Thursday October 4, 2012

BRATTLEBORO -- On Sunday at 2 p.m., the Estey Organ Museum presents "An Afternoon at the Opera," a concert featuring music from the grand operas, performed on the famous 1909 Estey pipe organ at First Baptist Church, 190 Main St.

Local mezzo-soprano Jenna Rae will join organist Clark Anderson for performances of music by Mozart, Verdi, Richard Strauss, Wagner, Massenet and Offenbach.

"It may sound odd to play opera music on a pipe organ," says Anderson, "but this organ is so orchestral in its tonal design that it is a perfect instrument for accompanying singers performing opera, since it is able to mimic the colors and expression of an orchestra. The splendid acoustics in the church are an added bonus."

Anderson also points out that the 1909 organ dates from the golden age of musical transcriptions. Before recordings and radio or television, the only way most people could hear opera was through transcriptions of the music for organ or piano, usually performed and enjoyed at home.

"There are literally thousands of such transcriptions, and many of them sound quite wonderful on the organ, and especially this particular instrument," he says.

One transcription Anderson will perform is that of "Ride of the Valkyries" from Wagner’s "Die Walküre." "I read recently that this was probably the single most popular and requested opera transcription ever for organ," Anderson said. "And no wonder ... it knocks your socks off, and it’s terrific fun to play."

Mezzo-soprano Rae gained local renown playing the role of La Zia Principessa in the 2008 Hugh Keelan Ensemble production of Puccini’s "Suor Angelica." More recent local performances include the Friends of Music at Guilford’s "Aria & Trios" program in 2010 with Margery McCrum and Junko Watanabe, a performance of Mahler’s "Das Lied von der Erde" at the Monadnock Festival last year, and a program of German and English Baroque with Clark Anderson at the Guilford Organ Barn.

Rae graduated from Northwestern University, and then went on to study voice and opera performance at the New England Conservatory and the Longy School of Music. She sang with the chorus of Boston Lyric Opera for several seasons before moving to Vermont.

A resident of Brattleboro since 2007, Anderson gave his first solo organ recital at age 13 and went on to perform and accompany while earning degrees at Pomona College and Princeton, where he served as the University Organist and Assistant Conductor. His ensuing business career was interrupted now and then by travel for recitals around the U.S., Europe, and Asia. Anderson has performed locally for Friends of Music at Guilford and with the Brattleboro Concert Choir. His last concert for the Estey Museum, "Wondrous Machine!" in 2011, also featured the 1909 First Baptist organ.

This concert is a fundraising event for the Estey Organ Museum.

Tickets are available at the door for a suggested donation of $15.