Douglas Major's second annual Fourth of July organ recital drew a a big crowd to Washington Cathedral on Saturday morning. And a good thing, too.
Good, that is, for those who love to hear the great organ in the cathedral wide open and playing things like Dudley Buck's variations on "The Star-Spangled Banner" and Major's own arrangement of "The Stars and Stripes Forever." Major is a virtuoso who can toss off variation for pedals alone in the Buck, with footwork like that of Chris Evert and John McEnroe.
He is also a musician who plays William Strickland's arrangement of Samuel Barber's Agagio for Strings in consummate fashion. Between the Buck and the Sousa, Major used some of the most seductive colors on the organ for William Bolcum's "Graceful Ghost" rag and an arrangement of the Round of the Princesses from Stravinsky's "Firebird."
For superb musical contest, a lustrous performance of the Sowerby Arioso matched the Barber Adagio. The holiday audience that reached back to the west end of the cathedral refused to let Major go until he had suggested that they all stand and sing "My Country 'Tis of Thee," for which he provided stunning accompaniment. Even then another encore was demanded, which was Ronald Arnatt's brilliant "Fanfare." It was a perfect way to begin celebrating the country's birthday.