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 a year old his parents moved to the city of Affton in the Saint Louis Metro area where he grew up.  Upon graduation from Affton high school with a diploma of special distinction he attended Southern Illinois University at Carbondale where he earned a baccalaureate degree in physiology.  He continued his education at Washington University in Saint Louis where he graduated with 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 thirteen and without any prior musical concernment Dr. Monrotus expressed a sudden interest in playing the Organ.  After two years of private lessons in Saint Louis with Robert Thompson he went on to study with James Frazier, Gregory Cohn, Henri DeKiersgieter, and 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 four 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 also the first and only Freemason in Missouri Masonic history to be appointed to the offices of and to serve simultaneously as 1) Grand Musician of the Grand Lodge of Missouri A.F. & A.M., 2) Grand Organist of the Grand Chapter Royal Arch Masons, 3) Grand Organist of the Grand Council Cryptic Masons, 4) Grand Organist of the Grand Commandery Knights Templar, 5) General Grand Organist of the General Grand Chapter Royal Arch Masons International, 6) General Grand Musician of the General Grand Council Cryptic Masons International, 7) Grand Organist of the York Rite Sovereign College of North America, and 8) Provincial Grand Organist of the Provincial Grand Court for the U.S.A., Masonic Order of Athelstan in England, Wales, & its Provinces Overseas.

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.

He has also composed five collections of original authentically written art music for the organ for the benefit of organists in general and for the music ministry, in particular.  The online link at which individual scores may be obtained is:

sheetmusicdirect.com/en-US/Search.aspx?query=steven%20monrotus

PLEASE NOTE:  Dr. Monrotus receives NOTHING from the sale of his music.

ALL COMMISSIONS FROM THE SALE OF THIS MUSIC ARE BEING DONATED TO HELP UKRAINIAN VICTIMS OF WAR. 

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 IS 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.

Adhering to such measures to write new music is by no means outdated.  The bold Op. 33 Postlude fugue, for example, 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 in all categories from over one-hundred-fifty contestants worldwide -- people from many countries who, according to the judges, were among some of the best composers in the world.  Within his five collections are thirty-six scores, the majority (22) 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 34 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 ten (Op. 6, 10, 13, 18, 20, 25, 26, 32, 33, 34) with real answers.  Two of them (Op. 10, 18) start in the soprano voice, five (Op. 11, 22, 23, 26, 30) in the alto, fourteen (Op. 6, 13, 19, 20, 21, 24, 25, 27, 28, 29, 31, 32, 33, 34) in the tenor, and one (Op. 7) in the bass.  Most (15) of them (Op. 6, 7, 10, 11, 18, 20, 21, 23, 24, 25, 28, 31, 32, 33, 34) start on the 1st scale degree, but four (Op. 19, 27, 29, 30, all having modulating subjects requiring 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.

None of the fugues in these collections are classified as "simple fugues" because this term implies no recurring countersubject -- all of them are in fact supplied with at least two recurring countersubjects, and many have three.  Each fugue is written in triple (or quadruple) counterpoint because each subject and its two (or three) countersubjects take turns entering at least once in the bass with consonant harmony prevailing among all the voices.  Consistent features are relatively long subjects, short codettas linking entries in the opening exposition, and short episodes generally of equal length linking all subsequent entries permitting a rapid and weighty development, all of which combine to give these pieces a signature construction and sound.  One of them (Op. 20) is supplied with a counterexposition, but others make moves which are far bolder, undaunted, and unexpected:  four are supplied with redundant (5th) entries during which all 4 moving lines either are inverted (Op. 18), modulate to the relative key (Op. 22, 31), or modulate a whole tritone distant from the home key (Op. 33); another (Op. 11) is a double fugue in which the 2nd subject is introduced using invention rather than fugal procedure and carries on with a countersubject that exists in two forms, both of which reappear in the final combinatory section.  Certain pieces are also thematically related:  for example, the subject from Op. 26 is the Op. 25 subject inverted -- the Op. 33 subject is the Op. 32 subject inverted -- the 1st countersubject from 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 both derived by rhythmic transformation (same pitches, different note values) of the main theme from the Op. 4 Variations.

These scores are currently available only from the composer but have been converted to mp3 computer generated audio clips and made into slide shows which may be viewed and listened to on YouTube and on this web site.

Those who love tonal music like this -- meaning 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 into tonally rarified atmospheres 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, the speed of its harmonic rhythm, 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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