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ANDREW HENDERSON finds great sounds in the organ of St. James’ Anglican Church, Orillia!

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Review by David Richards
Toronto ON, August 11 2016

Summer is a great time for finding marvellous music in towns and cities across southern and central Ontario. Having already travelled to Stratford, Elora, and Gananoque this summer, Jan and I found a musical gem in Orillia yesterday. St. James’ Anglican Church was the venue for a noon-hour recital by organist Andrew Henderson

The renowned Canadian tenor and choral director Albert Greer, has been the Organist and Music Director at St. James’ for the past 35 years. For the past twenty-six summers, he has curated a series of weekly organ recitals by performers from across Canada and the US.

The instrument at St. James’ is a well-endowed two-manual Cassavant that in the live acoustics of the beautiful sanctuary, sounds much larger. Its most recent renovation in 2011 by Alan T. Jackson Co. Ltd completely filled the organ chamber and now includes three 32 foot stops. Greer calls it “the little organ that could”.

Henderson, originally from Thorold, Ontario, is currently Director of Music and Organist at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City. According to his website at, his credentials include a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Juilliard in 2007. He has performed with major musical organizations including the New York Philharmonic and has given recitals in countless churches and cathedrals including St. Paul’s and Westminster Abby in London.

Yesterday’s performance included a delightful mixture of Baroque, English romantic, and French music in a program that combined both sacred and secular works.

Henderson opened with J.S. Bach’s glorious Prelude and Fugue in E flat major BWV 552, St. Anne from Clavierbüng III also known as the German Organ Mass.  The work was for Bach a “compendium of organ music in all possible styles and idioms” within a musical setting of the Lutheran mass and catechisms. Henderson performed with precision and clarity. His use of the broad range of colours in the instrument was both sensitive and expressive. The prelude built to a magnificent finale. The fugue, based on a theme taken from the chorale by Luther “O God our help in ages past” was a testament to the glory of God. Henderson delivered a powerful and uplifting performance.

The Song Tune from J.S. Bach’s secular Peasant Cantata BWV 212 arranged by Harvey Grace gave Henderson the opportunity to explore opposing colours. The work is an effectively simple and melodic one.

The Herbert Howells’ Master Tallis’ Testament is English music at its best in a vein similar to that of Walton, Holst and Vaughan Williams. Howells combined the 16th century modal themes of Tallis with the chromaticism of the 19th and 20th century. Henderson couldn’t have done more to provide all the pomp of Gloucester Cathedral for which the work was written.

Finally, Henderson delivered sparkling performances of two contrasting works by Louis Vierne, the French composer and organist for many years at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Henderson began with the lullaby, Berceuse from 24 pieces en Style Libre, Op. 31 No. 2, and then completed the program with the monumental Final from Symphonie No.1, Op. 14. Henderson’s virtuosic playing used all the forces of the organ in a wonderful and fitting conclusion to a brilliant recital.

The noon-hour recital series continues on Wednesdays at St. James’ Anglican Church, Orillia through to August 31st. Next week, Matthew Larkin from Christ Church Cathedral, Ottawa will be performing.

Andrew Henderson, Photo Credit: Jan Richards

Andrew Henderson and Albert Greer, Photo Credit: Jan Richards