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In the Pipes

Made-in-Alberta CD offers a vast array of compositions for the church

By Tammy-Jo Mortensen

In the Pipes: Music for Pipe Organ by Alberta Composers
By James Picken, organist
(Arktos)

I’m always looking at new recordings, and I love to perform Canadian works and celebrate our own composers. So I was thrilled to find this made-in-Alberta two-CD set by Albertan composers, recorded by organist James Picken of Calgary.

The discs — almost 130 minutes of music —offer lots of variety. There are short hymn settings and much longer freely composed works, which offer a vast array of compositional styles from very tonal works (Gerald Bales and H. Hugh Bancroft) to improvisatory (Dwayne Engh and James Picken himself) to 21st-century harmonies (John Burge) and pieces based on old forms and harmony (Richard Eaton and Piotr Grella-Mozejko).

The pieces are performed on the most suitable instruments, registered and recorded well, and Picken plays the repertoire with energy. The addition of percussion provides an aural shift for the listener in the middle of the second CD.

The market for organ CDs is limited, more so for Canadian organ music. Yet Picken has gone to great lengths to record and preserve some marvellous repertoire that other Canadian and international organists should know about. While some of the music is not really recital material, there are many useful pieces for church.

This is an enjoyable set of good music that should be played more often in concert and in church.

Tammy-Jo Mortensen is music director at Robertson-Wesley United in Edmonton.
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