Introducing, Commentary From "The Bench Warmer"
It's time to bring in another expert, someone who can give intelligent commentary and offer helpful comments for the Organists among us.
I'd like to introduce you to one of my best musical friends, Dr. (almost) Jason Gunnell.
For starters, Jason was one of the final 4 finalists for the recent Tabernacle Organ position that was filled by Dr. Brian Matthias. He's an excerpt of Jason's recent recital at the Tabernacle where he performed the fabulous Sonata on the 94th Psalm by Julius Reubke.
Jason and I go way back. We met and became friends during our BYU-Idaho days in the mid-2000's. After completing his Master's degree in Organ Performance at Kansas University he followed me to Cincinnati for his doctoral studies in Organ Performance at the University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music. As soon as his dissertation is finished and defended, he will officially be Dr. Gunnell.
The year Jason began his doctorate at CCM, I began my post-doc at the Chopin University of Music in Poland. Jason was hired as the Associate Music Director and Organist at the beautiful St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Cincinnati and is still working there today.
Knowing that I was pursuing post-doctoral studies in sacred choral composition with an expert Catholic choral composer, Jason suggested that I share some of the movements from my newly composed "Missa 'Musica Sacra,'" the Catholic Mass I composed and that became my dissertation, with him. He in turned shared them with Dr. Carlton Monroe, the Music Director at St. Thomas, to see if he would be interested in programming them.
I sent off the Kyrie and Agnus Dei. A few weeks later I was delighted to hear that Carlton, the Music Director, loved my pieces and was planning to have his choir sing them in an upcoming service. Here are recordings of 2 excellent Polish Choirs performing these 2 pieces in their Double Chorus versions at the Gaude Mater Festival of Sacred Music in Poland.
At the end of my year in Poland, we moved back to Cincinnati where I began teaching at Northern Kentucky University. I convinced Carlton that I should be composer-in-residence at St. Thomas. So now they had 2 Mormon boys on staff, me and Jason. During the last 6 years, I've composed many anthems, cantatas, and carols for the St. Thomas Parish Choir with Jason at the organ. 2 of our most memorable collaborations include my pieces "For I Was An Hungered" and "Magnificat & Nunc dimittis." Here we are at the National Cathedral on tour with the St. Thomas Choir where we performed these works.
So, here's the plan. Jason is going to give a little commentary at the end of each daily hymn review. Included in his commentary, which will surely differ from my point of view at times, will be suggestions for Organ registration. This is one of Jason's super powers on the Organ, his registrations are fantastic. Now, not every organ is created equally, so these are mostly general recommendations. But I find them very helpful.
Starting tomorrow morning, look for the section at the bottom of my hymn review called "Commentary From the Bench Warmer." Jason has gone back and written up commentary for all the hymns we've looked at so far. I will go back and add his commentary and registration suggestions to all the hymns.
I'm really looking forward to including Jason in these texts and am sure you will find his suggestions helpful.