August 9, 2016

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Interaction between Organ and Voice is Topic of 2016 EROI Festival

Public concerts highlight historic instruments located across Rochester area

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 10.35.59 AMLeading organists and musicologists from around the world will come to the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music this fall for the 2016 EROI (Eastman Rochester Organ Initiative) Festival, “Breath for Singing: The Organ and the Human Voice.”   

Taking place from Wednesday, Oct. 26, through Friday, Oct. 28, the event explores historical, conceptual, and practical aspects of the interaction between organ and voice. The festival also features the premiere performance of a new hymn commissioned for the conference, with text by Yale theologian and poet Thomas Troeger and music by internationally recognized composer Nico Muhly, at Third Presbyterian Church in Rochester on Wednesday, Oct. 26. 

In addition to the hymn premiere, “Breath for Singing” gives the public opportunities to hear concerts on a range of organs across Rochester that represent diverse performance styles and settings. At the Memorial Art Gallery, Eastman organ students and faculty members will give a recital on the 18th-century Italian Baroque Organ, the only one of its kind in North America. At Sacred Heart Cathedral, faculty members Edoardo Bellotti, Nathan Laube, and Stephen Kennedy, along with the Christ Church Schola Cantorum, will present a concert of chant and chant-inspired repertoire featuring the Halloran All-Saints Organ built in 2008 by Paul Fritts. In Christ Church, faculty members David Higgs and William Porter will perform on the Craighead-Saunders Organ, a recreation of an 18th-century organ in Lithuania by famed organ builder Adam Gottlob Casparini, and on the Hook and Hastings Organ, an instrument representing the American Romantic tradition with original pipes from 1862 and 1893.   

Through lectures, demonstrations, master classes, and performances, performers and scholars at the festival will examine the roles of the organ in supporting congregational singing and in alternating with the choir (schola cantorum or Kantorei) in religious communities. In addition to looking at congregational song from a historical perspective—examining repertories of chant, chorales, metrical psalms, and hymns—sessions will explore the cognitive and psychological benefits of group singing. 

The keynote speaker is Robin Leaver, Professor Emeritus at Westminster Choir College and Visiting Professor at Yale University’s Institute of Sacred Music and at Queen’s University at Belfast. A hymn festival follows his remarks and will feature the premiere of the new hymn by Troeger and Muhly with the assembled audience and a chorus comprised of Rochester-area church choirs. Organists and conductors for the performances include James Bobb, assistant professor of music at St. Olaf College; Aaron David Miller, director of music at House of Hope Presbyterian Church in St. Paul, Minn.; and Peter DuBois, director of music at Third Presbyterian Church in Rochester and host of the nationally syndicated program With Heart and Voice. 

Additional highlights of the 2016 EROI Festival include a Moravian Singstunde featuring the Taylor and Boody organ in First Presbyterian Church in Pittsford. The 2016 festival is the first to feature the instrument, which was built in 2008 and reflects the construction and tonal design of the premier early American organ builder David Tannenberg. These organs were often installed in Moravian and German reformed churches, whose musical traditions proved unique in liturgical history. 

More information on the schedule and registration details for “Breath for Singing: The Organ and the Human Voice” are available at 

The Eastman School established the EROI Festival in 2001 as a forum for scholarly dialogue and public performances relating to the pipe organ. An important mission of the festival is to promote the organ locally and nationally. Alongside regular conferences, EROI has facilitated the construction of historically diverse pipe organs throughout Rochester. These organs provide the basis for several year-round concert series, including community concerts that engage the public and provide students an opportunity to perform off campus. 

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