AUBURN — Music floated from the massive organ’s pipes, filling Holy Family Church as it does most Sundays. On this particular Sunday, however, people gathered in the pews below the choir loft for the sole purpose of listening to the instrument by itself rather than as an accompaniment to Mass.
Three organists played during a May 1 recital sponsored by the American Guild of Organists. Holy Family Parish was chosen as the recital site because of the quality of its organ, said Thomas Techman, organist and music director at Holy Family and one of the recitalists.
“This is one of a series of recitals being done to showcase some of the finest pipe organs in central New York. Our Schlicker organ has been one of the ones selected,” Techman said.
Holy Family’s organ was built in 1989 by the Schlicker Organ Company, which was based in Buffalo until it closed in 2002. It is maintained and tuned twice a year by Kerner and Merchant Pipe Organ Co. of East Syracuse. One of the company’s technicians, Greg Keefe, is also dean of the American Guild of Organists’ Syracuse chapter, and he suggested using Holy Family’s organ for the recital, Techman said.
“Schlicker organs are noted for the high degree of craftsmanship in their construction. It is this high degree of quality that led the AGO to want to feature it,” he added.
The recital at Holy Family was the third in the series, following performances in Jordan and Homer, and Techman said Holy Family was the only Catholic church selected to host a recital. The American Guild of Organists invited Techman to perform during the recital with the featured organists, Will Headlee and Glenn Kime.
Techman has a strong background in piano, having earned a bachelor’s degree in applied piano from SUNY Fredonia in 1976 and a master’s degree in piano performance from Ithaca College in 1977. He didn’t begin playing the organ until 1995, however, when he was asked to become the organist at Auburn’s St. Francis of Assisi Parish.
“I’ve been working hard ever since,” Techman said with a grin. “It’s a labor of love, it really is.”
Techman bought an organ book and started taking lessons to hone his skills, and he became organist and music director at Holy Family in 2001. The May 1 event was his first recital as an organist, and he played Bach’s “Prelude and Fugue in D Major.”
Headlee is a former professor of organ music at Syracuse University, where he also served as university organist. He retired from those positions in 1992 after 36 years with the school. He is an active member of the American Guild of Organists and the Organ Historical Society and is currently the organist at Park Central Presbyterian Church in Syracuse.
Headlee performed six pieces of varying tempo and volume, alternating between booming, powerful songs and more lighthearted, reflective pieces. Headlee is no stranger to Holy Family’s organ, having played at the organ’s inaugural recital when the parish installed it in 1989, Techman said.
Kime is the director of music for May Memorial Unitarian Universalist Society and organist for Temple Adath Yeashurun, both in Syracuse. A Syracuse University graduate and former student of Headlee’s, Kime has toured through the United States, Canada, Great Britain, China and northern Europe.
Kime played a 17th century Spanish piece and French romantic pieces before concluding with a piece that was a bit harder to define. “Salamanca,” he said, was a contemporary piece with a Spanish title that was written in Ohio by a Swiss man with a French name. The piece was actually an improvisation on a Spanish folk tune, he added.
Sarah King and Jean Reed, who attend Mass at Auburn’s Sacred Heart Parish, said they both enjoyed the recital. King said her favorite piece was Will C. Macfarlane’s “Reverie,” which was performed by Headlee. She liked it “because it was so light.”
Fellow Sacred Heart parishioner Frank Reginelli came to the recital at Holy Family after attending another organ concert at St. Mary’s Parish in Auburn. The concert at St. Mary’s was in memory of Gilbert Jackson, a former parishioner and St. Mary’s School alumnus who recently passed away. The guest organist at St. Mary’s was David Peckam, an organist who specializes in theater music but also plays classical organ music.
Although each concert featured different types of music, Reginelli said he enjoyed them both.
“I just like to listen to music,” he said.