Ferko and Messiaen

Frank Ferko, born 1950

Frank Ferko, born 1950

For Pentecost the LCH Choir will be singing one of the Hildegard motets by American composer, Frank Ferko. I was very interested to learn that Ferko is a graduate of Valparaiso University (the same alma mater as Allen Bauchle) and studied organ with Philip Gehring. I was also pleasantly surprised to find out that Ferko has a special interest in the music of Olivier Messiaen — and guess what, this Sunday you’ll hear music of both Ferko and Messiaen (I’m playing Messiaen’s Apparition de l’Eglise eternelle – Apparition of the Eternal Church — and Desseins eternels [Eternal purposes] as organ voluntaries, as well as the first movement from the Suite Française by Jean Langlais.)

The music of mystic Hildegard of Bingen inspired Frank Ferko to write several large-scale works, including a ten-movement cycle for organ (Hildegard Organ Cycle, 1996); Missa O Ecclesia: Communion (1999); the Hildegard Triptych (1997-98)  for double choir and the Hildegard Motets (1996), set to the original Latin texts, containing nine choral motets for the church year. Apparently Ferko’s interest in Hildegard was kindled when he heard a recording of the early music soprano, Emma Kirkby, sing her works. I’ve embedded a YouTube video of Emma singing Hildegard here:

This week the choir will sing “O ignis Spiritus Paracliti” for the offertory. Unfortunately the Hildegard motets are based not on the Hildegard chants, only the texts. Yet you will definitely hear chant-like sections in Ferko’s piece.

A film based on Messiaen's "Apparition of the Eternal Church"

A film based on Messiaen's "Apparition of the Eternal Church". Click the picture to enlarge it.

My last post about the mystical music of Messiaen prompted organist Stephen Best to send me a link about a video by Paul Festa based on Apparition de l’Eglise éternelle. Here’s a synopsis:

In Apparition of the Eternal Church, 31 people listen to a ten-minute piece of music through headphones and describe what they hear.What all but a few don’t know is that the music is Olivier Messiaen’s monumental organ work Apparition of the Eternal Church, which the composer wrote in 1931 when he was 24 years old. A devout Catholic and the organist at the Church of the Trinity in Paris, Messiaen wrote a piece that sends some listeners to the heights of spiritual and erotic ecstasy. For others, the encounter with Messiaen is like ten minutes in Dante’s inferno. The experiment, then, is to have 31 people put the violent contradictions of Messiaen’s music into words. The result is a collective interpretation improvising its way through an aesthetic landscape defined by paradox. Resolution confronts eternity, eroticism asceticism, spiritual ecstasy physical torture. Together, the music and its interpreters conjure something like what William Blake famously called the marriage of heaven and hell.

Best says the video is too graphic to consider for a meeting of organists!

About Katherine Crosier

In addition to playing the organ I am interested in documenting life's special moments through journaling, scrapbooking, photography and slideshow production. My family just groans.
This entry was posted in Choral Music and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *