Oct 20 06 - Organic Evolution - St. Andrew's Lutheran Church, Toronto
Reviewed by Doug Leblanc/Canadian Progressive Music Society

Organic Evolution 2 took place at a church, not so much for religious reasons, but because that is
the usual place one finds a pipe organ. In this case, the church is St. Andrew’s Lutheran in Toronto,
and the pipe organ is a massive affair, built by Casavant in 1919, and then tonally revised in 1984.
I have no idea what that means, but it can’t be bad.

I arrived early, and took a good look around. St. Andrew’s is a beautiful church. The pews are
arranged in a semi-circle, with the altar dominated by the pipe organ. The organ that stands about
three stories high! I was impressed.

The evening began with introductions of the artists, and a failed microphone. As I was sitting
front row centre, I had no problem with this, but apparently those in the balcony did not hear the
intros. As there were several small children there, is doubtful they were overly concerned, but they
were well behaved. The thanks of a grateful reviewer, by the way.

So, the opening piece was Tchaikovsky’s ‘Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairies’. I was looking to see who was playing, but no one was. Being of a sensitive nature, I looked long and hard to see who was playing. No one was. Apparently, it was pre-recorded, but it was effective, with MIDI-played music accompanying the organ. Effective, if a bit spooky. I like to see someone playing, even if they aren’t supposed to be. Pipe organs playing by themselves are for horror movies, with demented people at a hidden keyboard somewhere with rats, bats and sewers running through them.

Right, so much for Phantom of the Opera. The second piece, also played sans persona, was Rob
Adlers’ Organic Fugue No. 1. Just as the piece was developing, a loud buzzing came from one of the
front speakers. Cue David Carswell, who came out and wrestled that speaker with the same vim as any
preacher in the church had ever wrestled temptation! Rob decided not to be put off by any rogue
equipment, started it again. Fortunately, the piece was excellent, and easily passed through the fire of a false start. The delightful music resonated throughout the church with its excellent acoustics.

The third piece was David Smits playing ‘Organ Concerto in F’, by Handel. Originally scored for organ and strings, David used synthesizers to play the string parts. As I am not familiar with the work, I can only say that it seemed to work well. However, I had the unfortunate illusion of Handel’s ghost sitting in the pew beside me singing ‘Look What They’ve Done To My Song, Ma’. It was not a comfortable feeling.

Next up was Rob Adlers’ ‘Ferret Dance’. He combined the use of the pipe organ and synthesizers to delightful effect with a melody both happy and artistic. If this is a sample of Mr. Adlers’ music, I must hear more of it! I really enjoyed this piece.

The fifth offering of the evening was Steve Cochrane’s ‘Heroes Awaken’. Steve played both electric and acoustic guitars during the song. Both this and the next piece, ‘Dreams of Reason’, were nothing short of incredible! The playing was nothing short of superb, and the compositions! As a fanatic follower of the great group Yes, I can only say the inspiration of their music is alive and well in the music of Steve. Emotional and spiritual all at the same time, it lifted the spirit to new levels, an exercise I felt was so appropriate in a church!

The seventh song was a piece called Psalm 126 (not 128, as indicated in the program) played by David Smits. I was not entirely sure whether or not David was the original composer of this music, or if he was interpreting it. Whichever the case, he did it magnificently! At times it whispered like a cool breeze, at others it soared like the wings of an eagle! This was a wonderful use of the pipe organ and the MIDI technology.

After that came the surprise of the evening for me. A young man named Leif Bloomquist stepped out. He was wearing sunglasses and carried a Palm Pilot in his hands. He played a piece called ‘The Last Ride On The Carousel’. He played it entirely from the device, and he played it delightfully! I was truly amazed at the intricate sounds and delightful music he could create from that little tiny device. He seemed to improvise certain parts of the music, but that was hard to determine. However he did it, he was incredible! When he was finished, I couldn’t help but remark that his cell phone had a really strange ring to it, LOL!

Next up was a piece by Steve Cochrane and Rob Adlers. Entitled ‘Abandoned’, it was a very poignant piece of music. Subtle and gentle, it was very touching, and very lovely. It left an almost melancholy feel to the evening.

Then, Ken Baird came up. He played a piece from an earlier album entitled ‘Orion’. With the pipe organ and the soaring music, I was enthralled with it! Sue Fraser added the vocals, but due to the technical glitch, she could hardly be heard. Sadly, because her voice is excellent! A magnificent piece to end the evening, and a memorable one!

All in all a wonderful evening of delightful music! I enjoyed it tremendously, and I will never forget it. A beautiful setting for some incredible music, and a wonderful time.

Doug LeBlanc
Canadian Progressive Music Society
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