Perry to continue as church organist in Grass Valley |

Perry to continue as church organist in Grass Valley

If you want to see Paul Perry now, you’ll have to go to church.

The maestro who founded Music in the Mountains 27 years ago and molded it into a top-flight festival group attracting international talent conducted his last MIM concert Thursday.

The familiar pomp of “The Star-Spangled Banner” – a “traditional English drinking song,” the program reminded concert-goers – and the yearning trumpet of Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” set the musical tone for evening.

On the lawn of the Nevada County Fairgrounds, thousands of picnickers gathered around coolers of beer on blankets and bottles of wine on little tables decorated in red, white and blue.

John Philip Sousa marches mixed with Armed Forces themes, whimsical arrangements of children’s nursery tunes and patriotic standards. But Perry’s artistic approach to music also wove deeper and more complex themes, including ethereal a capella sections and a musical interpretation of the Walt Whitman poem, “Song of Myself.”

In it, the 19-century American poet identifies himself with common people.

“I love the Howard Hanson work on ‘The Song of Democracy,'” featured in Thursday’s program, Perry said later. “It tells us about what is our responsibility for this great democracy and how to move it forward. The hurrahs are great, but there’s so much of it.”

Music in the Mountains will continue its search for a replacement for Perry. The two candidates that rose to the top in an earlier round of screening will conduct during future festivals: Gregory Vajda is resident conductor of the Oregon Symphony Orchestra in Portland; and Stephen Prutsman is artistic partner with the Pacific Symphony Orchestra in San Francisco.

Perry has said he would step back and let the new blood chart the organization’s artistic future.

“I enjoyed it,” Perry, 71, said of his final concert. “But I’m relieved it’s over. It’s a lot of responsibility.”

Though he has no immediate plans for any conducting gigs, fans can hear Perry pound out classical beauties and inspiring hymns most Sundays on the powerful organ at Peace Lutheran Church, in Grass Valley. Perry has been the organist there for many years.

Services are at 8 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. Sundays at 828 W. Main St. The ample sanctuary also often serves as the venue for Twin Cities Concert Association events.

To contact City Editor Trina Kleist, e-mail or call 477-4230.

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