Commissioned for the 2020 National Convention of the American Guild of Organists in Atlanta, Georgia, my Prelude and Tarantelle for organ is a two-movement composition that shows a contrast between the beauty and tranquility of the first movement and the energy and vitality of the second. As I began work on the piece, I considered building some type of connection to the city of Atlanta into the piece; however, I wanted it to remain partially hidden, unlike many composers who have created fugues, fantasies, etc. based on B-A-C-H or other motives derived from the musical alphabet. I discovered that A-T-L-A-N-T-A becomes A-D-D-A-F-D-A, a motive that solidly establishes the key of D minor. This motive served as inspiration for the piece but is not at all prominent to the listening ear.
In the Prelude, the first seven notes heard are these exact pitches—in order, but in varying octaves, initiating the serene mood of the piece. It evokes for me a feeling of being in a wide-open space, with beautiful natural scenery. The registration is sparse but colorful, exploring the beauty of simplicity and various harmonic colors. In several places, fragments of the hymn tune “Wondrous Love” have been inserted—the tune was originally published in Southern Harmony but included and further promoted in The Sacred Harp, which was compiled by two Georgians and had several printings in Georgia.
In the Tarantelle, the “Atlanta” motive appears in the first seven notes of the pedal entrance, but with a different rhythm and character than in the Prelude. The figurations and the two primary motives convey a whirling, dance-like feeling akin to the Italian tarantella. The first motive enters in bar 7 in the key of D minor; the second appears in bar 27 in the key of A minor, with a few unexpected rests, as if gasping from the exuberance of the dance. The intensity builds as the piece progresses, becoming more frenzied and breathless all the way to the final D major chord.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Atlanta convention was cancelled but a virtual AGO OrganFest took place instead. Concert organist Amanda Mole recorded the piece at Actor's Chapel, St. Malachy's, New York City, and it was premiered virtually on July 21. The full OrganFest program for that night, with composer interview and premiere, can be accessed HERE.