‘Birthday’ concert to showcase Cathedral organ’s capabilities
Organ music will reverberate in the soaring space of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels May 5 as Cathedral organist and award-winning musician Samuel “Sal” Soria, performs in a concert celebrating the pipe organ’s tenth “birthday.”
The 4 p.m. concert will feature a diverse program of classical music and an improvisation by Soria highlighting the organ’s majestic sound, echoing in the huge Cathedral.
“I’ve played organs with more pipes before, but not any organ in 3.3 million cubic feet of space,” said Soria, who was organist at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago before being selected to be the organist for L.A.’s Cathedral dedicated on Sept. 2, 2002. Finishing touches to the organ, built by Iowa-based Dobson Pipe Organ Builders, were completed in May, 2003.
A Chicago native who began playing the organ at 7 — and just a few years later started providing organ accompaniment for his first Catholic Mass as a fifth grader — Soria was drawn to the Cathedral’s contemporary architecture as well as the opportunity to debut a brand new organ. “To be named the organist with a pipe organ ‘right out of the box,’ that’s something,” said Soria.
For the organ’s tenth anniversary concert, he will play a piece that he performed at the Cathedral’s dedication and hasn’t performed since: Sonata on the 94th Psalm by German composer Julius Reubke, who died at age 24.
“It’s one of the most turbulent organ pieces in all of organ literature,” notes Soria. “For Reubke to have written this grand opus [in his twenties] — Wow!”
Soria notes that the concert program will showcase the organ’s capabilities, requiring “lots of [pedal] footwork” on his part for the two opening pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach.
After he performs a rarely-played piece of “some of the most passionate music” ever by the late English composer Herbert Howells, Soria will play an improvisation, an acclaimed skill.
In 1996, he was a prize winner in the American Guild of Organist Improvisation Competition at Trinity Church, on Wall Street in New York, and also took a prize at the prestigious J.S. Bach International Competition in Organ at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. In addition, Soria has three CD recordings issued by classical music labels, and his work has been broadcast nationally on the Minnesota Public Radio program, “Pipedreams.”
Following his improvisation piece, Soria will play “Pavanne” by the late Robert Elmore, which he describes as a “gentle,” work before the grand finale by Reubke.
As an incentive for young people to attend, the concert is admitting students for free, waiving the suggested donation of $10. “We’re trying to reach out to youth,” said Soria, who is continually amazed at school children visiting the Cathedral who frequently ask him what instrument he is playing.
“I’ve gotten to know the organ a lot better” since playing at the dedication concert ten years ago, noted Soria, who does concerts and workshops across the U.S. in addition to his full Cathedral schedule of religious services, festivals, concerts and recitals. “The program is going to offer plenty of variety” for the audience.