Celebrate this season of inspiration with a program of holiday music from France and Germany played by Dean Billmeyer as part of his 40th anniversary as University of Minnesota Organist and Professor of Music. Performing on Northrop’s historic Aeolian-Skinner Opus 892 pipe organ, Billmeyer's milestone program features composers including Olivier Messiaen, J. S. Bach, Jean Langlais, Max Reger, and Alexandre Guilmant.

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"a concert by University organist Dean Billmeyer … gave the restored Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ a workout, filling our ears and rattling our bones.” —Pamela Espeland, Minnpost

event details

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Tue, Dec 7, 7:30 pm
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Available on-demand through Dec 12

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Gallery

Program Notes

Kari Schloner

Greetings, and welcome to Northrop! Whether you are here in person or viewing online, I am thrilled that you could join us for University of Minnesota Organist Dean Billmeyer’s annual faculty pipe organ recital highlighting the historic Aeolian-Skinner Opus 892, presented by Northrop and the University of Minnesota School of Music.

This is the first time since the restoration of the historic pipe organ that Dr. Billmeyer has treated us to a holiday themed program and it is sure to delight. The winter season, which is filled with rituals, festivals, and holidays, stirs a wide range of moods and emotions. Tonight’s selections will take us through France and Germany to experience the spirit of the season through the power of Olivier Messiaen’s La Nativité du Seigneur: IX. Dieu Parmi Nous, the charm of Jean Langlais’ La Nativité, the reflective somber tones of Max Reger’s Weihnachten, and more. I hope you enjoy the journey!

As 2021 comes to a close, I encourage you to explore the wide range of events coming up at Northrop in the new year. Our film series continues on Jan 14 with Dancing Our Way Out, highlighting work created by the University of Minnesota dance department during the pandemic. Dance Theatre of Harlem returns to Northrop on Jan 18 in a program that includes Higher Ground, a Northrop Centennial Commission. And the Northrop Music Series continues on Feb 22 with Cameron Carpenter’s solo pipe organ concert. Carpenter had originally been scheduled to perform with the Minnesota Orchestra at Northrop in March 2020, a casualty of COVID-19 cancellations.  Also check out this season’s free Spotlight Series events that focus on patriotism, public service, and civic engagement.

Thank you again for joining us for this very special concert with Dean Billmeyer. I am especially appreciative of our subscribers and donors. Through your attendance and support you ensure that Northrop can continue bringing world-class artists and performances to the Twin Cities. Enjoy the evening!

Gratefully,

Kari Schloner
Director of Northrop

(Performed without intermission)

La Nativité du Seigneur: IX. Dieu Parmi Nous (God Among Us)   
Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992)

La Nativité, from Poèmes Évangéliques
Jean Langlais (1907-1991)

Einige canonische Veränderungen über das Weihnachtslied: Vom Himmel hoch da komm ich her, BWV 769
J. S. Bach (1685-1750)

in Canone all’ Ottava à 2 Clav. et Pedal
Alio Modo in Canone alla Quinta à 2 Clav. et Pedal
Canone alla Settima
à 2 Clav. et Pedal. per augmentation. in Canone all’ ottava
L’altra Sorte del’ Canone all’ rovescio, 1) alla Sesta. 2) alla Terza. 3) alla Seconda è 4) alla Nona

Weihnachten, (Christmas) Op. 145, No. 3
Max Reger (1873-1916)

From Noëls, Op. 60

Offertoire sur les Noëls: “Grand Dieu!” et “Allons Pasteurs, que l’on s’éveille”
Noël Écossais
Offertoire sur le Noël: “Nuit sombre, ton ombre vaut les plus beaux jours”

Alexandre Guilmant (1837-1911)

Program Notes

Olivier Messiaen’s La Nativité du Seigneur (1935) is perhaps this composer’s best known cycle for organ. The nine movements of the work are largely contemplative, exploring many colors of the organ. Dieu Parmi Nous is the cycle’s finale, and treats the narrative of the entrance of Christ into the world as an exciting, grand fanfare, full of joy. Messiaen’s heading to the movement includes these quotations from the Bible: “Then the Creator of the universe laid a command upon me; my Creator decreed where I should dwell. The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.” 

Jean Langlais’ La Nativité is a beautiful movement sharing the name of Messiaen's cycle, and coincidentally was written around the same time. A real contrast to the Messiaen, Langlais' work is a charming, almost sentimental, depiction of the birth of Jesus with vignette-like scenes depicting the manger, the angels, the shepherds, and the Holy family.

In five movements, the Canonic Variations on the Christmas Chorale From Heaven Above to Earth I Come constitute one of Bach's most famous and masterful works of counterpoint from the last decade of his life. The Variations were published in 1747 (making it one of a very few of Bach’s pieces to actually go into print during his lifetime), and Bach subsequently revised it, with a famous manuscript copy in existence. The hymn Vom Himmel hoch is Martin Luther's most famous Christmas Chorale.

Among Reger's last compositions, the Seven Pieces Op. 145 were composed in 1915-1916, as the German war effort escalated, and shortly before Reger's death at the age of 43 on May 11, 1916. About Weihnachten, the scholar Christopher Anderson writes:  

Weihnachten presents a complex picture, with a Tristan-like opening that leads to a statement of Daniel Sudermann’s sixteenth-century Advent chorale “Es kommt ein Schiff, geladen.” ("A ship is coming laden.") The music continues on to introduce a second chorale, “Ach, was soll ich Sünder machen” (“What shall I, a sinner, do?”), its tune placed in the bass, the associated text expounding upon the desperate nature of the human condition. After an enormous crescendo, the music falls back to the nether regions (“a very dark color,” as Reger prescribes), evidently illustrating the despondency of the sinner as yet unredeemed. Upon this scene now breaks, più largo and voiced high in the manuals, Luther’s iconic Christmas song Vom Himmel hoch, da komm ich her. But Reger is not content with this merely: Franz Gruber’s nineteenth-century tune Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht! enters on a different manual in counterpoint with Luther’s chorale, the two melodies joining hands in an idyllic conclusion. The symbolism of the well-known Lutheran melody intertwined with Gruber’s Silent Night (sung in Reger’s day overwhelmingly in Catholic communities) cannot be missed: the Incarnation brings redemption as the reconciliation of all believers in a united Church. This is some of the most marvelous music in Reger’s organ œuvre.

Alexandre Guilmant, the famous Organist Titulaire of the Church of La Trinité in Paris (where Messiaen subsequently and famously served as Titulaire) composed these charming and delightful settings of traditional French Carols. Guilmant’s pieces continue the French tradition of organists bringing music from the streets into the church at Christmas time.

Dean Billmeyer, Nov. 2021

Award-winning organist Dean Billmeyer is in his fortieth year as University Organist and Professor of Music at the University of Minnesota. In this capacity, he has taught courses 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 recording 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 “An Organist and a 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. He presently holds the title of “Organist-in-Residence” at St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church in St. Paul.

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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/support-northrop.

We gratefully acknowledge the support from, Arts Midwest Touring Fund, Minnesota State Arts Board, Marbrook Foundation, 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.

director's circle

10,000+

  • Curtis L Carlson Family Foundation
  • Robert Lunieski
  • Jennifer Marrone and David Short

5,000+

  • Jerry Artz
  • Ellie Crosby, The Longview and Crosswols Foundations
  • Richard Gregory
  • Gail and Stuart Hanson
  • Randy Hartten and Ron Lotz
  • Marbrook Foundation
  • Gary A. Reetz

2,500+

  • Drs. Robert Bruininks and Susan Hagstrum
  • Susan DeNuccio
  • Nancy Gossell
  • Shawn Monaghan and Greg Plotnikoff
  • Thomas and Conchy Morgan, In Memory of Sylvia and Henry Frisch 
  • RBC Wealth Management
  • Scarborough Fair Boutique
  • Donald Williams and Pamela Neuenfeldt
  • RBC Foundation-USA

friend's circle

1,000+

  • Anonymous
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  • Jeff Bieganek
  • Kurt and Susan Bjorklund, Dedicated to Silas and Victoria Ford
  • Deb Cran and Bob Craven
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  • Tim and Gayle Ober
  • Kathryn Sedo and Scott Beers

500+

  • Margaret Albrecht
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  • Mary Benson
  • Kathryn Cahill, In Honor of Ferne Rowland
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Up to $99

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  • Margaret Zoerhoff
  • Roberta Zohara

This season’s listing is current as of 10/25/21
Please contact Trisha Taylor at taylort@umn.edu  if you have any corrections or questions.

The Heritage Society honors and celebrates donors who have made estate and other planned gifts for Northrop at the University of Minnesota. 

  • Nancy M Allen*
  • Jerry L Artz
  • John W Follows*
  • Stephen Gordon and Pat Gavan-Gordon
  • Peter S Lund
  • Darlene M Sholtis

*deceased

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
  • Katherine Anderson
  • Terry and Vicki Anderson
  • Pat Andrle
  • J. Michael Barone
  • Karen and Alan Beck
  • Mark Bergaas and Mark Ceilley
  • Carol Bessler
  • Fred and Cynthia Betz, In Honor of Esther Stocke
  • Dean Billmeyer
  • Joyce Brown
  • Drs. Robert Bruininks and Susan Hagstrum
  • Francis Carter
  • James Commander
  • Scott Cragle
  • William and Virginia Craig
  • Dee Ann and Kent Crossley
  • Thomas Dillon
  • Sheena Dufresne
  • Laura and Tim Edman
  • David Fiebiger
  • Peter Fiore
  • Catherine Fischer
  • Deborah Ford
  • Susan Foster
  • Salvatore Franco
  • Judith Franklin
  • Reid Froiland
  • Maiken Givot
  • Karen Grasmon
  • Marilyn Haight
  • Nils and Heather Halker
  • Thomas Hanna
  • Jeffrey Helgerson
  • Helen Hillstrom
  • Janet Hively
  • Anna Iltis
  • Charlie Johnson
  • Susan Keljik
  • Mark Kieffer
  • Joseph Kuznik
  • Arnold Kvam
  • Carol Leach
  • Kristin Lefferts
  • James Lehmann
  • Kathryn Lien
  • Ronald Low
  • Peter Lund
  • Stephanie McDonald
  • Alfred and Ann Moore
  • Daniel Moore
  • Darcia Narvaez
  • Paul Nasvik
  • Pamela Neuenfeldt and Don Williams
  • Don Notvik
  • Steve Oakley
  • Paul Olsen
  • Steve Panizza
  • Robert Paschke
  • Daniel Peterson
  • David and Margaret Peterson
  • Chia-Hsing Pi
  • Jane Rosemarin and Val Lardwehr
  • Bruce Schelske
  • Connie Schuelka
  • Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation
  • John Sebolt
  • Nancy Shallcross
  • Rebecca and John Shockley
  • Foster Solem
  • Chris Solheid
  • Laurine Speltz and Denis Ryono
  • Richard Steege
  • Paul Stever
  • William Tajibnapis
  • Nicole Thomas
  • Curtis Trout
  • John Vilandre
  • Michael Volna
  • Nancy Wellington
  • David and Rachelle Willey

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 10/25/21
Please contact Trisha Taylor at taylort@umn.edu  if you have any corrections or questions.

Jeff BieganekWith the weather turning colder and the holidays approaching, I can’t imagine a better way to kick off the season than hearing Dean Billmeyer performing on Northrop’s remarkable Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ. We are so glad you are able to join us for another incredible Northrop performance.  

I hope you can join us for the rest of Northrop’s 2021-2022 season which includes newly commissioned works, co-presentations with our partners in the Twin Cities arts community, and multiple premieres of pieces never seen before in this region. I know you’ll enjoy this season and I invite you to bring family and friends to share these memorable experiences with you.

As we enjoy this season and look to the future, I invite you to support Northrop’s programs that help to shine bright lights on our stage. Please consider contributing to the important work that Northrop is doing now, and in the future, to inspire positive change in our world. The Northrop Advisory Board is growing along with new opportunities to engage. If you are interested in learning more, please contact us at northrop@umn.edu

We look forward to seeing you in the theater – and if you see me in the theater, please say hi and introduce yourself! 

Happiest of Holidays. We look forward to seeing you at Northrop in 2022!

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
  • Bob McMaster
  • Katheryn Menaged
  • Cory Padesky
  • Holly Radis-McCluskey
  • Gary Reetz
  • Robyne Robinson
  • Kari Schloner
  • Donald Williams

This season’s listing is current as of 10/25/21
Please contact Trisha Taylor at taylort@umn.edu  if you have any corrections or questions.

 

 

 

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Videos

Start a conversation about the performance, or reflect on the performance, using these questions as inspiration.

Dean Billmeyer has been teaching at the University of Minnesota School of Music since 1982. Not only is he the primary organ professor, but he also specializes in the harpsichord, keyboard skills and accompaniment, literature and pedagogy, music theory, and sacred music. Billmeyer “has since become established as one of the most highly respected teachers in the Midwestern United States.”

  • Why as an artist is it important to be educated in multiple areas under a single discipline? How does that make one a more well-rounded scholar and educator?
  • How do you envision classical music education continuing into the future, especially with the rise of technology and the ongoing shifts in higher learning?

Over the past twenty-one seasons, Dean Billmeyer has appeared with the Minnesota Orchestra and The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. Billmeyer has performed all around the globe with these orchestras and numerous other musical organizations, mostly showcasing his talents in various parts of Western Europe, such as Vienna, London, Dublin, and more.

  • As an artist, why is it important to collaborate with fellow local artists within one's community? Why is it important to spread those collaborations across the global stage?
  • Do you think European audiences respond differently as American audiences to classical music, specifically the organ? How do you think they respond similarly?

The weeks leading up to winter include many rituals, festivals, and holidays related to light.

  • What is the role and importance of music in these annual events and practices? Which of these events and practices are secular in nature, and which are inextricably tied to religion?
  • How can meditation and ritual bring us closer to the rhythms of the natural world? How do they promote transcendence of our physical embodiment? How does your experience of the musical components of meditation and ritual inform your answers to these questions?

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