I have learned from this movement, I have also tried to retain in my approach to Bach some of the ‘modern sensibilities’ that are so rooted in the way I was taught to play the violin. The result is, I hope, a melding of the old and the new, which I suppose sums up what it is to be a classical musician in the modern world.”

Well, when the performing violinist is as good as Bloomington native Josh Bell, I bend, not that I am an unbending purist to begin with. I can enjoy those who play Bach the way virtuosi used to. And I enjoyed listening to this recording. One hears first the Violin Concertos No. 1 and 2 beautifully articulated, as one would expect, with the violinist’s Academy of St. Martin in the Fields as the comfortably collaborating chamber orchestra.

The most controversial element on the CD is the Bach Chaccone from his second Partita, surely one of the most challenging solo piano pieces ever written, a work severe, unyielding and powerful. To it, for it, Mendelssohn once prepared a piano accompaniment, which Bell decided to use but in a re-arrangement for orchestra by Julian Milone. The result is a definite softening of the original, not my preference but interesting and still a vehicle for violin virtuoso. Bell supplies the virtuosity, as he does for the remaining items on the CD: the famous Air on a G String and the Gavotte en Rondeau. (Sony Classical)

• We’ve been immersed the past couple of years with Shostakovich on a series of CDs issued by Cedille featuring IU’s resident string quartet, the Pacifica. Those of you who have listened to the group’s cycle of the Shostakovich quartets and those who have come to its periodic recitals in Auer Hall know how remarkable is the quality of the Pacifica’s music making. Well, now comes another CD, this one featuring the Pacifica plus the very fine Anthony McGill, first clarinetist of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.

The content of the new disc: Mozart and Brahms Clarinet Quintets. First, let me say that the pairing of the musicians is someone’s genius decision.

The Mozart quintet is exquisite to hear. I like the phrasing. I like the subtlety of approach. I like the beauty of tone the five musicians produce and the balance between the clarinet and the four strings. I love the music, of course, and appreciate the taste, the musicality, and elegance of style the performers bring to their assignment.

Perhaps even better than the Mozart is the Brahms. McGill must produce tones that range from almost not there in volume to stormy fortissimos. There are emotions to declare in this music. Clarinetist McGill does, and so do his string collaborators. The reading exudes great passion, just as Brahms undoubtedly wanted. Both the Mozart and the Brahms make for listening that excites. (Cedille)

• The cover of the third item I want to share states: “Lawrence Brownlee, Virtuoso Rossini Arias.” Well, virtuoso they certainly are, as Rossini written and as tenor Brownlee sung.

For the past 10 years or so, Brownlee and the perhaps still more famous Juan Diego Florez have shared the world stage as outstanding exponents of the bel canto music left by Rossini, Bellini and Donizetti. My own choice between the two, not because he is an IU grad but because I prefer the quality of his voice, has been Brownlee. The instrument is less nasal, of a purer quality and equally flexible. Both have enviable tops.

If you like the bel canto operas, in this case those of Rossini, I urge you to listen to Brownlee. He sings one aria each from eight operas, some of them not very well known: “La Gazza Ladra,” “Le Comte Ory,” “LOccasione fa il Ladro,” “Otello,” “Semiramide,” “Il Turco in Italia,” “La Donna del Lago” and “Zelmira.”

Each task is formidable, with gobs of flashy passages. Brownlee tosses everything off as if done easily. And throughout, one hears a voice of beauty attached to a musician of taste and the ability to conquer even the most florid passages. (Delos)

More to come.

Contact Peter Jacobi at

If you go

WHAT AND WHO: 75th birthday celebration for Edwin Penhorwood, focused on his organ music. Performers include current and former Jacobs School faculty members (five of them organists), a chorus, and two student sopranos.

WHERE: Auer Hall on the Bloomington IU campus.

WHEN: Tuesday evening at 8.


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Fishell completes final ‘Sebastian’ performance to a standing ovation

By Peter Jacobi

The ovation, of a standing kind, was sustained across two minutes. Its recipient: the courageous Janette Fishell who, on Monday evening, completed her daunting, 21-concert “Seasons of Sebastian” series.

The series, designed to include all of Johann Sebastian Bach’s music for organ, began in October 2010. Since then, the undaunted Fishell has, indeed, tackled that mountain of manuscripts. The concerts varied in length. Most were about an hour’s duration. The closing event had her at the newly installed organ in Indiana University’s Alumni Hall for an hour and three quarters. That’s a lot of wrist, hand and finger exercise. That’s a lot of legs and feet aerobics.

Consider the task in its totality and enormity: hunting up all the music; determining musicologically what is genuine and what, despite claims and tradition, might not have been authored by Bach; studying the scores and their performance histories; preparing each piece with diligent practice, so to master music of immense challenges; authoring program notes of depth and insight; testing the different organs used (in Auer Hall, in various churches around town, in Alumni Hall); making sure concert and concert site details were taken care of, and — finally — performing, all this, of course, while taking care of teaching duties, faculty responsibilities and running the IU Jacobs School of Music’s organ department.

Monday’s standing ovation was deserved: for Fishell having accomplished the all of her enormous quest and for playing this final “Seasons of Sebastian” concert so consummately.

Fishell had labeled the first concert “A Man for All Seasons,” drawing samples of work from various aspects of Bach’s life. On Monday, her concert was called “My End Is My Beginning,” a way to announce that, once again, she was taking samples from the master’s ever-changing experiences: a Prelude and Fugue from when he was a precocious child; a Fantasia from his schoolboy days; a Chorale Prelude from his young manhood period; his Concerto in A Minor, “after Antonio Vivaldi,” inspired by a composer whose music he greatly admired; a set of six “Catechism Chorales” taken from Bach’s maturity, and — to conclude — the brilliant Fugue in E-Flat Major, BWV 552, surely an ultimate test of an organist’s skills.

To show how seriously Fishell thought about the music she performed, take these two sentences about the final Fugue from her program notes: “The chorale tune is set simply in the pedal. . Overhead, the music soars like an airplane flying through patches of turbulence and smooth air, alternately bouncing around in jagged leaps and sliding smoothly in curving scale passages, until safely arriving at home in a simple brief D major triad.”

And to show her reverence for Bach, to help us understand why she took this amazing musical journey, consider this passage from her notes: “Truly, Sebastian Bach’s music is a gift for all, throughout time and space — one to be savored, given away freely and not jealously hoarded, created anew, at times wrestled with, torn apart, played with and not just enshrined, questioned, proclaimed, whispered, and, most of all, loved.”

We’ve witnessed an extraordinary achievement. For sure, we’ll be hearing more by and about Bach from a zealot in our midst, Janette Fishell.

© Herald Times 2013


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Chancellor’s Professor Emerita Marilyn Keiser Honored at Yale University

keiserThe Jacobs School of Music would like to congratulate Chancellor’s Professor Emerita Marilyn Keiser, Trinity Director of Music on being awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the Berkeley Divinity School of Yale University.  During the presentation of the award that took place on October 12th, it was said she has “shaped academy and church alike through her musical and theological vision.”

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Student Update: Stephen Price

Austria Sept 2012 119Stephen Price, a doctoral student in organ performance and a student of Professor Janette Fishell, competed in the 2013 biennual City of Biarritz International Organ Competition sponsored by the André Marchal Organ Academy of Biarritz, France.  Stephen was one of three competitors who passed to the final round of the competition out of thirteen competitors from around the globe who were invited to compete. Stephen was also the only representative from the United States.  The quarter-final, semi-final, and final rounds took place from October 22nd through the 26th at three of the local churches in Biarritz, France.  The competition aims to promote music from different organ schools with a special focus on French music from the Classical, Romantic, and Twentieth Century genres.

Stephen C. Price is a native of Buffalo, N.Y.  During his senior year of high school he was appointed Organ Scholar at St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral 2004-2005, in Buffalo where he studied organ with Andrew Scanlon.  In 2009 Stephen graduated from Western Connecticut State University with a Bachelors of Music degree in Organ Performance, where he studied with Stephen Roberts.  While pursuing his degree, Stephen held the position of Organ Scholar at St. Paul’s on the Green Episcopal Church in Norwalk, Connecticut.  Following his undergraduate career, Stephen received a Fulbright Grant to France, studying organ at the Conservatoire National de Région de Toulouse.  He received the Diplôme d’Études Musicales avec mention très bien (the equivalent of a US Artist Diploma) in Organ, and le Prix François Vidal from the conservatory under the tutelage of Michel Bouvard and Jan Willem Jensen.  While studying in France, Stephen performed recitals at numerous venues in Toulouse including the Basilica of Saint Sernin, and also at the American Church in Paris.  Stephen has recently given recitals at St. Thomas Fifth Avenue NYC; Westminster Presbyterian sponsored by the Buffalo, NY, chapter of the AGO; Inaugural recital of the Super Nova concert series at Piedmont College, Demorest, GA.

Stephen graduated with a Masters of Music degree in Organ Performance from Indiana University Jacobs School of Music in May of 2012, and currently is enrolled in the Doctorate of Musical Arts degree in Organ Performance at Indiana University.  In September of 2012, Stephen competed in the Franz Schmidt 4th International Organ Competition in Kitzbüel, Austria and was awarded the Robert Fuchs Prize.  He also received a monetary award and was featured in the final prize winners concert in Hopfgarten, Austria.  Stephen serves as the Director of Music of Covenant Community Church, Indianapolis, IN and the resident organist of Beck Chapel at Indiana University.


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Alumnus William Bryant (M.M. ‘13) hired as organist in Seattle

Bryant, WilliamWilliam Bryant was recently hired by the University Lutheran Church in Seattle, WA as the new organist. He earned his master of music in both organ performance and composition from the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music in May of 2013. Bryant also holds a bachelor of music from Indiana University in composition and oboe performance, and was a member of the Singing Hoosiers.

Bryant moved to Seattle in the summer of 2013, and recently began his doctoral studies in organ performance at the University of Washington. In addition to serving in the music ministry at ULC, he is a recitalist for the post compline organ recital series at St. Mark’s Cathedral and sings in the Seattle Men’s Chorus.


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Mkie Leonard (HT): “New pipe organ the star of Alumni Hall…”

New pipe organ the star of Alumni Hall renovation

By Mike Leonard 331-4368 | | Posted: Monday, August 5, 2013 12:00 am       

Alumni-Organ-1Tom Morrison chuckles that more than once, he’s been sitting at a function in Alumni Hall and received a text message from Michael A. McRobbie sitting across the room.

“When are we going to renovate this wretched space?” the Indiana University president asked his vice president for capital planning and facilities.

The yearlong project is now complete, and it is stunning. It’s safe to say that the spacious Alumni Hall in the Indiana Memorial Union is not only as good as new, but better.

Woodwork and fracturing limestone in the castle-like great room have been replaced, the ceiling sports an eye-catching cream and crimson pattern, the floor has been restored to its original herringbone pattern and the dingy drapes have been removed to expose newly restored windows to allow natural light back into the room.

But the over-the-top addition is the installation of the magnificent Webb-Ehrlich Great Organ of Alumni Hall, named Opus 91 by organ builders C.B. Fisk of Gloucester, Mass.

“You see people walk into the room and turn around and look up at the organ and gasp,” Morrison said. “A lot of people ask if it was always there and they just never noticed, because it just looks like it belongs.”

The truth of the matter is that the balcony above the hall was always pretty much dead space and was going to continue to be dead space even in the renovation plans IU officials were working on. But then the most fortuitous thing occurred: the executors of the Jacques M. Littlefield estate in Portola Valley, Calif., were looking for an appropriate place to relocate the magnificent Opus 91, where it could be played and appreciated. IU already boasted not only the nation’s largest organ department at the Jacobs School of Music, but also two other, coveted C.B. Fisk organs.

The late Mr. Littlefield was an organ lover, and commissioned the construction of Opus 91 to emulate the great organs he’d seen in France, built in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It includes three manuals, 44 stops and 2,838 pipes, and it weighs more than 15 tons.

And size-wise, it fits into the the Alumni Hall space so perfectly that there is reason to assume it was built to be there, with a scant two inches of spare space from floor to ceiling.

“We measured it I don’t know how many times,” Morrison said. “Every time our people said they thought it would work, I’d say we have to be sure. This was going to be an undertaking.”

Even with a generous charitable sale from the Littlefield family, it cost IU roughly $200,000 in private funding to acquire the organ and another $500,000 to get the organ from California to Bloomington and have it expertly installed.

“It was not the trucking cost so much as the disassembling and reassembling process,” Morrison said. “We started in early February and dedicated it in early June.”

IU dedicated the spectacular organ in honor of President Emeritus Thomas Ehrlich and his wife, Ellen R. Ehrlich, and Jacobs School of Music Dean Emeritus Charles Webb and his late wife, Kenda.

And while it sounded great to Morrison at the June dedication, he later learned that an organ of this caliber takes months of adjustments to refine the sound of each of the 2,838 pipes to the acoustics of its new home in Alumni Hall. It’s expected to be ready to please the discerning ears of true organ aficionados when the Jacobs school hosts “An Organ at the Crossroads” conference Sept. 15-18.

The overall $3 million renovation project also included the necessary HVAC replacement to the area and a complete overhaul of the solarium adjacent to Alumni Hall. The solarium, built in the ’60s, looked like something built in the ’60s, but now blends in with the regal Alumni Hall ambiance to create spillover space, if necessary, to accommodate more than 600 across both areas. What was a roof over the bowling alley area of the IMU is now a patio off the solarium that looks out over Dunn Meadow.

“It’s been a very satisfying project to be a part of and see completed,” Morrison said. “It’s a real jewel.”

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Organ Department Chair Janette Fishell writes open letter to WFIU about their decision to drop “Pipedreams” program

fishellJacobs School of Music organ department chair Janette Fishell has written the following letter to WFIU Public Radio Station Manager Will Murphy and Perry Metz, Executive Director of IU Radio and Television Services, about their recent decision to cancel the airing of “Pipedreams,” a program hosted by Michael Barone.

June 30, 2013

Dear Mr. Murphy,

I have sent you two messages through the WFIU website link, one several months ago when I first heard the rumor that “Pipedreams” was to be cancelled and the other this past week. I appreciate the fact that you have invited comments from the public and provided your email address so I am taking another opportunity to contact you.

I am distressed by the announcement of upcoming changes; the cancellation of the Met broadcast and the reduction of classical music  is not the direction I hoped our wonderful public radio station would take. I enjoy a variety of programming but am fearful that WFIU is marginalizing classical music which should, in my opinion, be the bedrock of this station, given its association with a university boasting one of the world’s best music schools and a community that appreciates and supports great classical music, live and in broadcasts.

My immediate concern is WFIU’s decision to stop carrying ”Pipedreams,” our nation’s only radio program devoted to the pipe organ. Please reconsider this decision.  Just as one might question cutting the Met broadcast in a town that has our magnificent  opera theater (and a long association with stars of the Metropolitan Opera) the  Jacobs School of Music has the nation’s largest organ department and its faculty and students are often featured as performers on this very program.

The host of “Pipedreams,” Michael Barone, drew a full house for his luncheon lecture at WFIU when he was in town to help us celebrate the dedication of the Seward organ in Auer Hall only a few years ago. Ironically, the station had prepared the lunch discussion in a room too small to accommodate the very large audience that showed up and had to scramble at the last minute to arrange a larger space. It was standing room only! Might this suggest that more people are listening to Mr. Barone on Monday night than you think and that Pipedreams brings an important, albeit small, part of the world’s cultural treasures to this south central Indiana town?

Thank you for reconsidering your decision to drop “Pipedreams.”  Please give lovers of this show some time to show you how much it would mean to them to keep this unique program on WFIU.

Janette Fishell, DMus

Professor of Music
Chair, Organ Department
Jacobs School of Music
Indiana University


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Jacobs School students win first and second place in American Guild of Organists regional competition


Katie Minion and Nicholas Quardokus celebrate their wins with IU Organ Department Chair Janette Fishell

Congratulations to two Jacobs School of Music students, who have won first and second place in the American Guild of Organists/Quimby Regional Competition for Young Organists (RCYO).

Nicholas Quardokus won first place and Katie Minion won second place from a group of six finalists. They are both Jacobs Scholars at the Jacobs School of Music. Other contestants study at Oberlin Conservatory, Mercer University, University of Evansville and Interlochen Arts Academy. All won first place at chapter competitions in the AGO’s Region V.

Quardokus will play a recital for the regional convention, this Monday, July 1, at 2 pm at First Presbyterian Church, Kalamazoo and will also be a recitalist at next summer’s national AGO convention in Boston.

Click here for more on the AGO/Quimby Regional Competition for Young Organists >


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REVIEW (HT): FISHELL RECITAL – Weekend keyboard recitals featured challenging programs

Music reviews: Weekend keyboard recitals featured challenging programs

By Peter Jacobi H-T Reviewer |
June 25, 2013

A pair of weekend recitals featured gifted keyboard artists unwilling to play it safe: organist Janette Fishell and pianist Emile Naoumoff. They always tend to give their all and then some while engaged in the most challenging of repertoire.

Fishell on Friday evening in Indiana University’s Auer Hall offered the 19th of her 21-concert series titled “Seasons of Sebastian,” meaning her traversal through everything Johann Sebastian Bach wrote for the organ. This session she titled “A Summer Solstice Bach Bash,” in recognition of the date, which marked the start of summer.

What does the solstice have to do with Bach? “The short answer,” Fishell explained in program notes, “is probably nothing. However, a night such as this leads one to consider the unity of Heaven and Earth, the symbolism of light and dark, and the importance of numbers and balance in the ordering of this planet and the creatures who live on it.”

More explanation followed about Bach’s interest in numerical symbolism and the specific date, 6/21, but suffice to say, Fishell chose for the concert, in her words, “human works of great mastery and perfection that portray the duality of the human condition.”

Suffice to say also that one heard amazing music played amazingly well, starting with a tripping-the-light-fantastic Duetto in G Major from “Clavierubung III,” a work meant for “ubung,” practice, but that releases an aura of calm and peace appropriate for church service.

The relatively brief Duetto was followed by a Partita of extended length consisting of variations built on the chorale, “Sei gegrusset, Jesu gutig” (“Hail to Thee, Kind Jesus”). For Fishell, that meant invading an ever-shifting soundscape of inventions Bach’s fertile imagination shaped on an affecting choral setting.

The Fugue in G Major (“a la Gigue”), BWV 577, gave the organist some lively dance music. Higher drama suffused “Christ lag in Todesbanden” (“Christ Lay in Death’s Bonds”). And to conclude, Fishell turned to the mighty Toccata and Fugue in F Major, BWV 540, a work of glorious sounds and intricate enough to make it virtually unplayable, save by the best of organists. Fishell assuredly is one of them.

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