Organ Studies with Angela Kraft Cross
Angela Kraft Cross and Robert Cross led a group of three young organ students to France in the first two weeks of the new year. Ethan Haman, 15, and Nahri Ahn, 16, currently study with Angela, and Duane Soubirous, 21, studied six years with Angela before studying at Oberlin where he is a senior. Ethan Haman is the organist at Christ Episcopal Church Los Altos.
The study trip started with two days in the beautiful city of Lyon, at the church of St Francois de Sales, where there is a historic Cavaillé-Coll organ, which was installed when Widor’s father was organist there. The famous Widor Toccata was premiered here by Widor himself at the inaugural recital in 1880! The young organists took two days of lessons from master teacher, Louis Robilliard.
We then took the TGV (high speed train) to Paris where Ethan, Nahri and Duane performed a joint recital after the morning mass at Notre Dame d’Auteuil, which is blessed with a beautiful Cavaillé Coll organ that has been electrified but has original pipework, and they were honored with a standing ovation. They took lessons in improvisation with Sophie-Veronique Cauchefer-Choplin who also led a class on the historic 1862 Cavaillé-Coll organ at St. Sulpice, where Widor was organist for 64 years. After playing their Jean Langlais organ pieces for Langlais’ widow, Marie-Louise Langlais, the trip was rounded out with visits to the Louvre and Orsay museums and to the musical instrument museum.
The students will never forget the power and sonority of the majestic French organs resonating through the large stony churches!
Courage in a Time of Struggle
In November 2012, I premiered the newly expanded version of my composition, Courage in a Time of Struggle, at St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco and at St. Thomas Church in New York City.
Initially, Courage in a Time of Struggle was intended as a commemorative piece for the tenth anniversary of September 11, 2001, and was premiered as such in San Francisco in 2011. That single movement work, written in Sonata-Allegro form, dealt with the stress of the decade-long recession with themes representing fear, courage and anxiety. I pulled from my own experience, knowing the courage that was needed to retire from my 22-year ophthalmology career at Kaiser Permanente Hospital. After performing this work on concert tour during the 2011-12 year, it felt raw and unfinished. It felt as though fear and despair had had the last word.
In Fall 2012, I chose to add two movements to Courage in a Time of Struggle. The original movement was renamed The Time of Struggle and was now preceded by a short introductory movement called Prologue: A Great Grief. This represents the cataclysmic event that precipitated the time of struggle. The third and final movement is entitled Centering Prayer, and in stark contrast to the previous movements, has a calming presence and a meter that emulates relaxed breathing. The motif that unifies all three movements reappears in the second section as a worrisome plaintive prayer. The final section combines both ideas and the plaintive prayer theme is transformed into an encouraging outlook.