Henry’s Music Featured in latest issue of AGO Newsletter

Henry at the 1989 Schlicker two-manual and pedal organ at House of Prayer Lutheran Church, Escondido.

March 1, 2024: Henry Doktorski was featured in the March 2024 issue of Titulaire, the newsletter for the American Guild of Organists Palomar Chapter. The article describes his love for making organ sound recordings, and includes links to seven of his recordings.

Chapter Member Shares Organ Recordings

Reprinted from the March 2024 issue of the Titulaire.

Palomar Chapter newsletter editor and former dean Henry Doktorski has a hobby: making recordings of organ pieces, including his own improvisations, which he has performed as preludes at House of Prayer Lutheran Church in Escondido, where he plays Sundays and Wednesdays. While he humbly refers to himself as a “village organist” and honestly admits he is far from a concert performer (he says he sometimes becomes afflicted by paralyzing stage fright which greatly diminishes his already-diminished technique), he claims there are some things he can do well, and he derives satisfaction from music making to the best of his abilities.

Some others recognize Henry’s artistic contributions to the genre. Dr. Christopher Cook, former dean of the San Diego AGO Chapter, and author of the monthly column “The Practical Organist” for the American Guild of Organists national publication, The American Organist, noted, “What a pleasure to listen to Henry’s recordings. Henry Doktorski really knows how to make the most of the limited organ resources at House of Prayer in Escondido, California. He has imbued each track with careful playing that prioritizes musical expression over technical achievement. His transcriptions are well suited to the nine-rank instrument, thanks to his expertise in voicing and registration. One never feels that compromises had to be made. But these are not the limits of Henry’s gifts nor his imagination. How delightful are his jazz improvisations! Clearly, he loves the creative process, and you will love their products. Delightful listening lies ahead. Don’t miss out!”

David Lewis, director of music and organist at Trinity Episcopal Church in Escondido, assistant instructor at Mira Costa College, founder/director of the San Luis Rey Chorale and Chamber Orchestra, and prominent member of the Palomar Chapter Program Committee, also has nice things to say about Henry’ s recordings, as well as Marty Haugen, the well-known American composer of liturgical music, as will be seen below.

Following are links to seven of Henry’s recordings. All were recorded on the 9-rank 2-manual and pedal Schlicker organ at House of Prayer Lutheran Church, Escondido, except for Nos. 4 and 6 which were recorded on the 3-manual and pedal Robert Knight hybrid organ (32 pipe stops, 25 Allen digital stops) at Saint Martha Roman Catholic Church in Murrieta, Riverside County.

(1) Henry Doktorski: Improvisation on Noël Nouvelet

“This is a very joyful, short piece that would be a great addition to any Advent or Christmas service. Based on the well-known, bouncy tune, it has a wonderful jazz middle and end. There is a ‘perpetual motion’ ostinato effect in the left hand that keeps the piece moving along. It is just plain fun!”—David Lewis

(2) Henry Doktorski: Improvisation on St. Brendan’s (They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love)

“This might shake up a few folks who remember this tune from the ‘early days’ of the ‘Hum and Strum’ guitar movement on the 1970s. It is infused with marvelous jazz rhythms and altered and sometimes dissonant harmonies. At times it is downright bluesy. The rhythms could be tricky in some places and it would require the player to just relax, loosen up and just have a little fun.”—David Lewis

(3) Anonymous: Estampie (c. 1320) found in a folio in the library of the Robertsbridge Abbey, England

“This ancient work is not an improvisation, but it has that sound to it. Medieval music and dance, with its lack of defined measures and bar lines, has a remarkably jazzy sound to it. Though played on a small organ in this recording, the piece is ripe for all sorts of creative and odd registration possibilities.”—David Lewis

(4) Modest Mussorgsky: “Promenade” and “The Old Castle” from Pictures at an Exhibition

“The slow, somber piece from the Pictures at an Exhibition would be a good addition to music for Lent and particularly Holy Week. With its steady pulse in the bass part it feels like a solemn procession, which, of course, the main tune from the “Pictures” is supposed to be. The music is dark and emotional and calls for colorful registration.”—David Lewis

(5) Paul McCartney: When I’m Sixty-Four

“A delightful rendition of the sentimental song performed by The Beatles and released on their 1967 album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. A mixture of ragtime and pop music, the song borrows heavily from the English music hall style of George Formby, while invoking images of the illustrator Donald McGill’s seaside postcards.”—HD

(6) Henry Doktorski: Fantasy on Marty Haugen’s “Gather Us In”

“Dear Henry, I watched your excellent video on YouTube. Well done! You have a real gift for creating new and fascinating sounds, and a real talent for arranging. It sounds like the organ you are playing is an extension of your spirit. I am honored that you put such time and energy in re-creating my piece. Blessings to you in your ministry.”—Marty Haugen

(7) Johann Pachelbel: Kanon in D

Henry and two of his organist colleagues—Bonnie Rex and Carol Graham—performed this arrangement of Pachelbel’s Kanon (all three sitting together on the organ bench) live in concert on the 22-rank three manual and pedal 1971 Reuter/Rodgers organ at Trinity Episcopal Church in Escondido, California, on Sunday, October 15, 2017. In this recording, Henry plays all three parts of the canon (plus the pedal and continuo part).

The ground bass is played on the pedals (16 SUBBASS and 8 GEDECKT), while the harmonic accompaniment is played on Manual II using 8 SALICIONAL and 8 CELESTE. The first canon part features the 8 GEDECKT, the 4 CHIMNEY FLUTE and 1 1/3 LARIGOT. The second canon part features the 8 PRINCIPAL, and the third part features the 8 TRUMPET. Henry also threw in a chime at the beginning and end for good measure, to help create a festive atmosphere. Henry said, “This organ version of Pachelbel’s famous canon has everything but the kitchen sink. It showcases all the four families of pipes (STRING, FLUTE, PRINCIPAL, and REED) and the percussion (CHIMES).”

To hear more of Henry’s recordings, including nine pieces by anonymous 18th-century French composers, and works by Michael and J. S. Bach, Jean Joseph Mouret, Ludwig Van Beethoven, Erik Satie, Aaron Copland, and Michael D. Costello, visit his YouTube Channel, or Henry’s Personal Website.

For more about the American Guild of Organists Palomar Chapter, see Palomar Chapter Website.