• Concert Celebrating Steinbeck Moved to St. Paul’s, Salinas

    James Welch, California’s foremost concert organist, will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the publication of The Grapes of Wrath in a program of works for the organ inspired by the Monterey Peninsula, John Steinbeck’s writing, and the author’s appreciation for the music of J.S. Bach at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 1071 Pajaro Street, Salinas, at 7:00 p.m. on August 22, 2014.

    The event, originally planned for Carmel Mission, was moved due to a scheduling conflict.

    A native of Southern California, Welch earned a doctorate in organ performance from Stanford University and lives in Palo Alto, where he has held the post of organist at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church since 1993. A member of the music department at Santa Clara University and a former faculty member at the University of California, Santa Barbara, he has researched and recorded Latin American organ music on a Fulbright grant, performed music by European and American masters at cathedrals and concert halls throughout the world, and recorded works by a variety of popular composers for the organ, including the four featured on August 22.

    Steinbeck attended St. Paul’s while growing up in Salinas, serving as an altar boy, singing in the junior choir, and developing a lifelong love of liturgical music and Episcopal ceremony. Welch played guest concerts at St. Paul’s in 2012 and 2013 and has accompanied performances of the Camerata Singers at the church in the past. Because of its lively acoustic, superlative organ, and comfort and accessibility, it is favorite Monterey County musical venue, hosting twice-annual Camerata concerts and noontime organ recitals each Friday throughout the year, the latter under the direction of Steven Denmark, a Salinas surgeon, musician, and organist at St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church in Carmel Valley, where a new tracker action organ is being built. When completed, the French-style instrument will complement the mid-century American Classic organ at St. Paul’s, providing a second distinguished pipe organ for the enjoyment of area audiences.

    Welch’s program will open with Bach’s mighty Toccata in C major (BWV 564) and other selections by the composer whom John Steinbeck described in Sea of Cortez (1941) as “breaking through” to a state of mystical sublimity in sound. The concert will continue with the Monterey County premiere of Franklin D. Ashdown’s Steinbeck Suite (2014), a five-movement work commissioned in honor of the 75th anniversary of The Grapes of Wrath and inspired by scenes from Tortilla Flat (1935) and from Steinbeck’s 1939 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Franklin D. Ashdown, a resident of New Mexico, is one of America’s most widely published living composers.

    Also featured will be a pair of mid-century California composers who were inspired by the Monterey Peninsula and the Episcopal Church in their musical writing: Richard Purvis , the organist of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco following World War II, enjoyed camping on the Monterey coast, a passion colorfully reflected in Nocturne (“Night in Monterey”), one of several Purvis pieces to be performed by Welch. Dale Wood, the organist at San Francisco’s Episcopal Church of St. Mary the Virgin in the 1970s, wrote music influenced by jazz, folk, gospel, and classical sources also familiar to Steinbeck. Welch’s program will include Wood’s brilliant setting of the chorale “That Easter Day With Joy Was Bright” in celebration of the Easter Sunday chapter from John Steinbeck and Ed Ricketts’s Sea of Cortez (1941).

    Suggested donation for the August 22 concert is $15 at the door. For further information, contact James Welch at 650-856-9700 or james@welch.net.



    posted to Cedar Street Times on August 13, 2014

    Topics: Front PG News


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