WAUKESHA — Ten renowned local organists will play the four-manual 69-rank Schantz pipe organ in Carroll University’s Shattuck Auditorium, Sunday, Aug. 14. This concert will feature organists from St. Jerome, Oconomowoc; Holy Apostles, New Berlin; St. Stephen, Oak Creek; SS. Peter and Paul and the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Milwaukee, and more.
The Ten Talents on the Glorious Organ concert is the brainchild of Caroline Kobb, and will feature a variety of music, e.g., classical, folk, spiritual, pop and jazz. The organ is often nicknamed the “King of Instruments,” because of its capacity in producing an extensive variety of sound. The artist uses both hands playing on different keyboard levels while using both feet simultaneously on the pedals.
Kobb, a member of St. Stephen, Oak Creek, holds a bachelor’s degree in music education, majoring in voice, from Alverno College. She understands firsthand the devotion of liturgical musicians as she used to play piano and bass for her parish. Because of her interest, she wanted to host a concert to feature the organists as a fundraiser for them and their corresponding churches.
“Church organists do not make much money, nor do they receive the recognition they deserve,” she said. “Many of them have several jobs to support themselves because the churches can’t pay them enough. Some have full-time jobs in their church, and lead bell choirs, adult and children’s choirs, teach and write music. They are amazing people and continue to serve their parishes, despite the pay, because they are so dedicated.”[su_pullquote align=”right”]If you want to go
Ten Talents on the
Sunday, Aug. 14
Carroll University Shattuck Auditorium
218 N. East St.
Time: 2:30 p.m.
Cost: $23, age 10 and under free.
Tickets available at the door, or by contacting Caroline Kobb, (414) 764-3834 [/su_pullquote]
Finding 10 organists to make the commitment to the concert was a bit daunting due to their busy schedules, she said. Some had to back out due to family, work or health issues, but Kobb is pleased to have 10 who are willing to participate.
“I have so many participants playing all different types of music and that has not been done before. For example, one man is playing Felix Mendelssohn and another, ‘Chattanooga Choo-Choo,’” she said. “I am excited for children to come and hear the music and hopefully it will encourage them to take piano lessons and go from there to playing the organ. There is so much great music for the organ and I don’t know if people today really realize how incredible this instrument is.”
A familiar face at the concert will be Jeffrey Honoré, director of music ministry at Holy Apostles, New Berlin. Since 1994, he has served the wider church as director of the Milwaukee Archdiocesan Choir. He is a well-known arranger/composer of liturgical music for choirs, organ and hand bells through many publishers.
Honoré will perform, “How Great Thou Art,” arranged by Dan Miller, and “Fantasia on: America the Beautiful,” arranged by Rex Koury. He enjoyed listening to organ music as a child and begged his parents for lessons in sixth grade.
“After a short intro from a music store teacher, my father found me Sr. Yvonne Renner, a Racine Dominican, who took me as a beginner and patiently helped me learn this instrument played with two hands and two feet,” he said. “During my college years, I was originally hired to play organ at Marriott’s Great America in Gurnee, but the powers that be changed their mind and went with a honkey-tonk piano and I was hired for years as a trombonist.
“All the while, I had weekend church jobs playing organ. It was our personal love of God and music of the church that led my wife and me to full-time church work in the summer of 1984, working here in Milwaukee for the Pallottine Fathers and Brothers at St. Vincent Pallotti West.”
Honoré joked that at first he wasn’t sure about participating in the concert, but he agreed to do it because of Kobb’s persistence; he admitted he is happy to help bring joyful music to all who wish to hear it.
“If music doesn’t continue to give joy to me who shares it, I can’t imagine how that joy could be communicated to those whom we serve with this joyful noise,” he said, adding, “If I was 16, I most likely would not have hesitated, so why should I today?”
Martha Aslakson, organist and hand bell choir director at Wauwatosa Avenue United Methodist Church, grew up in the church, as her father was the minister and mother was choir director at Southminster Presbyterian Church, Waukesha.
“I started piano at 8 and when I was in high school, I told my mother I wanted to learn the organ,” she said. “My mom was a friend of Phyllis Stringham, former organ professor at Carroll, so she arranged for me to audition for lessons. I began with her and loved the organ ever since.”
In addition to serving her church, Aslakson is a nursing instructor at UWM. She will perform “A Spiritual Pair,” by Dan Locklair.
Kevin Bailey is director of worship and music at Fox Point Lutheran Church, where he is organist and choir director. Calling the concert a worthy effort he said, The American Guild of Organists, a national organization with a Milwaukee chapter, includes among its purposes, “To advance the cause of organ and choral music, to increase their contributions to aesthetic and religious experiences, and to promote their understanding, appreciation, and enjoyment.”
“When I perform outside of Sunday mornings, I seek to bring awareness to the concert repertoire for organ so that audience members begin to learn ‘it’s not just for Sunday mornings, anymore,’” he said.
Bailey is excited to perform “Intermezzo on an Irish Folk Song,” by Charles Villiers Stanford, and “Variations on ‘America,’” by Charles Ives.
“While I know and have heard recitals by many of my fellow performers on this program, having all of us together for a concert is a rare event,” he said. “I appreciate Ms. Kobb’s efforts in creating the event.”
Performing what is called an unplayable piece, Simone Gheller will play “Pageant,” composed by Leo Sowerby in 1930. Born in Padua, Italy, he decided to play the American piece dedicated to the famous Italian organist and virtuoso, Fernando Germani, who was the organist at St. Peter’s Basilica.
“This is a funny story,” said Gheller. “Sowerby mailed the piece to Germani, saying, ‘Dear Fernando, could you take a look at the piece I wrote and dedicated to you? It seems to be “unplayable,” because it’s very difficult to play it, let me know.’ Germani, after a couple of weeks, sent back the piece to Sowerby with some modifications that were more difficult than Sowerby’s edition. In the letter, Germani said to Sowerby. ‘Dear Leo, Now the piece is really unplayable.’”
Gheller got his start with the piano at 5 years old and by age 9 was playing all the Masses in his hometown in Italy. He began conducting the choir at 12.
Gheller holds four master’s degrees from the Pedrollo Conservatory in Vicenza, Italy in piano, organ performance, music education and choral music and choral conducting. He also received a doctorate in organ and organ composition, cum laude, from the Venezze Conservatory in Rovigo, Italy, where he studied with Andrea Toschi.
He has an extensive international performing history and is the music director and organist at St. Jerome Parish in Oconomowoc.
“The idea of Caroline Kobb to organize this special event is fantastic,” he said. “The organ is the instrument with the largest literature existing. We have music written from the 1300s.”