Concert showcases guest artist, organ music

It is not every day that students get a chance to hear the organ in Ice Auditorium. The enormous instrument is there during every event that takes place in the auditorium, but it is rare to see it being played.

On Feb. 24, a concert sponsored by the Department of Music gave students that chance. Guest artist Craig Cramer played six organ pieces that showed off the power and versatility of the organ.

“I’ve been here for four years and I’ve never heard the organ,” senior Greg Larson said. “All the comedians make references to it. I wanted
to hear what it sounded like.”

The program included pieces by celebrated composers J. S. Bach and Felix Mendelssohn, as well as lesser-known composers such as Joel Martinson, Johann Christian Bach, Ethel Smyth and Toni Zahnbrecher.

Judging by the audience’s reaction, the pieces by J. S. Back, Mendelssohn and Zahnbrecher were crowd favorites.

“Bach is one of those names that you know whether you’re into music or not,” Larson said. “It feels cliché to say you like Bach or Beethoven, but when it comes right down to it, there’s a good reason why everybody knows those names.”

Cramer introduced the piece by Zahnbrecher, saying that it was “a great pity” that Zahnbrecher has never composed more than this one song. Within the first few notes, it was obvious that the piece was an immediate favorite with the audience.

Cramer said that he found the piece, which was composed in honor of the composer’s wife, in a china cupboard in Zahnbrecher’s home.

“I said, ‘Toni, what’s an organ piece doing in your china cupboard?’” Cramer said. “I asked him to play it for me, and he did. Then I said I wanted to play it, and he said that first I’d have to ask [his wife].”

Although Ice Auditorium was nearly full, Larson said he observed that the majority of the audience was not Linfield students.

“The students I did see were primarily music students,” Larson said. “I think it might have to do with it being a Friday night, or maybe there wasn’t enough publicity on campus.  I actually found out about this concert from a flyer at Cornerstone Coffee.  I thought it was bizarre that I had to leave campus to find out about this.”

Cramer is professor of organ at the University of Notre Dame, and he acts as organist at St. David of Wales Episcopal Church in Elkhart.

“Organ, as a profession, is way down now from what it was 30 years ago,” Cramer said. “There are maybe 300 or 400 organ majors in the whole country. But the University of Notre Dame really supports music. Actually, it just built a new organ hall; a really beautiful facility. I’m very fortunate to have a graduate program that has lots of students.”

Cramer said he began playing organ in fifth grade. He tours all over the U.S. during the school semester and spends his summers performing in Europe.

According to Cramer, this performance was part of a West Coast tour. He will also play in Medford, Ore., and Angwin, Calif.

“I spend most of the summer in Germany, but I’ve been all over Western Europe,” Cramer said. “I haven’t played anywhere in Asia, though.  I want to go there next, to play in China or Japan.”

Sharon Gollery/
Culture editor
Sharon Gollery can be reached at


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