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Let Us Celebrate Forrest Eimold


Upon learning that the Organ Recital Series at St. Paul’s Parish in Harvard Square on the Sunday before Memorial Day would present fourteen-year old Junior Organ Scholar Forrest Eimold, I was all the more determined to attend. I was not to be dissuaded by Music Director John Robinson, figuring that if TV can celebrate this and that standout youth athlete, then certainly a review would be in order to celebrate a youngster as promising and as exceptional as Forrest Eimold.

How so? For starters, what youngster is playing the organ at this tender age? Still more surprising is this fourteen-year-old’s taste in repertoire—that being an entire program of 20th-century works including one of the French master, Olivier Messiaen. In his introduction to the recital, John Robinson, who is one of Forrest Eimold’s teachers, keyed in on the unfamiliarity of the program’s music and its abstract concepts, offering his advice—“let the music do the work.”

The parish’s 1905 Woodbury interfaced with a 1960 Casavant organ, further linked up to “digital voices” through loudspeakers, found a match in Forrest Eimold who proved to be quite the colorist and more. Remaining somewhat in disbelief at the enormous feat this Junior Organ Scholar managed, I would very much hope there will be more opportunities to hear him, especially as he continues to grow musically.

Eimold’s opening with Morton Feldman’s only oeuvre for organ, Principal Sound, dating from 1980, was not a good choice as it was far too long, eventually taking a toll on listening stamina, especially when it came time for the final entry on the program, the Messiaen. Let there be no doubt, though, that Eimold’s grasp of the abstractionist’s realm was complete. Sensitivity and “patience,” a word the organist is fond of, were everywhere in evidence.

William Bolcom’s Bach styled chorale prelude, Jesus Calls Us, O’er the Tumult, brought relief at least for a while before its harmonies turned murky. Eimold’s feet carried out much of the action moving adeptly, spiriting the left hand’s clear chordal movement, all this going on whilst the right hand reverently intervened with a reed, pronouncing the melody.

In nomine Lucis of Giacinto Sclesi caught Forrest Eimold’s fascination for that “patient” continuum. Yet another slow work on the Sunday mid-afternoon organ recital was made memorable by an ever so astute realization by this young, bright organist. His clear understanding of the layout of the harmonic plan, its centering on a drone and minor triad and then its veering from that scheme was projected through his intense building via texture and crescendo.

Enter the young organist as composer. His “in deserto” began, once again, with that notion of “patience”—almost unreal for someone so new to the planet. An alluring cycle of two finely chiseled chords repeated then met with a rumble in the pedals followed by monophonic chant on the keyboard returned again and again. Lush seventh chords chanted out another melody while an ascending minor third in strict rhythm would not stop. Such wonder, though, got caught up in overstaying its welcome. Judicious editing would seem to be in order.

Having studied with Messiaen at the Paris Conservatory, I could only imagine how this master would have taken to Forrest Eimold’s iteration of the five-movement Messe de la Pentecôte. Striking were the stereophonic dialogues Eimold registered. From back then front of the church came timbres with that French clarity. Later, string stops as in the fourth movement, Communion, reintroduced the French lushness perfect for that conservative side of Messiaen. Agile hands took flight in the roaring close.

Messiaen’s states of paradisiacal vertigo, trance, and serenity are just fingertips away from this budding artist. Colors, though, are in beautiful array from low crumhorn-like buzzing to near out-of-hearing range two-foot wafting were right there.

Let us all celebrate this young artist Forrest Eimold!

David Patterson, Professor of Music and former chairman of the Performing Arts Department at UMass Boston, was recipient of a Fulbright Scholar Award and the Chancellor’s Distinction in Teaching Award. He studied with Nadia Boulanger and Olivier Messiaen in Paris and holds a PhD from Harvard University.

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