‘Showy’ organ concerto to make debut

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Andrew Ager has mostly been a composer, but one evening he ended up as a page-turner. Ager found himself flipping the pages of the sheet music for organist Maxine Thévenot at a concert in Paris. That temp job led back to his composing.

At the time, Ager said, he was thinking of writing an organ concerto and “after hearing Maxine I said to myself, ‘I think I’ve found just the person to do this.’ We talked about how it would come together.”

Last fall and winter he wrote the concerto and sent Thévenot the organ part to rehearse.

Thévenot and a chamber-sized orchestra of musicians from the New Mexico Philharmonic will give the world premiere of Ager’s concerto on Saturday, June 18, at the Cathedral Church of St. John.

The 28-minute work, conducted by Justin Bischof, “is a lush, romantic work that suits the pipe organ at St. John very well,” said Thévenot, the cathedral organist and director of cathedral music at St. John.

Ager said the work can be played on any full-sized organ of a standard design, though he wrote it for St. John’s organ.

He described the piece as “kind of showy, but full of tunes and rhythmic. If I may say so, people will like to listen to it. … The concerto is dramatic. It has lots of passages to be played full out. Equally, it’s written with the orchestra in mind so there are lots of places for solo players in the orchestra to shine, which you don’t always find in concertos.”

The other work on the program is the New Mexico premiere of Henry Mollicone’s Beatitude Mass, which is scored for choir, soprano and baritone soloists and a small chamber orchestra.

The baritone is Edmund Connolly and the soprano is Erin Sanzero. The choir is Polyphony: Voices of New Mexico.

“The idea for composing the Mass evolved from a discussion Mollicone had with a priest-friend of his,” said Thévenot, Polyphony’s artistic director.

The piece incorporates words from the Latin Mass Ordinary juxtaposed with English words by William Luce. Additional texts are drawn from interviews that Mollicone and Luce conducted with people living in homeless shelters in Los Angeles, she said.

The concert and a preconcert silent auction are benefits for Barrett House, an Albuquerque shelter for women and children.

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