Organist James Hicks offers a Scandinavian Twist

This Saturday, February 18 from 7:30-9 p.m., students and faculty will have the opportunity to listen to the guest recital of professional organist James Hicks.

Hicks is a well-known and respected performer and holds degrees in music from John Hopkins University, Yale University, and the University of Cincinnati. He was the Director of Music at the Prebyterian Church in Morristown, NJ for 26 years and has appeared as a concert organist in performances throughout the United States, Europe, and Australia.

For his recent line of work, Hicks has focused his research and talents towards his project titled Nordic Journey, in which he performs, records, and commissions organ music from numerous Scandinavian countries. This series has received a wide amount of media coverage from television and radio stations including the NPM show Pipedreams and the Wisconsin Public Radio.

He has recorded six volumes on CD and plans on working on two more for this year which will utilize three organs at Nidaros Cathedral in Throndheim, Norway.

Hosting Hicks for the recital is the Cantor of Christ Chapel, Dr. Chad Winterfeldt, who thinks Hicks’s recent Nordic work would be perfect for a place like Gustavus.

“I thought that this exploration of Scandinavian music would be a fantastic match for Gustavus, considering its Swedish heritage and continued connections,” Winterfeldt said. “What is particularly exciting about the project is that Mr. Hicks has commissioned many new compositions for pipe organ from contemporary Scandinavian composers. It is always exciting to hear new music.”

First-year piano player Agnes Ekman has had experience with the organ in Christ Chapel and has an appreciation for the instrument shared by Winterfeldt and Hicks.

“The organ is such a cool instrument because it’s so powerful,” Ekman said. “The sound from it can completely fill the chapel. It also delivers a special,  unique, and festive feeling that Mr. Hicks will definitely take advantage of.”

Hicks plans on performing several compositions, most of which are of Swedish origin. These pieces were created by a number of artists, including Fredrik Sixten, a Swedish composer well-known for his choral music, and forms a diverse combination of folk music, jazz, traditional forms, and French organ styles in his music.

Four of the program pieces were specifically commissioned for Hicks, including the expressive title, “Symphonia Aurora Borealis.”

Winterfeldt also recommends his arrangement of the song, “As you Are” by Nils Lindberg, who he considers a legend in the Swedish jazz and classical genres.

Senior Music Education Major Zachary Anderson is looking forward to the Christ Chapel organ being put to good use.

“The organ is such a powerful instrument that is full of life and has such strong power,” Anderson said. “It’s the one instrument that can resemble many different ensembles, and it has so many different color and voicings available. It’s cool that Hicks offers students the chance to hear the Scandinavian side to it.”

Winterfeldt feels this is an extraordinary opportunity for students and faculty to watch because of how well the acoustics in Christ Chapel compliment Hicks’s performance and the diverse music selection.

“Students should come to this performance for two reasons,” Winterfeldt said, “First, the pipe organ in Christ Chapel is magnificent, and fills with the room with an amazing variety of sounds, ranging from quiet and gentle, to raucous and loud. Second, this is a unique opportunity to hear a wealth of new music from Scandinavia, which is currently a leader in the compositional world of contemporary music.”

For more information on James Hicks’ music and biography, check out his website at