Organist Jenny Vincent will put on her first concert in several years at Knox United Church (345 Pym St.) in Parksville on Sept. 29.
Vincent, who has played in cities across North America and Europe, has put on concerts in Parksville with CBC science journalist Bob McDonald, which combined science and music. The shows were a hit and were repeated in Victoria and Vancouver.
She hopes to show people the organ is much more than something you hear at church on Sunday mornings.
“The organ is an amazing instrument,” she said. “It can play everything. I sound like an orchestra.”
Vincent said modern organ concerts are a lot more visual and exciting — gone are the days when the organist was hidden away in an organ pit.
The Knox United Church organ can be moved around central stage
“You’ve got cameras on you and people are blown away by how physical the organ playing is,” she said.
“You’re playing with your feet, you’re playing with your hands.” Her performance involves playing three keyboards with her hands, plus the pedals at her feet.
This month’s ‘Pedal Mania’ concert will be a solo performance, with Vincent covering anything from Bach to jazz to selections from The Carnival of the Animals (Le Carnaval des animaux), a humorous musical suite by French composer Camille Saint-Saëns.
“Those are orchestral transcriptions and they’re quite cute.”
Vincent has an eclectic taste, but as an organist finds herself drifting back to Bach.
“Anything by Bach, just because it’s so challenging and it gets your techniques going,” she said.
She looks forward to playing in Knox United again, known for its impressive acoustics, which enhance the sound of an electric organ Vincent was instrumental in fundraising for while Knox’s music director.
A big part of the campaign was the concert series, organWORX, which involved McDonald, Vancouver-based harpist Janelle Nadeau and a world-class project choir called the Schooner Cove Singers.
“It sounds beautiful,” Vincent said. “And when the organ came in I did not want it to be like the traditional way they put in electric organs.”
Traditionally, all speakers are up front, as if it were a pipe organ. Instead, Vincent had the organ set up to allow surround sound.
“You can close your eyes and you can think you’re actually in a cathedral.”
Before going on stage to perform, she prepares with meditation and deep breathing.
The organ runs in her family. Vincent’s parents were immigrants from the Netherlands, where the organ is very popular, including with her father.
She began to learn the instrument at age six. “I couldn’t even reach the pedals back then,” Vincent said.
She and husband Paul said they are both very thankful for the support from Knox United and the community over the years.
“We had concerts that drew up to 350 people,” Paul said. “And I would say probably the largest numbers-wise at Knox in the last five to six years were concerts that Jenny had done with Bob McDonald and so on and it was a great introduction to the community at large about what this organ, this wonderful instrument, was all about.”