During the off-season, Chautauquans flock home to different parts of the world. For some, home may only be a quick drive; for others, getting home may require hours at the airport, several flight connections and a hotel stay.
Regardless of where home may be, the comfort of returning to familiarity is universal.
At 12:15 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 15, in the Amphitheater, Jared Jacobsen will capture the essence of “home” during the Massey Memorial Organ Mini-Concert, “Grieg and MacDowell: Two Nationalists.” This performance includes music from two celebrated composers, Edvard Grieg and Edward MacDowell, who both wrote extensively about their pride for their homeland.
“Grieg grew up and lived in Scandinavia, and he was like Mr. Norway, while MacDowell was like Mr. America,” said Jacobsen,Chautauqua’s organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music. “But they both passionately loved their homeland, and they both wrote lots of interesting music.”
Jacobsen will play Grieg’s composition “From Holberg’s Time,” which was written in 1884 and later arranged for the organ by American organist Richard Ellsasser. This composition, Jacobsen said, is a combination of traditional 19th-century classical music with a Norwegian twist.
“They sound like Bach-style pieces, but they still have the flavor of Norway,” he said. “They feel like the glaciers and the cold and snow. They feel like people who love their heritage and are proud of where they came from.”
The mini-concert will also include MacDowell’s “Woodland Sketches,” written in 1896 and also later arranged by Ellsasser. Jacobsen first heard MacDowell’s music at Chautauqua, and he said playing the music years later is a nostalgic and heartwarming experience.
MacDowell’s piece is more gentle than Grieg’s, Jacobsen said, and it emphasizes “the softer colors of the organ.”
“The ‘Woodland Sketches’ are little fragments of music that are designed to paint little pictures,”he said. “They capture things that are essentially American.”
“Woodland Sketches” includes short musical pieces that capture images of nature and changing seasons. The composition begins with “To a Wild Rose,” an ode to the quaint beauty of natural flowers.
“In this tune, you come across the perfect flower and you just have to stop and smell it on a bush in the ravine,” Jacobsen said. “It’s just like one minute of beauty, a beautiful tune with a nice accompaniment. Then later comes ‘In Autumn,’ which feels like the days are getting shorter, and the music is a little darker. It feels like the end of Chautauqua, when the leaves begin to turn and you feel a chill in the air.”
Despite the different lived experiences of Grieg and MacDowell, Jacobsen said both musicians demonstrated the ability to capture the essence of home.
“They both have interesting stories, very different from each other, but they both represented a time and a place,” he said. “It’s interesting for me to put these side by side. They also both were wonderful pianists, and they started by writing these on the piano, then expanding them.”