Since its incorporation in 1946, the Methuen Memorial Music Hall has each year presented eminent and emerging European organists as part of its annual summer organ series. Covid interrupted this practice, but the tradition resumes this year on Wednesday, June 14th, at 7:30 P.M. when Paul Fey, a 25-year-old organist and composer from Leipzig, Germany, will make his North American debut. His “Music from Leipzig,” will champion composers who lived and worked there. Eleven concerts follow in the Wednesday evening series. Details HERE.
The program will open with a spirited piece by Leipzig’s best-known composer, J. S. Bach’s Prelude in D-Major, BWV 532. The next selection, by Johann Kuhnau (1660-1749), who was Bach’s predecessor as Kantor at the Thomaskirche, is Biblical Sonata 1: The Battle of David and Goliath. The piece, with spoken narration from the First Book of Samuel, uses a variety of musical devices to portray the events of that famous confrontation.
The following piece, “Bist du bei mir, geh ich mit Freuden”, is an Aria from Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel’s 1718 opera Diomedes. Stölzel (1690-1749) lived in Leipzig 1707-1710, studying and composing under Georg Melchior Hoffmann (c. 1679 – 1715), the conductor of the Collegium Musicum. This lovely Area is better known as “Bist du bei mir,” BWV 508, a version for voice and continuo found in the 1725 Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach. But Bach was the arranger, not the composer.
The first half will end with Paul Fey’s “Fantasie on Was Gott Tut, das is wohlgetan,” a beguiling piece written in the “hollandse koraalkunst” style.
The second half opens with Felix Mendelssohn’s Sonata No. 3 in A Major, based in part on the German chorale, “Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir.” Mendelssohn (1809-1847) moved to Leipzig in 1835 to become director of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and in 1843 founded the Leipzig Conservatory of Music, now named Hochschule für Musik und Theater Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, the oldest university school of music in Germany.
Sigfrid Karg-Elert (1877-1933) attended the Leipzig Conservatory on scholarship and in 1916 succeeded Max Reger as professor of composition there. His “Choralfantasie on Lobe den Herren”, Op. 65, No. 58, is from a series of Chorale-Improvisations on popular Protestant hymns.
The world premiere of Paul Fey’s “Fantasie on Simple Gifts,” commissioned for the occasion, will close the concert. This sweeping, 12-minute of Neo-Romanticism sets the famous New England Shaker tune in a variety of moods, from quiet and simple to blazing and glorious. It will surely become a favorite recital piece for American organists and audiences in the coming years.
Paul Fey is a prime example of an emerging composer becoming famous through YouTube. Born in 1998 near Leipzig, Germany, he started classical guitar lessons during first grade and one year later added piano. After studying both instruments for 10 years, he took organ lessons with A. F. Kipping and Stefan Kießling, the former organist at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig. He is currently studying organ performance and sacred music at the Evanglische Hochschule für Kirchenmusik in Halle (Saale), where he will graduate next year. Paul serves as assistant organist at St. Thomaskirche in Leipzig where he accompanies the St. Thomas choir and plays both the “Bach organ” and the Sauer instrument.
In 2020, he started his own YouTube channel so his grandfather, who couldn’t attend church during the COVID threat, could hear Paul playing his compositions. Unlike German composers of the mid-20th century, who put theoretical purity before listener pleasure, Paul writes music that is accessible to the average listener yet satisfying to the trained organist. He bases many of his compositions on traditional German and American chorales and hymns in a variety of historic and neo-historic styles. One organist describes him as “the German reincarnation of Gordon Young, but much better!” People gradually took notice of his channel, and his subscribers grew from a few hundred to several thousand. He also started selling his compositions in PDF format online. As a result, his works are being played in concerts and church services, as well as online, by organists around the world.
Paul’s YouTube channel now has 20,000 subscribers. This may not sound impressive when compared to cooking or self-help channels, which routinely count over a million subscribers. But, in the small and recondite world of pipe organ music, 20,000 is a highly impressive number. He is also a prolific composer, showcasing a new composition almost every week. https://www.youtube.com/@PaulFey
Paul concertizes widely throughout Europe and often uploads videos recorded on historic instruments. He is part of the upcoming generation of internet savvy young organists bringing about a new renaissance of appreciation for organs and organ music through online media. He is also famous for showcasing Hauptwerk sample sets of historic organs on YouTube, allowing others to preview and hear them before deciding to purchase.
Several Methuen trustees subscribe to Paul’s channel and hosting his North American debut is yet another first in the Music Hall’s 77-year history of bringing the brightest and best to these shores. Fey’s other concert appearances this month will include Erie, Pennsylvania, Tonawanda (Buffalo), New York City, Washington, DC, and Raleigh, NC.
Sponsored by Randy Steere
“Music From Leipzig”
Bach: Prelude in D-Major, BWV 532
Kuhnau: Biblical Sonata I. The Battle of David and Goliath
Gottfried H. Stölzel Bist du bei mir from the Opera Diomedes
Paul Fey: Fantasie on Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan
Mendelssohn: Sonata No. 3 in A Major, Op.65
Con moto maestoso – Andante tranquillo
Sigfrid Karg-Elert: Op. 65, No. 58 Choralfantasie on Lobe den Herren
Fey: Fantasie on Simple Gifts (2023, World Premiere)
(commissioned In Memory of Lisa Compton Bellocchio)
Paul Fey was born in 1998 near Leipzig, Germany. He started classical guitar lessons during first grade and one year later added piano. After studying both instruments for 10 years, he took organ lessons with A. F. Kipping and Stefan Kießling, the former Organist at St. Thomaskirche in Leipzig. He is currently studying organ performance and sacred music at the Evanglische Hochschule für Kirchenmusik in Halle (Saale), where he will graduate next year. Paul is an assistant organist at St. Thomaskirche in Leipzig where he accompanies the St. Thomas choir and plays both the Bach organ and the Sauer instrument at the church.
Paul started his own YouTube channel several years ago and currently has over 17,000 subscribers. He is a prolific composer, showcasing with his personal Hauptwerk instrument a new composition practically every week, which can be purchased and downloaded instantly from his online store. His works have been played in concerts and services, as well as online, by organists around the world.
Paul concertizes widely throughout Europe and often releases recordings from historic instruments on YouTube. This concert is his North American debut. He is part of the upcoming generation of inspiring young organists bringing about a new renaissance of appreciation for organs and organ music! He is also famous for showcasing Hauptwerk sample sets on YouTube allowing others to preview and hear them before deciding to purchase.