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Celebrating the pipe organ, the King of Instruments

Richard Stewart

By David Engen
September, 2001

document show #0138 & 0721

 

  Richard Stewart
  Richard Stewart

David Engen holds the MA degree in Organ Performance and Pedagogy from the University of Iowa and the Bachelor of Music degree magna cum laude from Saint Olaf College. Since 1987, he has been the Director of Music and Organist for Olivet Lutheran Church in Saint Paul, Minnesota. His organ teachers have included Ronald Nelson, Robert Kendall and Gerhard Krapf. He taught in the music department of Gustavus Adolphus College in Saint Peter for five years, conducting the Gustavus Choir in 1978-79. He has been a Sub-Dean of the Twin Cities Chapter of the American Guild of Organists and is president of David Engen & Assoc., Inc., maintainers of a select number of pipe organs in the Twin Cities.

I remember hearing the Stewart Prelude for Organ and Tape first while I was a student at Saint Olaf. I learned it and performed it first on a degree recital at the University of Iowa, and later in a faculty recital at Gustavus Adolphus College. Logistically, it is always difficult to perform a piece with tape, since one must set up the tape recorder, amplifier and speakers. In addition, this piece requires incredible coordination with the tape, which makes it a daunting undertaking. I had not played the piece in 20 years. Of the profusion of pieces composed for tape and organ in the early 1970s, this one stands out in that the recorded sounds are, if you will excuse the pun, ‘organically’ produced. The fact that the tape sounds originated with real organ pipes lends a seamlessness to the texture that is unique in the electronic genre. It is indeed difficult to determine where the tape exits and the organ enters. In addition, the music has a plaintive, little tune and is written in a broad arch form with a great climax followed by a brief recapitulation, giving it an aural satisfaction that is all too rare in contemporary music.