Organ Music of Steven Monrotus Listed By Opus Number

Biographical

The creator of this web site was born at a very early age in Saint Louis, Missouri.  When he was one year old his parents moved to Affton, a much smaller city in the Saint Louis Metro area, where he grew up.  Upon graduation from the Affton public schools with a diploma of special distinction he attended Southern Illinois University at Carbondale where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree after which he attended Washington University in Saint Louis where he earned the degree of Doctor of Dental Medicine.  He went on to practice as a trusted and respected doctor of dentistry in Missouri for over four decades until his retirement in 2016.

At the age of 13 Dr. Monrotus began private study of Organ and harmony with Robert Thompson and two years later went on to pursue more advanced private instruction with James Frazier, Gregory Cohn, Henri DeKiersgieter, and at Saint Louis Cathedral Basilica with Dr. Mario Salvador.  During his teen years he was also heavily influenced musically by his friendship with and the dramatic and extended song arrangements of world class theatre organist Don Baker.  Much later in life he resumed intensive private instruction with his mentor John Weissrock at the Church of the Gesu on the campus of Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

After serving 4 consecutive years as organist for his parish church and many more accumulative years as a choir rehearsal pianist and staff organist at the Saint Louis Scottish Rite Cathedral he was appointed Principal Organist there in 2018 to officially preside at its historic Kimball organ.  He is the first and only Freemason to be appointed to the official office of Grand Musician for the Grand Lodge of Missouri A.F. & A.M. and is the only Freemason in Missouri Masonic history ever to have been appointed to the additional offices of Grand Organist/Musician for the Grand Chapter R.A.M., Grand Council C.M., Grand Commandery K.T., General Grand Chapter R.A.M. International, General Grand Council C.M. International, York Rite Sovereign College of North America, Provincial Grand Court for the U.S.A. -- Masonic Order of Athelstan in England, Wales, & its Provinces Overseas.  He currently serves in all of these several offices, simultaneously.

Dr. Monrotus is a member of Saint Louis Chapter of the American Guild of Organists (A.G.O.), Saint Louis Theatre Organ Society, and American Composers Forum.  He is a founding member of the Panel of Advisors for the Committee on the New Organist (CONO) of the A.G.O., and his travels have taken him to or through thirty-five states and two Canadian provinces to perform at over forty Masonic venues.  He remains heavily involved in the music ministry and in 2015 became webmaster of OrganBench, an online conceptual learning resource for organists.  Having been blessed with well over half a million visits to date, this web site has become a widely used tool and continues to occupy several hundred visitors daily.    

Today we hear many academic voices promoting their own talking points, one of which, in effect, is that digging through the chronicles of history for anything practical that still applies to our free-wheeling society of today is generally of little worth if not a complete waste of time.  Sadly, the creative arts have been exposed to that same persuasion despite the reality that studying and learning what has come before has explicit practical value, distorting or trying to erase it has tangible effects, and nothing from any age is devoid of interest in which the operation of a quick imagination is discernable.  Anyone composing for Organ these days is writing for a medium whose core repertoire spans hundreds of years and is automatically entering into a dialogue with the past and having enduring works for models.  This parley with the past inevitably leads to the inference that nothing in music discloses a more powerful and constant stimulus to the imaginative faculty than contrapuntal methods of tone association.  It may be easily argued therefore that counterpoint the arterial life's blood of music.  And, since the Organ is essentially a polyphonic instrument and polyphony is merely the product of the employment of the contrapuntal method, it follows that fuguethe most elaborate of contrapuntal processes, takes precedence as THE Organ piece par excellence.  It should therefore come as no surprise that contrapuntal figuration and various modes of imitation including canon, fugue, fughetta, fugato, and invention procedure should figure prominently in the music of an emerging composer who writes for this instrument today.

Dr. Monrotus' Organ compositions made it into the 2021 finals of the non-profit YouTube-based Community-Fusion Network "Free For All" competition adjudicated by a team of international experts who received multiple submissions from over 150 contestants -- people from many countries who, according to the judges, were among some of the best composers in the world.  Within these 5 collections are 35 scores, the majority (21) of which are stand-alone fugues or fugues paired with a prelude of some sort in which canons and imitations are liberally employed.  Spread across 33 Opus numbers (including Op. 7, a fughetta with introduction) this music is made up of complete, recital-worthy pieces which explore a variety of styles and a broad range of contrapuntal writing.  Most (12) of the fugues (Op. 7, 11, 19, 21, 22, 23, 24, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31) are supplied with tonal answers and the remaining nine (Op. 6, 10, 13, 18, 20, 25, 26, 32, 33) with real answers.  Two of them (Op. 10, 18) start in the soprano voice, five (Op. 11, 22, 23, 26, 30) in the alto, thirteen (Op. 6, 13, 19, 20, 21, 24, 25, 27, 28, 29, 31, 32, 33) in the tenor, and one (Op. 7) in the bass.  Most (14) of them (Op. 6, 7, 10, 11, 18, 20, 21, 23, 24, 25, 28, 31, 32, 33) start on the 1st scale degree, but four (Op. 19, 27, 29, 30, all having modulating subjects and required tonal answers) start on the 3rd scale degree, two (Op. 22, 26) on the 5th scale degree, and one (Op. 13) on the 2nd scale degree.  All are in 4-voices and have long subjects, multiple countersubjects, short codettas linking entries in the expositions, generally short episodes often of equal length (a salient feature which provides for rapid and weighty development as well as a signature sound), and are written in either triple or quadruple counterpoint showing at times some bold and unusual moves:  for example, four of them are supplied with redundant (5th) entries during which all 4 moving lines either are inverted (Op. 18) or modulate to the relative key (Op. 22, 31) or a whole tritone distant from the home key (Op. 33).  One of them (Op. 11) is a double fugue in which the 2nd subject is introduced using invention (rather than fugal) procedure.  Certain pieces are also thematically related:  for example, the subject from Op. 26 is the inverse of the subject of Op. 25 -- the Op. 33 subject is the inverse of the subject from Op. 32 -- the 1st countersubject found in Op. 28 is the Op. 27 subject inverted.  The theme of the Op. 5 Prelude and the subject of the Op. 6 Fugue also were derived by rhythmic transformation (same pitches, different note values) of the main theme from the Op. 4 Variations.

This music, having been recently submitted to a large, respected, and long-established international publishing firm for possible inclusion in its Organ catalog, is currently available only from the composer.  The scores in printable PDF format together with their mp3 computer generated audio clips have been transferred to data disk and archived for preservation purposes with 1) the Grand Lodge Library of the State of Missouri, A.F. & A.M. located at the Grand Lodge Complex in Columbia, and 2) the Saint Louis Valley Consistory, Orient of Missouri, A.A.S.R. located at the Saint Louis Scottish Rite Cathedral.

Those who love tonal music like this, i.e. music built upon chord relationships with no ambiguity of key, also should revere the impulse that would push one to the edges of tonality, if not beyond.  A good deal of music of great beauty has been written within regions of musical space where the tonal fences are shaky but still standing, and some composers have pushed their music successfully well beyond that.  Art forms destined to have a future subsist on energy innovation like this -- in the case of music by keeping the best from the musical language of composers from the past and doing something different, interesting, and unexpected with it that nobody's ever heard or tried before.  At the same time, with music today being divided into the sad dichotomy of tonal versus atonal, the temptation to view through a preferential prism more recently composed musical works which either strictly obey or tend to drift from traditional rules of tonal grammar and syntax and to weigh them too early in their life before they have withstood the test of time also seems to be ever-present.  But for those who believe that new music should be cogent, concise, contrapuntally savvy, listener-friendly, definitely of our time, and weighed by its discernable formal architecture, the quality of its thematic material, the bold moves it makes, and how it stands up under usage, such scores, often considered by their composers are mere trifles compared to the masterpieces of others, have been known to appeal to a broad group of musicians and music lovers over a span of time, cultures, and places, to have a life beyond their original premiere, and possibly labored over, loved, interrogated, and admired by future generations.

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