Catch Your Breath with the 2016 EROI Festival

Craighead-Saunders organ at Christ Church. Photograph by Jonathan Ortloff

Entitled “Breath for Singing,” the 2016 Festival will explore the interaction of the pipe organ and the human voice

By Myles Boothroyd

The Eastman Rochester Organ Initiative (EROI) launches its 2016 Festival tomorrow — Wednesday, October 26 — with a three-day conference of concerts, lectures, and master classes. Dedicated to exploring historical, conceptual, and practical elements of the interaction between organ and voice, it will include the premiere of a new hymn commissioned for the Festival, with text by Yale theologian and poet Thomas Troeger and music by internationally recognized composer Nico Muhly.

Many of you may never have encountered this particular acronym — “EROI” — and may be even less familiar with what it means. In short, the Initiative is an extension of the already world-renowned pipe organ program offered to Eastman students. Every organ is a unique instrument, a one-of-a-kind work of art, which means that practicing one’s favorite Bach Fugue in an unfamiliar church is not unlike learning a new instrument entirely. With that in mind, Eastman faculty and supporters have worked over the last fourteen years to bring a wealth of diverse instruments to Rochester, each housed in one of the various churches and museums across the city. Every two years, this array of instruments is put on display with the biennial EROI Festival.

As involved as I have been in the planning process, I’ll admit that I am about as far-removed from the organ world as one can be — I play the saxophone, which is not typically known for bellows and wooden pedals. Nonetheless, I’ve had a hand in planning the upcoming conference, and this event is particularly exciting for the broad appeal it holds for music lovers. While you may never have played the organ, you’ve surely sung in church, heard a choir, or listed to solo song. All of these elements come to bear on next week’s conference, where attendees can experience the power of the organ when it unites with the human voice.

Some highlights include: a festival chorus on opening night, replete with more than 170 singers; lectures and paper presentations by educators and performers nationwide; and evening concerts featuring Eastman faculty David Higgs, William Porter, Edoardo Bellotti, Nathan Laube, and Stephen Kennedy (director of the Christ Church Schola Cantorum).

If you’ve not had the opportunity to register for the full conference, we encourage you to experience one of four evening concerts taking place this week. These include:

Wednesday, October 26
Recital on the Italian Baroque Organ by Eastman School of Music organ students and faculty.
3:30-4:30 p.m. | Memorial Art Gallery, 500 University Ave.
Included in Gallery admission

Wednesday, October 26
Hymn festival with organists James E. Bobb and Aaron David Miller, and a Festival Choir from Rochester-area churches conducted by Peter DuBois. Premiere of a new hymn by Thomas Troeger and Nico Muhly.
8 p.m. | Third Presbyterian Church, 4 Meigs St.
Free admission

Thursday, October 27
Concert of chant and chant-inspired repertoire featuring Edoardo Bellotti, Nathan Laube, Stephen Kennedy, and the Christ Church Schola Cantorum.
8 p.m. | Sacred Heart Cathedral, 296 Flower City Park
Tickets: $15 regular/$10 student; available at the door

Friday, October 28
David Higgs and William Porter of the Eastman School of Music play organ repertoire based on chorales, metrical psalms, and hymns, including congregational singing.
8 p.m. | Christ Church, 141 East Ave.
Tickets: $15 regular/$10 student; available at the door

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