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by Daniel Hathaway

RYAN-JonathanAmerican organist Jonathan Ryan will open this season’s organ series on the E.M. Skinner instrument in Youngstown’s Stambaugh Auditorium on Sunday, September 28 at 4:00 pm.

Ryan, who is currently assistant music director at Christ Episcopal Church in Greenwich, Connecticut, began his professional studies with Todd Wilson at the Cleveland Institute of Music before moving on to graduate studies at Eastman.

We spoke to the organist as he was preparing for his recital on the Late Summer Organ Festival at the Fraumünster in Zürich. Ryan, whose lineage is partially Swiss, was asked to perform a program totally devoted to American music, something one rarely comes across, especially in Europe. “I’m enjoying that challenge,” he said in a telephone conversation as he listed his repertory choices, which included music by the late Chicago composer Leo Sowerby, Dudley Buck (“his Last Rose of Summer, which turns out to be a well-known tune in Europe”) and five of Calvin Hampton’s Dances. “I had to learn some new repertoire for Zürich,” he noted

Ryan’s choices for Switzerland were also made with the Fraumünster organs in mind. “Stambaugh is an entirely different style of instrument,” he said, which led him to some interesting decisions. Read the rest of this entry »

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by Daniel Hathaway

Moore-CarteretteOrganist Edward Moore and pianist Nathan Carterette will perform both as soloists and as an unusual duo on the Stambaugh Auditorium Organ Series in Youngstown on Sunday afternoon, March 30 at 4:00 pm. Both musicians are recent transplants to Pittsburgh, Moore having moved there from Washington DC, and Carterette from Cleveland.

They met when Carterette attended an organ/piano concert that Moore gave at East Liberty Presbyterian Church, where he serves as director of music. “I heard them play Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, Carterette said during a Skype to two cell phones conversation during a rehearsal break at Stambaugh last week. “It was so fantastic. Ed produced every instrument in the orchestra on the organ.”

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by Daniel Hathaway

metropolis-posterHistorical film buffs, Sci-Fi fans and organ enthusiasts: listen up. You’re all going to find this event exciting. On Sunday, February 9 at 4:00 pm, Philadelphia organist Peter Richard Conte will improvise a musical score to Fritz Lang’s 1927 German silent film classic, Metropolis, using the eloquent resources of the E.M. Skinner symphonic organ in Stambaugh Auditorium in Youngstown.

Filmed during the turbulent years of the Weimar Republic, Metropolis is set in a futuristic urban dystopia plagued by class warfare. The first full-length Science Fiction film, Metropolis cost about 5 million Reichmarks, making it the most expensive film made to date. The original film was accompanied by a full orchestra score composed by Gottfried Huppertz in the style of Wagner and Strauss. Metropolis was reconstructed and restored to its nearly-original length of 148 minutes in 2010 using recently-discovered footage from as far away as Argentina.

Peter Richard Conte divides his busy life among three posts. He presides at the famous Wanamaker organ at Macy’s in center city for twice-daily recitals and regular broadcasts, he serves as organist and choirmaster at St. Clement’s, an Anglo-Catholic Episcopal church, and he plays and oversees the organ series at Pierre DuPont’s Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

LAUBE-NathanChicago-born concert organist Nathan Laube will be the next featured recitalist on the Stambaugh Auditorium series in Youngstown on Sunday, November 17 at 4:00 pm. Laube will play music by Widor, Mendelssohn, Rossini and Liszt on the recently-restored E.M. Skinner organ, including two of his own arrangements.

Though his Youngstown program is tilted toward nineteenth century Romantic composers, Nathan Laube is omnivorous when it comes to the organ and the music written for that instrument — both of which vary widely from one country to another and across different eras and epochs of musical taste. We reached Laube in Shreveport, LA during a break in his practice time for a recital there last weekend to talk about what he’d been up to since we last heard him several years ago at the Organ Historical Society convention in Cleveland — and he’s been up to a lot.

“I’ve been in Europe for three years, first on a Fulbright to Toulouse in France, then to earn my master’s degree at the Music Hochschule in Stuttgart. I also served as artist-in-residence at the American Cathedral in Paris. During that time, I was lucky to have access to the finest collection of historical organs in the world!”

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by Daniel Hathaway

JACOBS-PaulAmerican organist Paul Jacobs will be featured in the opening recital of this season’s organ series at Stambaugh Auditorium in Youngstown. On Sunday, September 22 at 4 pm, Jacobs will offer an eclectic program on the E.M. Skinner organ, originally installed at Stambaugh in 1926 and recently and wonderfully restored to its original condition.

Jacobs deserves a place in the Guinness Book of Records for prodigious feats of organ playing, including an 18-hour marathon concert of Bach’s complete organ works in Pittsburgh in 2000 celebrating the composer’s 250th birthday, and eight cycles of the complete oeuvre of Olivier Messiaen in different American cities, each presented in a nine-hour, non-stop concert. And all of that from memory.

Jacobs is a celebrated performer but is equally dedicated to teaching. He joined the faculty at the Juilliard School in New York in 2003 in his mid-twenties, one of the youngest appointees in the history of that distinguished institution. As chairman and the sole member of the organ department, Jacobs is responsible for the nurture of the eight young organists in his studio. Read the rest of this entry »

by Robert Rollin

ContePeter Richard Conte’s Sunday afternoon Stambaugh Auditorium organ concert was a delight. The large, recently renovated Skinner organ, putatively a gem of its type, was certainly put through its paces. The program, full of interesting highlights, included music from the seventeenth, eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth-century organ literature.

Conte, who presides at the mammoth organs at Macy’s in Philadelphia (formerly Wanamaker’s) and Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA as well as serving as music director at St. Clement’s Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, performed two interesting transcriptions of his own during the first half. The Mondscheinmusik from Richard Strauss’ opera Capriccio, opus 85 provided evocative post-Wagnerian harmony and tone color. Originally an orchestral interlude, the transcription provided the opportunity to feature string and French horn organ timbres. The music, enriched with many non-chord tones, presented lovely translucent accompaniment to beautiful melodic material.

Otto Nicolai’s lusty comic opera overture to The Merry Wives of Windsor provided source material for Conte’s second transcription. Here the irrepressible Falstaff pursues two married women who ultimately throw him into the river. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

StambaughAuditoriumIn the first three decades of the twentieth century, E.M. Skinner’s instruments were the Cadillacs of organs, establishing themselves in the most prestigious churches and concert halls in the United States. A wave of restoration projects has renewed many of Skinner’s instruments in Northeast Ohio, notably at Severance Hall, Morley Music Hall at Lake Erie College in Painesville and most recently at Stambaugh Auditorium, an impressive, 2,500 seat, Graeco-Roman hall built in 1926 that crowns a hill near Youngstown State University.

Stambaugh has launched an organ series to celebrate the restoration of its distinguished 58-rank organ, which is divided behind the proscenium on both sides of the stage and speaks with a fine presence through grillwork into the hall. Canadian-born organist Ken Cowan, who now teaches at Rice University in Houston, played an eclectic program of Wagner, J.S. Bach, John Ireland, Rachel Laurin, Healey Willan, Saint-Saëns and Sowerby on Sunday afternoon, April 7 which brilliantly showed off the Skinner’s many capabilities. Read the rest of this entry »

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