Farewell Organ Recital
- Farewell Organ Recital
- July 21, 2017 7:30 pm
- July 21, 2017 9:00 pm
- Christ Church Cathedral
Monica Czausz’s last organ recital for the Cathedral prior to her departure for the Curtis Institute will begin at 7:30 p.m., with a reception to follow.
Cathedral changing key position as organist
The Cathedral organist plays an instrumental role in worship and upholds the music tradition as a pillar of the church.
As organist duties shift this summer from Monica Czausz to Daryl Robinson, both musicians have reflected upon the privileges and responsibilities at their fingertips.
Both appreciate how the music they play inspires the congregation’s spiritual journey during weekly services as well as at life’s most joyous and mournful passages. Unlike in their recitals, which spotlight their performance, at church, their skilled presence at the console is put in service of worship.
Czausz was organ scholar prior to being appointed Cathedral organist in 2015. She leaves to pursue an artist diploma at Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, having just completed her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music and organ performance at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music.
The high points of her five years with the Cathedral have been the most demanding programs, she says.
All the music preparations with and by the choir for the major feasts and Holy Week, for example, can be harrowing, but ultimately rewarding — and very exciting. “We bask together in what we’ve accomplished,” she says.
In demand as a concert organist, Czausz is grateful for all she learned in her time at the Cathedral. That includes mastering anthem accompanying, service playing, and being able to adapt in the midst of real time choir volume and music direction.
Says Canon for Music Robert L. Simpson, “Watching Monica grow from a promising college freshman to a nationally renowned concert organist has been a rare privilege for me. Apart from her extraordinary talent she has won the hearts of every choir member with her selfless spirit and unfailing cheerfulness. We will follow her career with great pride.”
The organist – and the organs
Getting to know the personality of the four manual Aeoline-Skinner organ and the nuances of the venue allowed her to further hone the many voices it harnesses on behalf of the church’s elegant music tradition, she says. For example, the sanctuary’s acoustics are not reverberant, something that can hide the occasional musical misfire. Making the music seamless, meanwhile, requires more tapering and artistry through registration.
The Cathedral’s landmark pipe organ, known as the Edwin Robinson Spotts Memorial Organ, was installed in 1939 following the devastating church fire in the chancel. Tonal renovations and a new console further improved its ability to convey the full spectrum of joy, comfort, support, love and grief. Many professional organists consider the organ here the best service-playing instrument in Houston because of its glorious sound.
Czausz joins that assessment, adding: “Our pipe organ is a pillar of the Cathedral’s music tradition.
“It’s exciting to think of how, regardless of who is at the bench, the organ has its voice,” she says. “It will take on different accents based on who plays it, but it has its own personality. It’s supportive and gently guides the choir and congregation, but does not steal that spotlight.”
Czausz will perform a final organ recital on Friday, July 21, at 7:30 p.m., with a reception to follow. She views that upcoming program as “a thank you recital, a gift to the church” that will display her performance range. The mixed program is likely to include pieces by Bach and Mendelsohn, a powerful, 17-minute piece by Max Reger, and a traditional anthem for recital attendees to sing.
Incoming Cathedral organist Daryl Robinson will begin his tenure at services on August 6. He has been getting to know the pipe organ here since his appointment earlier this summer.
Robinson is no stranger to the Cathedral, its music tradition, or the congregation’s music appreciation. He has performed with Houston Chamber Choir, for example, and has presented an Evensong organ recital here. Professional reviews of his concerts note his depth of interpretive skill.
Simpson is looking forward to working with Robinson. “There is absolutely no one who is better able to step into the important role of Cathedral organist than Daryl, a person I have known and worked with in the past. With a major concert career already established and a significant teaching post in hand at the University of Houston he feels a large part of his calling is as a church musician. Christ Church is truly blessed to have him assume the position of Cathedral organist.”
A Pasadena native, Robinson was previously assistant professor of organ studies at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ.
Robinson’s return to Houston will include being an assistant professor and chair of organ studies at University of Houston’s Moores School of Music. He’ll be balancing his academic and Cathedral duties with opportunities to perform as a concert organist.
He considers the Cathedral congregation music-savvy as well as mission-focused and is pleased “the stars aligned” to allow him to return to church-based music traditions, something he has missed. He’s looking forward to learning more from working with the choir and its director, Robert Simpson, also the Cathedral canon for music.
The Cathedral’s Anglican music program is the “hub of music for the Diocese,” Robinson says. He considers it a privilege for him to become a music minister who will be able to tap the emotional range of the instrument in support of liturgy and church life. He looks forward to becoming engaged in the life of the congregation.