From proficient to performer

Taylor Muñoz

Jordan Payne displays her organ skills post-compline

Silence filled Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral as the weekly Sunday night compline finished. Those in attendance gazed up from their blankets on the floor to the church’s organ loft.

With her back turned away from the onlookers — a mix of strangers and friends — Jordan Payne began her post-compline recital, striking the keys of the church’s organ. Performing songs she had studied on the organ at Seattle Pacific University as a music therapy student, Payne displayed her years of dedication to the complex instrument during a reflective outro to compline.

“It took me a while to really know that I loved playing the organ,” said Payne, noting her initial frustration with the instrument’s intricacies. However, her skills in the instrument, as well as her passion for it, have progressively grown since beginning to play it, leading her to a recital at St. Mark’s.

Although a music therapy student throughout her entire four years at SPU, which teaches proficiency in several different instruments at the point of graduation, Payne has only been playing the organ for about two years. She is one of two music students who chose to learn organ in addition to her focus on the major’s guitar, piano and voice proficiencies.

Payne was invited to close out the church’s compline, a formal choral service by an all-male choir, that takes place at 9:30 p.m. every Sunday. Compline is popular in Seattle for its meditative and serene experience.

She got in touch with organizers at Saint Mark’s through Leslie Martin, a professor of organ, piano and harpsichord at SPU. Martin has guided Payne’s learning on the organ since she began.

“My professor would emphasize how I only have sound and silence; there’s no volume control,” said Payne. “To shape a musical phrase, I would have to lift sooner than I thought I would, or hold something out for way longer.”

Payne performed on the Flentrop, the main organ at Saint Mark’s. The instrument is one of the largest 20th-century organs employing mechanical key action, according to the church’s website. It contains 3,944 pipes, made from materials such as copper and African mahogany.

Almost all the songs Payne performed were either preludes or fugues, which, she said, build up skills and proficiency in the instrument. All four of the songs, in fact, were initially part of her curriculum in learning the instrument. They come from an array of different composers, from more modern ones such as Herbert Howells, to more historic ones like Johann Pachelbel.

Payne noted that because she’s performed these songs before, she felt more comfortable performing in a new space such as St. Mark’s.

After holding down the final notes to her last song, Payne released control of the instrument, once again filling the room with the same silence that loomed before she began to play.

In the organ pit where she sat, family and friends began to applaud as she took her final bows, beaming.