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Cathedral hosts organ festival

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Episcopal Cathedral of St. John will launch its weeklong organ festival with a lineup of all-star organists next weekend.

The organists include musicians from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Britain’s St. Albans Cathedral, Atlanta’s Cathedral of St. Philip and more for the event running May 31-June 9. Five concerts will celebrate the cathedral’s massive, 4,000-pipe organ, the largest in the state. The concert format gives cathedral music director Maxine Thévenot the chance to program music outside liturgical forms.

St. Albans Cathedral organist Tom Winpenny will open the series at 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 31, with a recital ranging from early Baroque to contemporary music, Thévenot said.

Mormon Tabernacle Choir organist Richard Elliott will helm the keyboard at 3 p.m. Sunday, June 2, with music by German composer and organist Max Reger and Felix Mendelssohn.

“Everybody knows about the Mormon Tabernacle Choir,” Thévenot said. “Richard’s such an amazingly gifted artist who makes people comfortable who are attending an organ concert for the first time.”

Bruce Redford, Boston University emeritus professor of literature, will give a lecture on Benjamin Britten at 5 p.m. Friday, June 7, before a service of Evensong. The 6:30 p.m. service features Britten’s “Rejoice in the Lamb” with guest organist Patrick A. Scott. A cantata for four soloists, the work is based on the poem “Jubilate Agno” by Christopher Smart. Written while Smart was in an asylum, it depicts idiosyncratic praise and worship of God by all created beings and things, each in its own way.

“It’s set up like a Bach cantata where you have arias and recitatives,” Thévenot said. “You’ve got a cat named Jeoffrey and a mouse. Britten discovered the poem and decided he’d use parts of it and put it to music. It’s one of the staples of the choral repertoire.”

Patrick A. Scott, organist at the Cathedral of St. Philip in Atlanta, will perform at 7 p.m. Saturday, June 8. Scott is a renowned improviser who will base half the program on audience thematic suggestions, Thévenot said.

The music of Estonian composer Arvo Pärt will dominate the festival concert at 3 p.m. Sunday, June 9. Scott, the cathedral choirs and violinist Michael Shu will perform while Thévenot conducts. The musicians will play Pärt’s Berliner Messe in his “tintinnabuli” style.

“It’s like a vocal impression of bell sounds,” Thévenot said. “It comes across as very simple; very tonal.”