"Gentle Words is another treasure by Loft Recordings, and excellent little independent label based in Seattle that specializes in organ music. If you care about American music or the art of sublime choral singing, I implore you to buy this recording." - Fanfare
The Shakers, or United Society of Believers, originated in England around 1747. In 1770, the charismatic Ann Lee became the acknowledged leader of this small, spirited band. Their animated and ecstatic worship practices incorporating dancing and singing gave rise to their common name. Directed by a revelation, nine Shakers, including Mother Ann Lee, departed for America in 1774, to escape persecution and spread their unique message."Put your hands to work and your hearts to God," Mother Ann told her followers, and this they did. Shaker communal societies spread throughout the eastern United States and west to Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana, with a total estimated population of 6,000 at its peak by the 1840s. Guided by the principles of celibacy and devotion to the gospel, these societies were characterized by pacifism, gender/racial equality, and an astounding industriousness and invention. With one society still remaining today in Maine, the Shakers have outlived all other "utopian" religious communities, leaving an indelible mark on American culture.The visionary and original Shaker spirit perhaps found its greatest expression in music and dance. As a result, Shaker music represents the largest body of folksong in American history with approximately 10,000 songs in existence. Seeking separation from the world, the early Shakers avoided all harmony and instrumental accompaniment in their music, and created their own musical notation to record their unique, unfettered songs. These melodies reveal an inspired imagination and strong sense of musical line and proportion.Because Shaker music is undeniably important to American musical history and culture, my goal in arranging these Shaker melodies for choirs is to make them accessible and useful in modern worship and concert settings. Central to all Shaker art and music is the theme of functionality, defined by use. It is my hope that these arrangements will move the Shaker songs from historical text into living musical settings. They seek to combine the Shaker themes of beauty, simplicity, and utility.As a composer and arranger, my approach to these songs grew out of an intense involvement with the material, rather than a preconceived idea rooted in my particular musical style. I have attempted to maintain the simplicity and directness of the original, unison melodies, with an emphasis on unison singing and antiphonal performance which were at the very heart of Shaker musical practice. The majority of Shaker songs still remain hidden from public view, requiring a massive effort of compilation and transcription. I am most grateful to the scholars and performers whose passion and activity in the realm of Shaker song study and transcription have brought so much to light: E.D. Andrews, Mitzie Collins, Harold Cook, Randy Folger, Roger Hall, and Daniel Patterson.My first introduction to Shaker music came through reading E.D. Andrews’ famous book The Gift to be Simple. The man who brought Shaker music alive to my ears and imagination was Randy Folger, who performed daily in the meeting house at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill in Kentucky. Randy’s position as Music and Special Programs Manager at Shaker Village gave him the opportunity to establish a deep, intimate relationship with Shaker music. As anyone who heard him knows, he gave himself wholly to the songs, resurrecting the power and spirit of an inspired Shaker singer. It was Randy who first encouraged me in this project of arranging Shaker songs. Sadly, his life was taken in an auto accident in 1999. This recording is dedicated to him, in gratitude for his friendship, encouragement, and inspiration.To Randy – your voice breathed life and goes on singing.- Kevin Siegfried
Johann Sebastian Bach’s stay in Weimar as Court Organist to Dukes Wilhelm Ernst and Ernst August has been described as the golden period of his organ writing. There is certainly truth to this, for his tenure in Weimar (1708-1717) directly followed his initial organist positions in Arnstadt (1703-1707) and Mühlhausen (1707-1708), during which he cut his teeth in organ playing and composition. In Arnstadt and Mühlhausen he produced “the first fruits of his efforts at organ composition,” as the writers of his obituary later put it. In Weimar, his organ writing reached maturity, and it was there that he wrote most of the works that established his reputation as the greatest organist and organ composer of all time: the Orgelbüchlein ("The Little Organ Book"), the first versions of the “Great Eighteen” Chorales, the bulk of his large preludes and fugues, and the concerto transcriptions heard on the present recording. The success of these pieces and the brilliance of Bach’s playing attracted students and brought invitations to test and inaugurate new organs in neighboring towns. Indeed, it was during this time that word began to spread throughout Germany about the organ virtuoso from Thuringia.Bach was encouraged in these activities by his principal employer, Wilhelm Ernst, a great lover of organ music. Moreover, he had at his disposal an organ of sufficient (if not luxurious) resources located in the magnificent space of the Court Chapel. There were still other reasons that his talents flourished in Weimar, however. The first was the presence of his cousin Johann Gottfried Walther, organist of the City Church of St. Peter and St. Paul located just across town from the court complex. Walther was also an organist of considerable skill, and his settings of chorale melodies and his transcriptions of instrumental concertos clearly spurred friendly competition with Bach. Walther’s wide-ranging interests in music (he later published one of the most important German music dictionaries of the time, the Musical Lexicon of 1732) and his extensive library of German, French, and Italian music opened new vistas for the ever-curious Bach.A second catalyst in Weimar was the presence of Prince Johann Ernst, the young nephew of Wilhelm Ernst. Ernst, a gifted violinist and keyboard player, studied composition with Walther and owned an extensive library of contemporary instrumental music. The Prince traveled frequently in Europe to hear new music and purchase copies for his collection, and it was on a trip to the low countries in the spring of 1713 that he brought back to the court a large quantity of printed music that seems to have included Antonio Vivaldi’s latest set of violin concertos, L’Estro armonico (“The Harmonic Whim”), op. 3, of 1711.Bach’s encounter with Vivaldi’s concertos, courtesy of Johann Ernst, was a life-changing experience. Vivaldi’s compelling instrumental idiom with its incisive themes, clear harmonic direction, strongly wrought forms, and motor rhythms offered Bach an attractive alternative to the North-German style that he had espoused in his early works, and it was not long before his organ compositions began to take on Vivaldian features. And in what appears to have been a friendly competition, Bach and Walther arranged a series of fashionable instrumental concertos by Vivaldi, Johann Ernst, and other progressive composers for organ and harpsichord, producing a body of transcriptions that testifies to an unusually exciting period of organ playing and composition in Weimar.Johann Ernst died prematurely in 1715 at the age of nineteen, and it is possible that Bach and Walther intended their transcriptions as gifts to the Prince during his lifetime or as memorial tributes after his death. On the present recording organist Joan Lippincott performs Bach’s five surviving concerto transcriptions for organ, two of works by Johann Ernst and three of works by Vivaldi. She also adds for good measure her own transcription of Bach’s four-harpsichord arrangement of Vivaldi’s Concerto in B Minor for Four Violins, Strings, and Continuo as well as the Allabreve in D Major, BWV 589, Bach’s transcription-like homage to the Renaissance vocal motet.The Concerto in G Major, BWV 592, is a transcription of Johann Ernst’s Concerto in G Major for Violin, Strings, and Continuo, a work that Bach also transcribed for solo harpsichord, BWV 592a. Ernst’s concerto survives as a set of handwritten instrumental parts, and a comparison of the original music and the organ arrangement shows that Bach tightened and improved the score as he transferred it to the organ. The music follows the traditional three-movement sequence of the Late Baroque Concerto: Fast—Slow—Fast. In the opening movement Bach assigns the solo violin episodes to the Rückpositiv, or secondary manual, and the tutti sections to the Oberwerk, or primary manual, and Pedal. At times he calls for double pedal, taking both viola and continuo parts with the feet in order to free the hands for the two violin lines. In the Grave middle movement a forte unison theme frames a melodic central section. And in the Presto finale, which like the first movement capitalizes on the alternation of a tutti ritornello theme and episodic segments, Bach adorns the music with 32nd-note scalar flourishes here and there to further animate the score.The Concerto in A Minor, BWV 593, is a transcription of the Concerto in A Minor for Two Violins, Strings, and Continuo, RV 522, from Vivaldi’s L’Estro armonico. Bach arranged the concerto for two manuals and pedal, assigning the tutti sections to the Oberwerk and the solo violin sections to the Rückpositiv, much in the manner of the Johann Ernst transcriptions. He also enriched the texture everywhere, adding new counterpoint to Vivaldi’s lines. The ingenuity of Bach’s adaptation is present everywhere, from the inventive and carefully notated manual changes of the first and third movements to the inversion of Vivaldi’s motives in the middle movement to make the original parts more playable on a keyboard. In the final Allegro Bach utilizes double pedal once again, assigning the unison line of violins 3 and 4 of Vivaldi’s score to the right foot and the continuo part to the left foot. The two hands play the solo violin parts. The boldness of this passage must have greatly impressed Bach’s listeners, for there was nothing quite like it in the organ repertory before this work.No less magnificent is the Concerto in D Minor, BWV 596, a transcription of Vivaldi’s Concerto in D Minor for Two Violins, Cello, Strings, and Continuo, RV 565, from L’Estro armonico, once again. Its formal design is somewhat different from that of the A-Minor Concerto: a 32-measure-long Allegro introduction leads to a 3-measure Grave bridge, which is followed by an extended and commanding fugue. This leads to a slow movement, Large e spicatto (slow and unslurred), and an Allegro finale. Bach once again shows remarkable invention in adapting Vivalid’s instrumental score to the keyboard. In the Allegro introduction, for instance, he notates the opening solo violin lines an octave lower than written on separate keyboards, Oberwerk and Brustpositiv, with a 4’ Principal stop on each. In this way he was able to include the critical top note d’’’, which was not available at 8’ pitch on his Weimar organ (the manuals extended only to c’’’). Under the two violin lines Bach adds a pulsating solo pedal point that does not exist in Vivaldi’s score. It serves to ground the harmony and increase the dramatic tension of the opening. Just as inventive is Bach’s call for a change of registration on the Oberwerk and Pedal during the course of the introduction—a procedure that could be carried out smoothly only with the aid of an assistant. While the fugue that follows is performed on one manual throughout with the full organ, the concluding Allegro calls for the type of rapid manual changes found in the A-Minor Concerto and the Johann Ernst transcriptions. So impressive was the D-Minor Concerto arrangement that Bach’s oldest son Wilhelm Friedemann claimed the music as his own on the original score. It was accepted as such until 1911, when a comparison with Vivaldi’s L’Estro armonico revealed the true source of the music.The Concerto in C Major, BWV 594, after Vivaldi’s Concerto in D Major for Violin, Strings, and Continuo, RV 208, known as the “Great Mogul,” is less frequently performed than the A-Minor and D-Minor Concerto arrangements. This is due in large part to the single-line effects that work well only in a space with reverberant acoustics. In addition, Bach appears to have chosen as his model an early manuscript version of the concerto, RV 208a, that includes extended single-line cadenzas in movements 1 and 3 (the cadenza for movement 3, which occurs just before the short closing tutti, is 93 measures long!) and a middle movement that differs from that of Vivaldi’s printed score in opus 7 of 1720. The cadenzas may represent an addition by Bach’s friend and colleague Johann Georg Pisendel, concertmaster of the Dresden Court orchestra.Despite these eccentricities, Bach’s organ arrangement creates a great effect, capturing and heightening, through adroit manual changes, the exotic nature of Vivaldi’s score. The opening and closing movements are animated ritornello forms. The middle movement, marked “Recitativo Adagio,” consists of a rhythmically free, florid cantilena melody against simple accompanimental chords.The Concerto in C Major, BWV 595, is a transcription of the first movement of a lost instrumental concerto by Prince Johann Ernst. The concerto is also mirrored in full three-movement form in Bach’s harpsichord arrangement, BWV 984. The most prominent feature of the organ transcription is Bach’s generous use of manual change to highlight the dynamic contrast between tutti and solo passages. Indeed, during the course of the piece’s eighty-one measures Bach asks the player to switch keyboards sixty times—more than in any of his other organ works. The result is an exhilarating, if technically challenging, organ arrangement.Some twenty years after crafting the Weimar organ transcriptions Bach returned to Vivaldi’s L’Estro armonico collection, arranging the Concerto in B Minor for Four Violins, Strings, and Continuo, RV 580, as the Concerto in A Minor for Four Harpsichords and Strings, BWV 1065. Bach most probably created this harpsichord extravaganza for himself and his three oldest sons, Wilhelm Friedemann, Carl Philipp Emanual, and Johann Gottfried Bernhard, who were all gifted keyboard players. The work would have been performed before an audience of coffee-drinking, tobacco-smoking patrons at Zimmermann’s Coffee House in Leipzig, as part of Bach’s weekly concerts with the University Collegium Musicum. On the present recording, Joan Lippincott plays her own organ transcription of Bach’s collegium arrangement, aptly demonstrating the versatility of this extraordinary music.In the opening movement tutti segments of the four harpsichords and strings alternate with solo segments pairing the harpsichords in different combinations. In the middle Adagio, short segments of music in dotted rhythm frame a middle section based on arpeggios in the harpsichords. In the spirited finale tutti passges alternate with solo episodes once again, this time within the context of a dynamic dance in 6/8 meter.Joan Lippincott concludes her recording with the Allabreve in D Major, BWV 589, Bach’s homage to the Renaissance vocal style of Palestrina. The allabreve meter, the conjunct white-note theme, the numerous suspensions, and the seamless forward motion all point to Renaissance rather than Baroque writing. Also typical of early vocal music is the tightening of the imitative entries, or stretto, towards the end. There is nothing else quite like the Allabreve in Bach’s oeuvre. As a vocal motet written for the organ, it is a unicum, and it is possible that Bach composed it during the last two decades of his life, when he was intensely involved with the study of Latin-texted church music from the Renaissance Era.The Allabreve, like the concerto transcriptions, once again shows Bach as the supreme master of organ arrangements, be they of popular instrumental concertos or of a cappella church music.—George B. Stauffer
“Most important perhaps, is her way with rhythm … the mighty Toccata in F had an irresistible and wonderfully humanizing swing about it.” - The New York Times“Bach’s Canonic Variations on Vom Himmel Hoch displayed an uncommon level of technique, registrational imagination and musical understanding. Bach’s D-minor Toccata and Fugue … she played with the dazzling solidity and simplicity of the laws of the universe.” - Boston Globe“A large audience gathered last night at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. … Ms. Lippincott rewarded them with a varied program, given with a mixture of consistently high musicianship and disciplined playing.” - The Evening Star“Almost everything about Joan Lippincott`s organ recital proved first class ... The organist displayed a strong architectonic flair in both programming and performance, a penchant for detail and more than ample technical facility to realize her interpretative goals.” - The Los Angeles Times2000 Bach Festival, First Congregational Church – “… a balanced wonder of rigorous freedom and grace – the great Bachian paradox of metaphysical abstractions given exuberant musical life.” - The Los Angeles Times“She is an exacting musician, intense, positive, and forthright.” - Seattle Post-Intelligencer“Ms. Lippincott’s dazzling recital was … the kind of performance a man is prompted to admiringly call ‘virile.’ The highlight of the afternoon was the performance of the Alain Trois Danses. Ms. Lippincott’s recital was an auspicious opening to the convention.” - Music“Those who attended the recital can certainly verify why critics have acclaimed Ms. Lippincott as one of America’s outstanding organ virtuosos. The final number was the Prelude and Fugue on BACH of Liszt. It was a tour-de-force and superbly played.”Worship and Music Notes“She applied herself with exhilarating effect. … Her stirring performance of the Grande Pièce Symphonique brought the large audience to its feet.” - St. Louis Post-Dispatch“Lippincott gave the great Toccata in F an extremely fluid touch and the lines sang. I heard new things in the music because of her way of playing it.” - Grand Rapids Press
“…a recording of absolute musical success. Joan Lippincott never overwhelms with the sound of the organ, and the Camerata is a splendid musical group. This recording could convert even a person who thinks he does not care for Bach’s music, should such a benighted soul exist anywhere on the planet.” — The Diapason"Joan Lippincott performs some familiar preludes and fugues by Bach on the Paul Fritts Organ at Notre Dame University. The organ is said to resemble the sort of organ on which Bach would have performed. Ms. Lippincott’s registration, while adhering to the notion that the preludes and fugues were to be played “full plenum” (full organ), are varied and tasteful and rarely overwhelm the music. Her interpretations are those of a seasoned player, and, even if one doesn’t agree with them, they are difficult to disrespect." - The Living Church
"Berkeley Rep scrutinized InstantEncore and the competition. We opted for IE and have no regrets. Designing our mobile site and app was affordable, collaborative, and on-time. We launched both, and we love them. We can’t wait to see what they do for the Theatre."