|Zorn is the Minister of Music of Bethany Church UCC< 115 Main Street Montpelier, VT. At Bethany Church he conducts the various choirs and plays the organ for all worship services. He is well know for his inventive, powerful playing of congregational hymns. Preludes, Offertories and specially Postludes are performed each service to fully utilize the magnificent 1975 Noack German Baroque tracker pipe organ.
Zorn is a composer of piano and organ music. His major works, January 25, 1945 (the date of the liberation of Auschwitz) and "Garden Sketches," a six movement suite for piano, have been performed live on Vermont Public Radio. He had given solo piano and organ recitals at the Barrre Opera house, the W.T. Wood Gallery and at Bethany Church, Montpelier.
Zorn's music has always been public, but he has long had another means of expression.
"Musically, I can explain in very technical terms the architecture of each piece, as far as the harmonic structure, voice leading, melodic material, key and keyboard technique is concerned," he said. "I am always a few measures ahead of what I am playing in my thought process. With my music, I like people to hear and share with me feelings and emotions about various subjects, issues or events."
Excerpts from The Times Argus, Friday July 1, 2005, by Jim Lowe & photo by Stefan hard - Times Argus.
Before improvisation became the hallmark of jazz, it was the norm in classical music. Indeed, Bach and Mozart were famous for their improvisations. Montpelier organist Arthur Zorn will present a program of original improvisations and others based on the music of major composers on Sunday at 2 pm at Bethany Church. He will perform his own transcriptions of music by Handel, Brahms, Schubert, Elgar, Faure, Holst, Puccini and others, and two original improvisations with percussion, on the church’s replica of a German Baroque organ.
The arrangements come from popular works for orchestra, like Albinoni’s Adagio, Faure’s Pavane, and “Nimrod” from Elgar’s ”Enigma Variations” and “Jupiter” from Holst’s The Planets.”
They’re very melodious pieces, but my improvisations are very percussive, “Zorn explained. “The first improvisation is going to be mor3 like a scherzo; the second is going to be more monumental.”
Those two improvisations are based on material that he has already written and will be accompanied by Doug little, using tympani, suspended cymbals and chimes.
The works are “wild and crazy and long and very flamboyant, “Zorn said.
In improving, either on his own themes or other composers’ music, Zorn benefits from his theory teaching at Spaulding.“I’m so up on modulations, inversions and scales and stuff that I can pretty easily expand what’s there, “he said. ‘I just take their harmonic structures and melodies and improvise off of them. I know enough about the style it should be so I sort of imitate in my mind what is should be – like what a jazz musician does, but more in a Classical idiom or Romantic idiom. That’s my background.”
This knowledge also helps Zorn steer through the improvisations.
When I start fooling around and I get lost in it, like I’m so far away from the original, I know enough music theory to get myself harmonically back to the tonal center and the original material, “ he said. “It’s like if you drive around Manhattan: You can get lost, but you’never lost, because you can figure it out” due to the clearly structured street plan. “That’s sort of what if’s like for me.”
Zorn doesn't bother to worry about being note perfect.
“If I hit the wrong notes, I just explore the new tonal center made by that wrong note, and go off on that for a whi8ole, “he said. ‘”I try to keep the basic things of music, like variation, repetition and recapitulation.”
Bethany’s tracker (mechanical rather that electric) organ was built to play the Baroque masterpieces, so performing the lush works of the Romantic era is a challenge.“But, over the years I’ve been able to get it to sound Romantic just by pulling lots of stops, as there is no swell pedal,” he said. (Stops are the controls that activate sets of pipes.) “Everything you have to do by pulling lots of stops in and out, which I get a kick out of. So it’s a lot of manipulation to make it sound Romantic.”
Zorn has been improvising regularly at Sunday services for many years. “I get to perform so often it’s just fun,” he said, “and I know what people need to hear to be happy.”
Original Text by Jim Lowe, Times Argus Staff, Photography by Stefan Hard – Times Argus