“Octopus Music” appropriate first commission for organ duo

Nov 05, 2019

One of the first works commissioned by Elizabeth and Raymond Chenault was “Octopus Music” by American composer Myron Roberts. How apropos that this duet piece would help launch the newly-forged career of this husband and wife musical team.

In some ways, from a purely visual standpoint, this sea creature image is what organ duet playing is actually like: four arms constantly crossing over and around the other, pressing notes, turning pages, operating the organ controls; and four feet dancing and weaving across a four-foot-wide pedal board. But great music-making is not necessarily about the visual impact: it is about the sound. Indeed, the sonic tidal wave created by double the resources of a single performer is what makes organ duet playing so gratifying to the listener. Voluptuous chords made by 20 fingers, layer upon layer of melody, and a rich kaleidoscope of pipe organ harmony, sometimes thunderous and sometimes dulcet, is what an organ duo concert gives the listener.

The Chenault Duo’s Dec 3 Northrop performance will offer the roar of the full resources of the organ in Charles Callahan’s A Christmas Fantasy to the mysterious and hushed tones portraying the walk of the Magi to the manger in Myron Roberts’ Nativity Scenes, and the silvery jingle of the organ’s bell stop in Leroy Anderson’s ever-popular Sleigh Ride. The charming music is coupled with the magnetic southern charm and grace of the Chenaults, who are native Virginians and residents of Atlanta. What a marvelous way to start the holiday season!

Charles Miller is the president of Phillip Truckenbrod Concert Artists, the agency that has represented the Chenault Duo since 1991, and himself a professional organist.

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