During daily Chapel Break and at Sunday Worships services, the chapel is often filled with the powerful sound of the pipe organ. The triumphant, deep, and bold nature of the instrument not only helps introduce melodies to various church hymns, but it also adds to the spiritual environment of the space.
It may not be as common for young musicians on college campuses, however there are multiple students here at Gustavus who have taken up the organ as their second or third instrument, and have grown to love its large, rich sound. Senior Music Education major Zach Anderson started playing organ as a high school junior, having played piano for eight years prior to that.
“I chose the organ because it is an instrument that not everyone plays, and I fell in love with the instrument, the wide range that an organ can perform makes it fun, because it can jump from loud in your face type sound to soft and delicate and everywhere in between,” Anderson said.
Since then, Anderson has grown as a player especially when it comes to his technique.
“Over the past four years, Zach has developed a much stronger technique than when he entered the studio. Each year he progresses in his ability to play more difficult Bach pieces, which is a true sign of his development. The Passacaglia that he will play on Sunday is a very challenging piece that he would not have been able to play 3 years ago. He has progressed most prominently with his pedal technique,” Adjunct Assistant Professor of Organ Chad Winterfeldt said.
Winterfeldt also mentioned that because students like Anderson are excited about playing the organ, he is setting an example for others who may want to try it out.
“I love to see young organists be excited about the instrument, and to want to share the music for this marvelous instrument with others. Zach will be an encouragement to the next generation beyond him to also play the organ. That’s a fantastic thing.” Winterfeldt said.
Anderson spends around ten hours per week practicing music, whether it is preparing hymns for a church service, or working on the pieces that he will perform for his senior recital. He is a disciplined player, and has worked very hard to prepare for a successful performance on Sunday, April 9 at 7:30 in Christ Chapel.
Anderson described the organ as a demanding instrument, as it requires the player to use both their hands and their feet. The process to learn a piece can be challenging as he needs to combine all four limbs, as well as know whether to change between the organ’s multiple keyboards in order to produce various sounds.
Anderson will be performing four pieces at his recital including, “Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor”, BWV 582 by J.S. Bach, “Nimrod” from Enigma Variations by Edward Elgar, “Allegro maestoso e vivace” from Organ Sonata No. 2 by Felix Mendelssohn, and Variations on “The Old Hundredth” by Denis Bedard. Three of the pieces are traditional organ repertoire, while one of them is considered more contemporary.
All of the pieces include different themes, variations, melodies, and harmonies that make them each unique and challenging. However, Anderson’s favorite piece that he will be performing at the recital is Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 582 by J.S. Bach.
“I love Bach, so that is my favorite piece, there is so much thought process behind how he wrote the piece, especially the fugue which takes the melody from the passacaglia and moves it around to different voices on the organ, which really makes the listener pay attention to where the theme is being played. It averages to about 15 minutes, but because of the complexity, the piece flies by. I am really excited to present this one,” Anderson said.
James Patrick Miller, the Douglas Nimmo Professor of the Gustavus Wind Orchestra has worked with Anderson in the Gustavus Wind Orchestra as a trombone player, and has also seen his musicianship and talents shine through on the organ.
“Zach is an emotional and thoughtful musician. He is truly invested in the effect of the music.” Miller said.