The Halls Are Alive, With The Sound Of An Organ

Nov 5, 2014

Trinity University is bringing a highly acclaimed musician to the school next week. He's organist Christopher Houlihan. (If you hit "Listen" you can hear him playing) I asked him what he loved about playing the organ.

“I love that it can be terrifyingly loud in one moment, and also have some of the softest, gentlest sounds. I love that it is so diverse and so, so colorful. And that is one of the things that really excites me about the organ.”

I told him that I'd seen footage of him playing--“You’re not that staid old lady at the church playing the organ.”

“Well thank you!” he laughed.

My point that was he moved around a lot while playing, which seemed a little different.

“For me that is a big part of it.  I don’t know…I just do it because that seems to help me bring the music to life.”

Fair enough, it suits him. I also asked about the difficulty of getting into the moment while playing, experiencing that euphoria, without losing the accuracy that a musician needs. For him, that was a simple answer.

“You need to delve into the moment and the music, and communicate to an audience and be present, but at the same time, be technically in control.”

Given his colorful musical persona and the unusual choice of instrument, I wondered how he describes what he does to people who don’t know him. He laughed.

“I say I’m a traveling concert organist, which means, I go around the country playing solo recitals on pipe organs and concert halls and churches in auditoriums,” he stated. That makes sense.

He’ll be playing Bach, Ravel and other familiar classics at Trinity University next Tuesday night as part of the Tuesday Musical Club Artist Series. He started as a child on the piano, so I wondered what he found in the organ that wasn't there in the piano.

“You have all of the sounds — organs and flutes, and that scary organ sound, and strings and trumpets.  I love this music so much and I love sharing it with listeners.”