review by Janet I. Martineau
Sheet music landed on the floor, feet tap danced across the pedalboard, bodies scooted and wiggled across the bench, and the final notes were often held soooooooo loooooog and LOUD the building nearly shook from the reverberations.
So it went at Friday night’s Concerts at First Presbyterian Saginaw event featuring, as the main attraction, two organists seated at one console -- four hands and four feet going full tilt on the church’s mighty Casavant organ. Even it, this inanimate instrument, must have been as spent at the end as were the athletic Colin Andrews and Janette Fishell.
Andrews and Fishell each played solo segments, but it was their time together, along with their unusual program selections, which were the hallmarks of the evening.
Thundering “Mars” from Holst’s “The Planets,” played by both, kicked it off, followed by her contemplative “Clair de lune” (Vierne’s, not Debussy’s).
Her whimsical “Fantasmagorie” by Alain evoked images of a horse/dinosaur beast on the beach and offered impressive footwork, followed by evil spirits turned into suicidal pigs in Eben’s “Sunday Music” -- with the suggestion we all turn the Bibles in the pews to page 53 in the New Testament, St. Mark 5, to read the full story while listening to her end it by playing up and down the three manuals like the ripples of waves.
On both sides of the intermission the couple collectively visited Russia -- where they first toured together -- to celebrate Ippolitov-Ivanov’s “Procession of the Sardar” and Gliere’s “Russian Sailor’s Dance,” from “Caucasian Sketches” and the ballet “The Red Poppy.” And Russian flavored they were indeed. Very.
And then came the sheer athleticism.
First Andrews soloed on Bach’s “Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor,” featuring the deepest of the rumbles in the organ’s pipes as a constant undertow in its detailed 21 variations, followed by Bonnet’s “Variations de Concert,” the final section of which offered a dazzling display of footwork by Andrews.
With the finale, all hell broke loose in their playing of the familiar “Bacchanale” ballet scene from the Saint-Saens opera “Samson and Delilah.”
The long expanse of sheet music went flying throughout (“Don’t be concerned when we do this,” Andrews advised at the outset. “We are trained and know what we are doing”) because there were so many notes.
At one time all four of their feet were at work and evoked images of tap dancers; endlessly their arms reached over and under each other; the wiggling and scooting the the bench intensified despite the fact this married couple already was one body.
All of the duets were transcribed for organ by Fishell, as impressive an accomplishment as her playing.
And the evening was capped off by a bountiful St. Patrick’s Day reception -- with all manner of foods having a green element as well as a green punch.