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HomeNewsArchivesPIANIST TURNS TO ORGAN WITH GREAT SUCCESS

PIANIST TURNS TO ORGAN WITH GREAT SUCCESS

Oct. 13, 2003 — One of St. Thomas's very own and very special young musicians has returned to the island and given a delightful debut performance. Rebecca J. Faulkner treated the large crowd that gathered at the Shiloh Seventh-day Adventist Church Sunday evening to an organ recital which had warmth, flair and style.
The daughter of Rudolph and Vivian Faulkner, Rebecca had built quite a reputation for herself while still a high school student of the St. Thomas-St. John Seventh-day Adventist School, winning first prizes in piano and voice in consecutive years of the Arts Live-Vitelco Classical Music Competition for young people.
Having begun her music studies on St. Thomas under the late Maria Smith, she continued with Iona Jackson, Candace-Ann Fleming and JoSandra Jones-James. As an undergraduate at Oakwood College, she majored in science and is now a registered dietitian working in the WIC program.
Fortunately, Oakwood was able to provide her with the opportunity to study organ, and their fine music faculty members, Euridice Osterman and Dan Lawhorn, were able to facilitate her transition from piano to organ. Faulkner became the first student to complete a minor in organ studies at Oakwood in 30 years.
Her former teacher JoSandra Jones-James was given the honor of introducing the young performer to the audience, and her pride and admiration for her young protégé were apparent in the heart-warming comments which opened the evening.
Faulkner chose enlarged hymn variants in the "Triumphant Hymns" tradition as bookends for her program. She opened with a prelude on the popular Welsh hymn tune "Hyfrydol," set in a compelling harmonization by her former professor, Osterman, and closed with a "fanfare-studded" set of variations on "Crown Him with Many Crowns" arranged by Jerry Westenkuehler. If these are any sign of her taste in church service repertoire, fortunate indeed will be the congregation which can secure her services on a regular basis. In these works and throughout the program, Faulkner exhibited a clean, solid and assured technique which is wedded with the exuberance of her youth, good training, and intelligent sense of musical taste and style.
Two selections by Johann Sebastian Bach represented the Baroque era. The young artist gave a charming and playful performance of the shorter or so-called "little" Prelude and Fugue in F Major. This was only to set the mood for the "Schubler" setting of "Sleepers Awake!" which the master transcribed from his own cantata of the same name, in which it is played by violins and continuo and the chorale is sung by the tenors of the choir. This is a piece in "trio" setting: The performer's feet are doing what the cello would have done, the right hand plays what the violins did in the original, and the left hand plays what the tenors would have sung.
This may sound somewhat confusing, but it is really no more difficult than riding a unicycle while writing a letter and juggling eggs simultaneously. The seeming ease with which Faulkner gracefully danced the bass line while her right hand spun out the violin part in sparkling effervescence and her left hand "sang" the chorale melody in broad phrases made light of the technical demands. In fact, the organists in the audience seemed to be the only ones who knew how difficult a feat she had accomplished. In her warm and humble remarks to the audience, Faulkner filled them in on this matter — after she had played the work flawlessly.
The second half of the program was opened by a stirring performance of Sigfried Karg-Elert's "Now Thank We All Our God." This is a very characteristic piece by a composer who is the gateway to German Romantic organ literature. It is through an understanding of his style and harmonic language that an organist can grow into the works of Max Reger, Brahms and even Franz Liszt. Faulkner played this work with such conviction and profound expression that it is to be hoped that she will continue to explore this school of organ literature. She has an exceptional affinity for the soul of this style.
Transcriptions of works by Mendelssohn, Rachmaninoff and Don Wyrtzen rounded out the program, showing the audience the electronic possibilities of sound made by "Midi" computer units in conjunction with organ sounds. Rudolph Faulkner joined his daughter for a duet performance of the much-loved "Holy City" of Stephen Adam. In this piece, we were once again reminded that there is almost nothing that cannot be played on steel pan. The joy that father and daughter shared was contagious, especially after the featured performer of the evening had the humor and grace to remind the audience that, after funding her music education for so long, he certainly had a right to "jam" with his daughter!
It is so encouraging when our young people return to St. Thomas after they have received their education elsewhere. It is to be hoped that the sincere appreciation of the crowd that gathered to hear her will inspire Faulkner to remain here and continue to work to achieve her goals. She has stated that she would like to "further her education, continue her music ministry, train others and help create a chapter of the American Guild of Organists in the Virgin Islands."
Her talents are certainly considerable and her joy in sharing them is obvious. Many of the island's musicians, vocal and instrumental, had come to hear her recital. At the end of the evening, they did not join in the standing ovation which Faulkner received — they were leading it. Welcome home, Rebecca!

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