On our last afternoon at the National Convention of the American Guild of Organists, we returned to the beautiful nave at St. Cecilia’s for a recital of eclectic and most enjoyable music performed by Chelsea Chen. I first met Chelsea many years ago when she was one of the winners of the Region IX competition, and I have a vague recollection of riding in a car with her. As I understand it, Chelsea was first introduced to the organ when she attended a Pipe Organ Encounter in San Diego. She then received bachelor’s, master’s, and Artist Diploma degrees from Juilliard and Yale.
In 2007 upon the recommendation of Paul Jacobs, the Hawaii Chapter AGO engaged Chelsea for a concert on the Annual Organ series, which she played at St. Andrew’s Cathedral in collaboration with local harpist Melody Lindsay.
Anyway, she opened Friday’s concert with Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in D major and it was simply electrifying! Carl thought he had never heard this piece played with such fluidity and drive. She then played her own compositions, Three Taiwanese Folksongs, which she composed during her 2006-2007 Fulbright year in Taiwan. I found these extremely accessible yet technically demanding. She then played a transcription of George Gershwin’s I Got Rhythm, which was a real crowd-pleaser, then the virtuosic Prelude et danse fuguée by Gaston Litaize. With violinist Viviane Waschbüsch, she played two more of her compositions, Two Pieces for Violin and Organ, which were reminiscent of more Taiwanese folk songs. What I was surprised to learn is that Chelsea is an excellent composer who exploits the ranges and limits of organ-playing. A composition by Viviane Waschbüsch followed, and Chelsea ended this spectacular program with a rousing rendition of Marcel Dupré’s Prelude et fugue no. 3 (G minor).
I guess the reason I loved her program so much was that not only was it dazzling and virtuosic, but it sounded like she was having so much fun! She is definitely a superstar!