American Alain Festival

By Eschbach, Jesse E. | The American Organist, February 2012 | Go to article overview

American Alain Festival


Eschbach, Jesse E., The American Organist


Under the direction and leadership of Lynne Davis, Ann and Dennis Ross Endowed Faculty of Distinction in Organ, Wichita State University celebrated the life and music of composer Jehan Alain (1911-40) on September 28-30, 20 1 1 . Participants from three continents were in attendance. The composer's niece, Aurélie Decourt-Gommier, daughter of Marie-Claire Alain, was the featured presenter, focusing on the composer's biography in three lectures, with appropriate emphasis on formative influences. Due emphasis was placed on the state of source material, demonstrating yet again that, even in research topics generously treated throughout the years, there is always more to be learned. Despite multiple manuscripts for almost every work, it appears that the bound manuscript notebooks, assembled by Alain himself and including a red mark on the cover, may be interpreted as the chief source from which most other manuscript copies were derived. Decourt will develop this thesis in her future research and publications.

The conference opened with a brilliant recital on the Marcussen organ in Wiedemann Hall (both built 25 years ago in 1986) performed by resident organist Davis. The demanding program consisted of works written by composers known to Alain as well as two of his largest works, the Suite and Trois Danses. In Grace Memorial Chapel, where the lectures took place, Davis played a DVD produced in Romainmôtier, Switzerland, illustrating the Alain family house organ, which is now located there. Guy Bovet provided a tour of the inside of the case and performed several Alain works during his discussions of this pivotal instrument. The entire corpus of the Alain organ works was then heard during two afternoon recitals featuring former students of Marie-Claire Alain. They included Robert Bates, James David Christie, Jesse Eschbach, James Frazier, Thomas Froehlich, Charles Sundquist, Wim Viljoen, and Ronald Wyatt. Pictured from left to right in front of the Marcussen organ are Charles Sundquist, Thomas Froehlich, Wim Viljoen, James Higdon, Lynne Davis, Robert Bates, Aurélie Decourt, Ronald Wyatt, James Frazier, James David Christie, and Jesse Eschbach. …

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