Oct. 26 Concert at First Presbyterian, Ft. Lauderdale, 7pm
A world-renowned organist and part-time Fort Lauderdale resident will give a free concert Sunday, Oct. 26, performing works by George Gershwin, French classics and an original composition based on Taiwanese folk songs.
Chelsea Chen, 30, began serving as artist-in-residence at Coral Ridge Presbyterian in Fort Lauderdale earlier this year, while also having similar duties at Emmanuel Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, her home base.
“There’s a lot of that back and forth,” says Chen, who stays with church friends when in Florida. “I’m lucky I have nice people down here.”
While she says part of her job is caring for the massive 6,600-pipe organ at Coral Ridge Presbyterian, her concert Sunday will be held at First Presbyterian Church. She says she is flying down Thursday to get accustomed to their organ.
Chen was raised in San Diego and moved to New York at 17 to attend Juilliard just before Sept. 11, 2001.
“It affected everybody,” she recalls. “You had to really dig deep in your soul and think about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. In some ways, it girded up the arts community to say that beauty and music and art in general allows us to express our deepest emotions, whether they’re painful or joyful.”
Organ music isn’t something people hear every day, and many people outside the organ world don’t know what to expect from her concerts, Chen says.
“I guess people often associate organs with two things: the Dracula Halloween instrument or the baseball organ,” she says. “For me, it can do much more. It can play pieces that are delicate, just like an orchestra, from very soft to extremely loud.”
Chen says she likes to demonstrate the organ’s range with her selections. Her setlist on Sunday will include Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm,” French composer Maurice Duruflé’s “Prélude et fugue sur le nom d’Alain” and “Taiwanese Suite,” which Chen wrote in 2003, based on folk songs from her father’s homeland. (Her mother is from Oklahoma.)
“I try to pick a variety of pieces, to give every listener something,” she says.
Chen has played in Europe, Australia, and Asia, at venues such as Singapore’s Esplanade, Hong Kong’s Cultural Centre and Kishinev’s National Organ Hall. She has soloed with the Wuhan Philharmonic in China, the Jakarta Simfonia in Indonesia and the Juilliard Percussion Orchestra in Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall.
She also has recorded several albums: “Live at Heinz Chapel” at the 2005 Convention of the American Institute of Organbuilders, “Reveries” in 2011 at Bethel University, and “Eastern Treasures” in 2010 with violinist Lewis Wong.
Chelsea Chen will perform 7 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 26, at First Presbyterian Church, 401 SE 15th Ave., in Fort Lauderdale. Admission is free. Call 954-462-6200.