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Henry A. Barrios/ Th Californian

Jim Page performs at St. Paul's Episcopal Parish during the 2003 Lenten Organ Recital Series.

Thursday marks the beginning of a series of five noontime Lenten Recitals at St. Paul's Anglican Parish. Over the years I've attended many such concerts at the church and I've found them to be a refreshing way to spend my lunch hour.

Resident organist Sue Wagner said this is the 34th year the church has hosted the programs and even though they are offered during the weeks preceding Easter, the music isn't necessarily liturgical.

"We don't restrict it too strictly to Lenten music," she said. "This year we'll have a variety of things."

And that's especially true when you consider the program Jim Page, who'll lead off the series, has chosen for his program. The resident organist at First Congregational Church will give solo performances of pieces that range from classical to ragtime.

A versatile performer -- in the 1970s he made his living as a pizza parlor piano player in Southern California -- Page is well-known locally for his ability to play different styles of music on at least three different instruments.

"I play piano, organ and I'm harpist too," he said during a recent phone conversation. "I like all of them equally but it's a different type of like."

Page, 60, has had health problems in the last year or so but says he's doing fairly well now. He recently retired from Greenfield School District, where he taught special education classes.

His concert at St. Paul's will begin with music for the organ by four different French composers: Alain, Widor, Gigout and Dupre.

"I like the French composers; they write the best organ music overall," he said. "They are very dramatic --three of the (pieces) I'm playing sound like the bats are coming out of the belfry."

These selections will be followed by music in a lighter, almost frolicsome vein: "Galop," from "Moscow-Cheryemushky" by Dimitri Shostakovich and American composer John Williams' ragtime-flavored "Cantina Band," from "Star Wars."

Regarding the piece by Williams, Page said, "I've fixed it up so it sounds even more ragtime."

In case the audience indicates it would like to hear more, he's also prepared to play Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag" for an encore.

Each recital is free and it's OK to bring your lunch and eat it while the program is in progress, Wagner said. Or you can buy a box lunch from the Women of St. Paul's.

Musicians scheduled to play in the succeeding four recitals of the series are:

Feb. 28: Sue Wagner, organ; Elizabeth Kinney violin; Roxanne Starbuck, flute; Priscilla Beck and Suzanne Wagner, sopranos; Michael Raney and Michael Haynes, trumpets; Ron Christian and Fred Chynoweth, trombones

March 7: Kathie Riebe, organ

March 14: Meg Wise, organ; Susan Scaffidi, soprano

March 21: Eric Holderman, organ