On Music for Church Cleaners Vol. I and II, O'Dywer, normally a harpist, brings her melodic sense of improvisation to the pipe organ.
Àine O'Dwyer is a harpist. However, on Music for Church Cleaners Vol. I and II, she brings her melodic sense of improvisation to the pipe organ. This set, originally released in shorter form on cassette, was recorded at St. Mark's Church, Islington, and each of the 17 pieces in this massive set were improvised on the spot. The title of the set is quite literal. Cleaners work on the church as O'Dwyer plays, and in the background you can hear the creak of wood, people moving around, clatter and chatter. The extra sounds add a sense of place and atmosphere to these pieces, but they also reflect a sort of physicality in these performances.
You can hear the pressing of keys and pedals on opener "Pedal Danse". You can feel the air being forced through pipes on the extended high notes of "Hymnals of Love Against the Grain". You can hear notes filling up the impossible space of the church, faintly bouncing off the high ceilings and wide walls on "An Unkindness of Ravens". The set is challenging but ultimately transfixing, serious yet playful enough to let the listener in to wander through these tracks alongside O'Dywer, along with the cleaners. This is a unique and fascinating set, the kind of improvisation that resonates so much it feels planned but smolders with the energy of discovery in the moment.