When internationally acclaimed organist James Welch performs in concert Friday, he hopes to convince you that organ music is not just for funerals or background music.
“I assure you, this is going to be very entertaining,” Welch said.
Friday’s concert, sponsored by the Kern County chapter of the American Guild of Organists and the Westminster Choir, features Welch and his son, Nicholas, performing a wide range of works, from Bach to music that written in the last few months. It also features the unusual pairing of the organ with the piano.
“You often hear two people (playing) at a piano, but not too often for organ and piano,” Welch said.
“This music is written expressly for the organ and piano together.”
James Welch has had a distinguished career as a performer and as an educator. His professional career began at Stanford University when he decided to switch his major from chemistry/pre-med to music.
Eventually earning a Doctor of Musical Arts degree, Welch has served as university organist at Stanford and at Santa Clara University, as well as organist at several churches near the two universities, and has taught at UC Santa Barbara, with numerous publications, compositions and a book, “Richard Purvis, Organist of Grace.” While doing that and having a family, Welch has also performed all over the world, and is a recognized expert in Latin American organ music.
Welch brings that wide-ranging experience to Friday’s concert, including works from the baroque, classical and romantic era repertoire, opera, as well as new works, and also music that should be instantly recognizable.
“My idea here is ‘something for everybody,’” Welch said. “Even if you haven’t been to an organ concert too often, or even once, you will hear music that is familiar.”
Welch said a good portion of the concert program is devoted to American hymns and folk music, such as “Amazing Grace,” “Shenandoah” and other Americana pieces.
Welch said his son, Nicholas, 20, will be the surprise of the concert.
“I think it will be a real treat for everyone to see anyone play, but to see such a young person playing piano and organ the way he does will be really special,” Welch said.
Is Nicholas following in the family business? Yes, but maybe in a round-about way. The younger Welch, who has just started at Stanford himself, and as a music major, may be retracing his father’s earlier footsteps.
“He’s starting as a music major, but he might switch to pre-med,” Welch said. “He will always perform.”
The elder Welch said the concert will end with a film score-like splash, which he hopes will convince the audience of the entertainment potential of organ music.
“If you think you wouldn’t like an organ concert — come give this one a try,” Welch said.