As a lifelong Bernstein fan, Jared Jacobsen knew he wanted to perform an organ concert to celebrate the composer, so he reached into his “B music drawer” to select songs. What he found, in addition to Bernstein’s work, was a multitude of composers worthy of praise who also shared a “B” in their last names.
At 12:15 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 1, in the Amphitheater, Jacobsen will present “This Program is Being Brought to You by the Letter B” on the Massey Memorial Organ. The title for this mini-concert, Jacobsen said, was inspired by a PBS educational series for children called “The Electric Company.”
“This is one of my all-time favorite titles,” said Jacobsen, Chautauqua’s organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music. “So every once in a while, ‘The Electric Company’ would do a whole program on one letter of the alphabet. … I wanted to play a program that had some Leonard Bernstein, and that got me to thinking, ‘What about the other pieces in my drawer that start with the letter “B”?’ ”
The first “B” composers Jacobsen thought of were “the three big B’s”: Bach, Beethoven and Brahms. However, because Beethoven never wrote organ music and Brahms only wrote 11 organ pieces, Jacobsen had to dig deeper.
The program will open with Dietrich Buxtehude’s “Prelude, Fugue and Chaconne in C.” Buxtehude, a Danish composer, who moved to Lübeck, Germany, to pursue music. This wealthy northern city provided him with extensive resources, including a large church and sturdy organ.
“He started a series of concerts on Sunday evenings, which were just exactly like our Sacred Song Services here, and he had a wonderful organ to play,” Jacobsen said. “Buxtehude’s organ had a pretty complete pedal board to play with the feet, which was still kind of a cool idea in Europe, especially Northern Europe. He became so famous that people all over Europe were talking about this guy.”
The mini-concert will also include Dudley Buck’s concert variations on “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Buck was an American composer from Boston who Jacobsen believes set the standard for musical recitals.
“He traveled all over the Eastern Seaboard playing instruments and sort of created this whole idea of the concert recital,” Jacobsen said.
“He wrote pieces for these sort of performances that would show people what he could do. One of them was this set of variations on ‘The Star-Spangled Banner,’ which is everything you would do if you were trained as a classical musician.”
Though the concert will not include any of Bach’s original works, Jacobsen said he could not ignore the acclaimed musician’s contributions to the organ. To give Bach proper praise, Jacobsen will present “Toccata Basse for Pedal Solo: Homage to Bach” by Robert Leech Bedell. This piece is for the feet alone, a style developed by Bach.
“I’m not going to play any Bach on this program, just out of stubbornness because I play a lot of Bach here, but I am going to do a piece that is a homage to Bach,” Jacobsen said.
“I’ve had this piece in my ‘B drawer’ for a very long time, but I’ve never played it anywhere, and it’s all for just the feet alone. So it’s like the things that Bach makes you do.”
To close the recital, Jacobsen returns to his initial purpose to perform Bernstein’s “America,” from West Side Story, and the overture to Candide. Both pieces, he said, capture the “razzle dazzle” of Bernstein’s musical talent.