Roy A. Johnson Memorial Organ Series - David Heller

Mar 24 7:00 PM


Holsclaw Hall
1017 N Olive Rd
Tucson, AZ 85721-0004


$10, 7, 5

Fine Arts Box Office

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Dr. David Heller (professor of organ at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas) will present a program of works by Johann Sebastian Bach, Max Reger and Pamela Decker, offered in tribute to Dr. Jonathan Biggers, who was scheduled to perform this recital. Jonathan Biggers suddenly passed away in the fall of 2016. He was among the leading concert organists of his time, with a long list of prizes in prestigious competitions, and a touring career that spanned several decades, despite the fact that he was only 56. David Heller was his close friend and colleague, and fully his peer in stature as an acclaimed touring artist. This program will be a heartfelt tribute to a marvelous artist who is already greatly missed.

About the Artist

Organist David Heller has risen to prominence as an outstanding performer and pedagogue in the United States. "The American Organist" has described him as “an eloquent performer,” and his playing as “an excellent demonstration of outstanding music making.” A native of Wisconsin, Dr. Heller holds degrees from Lawrence University and the Eastman School of Music, which awarded him the prestigious Performer’s Certificate in Organ. His teachers have included Miriam Clapp Duncan and Russell Saunders in organ, and Colin Tilney and Lisa Goode Crawford in harpsichord. His post-doctoral study was with David Craighead in organ, and improvisation with Gerre Hancock.

As an active recitalist, David Heller has performed extensively throughout the United States and Europe, South Korea, and most recently, Taiwan. Dr. Heller serves as a lecturer and performer for the Classical Music Festival-Eisenstadt Summer Academy each summer in Eisenstadt, Austria. He has appeared as both performer and presenter at national and regional conventions of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians, the Organ Historical Society, the American Institute of Organ Builders, and the American Guild of Organists. As author of the highly acclaimed book, "Manual on Hymn Playing" (G.I.A. Publications), he is frequently sought as a lecturer and clinician in the areas of church music skills and hymn playing. He is currently at work on a book documenting the history of the pipe organ in San Antonio, a collaboration that was begun with the late John Ballard. He has four recordings to his credit on the Calcante and Pro Organo labels featuring some of the most distinctive instruments in the country. His latest recording, on the Letourneau organ at Christ Church United Methodist in Louisville, Kentucky, was recently released on the Raven Recordings label and featured on Michael Barone’s "Pipedreams" on National Public Radio.

Since 1986, David Heller has been a member of the faculty at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas serving as professor of music and university organist. His primary teaching responsibilities in the Department of Music are in the areas of organ and harpsichord performance and literature, church music skills, and music theory. In 2010 Dr. Heller received the Distinguished Achievement Award for Creative Work from Trinity University, one of the school’s top honors awarded to the faculty. He was appointed chair of the Department of Music in 2012.

In addition to his teaching duties, David Heller has held a number of prominent church jobs, including two artist residencies at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Portland, Oregon, and NorthPark Presbyterian Church in Dallas, Texas. He currently serves as associate organist for St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in San Antonio.

About Jonathan Biggers (Requiescat in pace)

Jonathan Biggers, hailed by NPR as “one of the most outstanding concert organists in the United States,” maintained an active career as both a professor of organ and harpsichord, and as a concert organist of the first order. He held the prestigious Edwin Link Endowed Professorship in Organ and Harpsichord at Binghamton University (State University of New York), and presented hundreds of concerts in concert hall, church and university settings throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe, including solo and concerto performances for several regional and national conventions of the American Guild of Organists, including a performance with the Atlanta Symphony at the 1992 AGO convention, and the opening solo concert for the 2010 AGO convention held in Washington D.C. He appeared as a featured soloist with orchestras in the United States, Canada, and Europe, including performances with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the Minnesota Orchestra, the Binghamton Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, and was featured frequently on NPR (“Pipedreams”), the Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC), and on Radio and Television Suisse Romande broadcasts in Geneva, Switzerland. Scott Cantrell, classical critic of "The Dallas Morning News," stated that Biggers’ performances demonstrate “authority and eloquence”, and further stated, “were there more performers like this, the organ would be far less a minority interest”.

Dr. Biggers studied with Russell Saunders (Eastman School of Music, DMA); Lionel Rogg (Conservatory of Music, Geneva, Switzerland; Fulbright study); J. Warren Hutton (The University of Alabama, MM and BMus); and with Wallace Zimmerman (Atlanta, pre-college); he also worked extensively with Harold Vogel (Bremen, Germany), and with Arthur Poister (professor emeritus of organ at Syracuse University). A prizewinner of dozens of competitions, he was awarded a unanimous first prize in the 1985 Geneva International Competition, a distinction achieved only once prior in this prestigious music competition for organ in the world; second prize in the 1982 American Guild of Organists National Organ Playing Competition (at National Presbyterian Church in Washington D.C.);  and a unanimous first prize in the 1990 Calgary International Organ Festival Concerto Competition, where he presented, with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, the world premier performance of "Snowwalker: A Concerto for Organ and Orchestra" by Pulitzer prize-winning composer Michael Colgrass. A champion of new music for the organ, he premiered other works by notable 20th and 21st century composers, including Richard Proulx (Chicago: Concerto for Organ and Orchestra), Craig Phillips (Los Angeles: Suite for Organ, Brass and Percussion), Persis Vehar (Buffalo: Soundpiece for Organ), and David Brackett (Montréal: Nightworks for Organ solo), and others. An acclaimed expert in the performance of organ music by Max Reger, he was internationally recognized for his performances of this particular composer’s oeuvre, as well as his performances of the organ works of J.S. Bach. He recorded two highly acclaimed compact disc recordings for the Calcante label: “Bach on the Fritts”, and “Sleepers Awake! A Reger Perspective”.