Gifted organist Christopher Houlihan to perform at KenCen

20-something phenom Christopher Houlihan will perform Bach, Franck, Alain and Vierne May 4 in the KenCen Concert hall on organ designed for French masterpieces.

Organist Christopher Houlihan. (Credit: Ali Winberry)

WASHINGTON, May 4, 2016 – With all that’s going on at the Kennedy Center this week, it might have been easy to overlook the showy May 4 organ recital by young New York organist Christopher Houlihan. Sponsored by the National Symphony Orchestra, this performance will take place in the Kennedy Center’s Concert Hall, home of the Center’s spectacular Rubenstein Family Organ.

Already internationally renowned, Mr. Houlihan has been widely praised by musicians and reviewers alike, having been pronounced “gifted” by the New York Times and “dazzling” by the Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Houlihan has made a specialty of performing works by the late-Romantic French organist-composer Louis Vierne, whose compositions for the “royal instrument” include a series of organ symphonies whose beauty, difficulty, and spectacular finales offer a true challenge for the virtuoso organist. Mr. Houlihan performed to great acclaim all six of Vierne’s organ symphonies during his North American “Vierne 2012” tour.

The Rubenstein Family Organ, built in Québec in the French tradition, is marvelously well-suited to this repertoire.

Mr. Houlihan’s Wednesday recital will consist of works by J.S. Bach—the Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C Major, BWV 564; the Prelude and Fugue in E minor, BWV 548; and the Trio Sonata No. 5 in C Major, BWV 529.

In addition, Mr. Houlihan will perform a challenging selection of late-Romantic French organ works springing from the tradition of César Franck. Works include Franck’s Chorale No. 2 in B minor; Jehan Alain’s “Trois Danses”; and the aria and spectacular finale of Louis Vierne’s Organ Symphony No. 6, Op. 59.

Classical music lovers should serious consider attending this bargain-priced recital, one of a series of recitals being sponsored by the NSO to draw more attention to their wonderful and still nearly-new organ. As Mr. Houlihan’s program will clearly demonstrate, the organ isn’t just for church music.

A great many compositions, particularly those of the French 19th and 20th century organ school, are grand and sweepingly symphonic in attitude and approach. A good way to sample this spectacular but not-well-known corner of the classical repertoire (at least in the U.S.) would be to attend this upcoming Kennedy Center recital.

When not on tour, Mr. Houlihan resides New York City where he serves as Director of Music and Organist at The Church of the Holy Apostles in Manhattan. He is also artist-in-residence at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.

Tickets and information: Program begins at 8 p.m. in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. Tickets are bargain priced at $15, and may be purchased via this Kennedy Center National Symphony Orchestra link, at the KenCen Box Office, or by calling 202-467-4600.

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Terry Ponick
Biographical Note: Dateline Award-winning music and theater critic for The Connection Newspapers and the Reston-Fairfax Times, Terry was the music critic for the Washington Times print edition (1994-2010) and online Communities (2010-2014). Since 2014, he has been the Business and Entertainment Editor for Communities Digital News (CDN). A former stockbroker and a writer and editor with many interests, he served as editor under contract from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and continues to write on science and business topics. He is a graduate of Georgetown University (BA, MA) and the University of South Carolina where he was awarded a Ph.D. in English and American Literature and co-founded one of the earliest Writing Labs in the country. Twitter: @terryp17