This afternoon brought the long-awaited inaugural recital for the new organ at Glendale City Church. (Actually, those of us who attend the church have been having previews for months, but this was the formal inauguration.) The new organ is quite an impressive instrument, a 4-manual, 150-rank Colby/Harrah symphonic organ, a combination of digital technology and real pipes. Kemp Smeal, Glendale City's organist, showed it off to great advantage in an impressive program, opening with Edmundson's majestic Toccata on "Von Himmel Hoch" and closed with the exquisite Prelude and Fugue sur le nom d'Alain by Duruflé. We were treated to Bach, including the Prelude and Fugue in E Minor ("the wedge fugue"), a multi-stylistic interpretation of "Amazing Grace", and even "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" as an encore. Throughout, Kemp literally pulled out all the stops, showing off the pipes, the trumpets, the reeds, strings, and even bells at different times. There were moments when the whole sanctuary rumbled. I think my favorite part, though, was when Kemp had the congregation sing along in the traditional and stately hymn "All Creatures of Our God and King", including a special "additional" verse written especially for organ dedications.
There are many good reasons we love attending Glendale City Church, but it sure doesn't hurt that our congregation takes the music program so seriously. We have a top notch choir and organist (and now a top-notch organ!), and there are times I pinch myself, thinking wow, this is as fine a quality performance as you'd get in a concert hall. But I guess since so many of the great works have been created in a sacred context, there's something very appropriate about that. Great music is a blessing.