Atlantic Chamber Ensemble to perform at Union Seminary

RICHMOND, VA (May 15, 2018) – Members of the Atlantic Chamber Ensemble will perform at Union Presbyterian Seminary at 6:45 p.m. in Watts Chapel, 3401 Brook Road, on June 14, 2018. The concert is free and open to the public.

The chapel’s organ, built in 1879 and donated to the seminary in 1961, will be included in two pieces. The Bassoon Sonata by Böddecker is an unusual 17th-century work that calls for the organ to form a foundation for the virtuosic bassoon writing. Also, of particular interest are the Dvorak Bagatelles for string trio and harmonium. These Bagatelles were written in the 1870s, at about the same time the Watts organ was built. Works by Bach and Francaix will be included.

“Our current organ has very little repertoire that suits it particularly well, so it is particularly thrilling to hear it play something that fits its delicate, antiquated sound so beautifully,” seminary music director Doug Brown said.

The pipe organ has been called the “king of instruments” because of its huge range of tones, from the softest whispers to the grandest fortes. It is the only instrument that is capable of producing the sheer scale of volume that is needed to lead a congregation, to provide accompaniment to a choir and then to stand alone and perform its own solo repertoire. An organ can create a virtual orchestra.

The Atlantic Chamber Ensemble will include Alana Carithers and Susanna Klein on the violin, Kimberly Sparr on viola, Jason McComb on cello, Thomas Schneider on bassoon, and Maria Yefimova on piano. Many of these musicians currently perform with the Richmond Symphony or are faculty members at Virginia Commonwealth University, the College of William and Mary, or the University of Richmond.

The event is the first of a series of “Pulling Out All the Stops” concerts the seminary is offering to raise funds for a new pipe organ in Watts Chapel. Donations to support the Organ Fund are appreciated.

“The primary objective of purchasing a pipe organ is to inspire our students with a modern, well-designed pipe organ that is a powerful example of an instrument vital to the life of the church,” seminary president Brian K. Blount said.  “After our students graduate, they may be faced with forming a committee to decide whether to invest in a pipe organ for their church. Experiencing how a pipe organ supports sustained congregational singing should be part of our students’ education as they plan and present programs that coordinate liturgy and music.”

A pipe organ breathes life into worship. Union Presbyterian Seminary’s current pipe organ has become unreliable and struggles to find the strength to lead the seminary’s congregational singing. It has neither enough pedals nor musical color to be used in worship. It has sat silent for more than 10 years.