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Dale Higbee reviews organ recital by Susan Bates

Susan Bates presented a stunning organ recital on the splendid Casavant organ in the main sanctuary of St. John’s Lutheran Church on April 27, beginning with a joyful Praeludium by Buxtehude, followed by that composer’s beautiful, meditative Chorale Prelude “Now we beseech Thee, Holy Spirit.”
This was the first in what is to be a series of organ recitals at St. John’s, which is appropriate because Martin Luther believed that music is second in importance only to theology, and without Luther there would have been no Bach and the whole history of European music would be very different.
No organ recital is complete without some music by J. S. Bach, and his astonishing genius was shown in superb performances of the Choral Prelude “To God Alone on High Be Glory!” and the brilliant Fantasia in G major. This was followed by the Organ Partita “Saviour of the Nations, Come!” ó a rich and imaginative work by Hugo Distler (1908-1942), who was persecuted by the Nazis.
In nice contrast was the set of charming, lighthearted Variations on “All Things Bright and Beautiful” composed by the artist’s husband, James M. Bates, followed by “And Peace can be exchanged” (1996), a lovely, rhapsodic work by Dan Locklair, who is composer-in-residence on the faculty of Wake Forest University.
The audience-congregation provided a full-voiced choir in Charles Villiers Stanford’s marvelous hymn “When in Our Music God is Glorified,” and the program concluded with the brilliant Toccata from Charles Marie Widor’s Organ Symphony V.
The next organ recital at St. John’s will feature Michael Rowland of Davidson College on at 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 28.
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Dale Higbee is music director of Carolina Baroque. He can be contacted at dalehigbee@salisbury.net.

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