Chautauqua Organist Jacobsen Hits the Road in Next Concert

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Back in the pre-internet age, an essential part of every organist’s job was to track down organ music from far off places and bring it back to the local town.

Jared Jacobsen will incorporate this idea into this week’s Massey Memorial Organ Recital, which will feature music from cities around the world. Titled “The Massey Hits The Road,” the concert will take place at 12:15 p.m. Wednesday in the Amphitheater.

“Occasionally I like to just use that concept to take the Massey out on the road, and visit interesting places and bring back music from those places,” said Jacobsen, organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music. “And so I’m going for some tried and true places and some exotic places.”

Chautauquans will get a taste of Europe with pieces that feature unique music styles from different European cities. The concert’s music will depict both the ceremonial, royal music of London and the wonderful waltzes and balls of Vienna, which Jacobsen said is the “musical equivalent of a fabulous pastry with whipped cream.”

Jacobsen will play a piece from Paris, which has a peculiar tradition for its organists. Parisian organists hold government jobs similar to being a U.S. Supreme Court Justice — once hired they hold the job for a lifetime. Jacobsen said knowing they can never be fired makes Parisian organists fearless, and their music is much more adventurous than in other cities.

The recital will also feature some more exotic music from outside of Europe, including pieces from Cairo, China and India.

One of these is composer Giuseppe Verdi’s “Triumphal March” from the opera Aida. Many people didn’t attend operas because tickets were so expensive, so organists used to frequently rework their music for the pipe organ. Jacobsen said Verdi was the king of opera composers.

“[In the ‘Triumphal March’], the Egyptians are dragging all these slaves through, and it is a famous moment in all of opera literature, because if you have a big budget then you can pour it all into this,” Jacobsen said. “If you have a really big budget you have an elephant on your stage, and if you have a really, really big budget you can even have a couple of elephants and maybe some tigers and lions.”

Jacobsen said “Rush Hour in Hong Kong” by Abram Chasins is typically an encore piece because it’s flashy and short, designed to “leave an audience gasping.”

The piece was Chasins’ signature tune, but Jacobsen had to look far and wide to find its organ score. For years Jacobsen prowled through the bargain bins at every music store, until finally a new organ score was published and he ordered copy No. 1.

Jacobsen said the piece does not disappoint.

“It is exactly like you would expect Hong Kong to be from … movies, you know: narrow streets with a million cars and bicycles, and people honking like mad, and people hawking things out of bazaars, and people dressed in exotic Chinese clothing, and people watching this go by from their Chinese restaurants,” Jacobsen said. “It’s just a funny little window into an era, and even if nobody likes it, I think the title alone is going to sell it.”

The organ recital will end with a piece to bring audience members back into the U.S.: “The Sidewalks of New York” by Charles B. Lawlor. Jacobsen said it was popular in vaudeville, and that Chautauquans will be able to hum along to its familiar, catchy tune.

Madison Rossi

The author Madison Rossi

Hailing from Chicago, Madison Rossi is the 2016 Interfaith Lecture preview reporter. She is a class of 2018 journalism major at Northwestern University with minors in marketing and religious studies.