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Local celebs: David Poon

Local celebs: David Poon

David Poon thought he was going to be a scientist “of some sort” until high school when music became his focus. He played trombone in the school band, but had been playing piano since he was five. It wasn’t until he began studying music at the University of British Columbia that he found the instrument that really spoke to him: the pipe organ. “It’s a very big power trip,” laughs Poon of why he loves playing the organ. “I really enjoy the repertoire. There was all this music for organ I didn’t know existed.”

Unlike a piano, which is a percussion instrument (pressing a key causes a hammer to strike a string,) the organ is a wind instrument as sounds are made when air passes through the pipes. An organ can have anywhere from one to seven manuals, or keyboards, each one with 61 keys, in addition to a pedal board with 32 keys. “It can be both intimidating and thrilling,” says Poon, noting the organ is referred to as the “king of instruments.” St. Hilda’s in Sechelt has a two manual Casavant Frères and as far as Poon knows, is the only pipe organ on the Coast. Playing an organ means the right hand, left hand, and feet are all doing something different. “When I started learning organ, it was like I had never played music before,” says Poon. “Your left hand gets so used to playing baseline on the piano, you find that when you start playing the organ, your left hand tries to copy your feet and when you try to separate them, your feet try to copy your left hand.”

Poon’s faith and his passion for early music and Gregorian chants have come together to define his musical career. “I see myself as a liturgical musician,” he says. “One who crafts music for services, to be integrated with the services rather than just being used as accompaniment or filler.” He is the founder of MOTET, an eight member ensemble choir whose repertoire is dedicated to quality sacred music for church services. “In a lot of churches, the music is not appropriate to what the service is trying to do and doesn’t point toward what the service is about,” says Poon. “It’s this thing on the side, [but] the music is an act of worship and acts as an aid to the congregation, just like the sermon and the readings.”

In addition to organ and piano, Poon also plays the harpsichord and is an accomplished continuo player, playing continuous base while improvising the harmony. Organ music also calls for improvisation, something that drew Poon to that style of music. “I had already been comfortable noodling,” he says. “But with the tradition of being able to improvise on organ, coupled with having to essentially make up things when playing continuo on harpsichord, that felt natural to me and I enjoyed that a lot.” Poon also enjoys choral music and is the director of the Pender Harbour Community Choir, the co-director, with his wife Sarah, of the Coast Messiah Choir in Sechelt, and founder and director of Vesper Song in Gibsons. Fall is a very busy time for him as all three choirs are rehearsing and preparing for concerts. Vesper Song will present an evensong concert November 26 while the two community choirs and MOTET prepare for Christmas time concerts. He also commutes twice a week as the Assistant Music Director at St. John’s in Vancouver, and is the father of three young children. “Sometimes it feels completely crazy,” he says of trying to keep a balance in his life.

To relax, he plays video games and transcribes video game music. “They have very good soundtracks,” he claims and is putting together music for a future concert. “The organ is well suited to play a lot of it.”

He plays Super Mario and Ikaruga with his sons, and when they get older, wants to introduce them to role playing games like Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI. Is this a guilty pleasure for the organist of faith? “They have soundtracks I adore,” says Poon of the role playing games. “I don’t see anything guilty about it.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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