Celebrating Canada on The Casavant: Notes by composer Jacobus Kloppers – curious arts

Celebrating Canada on the Casavant

On Sunday, January 22 at Convocation Hall, saxophonist, William H. Street, and organists, Marnie Giesbrecht and Joachim Segger, kick off Canada’s 150th anniversary year with a selection of Canadian solo and duo works, including Celtic Impressions and From the Musical Memoirs of a Canadian Organist, and the premiere of Passage du Temps, all by renowned Edmonton-based composer, Jacobus Kloppers.


By Jacobus Kloppers

I started composing in the 1960s as an organist steeped in the music of J.S. Bach, the Romantics and the neo-classic compositions of the 20th century. Harmony, counterpoint, classic structures and functional dissonance form the basis of my music, which can be described as Neo-tonal or Neo-Romantic. The majority of my works are written to be played in the church service but I also wrote some music for the concert hall such as the ones performed today.

Celtic Impressionsfor Solo Organ (2003/04)

This Celtic Suite for Organ was commissioned by Gayle Martin in 2003. It is based on a selection of Scottish folk music provided by her as well as my own impressions from visits to Scotland, its beauty and ruggedness, its music, energy, colour, a country full of memories of courage, struggle, joy and pain. I selected eight pieces to serve as themes for the four movements: two Strathspeys (Mvt. I), two Airs (Mvt. II), two Jigs (Mvt. III) and two Marching songs (Mvt. IV) as basis for the work. These materials, as well as the way they are traditionally performed, are naturally stylised in an organ idiom. The first two movements are performed today.

The first movement’s main themes are loosely based on two reels (Strathspeys): Over the muir among the heather (origin unknown) and Mrs. Fordyce of Ayton’s Strathspey (by Robert Mackintosh, late 1700’s). The movement is in Sonata-form with a slow introduction and concludes with the two themes combined in a semi-contrapuntal manner.

Two Airs from the Southern Uplands, On Ettrick Banks (words from Ramsay’s “Tea-table Miscellany”, 1724; the Air, from the Orpheus Caledonius, 1725) and Ae Fond Kiss (famous poem of Robert Burns, 1792; melody, from a later period), inspired the slow movement, which is in a Rondo form. Both airs have a haunting quality of the bittersweet of love: On Ettrick Banks, of two lovers in the early evening glow on the banks of the Ettrick river envisioning a promising future; Ae fond kiss, of the painful parting of two lovers.

The Organ in Convocation hall

The Organ in Convocation Hall. Photo by TJ Jans

Passage du Temps for Alto-Saxophone and Organ (2016)

When my esteemed colleagues, Drs. William Street and Marnie Giesbrecht, approached me with the request for a new piece for Alto-Saxophone and Organ, I thought of honoring them by creating a motif/theme with some reference to their names. I chose the first and last letter of their last names (G, S, T, T), transcribed into English, German and French letter names as g – E-flat – B – b. This motif, especially the interval of the falling or rising major third/diminished fourth or expanded as an augmented chord, is heard directly or in an oblique way in all three movements. In the first movement, Passacaglia and Fugue, the four-note motif is expanded into a twelve-tone theme, though treated in a tonal fashion. In the second movement it has a more lyrical character; in the last, it appears as a more figurative theme with cluster chords.

The title, Passage du Temps, is not so much a reference to music as a time art, but a homage to some of the great compositional devices and styles since 1700 to which I feel indebted. From the contrapuntal techniques by Bach in I, the quasi-ostinati accompanying a cantilene by Vivaldi and Bach (II, main theme), the French Romantic organ genre pieces (II, middle section) to the more “edgy” neo-Classic style of the early 20th century.

Suite From the Musical Memoirs of a Canadian Organist for Organ Duet (1993)

This Duet Suite for Organ was commissioned by CBC for Joachim Segger and Marnie Giesbrecht 1993, premiered at the New Music Festival in Edmonton 1994 and included in the performers’ CD Dancing Ice, 1994. Since there was a request by the performers to include some Canadian content, I decided on:

  1. Depicting elements from my experience as church organist dating from almost four decades (though they are things all organists experience), i.e. playing for morning and evening services, for Christmas and weddings (including the dilemma to choose wedding music), dealing with the question of traditional music versus the modern praise bands in church; also portraying, with some humor, the sudden pitfalls an organist may experience such as a stuck note on the organ or a reed pitch out of tune.
  2. Reflecting, tongue-in-cheek, some of the themes that Canadians struggled with in 1993, namely a national recession, the question of Canadian identity and possible separation of Quebec, but, on the bright side, the success of ice hockey and the Maple Leafs winning the Baseball World Series. Various musical quotes from O Canada (Owe Canada), God Save the Queen, the French National Anthem as well as crowd cheerleading motives from the electronic organ at ice hockey arenas are heard as sort of light-hearted Leitmotifs. All of these are heard in the final movement called Postlude as a Toccata, followed by a Canadian Fugue in three sections.

Presenter: The Department of Music
Event Title:Celebrating Canada on The Casavant: Organ and Saxophone music by Canadian composer Jacobus Kloppers
Date: Sunday, January 22, 2017 @ 3 p.m.
Venue: Convocation Hall
Admission: $10 student/senior | $20 adult

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