December 2017
Fishell Concert a Perfect Tribute to Richard Enright

On Friday evening, November 10, the North Shore Chapter continued celebrating its 60th anniversary season with a recital honoring the life of one of its founding members, Richard Gordon Enright (1923-2016), who was also Professor Emeritus of Church Music and Organ, at Northwestern University.   The venue was Northwestern’s Alice Millar Chapel, home of Aeolian-Skinner Opus 1413 (4 manuals, 74 stops, 100 ranks), where Enright taught for 35 years. The organ was installed in 1964 when Enright had already been serving on Northwestern’s Organ Faculty for 15 years; he later served as chair of the department from 1969 to 1989.

Longtime North Shore member Morgan Simmons opened the evening’s program with anecdotes from his 54 years of friendship with the Enright family, comparing Dr. Enright to Old Faithful, El Capitan, and the Rock of Gibralter! Simmons also introduced Enright family members who were in attendance, and then the evening’s recitalist, Janette Fishell.

One of Enright’s most distinguished students, Janette Fishell completed doctoral studies at Northwestern in the 1980’s as a student of both Enright and Wolfgang Rübsam. Following graduation, she headed the Organ Performance and Sacred Music degree programs at East Carolina University from 1989 to 2008, and then became Professor of Music and Chair of the Organ Department at Indiana University. Her former students have won numerous competitions and serve in churches and on university faculties throughout the US and Asia. In addition to teaching, Dr. Fishell has, for over three decades, traveled the world, giving critically acclaimed recitals on significant organs in the US, Europe, Asia, and Australia.

Members of the Enright family with recitalist Janette Fishell

To honor her former professor, Fishell chose unique repertoire, juxtaposing (1) music tied to World Wars I and II, reflecting Richard Enright’s life as a veteran and part of the “greatest generation” and (2) works associated by Fishell with her studies at Northwestern under Dr. Enright.

Dr. Fishell titled her program “Requiescat in Pace” and opened with Leo Sowerby’s work of the same name, which was composed in 1920 to honor soldiers killed in World War I. It began quietly, using colorful solo flutes and reeds (and also – in place of organ chimes, which do not exist on Millar’s organ – mysterious bell-like sounds that we later learned were played by North Shore Dean Andrea Handley on handbells!). A masterfully registered crescendo and then descrescendo outlined the arc of this work.

Three Bach works followed, including a trio setting of Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr (BWV 664) that Fishell played for her audition at Northwestern and the Prelude and Fugue in E Minor (BWV 548) which Fishell played for one of her doctoral recitals. Fishell’s delightfully dance-like and playful interpretation of the trio setting was followed by another much more contemplative setting of the same chorale (BWV 662), played with charmingly limpid ornamentation and Baroque-appropriate rhythmic flexibility. The E-minor Prelude and its “Wedge” Fugue showed off Fishell’s virtuosity and masterful technique.

Following intermission, Fishell presented two works associated with French composer Jehan Alain, who died at the age of 29, fighting heroically in World War II. As stated in the recital program, these works were presented “as tribute to the bravery of the young Enright, who served in Patton’s Third Army of the 26th Infantry Division in the European theatre from 1943 to 1946.” Alain’s Postlude pour l’Office de Complies is a quiet work and, in this recital, began the second part of the program quietly like the first part, with serenely stretched phrasing of the Gregorian chant melody. Maurice Duruflé’s Prelude et Fugue sur le nom d’ALAIN followed, providing another opportunity to witness Fishell’s masterful registration and dazzling virtuosity.

The rest of the recital featured music by Czech composer Petr Eben, the subject of Fishell’s doctoral dissertation (she is considered a leading authority on Eben’s organ music). Fishell chose Eben’s Song of Ruth (based on the biblical story of Ruth) to honor Enright and his wife Sandy who were married for 67 years (Mrs. Enright was also a musician, a talented soprano and organist). Beautifully sung by Hannah Dixon McConnell, this composition featured piquant harmonies and frequent duets between organ solo stops and the voice.

Appreciate audience gives standing ovation for Fishell’s performance

The final Eben featured the third and fourth movements from Nedělní Hudba (“Sunday Music”). Depicting the story of Christ’s encounter with a possessed man (see the fifth chapter of Mark in the Bible), the third movement Moto Ostinato is one of Eben’s most frequently performed pieces. It features devilishly (!) dissonant repetition and varying registration – Fishell commented that she liked the way this work demonstrates the variety of sound available on Millar’s organ. The fourth movement Finale, depicting the battle between Good and Evil, reflected the composer’s firsthand experience as a prisoner in Hitler’s Buchenwald. Fishell’s performance communicated brilliantly what she wrote in the program notes: “The trumpet summons all to battle; a sacred Kyrie struggles against twisting chromatic ‘cat calls.’ Ultimately, the Salve Regina resplendently proclaimed on full organ, leaves no doubt for the listener that the Good has triumphed.” It was a perfect way to show off yet again Fishell’s dexterity (e.g. trill upon trill on both pedals and manuals) and assured mastery of the resources available on the Millar organ, including its Festival Trumpet.

Evan Duvall, Margaret Kemper, Janette Fishell, Andrea Handley, Hannah Dixon McConnell

For an encore, Fishell related that she asked Morgan Simmons if Dr. Enright had a “party piece” – and Simmons said it was Jacques-Nicolas Lemmens’ Fanfare … Fishell’s interpretation was the perfect segue to a festive reception that was (as Morgan Simmons described it) a “feast for the eyes and palate.” Thank you to North Shore board members, Judy Kohl, who created the “feast” with an abundance of bundt cakes (many flavors!), drinks and other goodies. Gratitude must also be expressed to board member Evan DuVall who organized so much behind the scenes for this event and prepared the beautifully informative printed program.

Janette Fishell was a classmate of mine at Northwestern, and I’ve long admired the talent and depth of understanding she brings to organ performance – her splendid technique and unerring ear for registration always serve the music she presents. I can’t think of anyone else from my student years who could have created a recital so uniquely fit and so well performed in honor of Dr. Enright and his years at Northwestern University as well as his place in the history of the North Shore Chapter.

Fishell with Will Schlueter

Following the recital Friday night, Prof. Fishell returned to Millar Chapel on Saturday to teach a performance masterclass for 5 area students. Participants included: Adam Chlebek, student of Richard Hoskins, playing Dupré’s Cortège et Litanie, Op. 19, No. 2; Nick Curry, student of James Brown at the Music Institute of Chicago, playing Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in c, BWV 549; Daehee Kim, student of Beth Naegele at Moody Bible Institute, playing Bach’s Toccata in d, BWV 565; Will Schlueter, student of Edward Zimmerman at Wheaton College, playing Dupré’s Variations sur un Noël, Op. 20; and Bill Wilson, student of James Brown at the Music Institute of Chicago, playing Vierne’s ‘Prelude,’ from Twenty-four Pieces in Free Style, Op. 31. Some 30 chapter members, students’ family members, and teachers crowded into the chapel’s choir loft for the 2.5-hour masterclass. Professor Fishell masterfully balanced musical insight, technical expertise, and rigor with approachability and wry humor. Her teaching effortlessly matched the caliber of Friday’s performance and was every bit as much a pedagogical model for the teachers in the room as it was instructional for the students.

Beth Naegele

Elizabeth Naegele, board member

Posted in Reviews of Past NSAGO-Events.