Final organ concerts bid goodbye to season

The Tallman Tracker Organ Concert and Massey Memorial Organ Mini-Concert are not the final events of the season, but Institution Organist Jared Jacobsen designed them to help audiences say goodbye to Chautauqua — and to help himself say goodbye to the instruments.

“It isn’t easy because I’ve played [the Massey Memorial Organ] almost every day and lived through its triumphs and its troubles this year,” Jacobsen said. “The Massey Organ exposed me to the organ when I was about 5, and it sort of pointed me into what I’ve always wanted to do. I celebrate that a little bit inside of me as I’m playing this closing concert.”

The Tallman Tracker Organ concert is titled “The Last Notes of Summer,” and it will be performed at 12:15 p.m. today in the Hall of Christ. Jacobsen will perform the Massey Memorial Organ Mini-Concert, “The Virtuoso Organist: America,” at 12:15 p.m. Wednesday in the Amphitheater.

“Part of our job at the closing week, with everything we do, is to help people say goodbye to Chautauqua, and I have to say goodbye to the instruments, too, along with everything else,” Jacobsen said. “So, with the Massey, I usually do something big and rock ’em, sock ’em, and for the Tallman, I try to do something more tender and reflective.”

The Tallman concert’s theme is drawn from the song “The Last Rose of Summer.” It will include a set of variations on that tune by I.V. Flagler, who is a former Chautauqua organist.

“I trot it out every year at the end of the season,” Jacobsen said.

Of the two end-of-summer organ pieces he knows, Jacobsen said Flagler’s works best on a small organ such as the Tallman.

The program will also include an explanation of how the Tallman Tracker Organ works. Although this explanation was also done at the beginning of the season, Jacobsen likes to repeat it in the final week because there is a high number of first-time visitors to the grounds.

“The program will be a mixture of show and tell and helping people understand that this place is going away for a while, but it will be back,” Jacobsen said.

While the Massey Memorial Mini-Concert will serve as a conclusion to the “Virtuoso Organist” series, it is, also a celebration of the music Jacobsen was introduced to as a child at Chautauqua.

“The man who was the organist then was Robert Woodside, and he was very keen on playing music by living composers,” Jacobsen said. “That was kind of a uniquely American phenomenon in the music world, because [American] organists would play music that was hot off the press or the ink wasn’t even dry yet.”

Though not all of the composers on Wednesday’s program are still living, many are by composers Jacobsen has heard play live, he said.

“We’re still in an era where the vast majority of stuff that’s played on any concert, of any kind is by dead people, because we know what works and we know what sells,” he said. “Whereas organists, we’re fearless. So that’s the way I’ve heard organ music growing up here. The energy of exposing people to new literature is very appealing to me.”

Included on the program are pieces by Frederick Swann and Herman Berlinski, who have both performed on the Massey Memorial Organ. A composition by Robert Hebble will also be performed.

Jacobsen hopes these concerts help to carry the audience through to next season.

“So much life goes by between seasons here,” he said. “We all hope that we’ll be back, and we leave here in the confidence that we will be back somehow. This is kind of my best shot at it for the next 10 months, because this has to be my fix that keeps me going for the next 10 months, too.”