Organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music Jared Jacobsen collects lapel buttons, and he happens to have the perfect button for Week Four. To fit along with Chautauqua Institution’s theme “Our Search for Another Earth,” Jacobsen will wear his lapel button that reads: “Oh, let Pluto be a planet!”
Jacobsen has the perfect button, and he also has the perfect organ piece. At 12:15 p.m. Wednesday in the Amphitheater, Jacobsen will play The Planets, Op. 32, by Gustav Holst for this week’s Massey Memorial Organ Recital.
The Planets features a movement for each planet besides Earth and Pluto, which is technically a dwarf planet. Holst wrote each movement based on that planet’s imagined personality and “flavor.”
“It starts from the very get-go with the opening movement of Mars the Bringer of War,” Jacobsen said, adding that Holst gave Mars its war personality because of its fiery red color. “[It] has this amazing processional feel, as though some mighty army on another planet is coming around the corner and you hear it before you even see it. [Holst is] really good at colors.”
Contrary to Mars, Jacobsen said that Venus is depicted as the bringer of peace, while Mercury is “fluffy, fast and fun” as the winged messenger. Jupiter is the bringer of joy, Saturn is the bringer of old age, Uranus is the magician and Neptune is the mystic, its score featuring spooky, dark and rich French horn sounds.
Chautauqua has two orchestras, and Jacobsen said he tries to treat the Massey Memorial Organ as his own symphony orchestra. He said Holst’s score of The Planets was forward thinking for the time it was written from 1914 to 1916, and he hopes to do it justice.
“There were a lot of jazz influences starting to creep into music, and [Holst] was experimenting with colors and putting instruments together in new ways,” Jacobsen said. “It was a pretty radical piece for its time and it still has its moments, especially because he plays with rhythms a lot. It’s not the standard number of beats in every measure of music, so he manipulates the rhythms to keep you a little bit off balance.”