It twas a big operation, especially in the 1970s, but thanks to a successful organ transplant, Michael Dirk will be able to give an encore performance at Surrey’s Maranatha Canadian Reformed Church for the Silver & Gold Centennial Benefit Concert tomorrow (Friday).
Fortunately for the talented organist, there was no surgery involved for the transplant. In fact, Dirk may not have even been born when the now 100-year-old Casavant Fréres Opus 501 pipe organ relocated from Vancouver’s Central Presbyterian to the Surrey church in the 1970s.
But that doesn’t mean he appreciates it any less.
The former Newton resident and Tamanawis grad, who has deep roots on the Semiahmoo Peninsula, including working and performing at St. Mark’s Angelican Church, has been playing the organ since the age of 12.
“I swear, I came out of the womb with a desire to play. Organs are the Ferrari of the keyboard instruments. It has all the bells and whistles. Before the advent of loudspeakers, this was the grandest of instruments. It really is the king,” Dirk said.
Since his return three years ago from graduate studies in Texas, the 30-year-old organ virtuoso has performed at three major concerts in Vancouver, where he points out most of the pipe organs are located.
His most recent performance, at MusicFest Vancouver, included celebrating the 100th birthday of both the organ and Maranatha Canadian Reformed.
In order to keep that 100-year-old organ in tip-top shape, Dirk and the church will be hosting the free benefit concert with proceeds going to the maintenance and preservation of the organ.
“It sounds phenomenal and so we want to raise a bit of money to keep it phenomenal. It has thousands of moving parts and pieces, like leather membranes, that are 100 years old and will soon need to be replaced,” he said.
“The program for the performance is based on the year 1912. It’s really fun to craft a program with something like that to focus on. It came together marvelously. Every piece on the program holds something of interest.”
Highlights for the program include a tribute to legendary organist Virgil Fox who performed on the organ in the 1960s, variations on the hymn tune Old Hundredth by Vancouver composer Denis Bedard and a very special improvisation to the Laurel and Hardy silent film The Second 100 Years.
“Stan Laurel and Charlie Chaplin were in Vancouver performing with a vaudeville troupe from London in April 1912,” Dirk explained.
“It will be a very unique experience to have a silent film feature right in the middle of the performance. No one does that anymore. “
Of course, Dirk does promise some more modern pieces for those who are new to the organ scene.
“My signature encore is usually the Hockey Night in Canada theme, there is also Phantom of the Opera, The Simpsons and Star Wars, even though there aren’t any organs in the Star Wars theme,” he said.
Just as important as the music will be the focus of educating concert-goers about the organ. The 100-year-old instrument has 2,400 pipes, but most people only notice the 100 in the front, Dirk explained.
Throughout the performance, there will be images from a slideshow on a screen for visitors, showing the inside of the chambers, as well as members of the Royal Canadian College of Organists, who will be displaying a pipe table.
“People will be able to see all the different shapes and sizes of the the pipes. I believe there are 40 different types all together,” Dirk said.
“The aim is to have a very fun, accessible show. I’ll be talking about the pieces, explaining their structure, so people know what they’re hearing and they’ll be able to feel my appreciation of them.”
The show will begin at 7 p.m. on Oct. 19 at Maranatha Canadian Reformed, 12300 92 Ave.