Organ Recital Pays Homage to Jared Jacobsen

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This year marks the 66th year Jared Jacobsen has been coming to Chautauqua, and 21st year he’s served as its organist.

At 12:15 p.m. August 10 in the Amphitheater, Jacobsen will perform what he calls his “greatest hits concert” for this week’s Massey Memorial Organ recital. Officially titled “Unforgettable in Every Way,” the recital, Jacobsen hopes, will pay homage to the Massey Memorial Organ, which will stand in place as the Amphitheater around it is rebuilt this off-season.

“ ‘Unforgettable in Every Way’ is the way I think of the Massey Organ: my whole life, it’s [been] responsible for what I do here,” said Jacobsen, organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music for the Institution. “And what I do in my life everywhere else, it all has to measure up to what’s possible on the Massey Organ in the Amphitheater.”

The recital will begin with Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.” Jacobsen said the piece is so recognizable at Chautauqua that audience members know what he’s playing after only three notes.

“It’s the perfect piece for the organ because it’s loud and soft; it’s high and low; it’s sudden sound and sudden silence; it’s the full thunder of what you can play with your feet; it’s the intricate puzzle-making that Bach does so well,” Jacobsen said. “It’s a young piece for him. There’s a whole school of thought that he didn’t even write it; it’s like Shakespeare and Francis Bacon.”

But Jacobsen added when he hears the piece, he feels it has to be Bach. He thinks Bach wrote it as a young man before he fully formed as a musician.

“If you had to take one piece and take it to a desert island with a pipe organ that would showcase what an organ can do, it’s Bach’s ‘Toccata and Fugue in D Minor,’ ” Jacobsen said. “I’ve played it a lot here, but it seems to be one of those pieces that no one can get enough of — including me.”

Some of the recital’s other pieces will include both “Dawn” by Cyril Jenkins and its companion piece “Night,” which was actually given to Jacobsen by an audience member after a concert in Chautauqua.

It will also feature “Toccata” by Charles-Marie Widor, which Jacobsen said was originally written for a large church organ in one of Paris’ more expensive neighborhoods. Musically, a toccata is any piece written to show off a performer’s technique; it’s usually complicated and fast-moving.

“Composers have written these pieces especially for keyboard instruments to show off what [performers’] hands can do,” Jacobsen said. “Well, along [came] the organ and the things with the feet with the pedals, so then they showed off what the feet can do.”

When planning the recital, Jacobsen said, it was nearly impossible to choose only a few of his favorite pieces. It’s like “weeding out which is your least-favorite child.”

He hopes the concert he planned will do the Massey Memorial Organ justice.

“This is a big risk for me to watch this building [be rebuilt]. I’ve got all my digits … crossed — not just fingers crossed — that come next summer, it’ll be grand and glorious and wonderful,” Jacobsen said. “There’s a part of me that says Chautauqua will work its magic on the people who build this building.”

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.