Friday, January 3, 2014

Christmas Organ Concert at Disney Hall

Walt Disney Concert Hall by night
When my neighbor George attended the Christmas Organ Concert at the Walt Disney Concert Hall last year, he couldn't stop raving about it to me.  He had thoroughly enjoyed it, and vowed to take me with him the following year.

I like it when people keep their promises, especially really fun ones like this!  

And so it was that I found myself at the Walt Disney Concert Hall on Wednesday, December the 18th, for the Christmas Organ Concert, aptly named The Holiday Organ Spectacular.

Organist David Higgs
Photo taken from MMS Organ Music blog
I was delightfully surprised by the organist.  I've heard world-class organists before, but David Higgs is a true showman.  He had a real connection to the audience and explained most of the pieces he was performing up front so that everyone, regardless of their musical knowledge, could enjoy them.

The program began with the Bach Sinfonia from Cantata No. 29, which was one of those pieces you know, and you know it's by Bach, even if you don't immediately remember exactly where it's from or what it's called.  I was immediately enthralled.

The Walt Disney Concert Hall by day
- photo: Wikipedia
I'd never been to the Walt Disney Concert Hall before.  The unusual and distinctive architecture has intrigued me, but this was the first event I had actually attended there.  It's an unusual building on the inside as well.  

I was surprised by how small and narrow the lobby areas were.  It's as if they tried to cram as much actual stage and seating space as possible into a very small area.  Actually, I'm guessing that might be close to the truth.  With available downtown Los Angeles real estate at a premium, I'm sure the architect was taxed with finding creative ways to fit a world class concert hall into the available space.

I was't impressed when I found myself in a narrow seat with my legs painfully scrunched into the chair in front of me. (My legs aren't particularly long.) We weren't even in the highest tier.  There was yet another balcony way above us.

This is not the most comfortable venue, especially for the mobility challenged, but my discomfort soon disappeared as the program began.

Simply put: the organ is magnificent.

The more than 6,000 pipes produce sounds that are thrilling.  I was swept away with the music and Mr. Higgs' artistry.

Soprano Lisa Christine Thelen
When soprano Lisa Thelen took the stage, and I heard the opening notes to "Rejoice Greatly, O Daughter of Zion" from Messiah by Handel, I was excited.  I've performed Messiah so many times and really love this aria.  When Ms. Thelen got to the middle section,  where the words proclaim: "He is a Righteous Saviour", I was moved to tears.  She has a beautiful, rich voice and every piece she performed was just perfect.  I'm often quite critical of sopranos, but I just loved her voice and interpretations.

Another fun aspect of the evening was that the audience got to do several sing-alongs!  I found myself and those around me singing with unmitigated gusto.  

There was also another artist performing, a trumpeter, Thomas Hooten of the L.A. Philharmonic.  He was a superb artist as well.  I was also pleased by the mix of ancient and modern pieces on the program.  There was a little something for everyone to enjoy.

David Higgs took time in the latter half of the 2 1/2 hour concert to explain the workings of the very complicated Disney Hall organ.  What an incredible instrument.  I'm so glad I had the opportunity to experience it for the first time at Christmas.

This concert was such a lovely addition to my holiday this year. Everything George had told me from last year was true.  If you get a chance to attend next year, by all means, GO!
Inside the Concert Hall lobby
For an excellent review of this concert, and more about the Disney Hall organ, visit KPCC Public Radio's website:

No comments: