Archive for November 2011

Christmas/Chanukah Concert!   Leave a comment

Head to beautiful Santa Monica this weekend for “Anticipate Wonder,” the annual holiday concert by the Cantori Domino choir on Sunday, December 4, at 4:00 pm.

This choir is one of the best in L.A., with many excellent professional and near-professional vocal musicians. And I get to go there for fun!

This concert is going to be charming and totally suited to the season! We’ll be performing music by Gabrieli, J.S. Bach, John Gardner, Eugene Gerlitz, a charming Chanukah piece by David Avshalomov, and an arrangement of the English carol “Infinite Light” by – me.

We’ll conclude with John Rutter’s wonderful Magnificat – you won’t want to miss any of this wonderful afternoon.

The concert is at 4 pm at St. Augustine-by-the-Sea, 1227 Fourth Street, Santa Monica (between Arizona and Wilshire Blvd. – public parking available quite reasonably across the street)

And it’s conveniently close to the 3rd Street Promenade, so you could do some holiday shopping before or after the concert!

See you there!

Posted November 29, 2011 by Ray Urwin in Uncategorized

Choirs!   Leave a comment

“I love to hear a choir. I love the humanity…to see the faces of real people devoting themselves to a piece of music. I like the teamwork. It makes me feel optimistic about the human race when I see them cooperating like that.”

Any thoughts on what musician wrote that? Read on…

It’s true for choirs and equally true for any musical category or group, even a famous one: there are relatively few really great ones. For choirs—or orchestras, quartets, rock groups, drama companies, etc.—it’s just a fact of life that true greatness is a rare commodity!

Perhaps it’s more visibly true regarding choral groups, given that the majority of choir members are amateurs, though often very accomplished and certainly very dedicated ones. Choirs come together for the love of singing, to recreate those magical moments of humanity, teamwork and optimism.

Garrison Keillor speaks beautifully about the unique quality and feeling of people singing together—perhaps the first music made by humans—for both singers and audience. Years ago on Prairie Home Companion, Keillor and thousands of others sang very softly an old Baptist hymn. It was extraordinary and so very moving, and I’ve never heard anything like it.

And the quote at the start of this post? It comes from one of the great musicians of our time—Paul McCartney.

Posted November 23, 2011 by Ray Urwin in Uncategorized

A Grande Occasion…   2 comments

Many thanks to all of you who attended my concert at OLA last Wednesday. It was such a thrill to share the Grande Piece Symphonique on that organ, in that space, which is what Franck had in mind. You know from my previous writings what an investment I have in this piece, and I am grateful you came to share it with me.

You, the audience, seemed to enjoy it a lot. And it was wonderful to see old friends again, and make new ones! It’s hard to put into words how special that piece is to me, and how much our coming together to play and hear it means.

A grand occasion deserves grand thanks—to you, and to César Auguste Franck.

Posted November 18, 2011 by Ray Urwin in Uncategorized

A Milestone   2 comments

Yesterday, 11/10/11, was our 20th wedding anniversary. It’s been quite a ride, and I’m so happy I didn’t miss it. After all these years I’m still head over heels in love with her! She is the love of my life, and along with our wonderful daughter the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me.

Happy anniversary, honey, and let’s hope for many more!

Posted November 11, 2011 by Ray Urwin in Uncategorized

Speaking Franckly…   Leave a comment

Recital: Our Lady of the Angels, Downtown LA
Wednesday, November 16, 2011 – 12:45 pm

César Franck’s wonderful Grande Pièce Symphonique was the first French romantic organ symphony, and the model for the later ones of Widor (you’ve heard the Toccata from his), Vierne, and other French composers.

It’s a complicated piece for a complicated instrument, and I’m very much looking forward to playing it on November 16, especially on a celebrated and versatile organ – just about my favorite in LA. In that spacious and resonant acoustic, this pièce truly will sound grande!

The Grande Pièce is cyclical—patterned after Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. That means that the principal, menacing theme of the first movement—more accurately, parts of this theme—recur through much of the piece, including the transition to the last movement which uses bits of all the themes so far (like Beethoven does to introduce the finale of his Ninth).

Here’s a quick Theory 101 review of symphony structure, in case you were absent that day: 1. Fast, but with slow intro—main theme shows up here. 2. Slow. 3. Minuet-Trio-Minuet. 4. Fast, as befits a finale.

Since this piece’s acronym is “GPS,” it’s only appropriate to give you a “roadmap” to how Franck used the symphonic structure:

  1. Andantino serioso. He starts out with a slow, serious introduction, then introduces the faster – and more dramatic – main theme in the pedals alone. It’s nice that the organ console at OLA not only turns around, but that the organist’s feet are visible!
  2. Andante. Staying with the textbook—slow, soft, and sweet…
  3. Allegro. …leading into a short, fast, and restless third movement, which ends with a recapitulation of the slow, soft theme.
  4. a. Transition. The minor key of the main theme here is transformed into a major key for…
    b. Beaucoup plus largement. …the final, triumphant movement.

The “Grand Choeur” part (that means full organ – along with crashing chords! flying feet!) is followed by a small fugue, ending with a new and final joyful theme based on the first four notes of the fugue.

Don’t worry—you’ll know when the piece is over!

Although there’s no proof, it’s possible, given Franck’s deep religiosity, to read into this piece a poetic struggle between good and evil, with good triumphing at the end.

There we have it – an organ symphony, and one not heard all that much these days, which is a shame.

My program will start at about 12:45, right after the noon Mass. See you there!

More on the Cathedral (including directions) and its organ at

Posted November 4, 2011 by Ray Urwin in Uncategorized

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