Blooming Grove Church of Christ 260th Anniversary
In November1938world-famous Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini led the NBC Symphony Orchestra in a new work by 28-year-old American composer Samuel Barber.Celebrated since for its fragile simplicity and intense emotion, Barber’s “Adagio for Strings”is considered by many to be the most popular of all 20th-century orchestral works.
On Sunday, November 18, 2018 at 4 pm, Barber’s masterpiece will join César Franck’s famous “Chorale in E Major” in a remarkable performance by renowned organist Jonathan B. Hall to celebrate the 260th anniversary of the 1758 land grant that paved the way for the establishment of a new house of worship as settlers flocked to the nation’s frontiers. Today, the 1823 structure that rests on a hilltop along Route 94, which was once the King’s Highway, is the home of Blooming Grove United Church of Christ.
Dr. Hall, who serves as minister of music at the First Presbyterian Church in Goshen and as a professor of music at New York University, will be performing on the church’s 1902 Hook-Hastings pipe organ – the gift of David H. Moffat, who also funded the construction of the Moffat Library in Washingtonville. He will be joined by saxophonist Bill Powers in a selection of classical and modern works that have been specifically selected to highlight the capabilities of the church’s historic pipe organ.
“The 1902 Hook and Hastings organ in the Blooming Grove Church is a wonderful instrument,” Hall contends. “It possesses a wide range of color and expressive capability.
“It’s 116 years old, so of course it has its ‘aches and pains.’ When I am 116, I hope I am in as good a condition.”
In addition to Barber’s adagio, which was arranged for organ by William Strickland, and Franck’s chorale – one of his last and greatest works, Powers and Hall will perform severalworks arranged for organ and saxophone from chamber music settings by J. H. Fiocco and Giovanni Platti, two brilliant although lesser-known baroque composers.
“We’ve put this program together to give variety and to show what the organ is really capable of,” Hall offered.
According to Hall, he and Powers have performed together since they were students at Indiana University’s highly-regarded Jacobs School of Music.
“This school is home to the leading organ department in the country,” Hall said, acknowledging a bit of prejudice, “and at the time, also had on its faculty Eugene Rousseau, one of the iconic classical saxophonists of our time.
“Bill is a former student of Rousseau’s and has an extraordinarily beautiful tone and technique. He is a musician of rare caliber, as I think you will hear on Sunday.”
Powers, who is a native of Overbrook, Kansas, has performed throughout the United States and at such diverse places as Queens College in Oxford and St. George’s in Granada.
“He is well known for an exceptionally pure tone and intonation as well as for his impressive and inspiring musicianship,” Hall shares on his website. “Bill also holds a Master’s degree in Philanthropic Studies from Indiana University and works as a professional fundraiser. Bill is also a passionate nature lover and expert builder of birdhouses!”
Hall has his own remarkable pedigree. A native of New York City, he claims that he is a relatively late-starter when it comes to music.
After earning bachelor and master’s degrees in English Literature, Hall studied harpsichord and organ at Roosevelt University’s Chicago Musical College with David Schrader, who is organist for the Chicago Symphony, and with Gavin Williamson. He subsequently earned his musical doctorate at the Jacobs School of Music, where he studied organ with Marilyn Keiser.
In addition to his local professional affiliations, Hall is a fellow of London’s Trinity College, and a fellow and choir master of the American Guild of Organists, where he also serves as the national director of the AGO’s Committee on Professional Certification. He also serves on the faculty of New York University, where he teaches music theory and criticism, and is a member of ASCAP with several compositions of his own in print.
When asked why he agreed to become part of Blooming Grove UCC’s anniversary celebration of its land grant, Hall said that it was his idea.
“I approached the church through its music director, my colleague and friend Jan Kohler, because I have a passion for historic pipe organs and love to play them and advocate for them. In recent years I’ve played and documented such organs in several places in New York State, including Scotchtown, Stone Arabia near Canajoharie and Clifton Springs near Rochester.New York is filled with fascinating old pipe organs, many in excellent condition.”
In addition to Sunday’s concert, Hall mentioned that he plans to lead a Christmas carol singalong at the First Presbyterian Church in Goshen on December 23. He also noted that events, like those being planned by Blooming Grove UCC, are being discussed to celebrate the 300th anniversary of Goshen Presbyterian Church during 2019-2020.
(The Blooming Grove UCC concert is free; goodwill offerings will be g