15 April 2020

About the Opus 28 organ pieces

I composed the Small Ricercar and Meditation in 1994 for the late William A. Goodwin, organist at Woburn, Massachusetts’ First Congregational Church, whose Sixth Meeting House is home to a beautiful 1865 E & GG Hook organ. Bill made me welcome to compose anything I liked, though in his self-effacing way he joked that I could write anything provided it was in C Major, Common Time, and marked Largo. Although these two pieces fail to comply with those strictures, he did indeed play them as part of worship services. I composed these while riding the MBTA buses in my daily commute to Boston.

In 2003, while serving in the choir of the Episcopal Cathedral Church of St Paul on Boston’s Tremont Street. I frequently collaborated both as clarinetist and composer with the Music Director at that time, Mark T. Engelhardt, an organist of such accomplishment that I was shy of offering him most of the organ music I had written theretofore, as too simple for him to find musically gratifying. Thus I set to writing (we might say) the toothy organ Toccata of my musical fancy. I composed most of the piece while on retreat at Most Holy Trinity Monastery in Petersham, Mass. Although Mark assured me more than once (when I offered) that there was no musical need to change anything in the Toccata, I do not believe he has yet had occasion to perform it. Atlanta organist Albert Ahlstrom eventually gave the piece its première

The score leaves the matter of dynamics to the discretion of the performer, guided by the requirements of the space and the registral characteristics of the given instrument.

Karl Henning (April 2020)

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