The Dickinson Theatre Organ Society continued in its 47th season with “A Christmas Spectacular,” featuring Scott Foppiano at the console of the Mighty Kimball organ, who came rising up from below with The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” joined by the Choir of St. Joseph’s on the Brandywine Church (Greenville, DE), under the direction of Mary Ellen Schauber.
Scott commented on how the DTOS Kimball is the “king of all instruments” and the “finest in the world” as he played Sleigh Ride, featuring the bells, followed by Jingle Bells along with the Johannes Brass Quintet.
The audience was then treated to the beautiful Bach / Gounod rendition of Ave Maria, featuring the organ and Alex Weir, a senior at Archmere Academy, on the violin.
All of a sudden, there arose a clatter. No, it was just David Heinze (Knucks Glisando and the 57 Varieties Band), dressed as Gene Autry, performing Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer on his guitar accompanied by Scott on the Kimball.
Alex Weir put away his violin and was joined by Caroline Quinn, a senior at Archmere Academy, as they sang a beautiful rendition of Baby, It’s Cold Outside, with the organ and the Johannes Brass Quintet. Mary Ellen Schauber took the stage, and her delicately splendid soprano voice, combined with the voices of the Kimball, offered a stunning version of Jesu Bambino.
The full choir, directed by Mary Ellen, joined with the organ for a Chorale on ‘Lo How A Rose E’re Blooming,’ by German composer Michael Praetorius.
Highlighting various solo voices of the organ, Scott delighted the audience with Angels We Have Heard on High.
The first half ended with J.S. Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring. It began with a delightful classical (acoustic) guitar solo, featuring Jackson Caldwell, a senior at Archmere Academy, then joined by Alex on the violin. The organ slowly and quietly joined, followed by the brass quintet, choir, band, and piano, featuring Dr. Michael Marinelli, headmaster of Archmere Academy.
Before the show and during intermission, the audience was treated to beautiful bells performed by two handbell choirs: St.
Mary of the Assumption Church of Hockessin, DE, directed by Michael Lundy, and the bells of the Hockessin United Methodist Church, directed by Barb Jones.
Scott and the whole ensemble opened part two with It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas, followed by the brass quintet and organ medley of traditional Christmas Carols, I Saw Three Ships and Good King Wenceslas.
The next piece was like sitting in Radio City Music Hall, sans the Rockettes, as Scott offered the Parade of the Wooden Soldiers, featuring the organ’s trumpet, chrysoglott, glockenspiel, and the post horn. “It was a lot of fun bringing this to you tonight,” quipped Scott.
Caroline and Alex joined the organ for a duet of Cesar Franck’s Panis Angelicus, followed by soloist Mary Ellen and the organ with Let It Snow. David, aka Gene Autry, returned with the 57 Varieties Band and organ with Frosty the Snowman. The audience was then surprised with some friends from cartoonland – yes, Alvin and the Chipmunks (Jackson, Alex, and Caroline), who performed The Christmas Song, with the organ and quintet.
The choir returned to the stage with Pianist Dr. Michael Marinelli to offer an Appalachian Carol, I Wonder as I Wander, featuring a tenor soloist from the choir. Scott then performed Under the Christmas Mistletoe, written by Richard Leibert, who was the chief organist at Radio City Music Hall from 1932 to 1971.
The show concluded with the bold and bright O Come All Ye Faithful – the opening verse sung in the traditional Latin (Adeste Fidelis), followed by the full King’s College rendition with brass fanfare.
The encore piece was the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah, which, of course, received a joyous and energetic standing ovation.
The entire show, not just the music, was beautifully designed – the stage, the lighting, the Christmas decorations, the beautiful
tree, the poinsettias on the organ, and the holiday lights. What a wonderful evening and such a great way to get into the holiday spirit. This is an event that no one should miss! Thanks to Bill Church and everyone who made this truly a “spectacular” evening!
David A. Ruth, Ph.D., of West Chester, PA is a former church organist, an avid organ fan, and a member of the Dickenson Theatre Organ Society and Friends of the Wanamaker Organ. firstname.lastname@example.org