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Organists Promise to Fire Up the Imagination

Published: January 27, 2011
UT's Sykes Chapel Organ
UT's Sykes Chapel Organ
Haig Mardirosian will perform a solo dedicatory recital on Feb. 12 and Feb. 13.
Haig Mardirosian will perform a solo dedicatory recital on Feb. 12 and Feb. 13.
After a long night of classes, students walking past the Sykes Chapel and Center for Faith and Values are struck by the glow coming from the building and the muted sounds of organ music. They stop and pause, peering through the glass at the musician working the giant instrument in back, which seems to support the building’s walls.

They wait, take in the moment, and when the musician is finished, clap and wave.

Inside, Haig Mardirosian is filled with the silence in the room after playing the last note of his recital. He is there to practice for the upcoming series of dedicatory concerts starting Jan. 30, having taken up the warm chair from fellow organist David Isele, who was practicing for a few hours prior.

Turning around, Mardirosian is surprised to see the crowd of students outside, and a smile stretches across his face.

“Having this instrument in the middle of a secular campus can provide a profound musical experience for students amidst everyday life, just because of the random fact that this organ exists on their campus,” said Mardirosian, dean of the College of Arts and Letters, professor of music and concert organist. “Why not be a part of the manifestation of that kind of learning?”

Mardirosian has been practicing in the chapel from 8 to 10 p.m., following Isele, professor of music and composer-in-residence. The two will join Carole Terry, professor of organ at The University of Washington, and Kurt Knecht ’93, music director at St. Mark’s on the Campus Church in Lincoln, NE, in the organ dedicatory concerts posed to showcase what the grand, mechanical key action Dobson pipe organ can really do.

“It’s quite an astounding instrument,” said Isele, who will open the concert series on Jan. 30 with concerts at 2 and 4 p.m. that will feature two solo organ works he composed. With the different combinations of sounds available, Isele said he plans to “give the audience a whammy,” using the trumpets in all their glory after easing them into some pieces.

Isele will be performing with Debra Wilke, soprano; assistant professor Libor Ondras, violin; Gretchen Geist, mezzo-soprano; Aric Brian, trumpet; and assistant professor Hein Jung, soprano.

Mardirosian will perform Feb. 12 at 7:30 p.m. and Feb. 13 at 2 p.m. His choices include pieces that are old and new, American and European, and with male and female composers. He said he keeps in mind the journey of the ear throughout the concert, the relationship of one piece to another and has some “tantalizing opportunities for encores,” depending on the audience’s response.

Mardirosian will follow up his February recital by recording his 20th album with Centaur Records, this one on the Dobson organ, with a repertoire primarily from the recital.

Knecht, a renowned organist and composer, was given the 2nd Annual Outstanding Music Alumni Award in 2009. He calls Isele his mentor, the one who moved him beyond piano to become an organist and composer. Knecht went on to study under Isele’s professor, Robert T. Anderson, at Southern Methodist University, the same professor as Isele’s colleague, Terry.

Terry’s dedicatory concert will be March 12 at 7:30 p.m. and March 13 at 2 p.m. Knecht will perform April 16 at 7:30 p.m. and April 17 at 2 p.m.

For a full schedule and listing of music to be performed, go to the Sykes Chapel website .

Jamie Pilarczyk, Web Writer