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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Sounds of joy

Harpsichordist plunks out spirituals

Jazz harpsichord? Doesn't the phrase sound almost like a contradiction in terms? Isn't the harpsichord a delicate instrument for stately Baroque or elegant classical music?

That all depends. One of the most interesting recordings I've heard recently, Spirituals and Rags: Jazz Harpsichord, leads to a different conclusion. (The CD, ISBN 6-0002-3123-7, is available from Augsburg Fortress, Publishers, at www.augsburgfortress.org; 800-328-4648.)


Australian-born harpsichordist Audley Green has been influenced by her experience as a member of two predominantly African American ELCA churches: Grace in Hartford, Conn., and, later, Resurrection in Roxbury, Mass. Both congregations have long incorporated musical elements that were crucial to the development of the African American religious tradition.

In addition to Green's many public concerts and other professional activities and her work with schoolchildren, she has performed in both churches and worked closely with their musicians. She also has a connection with the Gospel Choir of the New England Conservatory of Music, Boston. The notes accompanying Spirituals and Rags identify notable composers, arrangers and musicians whose work is represented on the CD.

Highlights are Green's delightful jazz interpretations of spirituals, such as "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" and "Go Tell It on the Mountain," rags and boogies. She even includes a couple of improvisations based on music by Bach and English composer William Byrd.

Green dramatically illustrates the surprising musical and emotional range of the harpsichord. An excellent musician, she can open up and demonstrate the musical freedom of the African American tradition. It's impossible not to feel joyful after listening to this recording.


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