AGO Recital & Gala Benefit Reception

Honoring Cherry Rhodes & Ladd Thomas

Glendale, California, April 17, 2015

by Jim Hejduk
Jim Hejduk, AGO
Jim Hejduk, Lincoln AGO

OK, OK, so I was just going to send a check. Then Southwest Airlines sent me a sale e-mail and the AGO offered discounted rooms at the hotel where the post-concert reception was being held and I was hooked.  Having attended last year’s Endowment Fund benefit recital by Charlie Callahan in St. Louis, I figured this would be a good next step, for the good of the cause, etc.  Moreover, Cherry Rhodes was at the Curtis Institute during my first two years at Westminster Choir College and Alexander McCurdy was the common denominator.  And I hadn’t heard Ladd Thomas play since (I think) an AGO Region I & II combined convention in New York City in the late 60s on what was then the new Schlicker at Grace Church (now replaced by a new Taylor and Boody).  I’ve heard Cherry play at The Mother Church, Disney Hall, Riverside, and Holy Apostles in NYC and we invited her to play at Milton Academy in suburban Boston when I taught there.  But this was a chance to hear them both on their “home” organ at First United Methodist Church in Glendale, CA where Ladd Thomas has served for an astonishing 55 years!

First Methodist would have been considered cutting edge and avant garde architecturally at its opening in 1960. It reflects the now bemusing look of those architectural times with concrete walls, geometric stained glass perhaps inspired by Mondrian, and a high, narrow nave.  The 84-rank Schantz of 1962 with up-dates in ’72, 2004, and 2011 speaks clearly from behind a reredos metal sculpture of crosses and mesh cloth.  I chose to sit near the back and found the organ filled the room abundantly and surprisingly well.  It’s a solid instrument.  The sanctuary is large, the acoustics very favorable, and the place was packed for this concert.  We’re talking SRO owing to great publicity, congregational and Guild support and the warm esteem in which Thomas and Rhodes are held in the greater LA organ community. This was further reflected in the lavish program booklet including (paid for) congratulations from several former students from the University of Southern California, fellow organists, other local churches, the Curtis Institute, the Peabody Conservatory, the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, and the USC Thornton School of Music itself where both are long-time professors.

Ladd Thomas
Ladd Thomas

Ladd Thomas began with the Mendelssohn 1st Sonata in a rendition that revealed not only taste and refinement in this beloved warhorse, but also solid senses of sagacity and individuality without  sacrificing the grand progress of the piece itself.  I’d call it a performance of generous introspection and sharing which had a “fine wine” appeal to it given Thomas’s long association with the work.

Cherry Rhodes
Cherry Rhodes

But let’s be honest.  When the Durufles were touring the U.S. in their hey-day, concert-goers would dutifully sit through M. Durufle’s opening selections, but they were really there to hear Madame blow the roof off on her half of the recital with one breath-taking, jaw-dropping piece after another.   Such was my case anticipating Cherry’s rendition of Moussorgksy’s Pictures at an Exhibition transcribed by her former teacher, Jean Guillou.  Many people forget or don’t realize that Cherry Rhodes was THE person who introduced Jean Guillou and his music to the United States and she has carried this torch faithfully for, lo, these many decades.

If a piece to be transcribed  is difficult to begin with (Bach Musical Offering and the Goldberg Variations, Mozart Adagio and Fugue in C Minor, Liszt BACH, Prokofiev’s piano Toccata, Stravinsky Petrushka, and the Rachmaninoff Symphonic Dances being a few examples),  Guillou often adds to its terrors.  Pictures… is no exception.  It has nigh impossible portions assigned to the pedals, the piston and stop changes come at the split-second rapidity of a Hotchkiss repeating rifle, but the music itself has to remain intact and honor the composer’s original intent.  What Rhodes achieved was simply astonishing.  This was landmine avoidance, eggshell-walking confidence without sacrificing  any of the on-going timing and line  of the piece through its multiple movements while still maintaining a brilliant over-all arch.  One realized in stunned amazement that you were listening to a truly great artist.

Like most kids, my introduction to The Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Dukas was watching Mickey Mouse in that star-bedecked floppy hat trying to sweep away those cascades of water on “Walt Disney Presents” on week-night television in the ’50s.  And like most folks, I thought Dukas had probably written that piece exclusively for Disney just as Stravinsky had composed The Rite of Spring for “Fantasia,” right?

So what a joy it was to hear (and see) Thomas and Rhodes share the bench in this organ duet version arranged by Rayner Brown.  One must first offer a tip of the hat to Californian icon Brown for this brilliant and colorful transcription.  That it was interpreted so assuredly by Thomas and Rhodes deserves doffing said hat as well as a sweeping bow.  Organ duets are tricky affairs.  First of all, you’re sitting off-kilter in relationship to the manuals and pedal board and there’s the simple matter of staying out of each other’s way.  It obviously helps to be married!  The Thomas-Rhodes partnership was demonstrated on so many fronts not only in this piece, but throughout the entire evening.  They are LA legends as artists, educators, and church musicians.  Sharing their evening with them was pure, undiluted pleasure.

Caroline Robinson, Sunday, April 26, 2015, 3:00 p.m. — Holy Trinity Episcopal

robinson
Sunday, April 26, 2015, 3:00 p.m.
Holy Trinity Episcopal Church
60th & A Streets
Lincoln, Nebraska
Rueter/Bedient Organ – Rueter Opus 1281

Giving her organ recital debut at age fourteen, Caroline Robinson is a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, where she studied with world-renowned organist and teacher Alan Morrison. Originally from Greenville, SC, she began piano studies at age five and commenced organ studies at twelve under the tutelage of Adam Pajan. She later studied extensively with Dr. Charles Tompkins of Furman University, Dr. Wilma Jensen of Nashville, TN, and Mr. Thomas Bara of the Interlochen Center for the Arts. With assistance from a scholarship from the J. William Fulbright fellowship fund, Caroline pursued studies at Conservatoire à Rayonnement Règional de Toulouse with Michel Bouvard (organ) and Yasuko Bouvard (harpsichord) during the 2013-14 year. Caroline is currently pursuing her Masters at the Eastman School of Music, in the studio of David Higgs.

Including the famed Wanamaker organ at Macy’s (Philadelphia), Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center (Philadelphia), the Kauffman Center (Kansas City, MO), The Memorial Chapel at Harvard University, and St. Thomas, Fifth Avenue (NYC). Her playing has been broadcast on American Public Media’s “Pipedreams”, “Pipedreams LIVE!”, and Philadelphia-based public radio station 90.1 WRTI’s Wanamaker Organ Hour. In April of 2013, she was featured as a soloist with the Kansas City Symphony, giving threeperformances of the Poulenc Organ Concerto over the course of a weekend. Within that same engagement, she gave a solo recital as part of the organ recital series held at the Kauffman Center.

Caroline is the First Prize winner of the 11th Annual Albert Schweitzer Organ Festival, which is held in Wethersfield, CT (2008) and in the Tenth Annual West Chester University Organ Competition (2010). She is the four-time recipient of the Shirley Kroske Reinsmith Organ scholarship, presented by the Crescent Music Club of Greenville, SC. In the summer of 2010, she attended the Oundle for Organists course in Oundle, England. At the culmination of the course, she was awarded five recitals at venues across England; she traveled to the UK to play four of these five recitals in October of 2011.

In addition to her work towards completing her Masters degree, Caroline is currently the Assistant Organist at Third Presbyterian Church in Rochester, working with Director of Music Peter Dubois. She also holds a graduate assistantship position in the realm of the Eastman Rochester Organ Initiative (EROI), performing various assisting duties under the direction of Annie Laver.
Single tickets are available at the door:
Regular Admission $20
Senior $15
Youth 18 & under—FREE!
Students with current student ID—FREE

Erik Suter, Sunday, January 18, 2015, 3:00 p.m. — Grace Lutheran

ErikSuter
Sunday, January 18, 2015, 3:00 p.m.
Grace Lutheran Church
22nd & Washington
Lincoln, Nebraska
Casavant Organ

Erik Wm. Suter, a native of Chicago, served as organist at Washington National Cathedral from 1998 to 2007. He holds degrees from Oberlin Conservatory and Yale University, where he studied with Haskell Thomson and Thomas Murray respectively. He has held positions at Trinity Church, Copley Square, and at the Parish of All Saints, both in Boston; and at Trinity Church on the Green in New Haven, Connecticut.

Suter maintains an active solo recital schedule. He has performed extensively in the United States, Canada, Japan, as well as several European countries. He has performed at national conventions of the American Guild of Organists and the Organ Historical Society. As a continuo artist, he has appeared with the Philadelphia Orchestra and National Symphony Orchestra.

Suter won first prize in the 1993 Chicago American Guild of Organists Young Organist’s Competition; the Gold Medal of the Mayor of Musashino/Tokyo in the 1996 International Organ Competition Musashino in Japan; first prize in the 1997 Yale Biennial Organ Competition. He was a two-time finalist in the prestigious AGO National Young Artists Competition in Organ Playing. He has been heard on the nationally syndicated Minnesota Public Radio showPipedreams and has recorded for the JAV Recordings, Gothic, and Pro Organo labels.
Single tickets are available at the door:
Regular Admission $20
Senior $15
Youth 18 & under—FREE!
Students with current student ID—FREE

Program

Prelude and Fugue in E Flat, BWV 552
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Two Chorale Preludes from the Clavierübung, Part 3
Vater unser im Himmelreich, BWV 682
Canto fermo in Canone a 2 Clavier e Pedale
Vater unser im Himmelreich, BWV 683
alio Modo, Manualiter

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Prelude and Fugue in G minor, WoO 10
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)

pause

Improvisation sur le “Victimae Paschali”
Charles Tournemire (1870-1939)
arr. Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986)

In thee is gladness
Dale Wood (1934-2003)

Gospel Preludes, Book 2
Amazing Grace
William Bolcom (b. 1938)

Nedelni Hudba (Music for Sunday)
IV. Finale
Petr Eben (1929-2007)

Isabelle Demers, Sunday, November 2, 2014, 3:00 p.m. — First Presbyterian

Sunday, November 2, 2014 First Presbyterian Church 17th & F Streets Lincoln, Nebraska Reuter/Aeolian-Skinner Organ — Rueter Opus 2211
Sunday, November 2, 2014, 3:00 p.m.
First Presbyterian Church
17th & F Streets
Lincoln, Nebraska
Reuter/Aeolian-Skinner Organ — Rueter Opus 2211

Isabelle Demers is Organ Professor and Head of the Organ Program at Baylor University in Texas, where she teaches applied organ and courses in the organ curriculum. A native of Québec, she is rapidly becoming recognized as one of North America’s most virtuosic organists. Her concert at the 2010 national convention of the American Guild of Organists, in Washington, D.C., was received with great acclaim not only by critics, who deemed it “one of the most outstanding events of the convention” (The American Organist), but also by the standing-room-only audience, which called her back five times. A review of her concert for the joint ISO-AIO convention in 2010 said that “she enchanted the entire audience with her virtuoso performance,” leaving the entire congress in an atmosphere of “Demers fever.”

She began piano and organ study at age eleven at the Montréal Conservatory of Music. After graduation in 2003 she studied on scholarship for a year in Paris at the École Normale de Paris-Alfred Cortot. She received her Master’s and Doctoral degrees from The Juilliard School in New York City, where she studied with Paul Jacobs.

Recent engagements include the cathedrals of Cologne and Regensburg in Germany, St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, the Royal Opera House of Muscat, Oman, as well as major universities and concert halls in the United States, among them Davies Hall (San Francisco), Disney Hall (Los Angeles), the Kimmel Center (Philadelphia), the Wanamaker Organ (Philadelphia), Yale University, and the Eastman School of Music. Highlights of her 2013-2014 season include the rededication of the Royal Festival Hall organ (London, UK), concerts at Longwood Gardens (PA), Rockefeller Chapel-University of Chicago (IL), Cincinnati Museum of Art (OH), Cathedral of the Madeleine (UT), Palais Montcalm (Quebec City), as well as tours in Australia/New Zealand and Germany next summer.

Her debut recording on British label Acis was met with critical acclaim. On a recent broadcast of Pipedreams,presenter Michael Barone featured the Fugue from Reger’sOp. 73, describing it as “a masterful score, here masterfully played,” and Isabelle Demers as, “definitely a talent to watch, to hear” The RSCM’s Church Music Quarterly awarded the “exciting, expressive and successful” recording its highest recommendation for its “profound and searching” performances. Fanfare Magazineproclaimed the “superbly produced” and “clear, tightly focused recording” with its “brilliantly played program.” Her second disc, featuring the organ works of Rachel Laurin, was released in June 2011, and her recording of Max Reger’s Seven Chorale-Fantasias in November 2012. Her most recent CD, Bach, Bull, and Bombardes (Pro Organo), was released in May 2013, and includes works of Bach, Bull, Reger, Widor, Tremblay, Mendelssohn, Daveluy, and Thalben-Ball.
Single tickets are available at the door:
Regular Admission $20
Senior $15
Youth 18 & under—FREE!
Students with current student ID—FREE

This concert is in collaboration with First Presbyterian’s Arts for the Soul series.
Isabelle Demers will conduct a church music workshop Saturday, November 1 at 10:00 a.m. at Grace Lutheran Church.

Program

Cortège Académique
Ernest Macmillan (1893-1973)

Scherzo and Nocturne, from A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847), trans. Demers

Sonata #2 op. 60 in d minor
Max Reger (1873-1916)
Improvisation
Invocation
Introduction und Fuge

intermission

Allegro Appassionato, from Sonata for Organ op. 80 #5
Alexandre Guilmant (1837-1911)

Trio-Sonata #2 BWV 526 in c minor
J.S. Bach (1685-1750)
Vivace
Largo
Allegro

Variations on “That Good Ol’ Baylor Line” for solo pedal op. 72
Rachel Laurin (b. 1961)

David Higgs:
Sunday, October 19, 2014, 4:00 p.m.
First Plymouth

DHiggs5X7console
Sunday, October 19, 2014, 4:00 p.m.
First Plymouth Congregational Church (UCC)
20th & D Streets
Lincoln, Nebraska
Schoenstein Organ — Opus 126

One of America’s leading concert organists, David Higgs is also Chair of the Organ Department at the Eastman School of Music. He performs extensively throughout the United States and abroad, and has inaugurated many important new instruments including St. Stephan’s Cathedral, Vienna; the Meyerson Symphony Center, Dallas; St. Albans Cathedral, England; St. Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny, Ireland; and the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola in New York City. His performances with numerous ensembles have included the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Orpheus Ensemble, Chanticleer, and the Empire Brass. Since his 1987 debut with the San Francisco Symphony, he has played many Christmas concerts to capacity audiences at San Francisco’s Davies Symphony Hall, and in recent years, he has continued this tradition at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.

Higgs performs, teaches, and adjudicates at festivals and competitions throughout the world, including the International Organ Festivals and Competitions of Bremen, Germany; the Leipzig Bach Competition, Germany; Calgary, Canada; Dublin, Ireland; Odense, Denmark; Varzi, Italy; Redlands and San Anselmo, California; and the Gilmore International Keyboard Festival. In England he has appeared several times at the Oundle International Festival and Organ Academy, the St. Albans International Festival and Competition, and the Cambridge Summer Festival. In 2013 he will be on the jury for the Xavier Darasse International Competition in Toulouse, France, and will play an all-Bach recital for the composer’s birthday in Izumi Hall, Tokyo. His performances for colleagues include national, regional and pedagogy conventions of the American Guild of Organists, as well as national conventions of the American Pipe Organ Builders Association, the American Institute of Organbuilders, the Westfield Center, and the Organ Historical Society; and in London, the Annual Congress of the Incorporated Association of Organists, and the International Congress of Organists.

A native of New York City, Mr. Higgs held his first position as a church organist at age ten; as a teenager, he performed classical music as well as rock, gospel, and soul music. He earned the Bachelor and Master of Music degrees at the Manhattan School of Music, and the Performer’s Certificate from the Eastman School of Music. His teachers have included Claire Coci, Peter Hurford, Russell Saunders, and Frederick Swann. In New York City, he was Director of Music and Organist at Park Avenue Christian Church, and later Associate Organist of the Riverside Church, where he also conducted the Riverside Choral Society. After moving to San Francisco in 1986, he became Director of Music and Organist at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Berkeley, Director of Church Music Studies at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, and Organist/Choir Director at Temple Emanu-El in San Francisco.

In addition to his significant performing career, Mr. Higgs has distinguished himself as a pedagogue. He was appointed to the faculty of the Manhattan School of Music upon graduation from that institution, and has been a member of the faculty of the Eastman School of Music since 1992. His students have won prizes in prestigious international competitions, and hold important positions in leading academic and religious institutions.

Higgs has recorded for Delos International, Pro Organo, Arsis, Loft, and Gothic records.
Single tickets are available at the door:
Regular Admission $20
Senior $15
Youth 18 & under—FREE!
Students with current student ID—FREE