ANTIOCH -- Music has been an important component at St. Ignatius of Antioch Catholic Church for several years, brought about with the coming together of a magnificent pipe organ and the talents of Don Pearson, organist and director of music.
To share these gifts with the communities of East County, St. Ignatius has put together a five-part concert series featuring the pipe organ and guest organists and is inviting everyone to attend.
The Roger Trillium Masterpiece pipe/digital organ came to St. Ignatius around the same time as the selection of Pearson as music director. Upon hearing of Pearson's coming to St. Ignatius, the builders of Rogers Organs replaced the church's small organ with a big, manual instrument that is now in the church.
Though the organ had no pipes, a donor came forward and two ranks of pipes were added, totaling 122 pipes. Recently 17 more ranks were added to the central case, bringing the total to 1,159 pipes, creating a sound that more than fills the church.
"With these pipes, the sound changes dramatically because the windblown pipes move the air and you actually feel the instrument," said Father Robert Rein, St. Ignatius parochial administrator. "The pipe organ actually impacts you personally as it's being played or as you're singing with it."
A great instrument required an accomplished musician and Pearson fills that need, bringing from his 25 years as director of music and organist for St. John's Cathedral in Denver a wealth of experience and musicality. His ability to play, direct and accompany the service puts St. Ignatius in the category of only a select number of churches.
The combination of Pearson's skill and the exceptional pipe organ has dramatically improved both the quality of the singing and the level of participation, Rein said.
"The quality of music we have here approaches cathedral quality. We are only one of three churches in the entire diocese of Oakland where the entire liturgy is sung," Rien said. "If we did not have this instrument and Mr. Pearson, none of this would have been possible."
St. Ignatius also recently acquired a Heissler portative organ from St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Walnut Creek, where it had fallen into disuse. With St. Ignatius paying to have it repaired and renewed, the one manual, five-stop, seven-rank instrument has found a new home. The small organ will be used to accompany the choir and in concerts, as well as by Pearson with his students.
In the spirit of giving, St. Ignatius has scheduled its concert series as a way to share the gift of their pipe organ and excellent organist. As such, a variety of music has been selected that combines the classic and academic with popular, contemporary songs.
"Everyone is welcome and encouraged to come here and share with us," Rien said. "This is music that lifts one up above and beyond what we experience in daily life."
The series starts off on at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 4, with an organ concert of varied music played by Pearson that will, for the first time, make use of all 1,159 pipes.
On Oct. 27 at 4 p.m. the Great Hymn Festival will include choirs from 15 neighboring churches, singing along with the congregation and Pearson as organist.
Nov. 23 marks the debut of the Heissler Portative organ in a 7:30 p.m. concert of music for two organs with Don Pearson and William Vaughn of Cathedral Christ the Light in Oakland.
"They will be performing the music of Handel, Heiden, Bach and Corelli," Rien said. "People will hear how royal court music was performed in a very authentic way between these two instruments played in dialogue with each other."
The two December concerts will focus on the coming holiday season with an Advent Procession with lessons and choirs from throughout East County at 4 p.m. Dec. 1. In preparation for Christmas, the choirs will process by candlelight while singing great choral pieces and hymns.
The 7:30 p.m. Dec. 21, concert will be one of Christmas favorites followed by a reception of wine and treats in the parish hall.
"These concerts are a way for us to give back to the entire East County," Rien said. "We invite people to participate. That's one of the thrills of these concerts; people come because they want to sing."
What: Organ concert series
Where: St. Ignatius of Antioch Catholic Church, 3551 Contra Loma Blvd.
When: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 4; 4 p.m. Oct. 27; 7:30 p.m. Nov. 23; 4 p.m. Dec. 1; 7:30 p.m. Dec. 21
Cost: All concerts are free and open to the public. Free will offering.