U of M School of Music and Northrop Present

In Concert: University Organist Dean Billmeyer

Past event
May 25, 2021
May 26, 2021
May 27, 2021
May 28, 2021
May 29, 2021
May 30, 2021
May 31, 2021
University Organist Dean Billmeyer

University of Minnesota Organist Dean Billmeyer continues to showcase Northrop's restored pipe organ in a variety of works that illustrate the instrument’s palette. The program will include music of Bach performed in Karl Straube’s uniquely Romantic idiom.

 

Event Details

Dates & Times

Tue, May 25, 7:30 pm CDT
In-Person : Parking & Directions

Live-Stream
On-Demand Streaming available through Mon, May 31, 11:59 pm CDT

Check your email for more detailed event info

Live-Stream and On-Demand Access

  • If you've purchased tickets in advance you will receive the access link via email approx. 1 hour prior to the start time.
  • If you do not receive the email or have trouble accessing the performance, please call 612-624-2345, or email umntix@umn.edu on Tue, May 25, until 8:30 pm CDT or during regular Box Office hours, 12:00-5:00 pm CDT Mon-Fri.
  • If you purchase tickets after the start time, please click on the link in the email receipt for access to the performance.

Program Notes

Kari Schloner and Michael Kim

Greetings, and thank you so much for joining us for University of Minnesota organist Dean Billmeyer’s annual faculty recital, presented in partnership by the School of Music and Northrop. We are thrilled to welcome audiences both in person and online for this much-anticipated event, after having to cancel the spring 2020 recital due to COVID-19. What a gift it is to be experiencing live music!

We want to acknowledge that Dean Billmeyer’s recital will be performed on the one-year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. In remembrance of George Floyd and in honor of this anniversary, Dr. Billmeyer has included a work by African-American composer William Grant Still - Elegy for Organ - in his program. Billmeyer shared that “The dictionary defines ‘Elegy’ as ‘a poem of serious reflection, typically a lament for the dead.’ This short piece can serve as a moment of reflection on the events of the last year, not only on the losses from the pandemic, but also the senseless and unnecessary loss of life (largely of people of color) due to systemic problems of policing and racial inequality in America.” This piece is one of only two that Still composed for the organ in the course of his distinguished career, during which he composed nearly 200 works including orchestral compositions, operas, and music for film.  He accomplished many groundbreaking achievements during his lifetime, including being the first African-American to conduct a major symphony orchestra in the United States, the first to conduct a major American network radio orchestra, and the first to have an opera produced by a major American company.

As hard as it is to believe, today there remains an ongoing struggle for “firsts.”  The conviction of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd represents an important first in Minneapolis, as a law enforcement officer has been held accountable for his disregard for a Black life. We hope this serves as just one step in advancing racial justice throughout our nation, and we are proud to be part of the University of Minnesota, who is working in many ways to support that effort. If you would like to honor the memory of George Floyd today, we invite you to make a gift to the U of M Scholarship in honor of George Floyd, and you can click here to learn about other University of Minnesota initiatives that aim to move us closer to a more just and equitable world.

We believe in the power of the arts to break down walls, heal, and unite, and it is in that spirit that we offer this performance. Again, thank you for joining us. 

Gratefully,

Kari Schloner, Director of Northrop
and
Michael Kim, Director and Professor, School of Music

Dean Billmeyer

Award-winning organist Dean Billmeyer is in his thirty-ninth year as University Organist and Professor of Music at the University of Minnesota. In this capacity, he teaches classes in Counterpoint, Thoroughbass, and Keyboard Skills, as well as Organ and Harpsichord.

Billmeyer has appeared as a recitalist and clinician throughout the United States and Western Europe – his performances manifest his desire to combine the deepest artistic expression with substantial musicological and theoretical awareness. Known for the breadth and scope of his performing repertoire, his concerts have consistently been acclaimed by juries and critics in the United States and Europe for their technical prowess and interpretive insight. A Fulbright Scholar, his numerous awards also include prizes in the Dublin International Organ Festival Competitions in 1980 and 1988, and he is a Fellow of the American Guild of Organists.

Billmeyer’s Double CD recording entitled Straube Plays Bach is the only commercially available recording of the nine major Preludes and Fugues and G Minor Fantasia and Fugue on early 20th century tubular-pneumatic action organs using the idiosyncratic, hyper-Romantic 1913 edition of Karl Straube, the famous organist and cantor of the Leipzig St. Thomas Church. The recording, released by Rondeau Production of Leipzig in 2018, was nominated for the Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritikas one of the best classical recordings in Germany in that year. The CDs also received a positive review in the Munich Abendzeitung in February 2019. Billmeyer’s recent European appearances include a three-city, five-recital tour of Germany in 2016, with performances in Freiberg (Saxony), Leipzig, and Delbrück (Paderborn). These concerts included recitals on noteworthy organs in Freiberg (Silbermann Organs of 1714 at the Cathedral) and 1735 at the Petrikirche, and in Leipzig (1904 Sauer organ at the Michaeliskirche). A feature interview in the Freiberg Freie Presse appeared during the tour with the headline “Organist and Gentleman.” In 2019, Billmeyer led a master class on Karl Straube for the Mendelssohn-Bartholdy Hochschule für Musik in Leipzig.

Dean Billmeyer’s teachers include the late David Craighead (Eastman School of Music), the late Robert Anderson (Southern Methodist University), and Michael Radulescu (Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst, Vienna). He has appeared regularly as an organist, harpsichordist, and pianist over the last twenty-one seasons with both the Minnesota Orchestra and The Saint  Paul Chamber Orchestra, and he was elected to the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame in 2018.

Final, from Symphonie No. 1, Op. 14

Louis Vierne (1870-1937)

Elegy 

William Grant Still (1895-1978)

Prelude and Fugue in C Major, BWV 547

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

1913 Edition by Karl Straube (1873-1950)

Wondrous Love, Variations on a Shape-note Hymn, Op. 34

Samuel Barber (1910-1981)

Phantasie für Orgel über den Choral, Wie schön leucht’t uns der Morgenstern, Op. 40, No. 1

Max Reger (1873-1916)

The Final from Louis Vierne’s Symphony No. 1 in D is one of this composer’s most popular movements. Vierne, who held the prestigious position of Organiste Titulaire at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris from 1900 until his death, was one of France’s most celebrated organists and important composers of concert music in the “symphonic” style. The Final, an exuberant and joyful piece, presents heroic and lyrical themes with brilliant accompaniments. It has been noted that the opening theme features the same notes as La Marseillaise, although this connection may be just a coincidence.

Known as “the Dean of African-American Composers,” William Grant Still composed over 150 musical works over a long and accomplished career. Still was the first African-American to both conduct and have his works performed by a major American symphony orchestra. Still’s biographer Lucius Weathersby writes “upon his death, William Grant Still left behind a better world, one of more inclusiveness and less exclusivity.” Elegy is one of only two works that Still wrote originally for the organ and presents a note of sadness amidst a contemplative mood.

Karl Straube, the famed organist and Cantor of the Leipzig Thomaskirche where Bach himself worked for many years, intended to edit all of Bach’s organ works for publication, but completed only one volume containing ten of Bach’s most iconic and famous pieces. Straube’s extensive performance instructions in this volume go far beyond what one would expect in normal “editing” of a musical score and represent a unique documentation of late-Romantic German performance practices. Straube provides detailed instructions for dynamics, tempo, and articulation, and his registration directions include very specific directions for changes of manual. Among the very difficult techniques Straube demands is that of “thumbing down” or playing on two keyboards simultaneously with one hand. In the C Major Prelude and Fugue, Straube employs this technique extensively in order to “solo out” thematic entrances in this, one of Bach’s most mature and architecturally impressive works.

The Christian folk hymn Wondrous Love was first published in 1811 and is a favorite from the American “shape-note” tradition. Samuel Barber’s Variations were commissioned on the occasion of the installation of a new organ in Grosse Pointe, Michigan in 1958. In a “theme and variations” form reminiscent of the Baroque Chorale Partita, Barber’s setting features descending and chromatic motifs that underscore the mood of the second stanza of the hymn: “when I was sinking down.”

Whether Max Reger should be considered a Romantic composer or a representative of Early Modernism, his conception of the organ was clearly a symphonic, as well as a liturgical one. Composed in 1899 and dedicated to Bach’s biographer Phillip Spitta, Reger’s Wie Schön leucht’t uns der Morgenstern is a fine example of “continuous variation” technique. After an introduction and several variations, the work concludes with a fugue and “chorale apotheosis.” Known to many as the “Queen of Chorales,” How brightly beams the Morning Star was written by Phillip Nicolai and published in 1599.

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FRIENDS OF NORTHROP

A special thank you to our patrons whose generous support makes Northrop’s transformative arts experiences possible. Make your mark on Northrop’s future by becoming a Friend today, learn more by visiting northrop.umn.edu/give

We gratefully acknowledge the support from, Arts Midwest Touring Fund, Minnesota State Arts Board, National Endowment for the Arts, and New England Foundation for the Arts. 

We extend a special thank you to our event sponsors PNC Bank, RBC Wealth Management, and HGA.

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  • Mary Jo Zidwick
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This season’s listing is current as of 04/20/21.
Please contact Trisha Taylor at taylort@umn.edu  if you have any corrections or questions.

NORTHROP’S AEOLIAN-SKINNER ORGAN
Thank you to the generous donors who continue to support programming for Northrop’s beloved Aeolian-Skinner Organ. It is because of you that this magnificent instrument’s voice will be enjoyed by many for years to come.

organ supporters

  • Anonymous
  • Reade Adams
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  • Dean Billmeyer
  • Francis Carter
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  • Jeffrey Helgerson
  • Janet Hively
  • Anna Iltis
  • Helen and David Jensen
  • Charlie Johnson
  • Susan Keljik
  • Mark Kieffer
  • Carol Leach
  • James Lehmann
  • Kathryn Lien
  • Ronald Low
  • Peter Lund
  • Stephanie McDonald
  • Alfred and Ann Moore
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  • Robert Paschke
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  • William Tajibnapis
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  • Carolyn Wahl
  • Nancy Wellington

Organ Advisory Board

J. Michael Barone
Cynthia Betz
Dean Billmeyer
Kristen Brogdon
Dr. Robert Bruininks

Dee Ann Crossley
Laura Edman
Cathie Fischer
Nils Halker
Cari Hatcher

David Jensen
Helen Jensen
Pamela Neuenfeldt
Kari Schloner

This season’s listing is current as of 04/20/21.
Please contact Trisha Taylor at taylort@umn.edu  if you have any corrections or questions.

Jeff Bieganek

We’re so grateful to have you join us for these closing performances of our 2020-21 season at Northrop.

Without a doubt, it has been a season like no other.  Yet, it has been so exciting and reassuring to see how Northrop and our many artistic partners have adapted and given us such thrilling, thought-provoking, and emotional performances to help us through these difficult times. The artists, their talent, and their creations are more important than ever. Thank you for giving Northrop the opportunity to share their incredible work with you.

As we look forward to a more optimistic summer and the anticipation of our upcoming season, I hope you consider supporting the important work that Northrop has done and will do in the future. The Northrop Advisory Board is growing along with new opportunities to engage, so if you are interested in learning more, please contact us at northrop@umn.edu.

I can’t tell you how excited I am to see you all in your seats at Northrop as we wait for the curtains to rise on another amazing performance. Until then, stay safe and stay in touch.

Jeff Bieganek, Northrop Advisory Board Chair

THE NORTHROP ADVISORY BOARD

The Northrop Advisory Board is committed to the growth and awareness of Northrop’s mission, vision, and the continued future of presenting world-class dance and music in our community. If you would like more information about the advisory board and its work, please contact Cynthia Betz, Director of Development, at 612-626-7554 or betzx011@umn.edu.

Board Members

Cynthia Betz
Jeff Bieganek, Chair
Kristen Brogdon
Dr. Robert Bruininks
John Conlin
Deb Cran
Susan DeNuccio

Karen Hanson
Cari Hatcher
Tammylynne Jonas
Robert Lunieski
Bob McMaster
Katheryn Menaged
Cory Padesky

Holly Radis-McCluskey
Gary Reetz
Robyne Robinson
Kari Schloner
Donald Williams

Supporters