Music and Dance Performances, Art Showcase to Celebrate 25th Anniversary of UA’s Holtkamp Organ

Dr. Faythe Freese
Dr. Faythe Freese

A two-story-high Holtkamp organ, with brass pipes extending to the ceiling, is the centerpiece of the Concert Hall in the Frank M. Moody Music Building on The University of Alabama campus. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the majestic instrument, an 86-rank, 65-stop Holtkamp organ that can fill the concert hall with sound with just a few keystrokes. The School of Music will present a special interdisciplinary showcase of music, dance, and art in honor of the anniversary.

Dr. Faythe Freese, professor of organ in the College’s School of Music, will present the world premiere of “The Freese Collection,” in three concerts January 23-25, where she will perform works commissioned for the anniversary.  The works will be accompanied by a performance by the Alabama Repertory Dance Theatre (ARDT), the College’s pre-professional dance company in the Department of Theatre and Dance.

Installed in 1988, the Holtkamp Organ, which has some 5,000 pipes, is considered a milestone work by the Cleveland-based organ maker. It is featured prominently on their website and was also featured in The American Organist, a top magazine for organ performers and enthusiasts.

According to Freese, the company “broke the mold” on this organ, which she considers to be a world-class instrument. “The colors of the instrument are vast, much like having an orchestra at your fingertips,” she said.

The 25th anniversary event will feature an art show titled “Violata Pax” (Wounded Peace) by NALL, a noted Fairhope artist and UA graduate. NALL’s artwork will be on display in the Moody lobby before the performances.

Freese commissioned “The Freese Collection” from composer and organist Dr. Pamela Decker, professor of organ and music theory at the University of Arizona. As inspiration, Decker used three music-themed works of art by NALL.

Each movement of Decker’s piece reflects one of NALL’s pieces in Freese’s art collection – a cross made up of discarded organ pipes from a Fairhope church; a watercolor of flowers; and a violin with an eye staring out from the sound hole.

Dancers performing
Dancers perform in “The Freese Collection.”

The strong dance elements and rhythms of “The Freese Collection” inspired Freese to seek out dancers who would enhance the performance, which led to her collaboration with the ARDT.  Choreographers are Cornelius Carter, professor of dance; and Rita Snyder and Sarah M. Barry, associate professors of dance. Barry said the three choreographers divided up the music, but the resulting choreography represents a seamless weaving of styles and moods.

“This is certainly a first for me,” Barry said. “What was really inspiring was when the faculty went over to the Moody concert hall. Faythe played the music live on stage. Listening to her play, it’s such a grand space, and the music really filled it.”

The NALL art show and three identical concerts will be at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 23, Thursday, Jan. 24, and Friday, Jan. 25, in the Concert Hall. Tickets are $12 and $18. The Jan. 23 event includes a reception and concert. Tickets for this combined event are $30. Tickets are available at UA’s School of Music website.