|Ronald Ebrecht, university organist, plays Wesleyan’s concert organ, which he designed for the Memorial Chapel. Below, the organ pipes are installed in the chapel. (Photos by Bill Burkhart)|
| Q: When did you become the Wesleyan organist and visiting instructor in music?
A: I came to Wesleyan in 1988.
Q: How did you begin playing the organ and where?
A: I started as a young child, maybe around the age of 10. I loved the organ like kids love fire trucks.
Q: Did you have an interest in piano that led to the organ?
A: I didnt want anything to do with the piano. It wasnt loud enough.
Q: You studied at the Schola Cantorum in Paris, Yale University, and Southern Methodist University, Dallas. Were you always studying the organ? What types of music in specific?
A: In addition to organ, I also studied harpsichord at all three institutions. This does not mean that I was only interested in Baroque music. In organ concerts, I play a wide range of repertoire. My research, writing and editions are of late 19th and early 20th century French music.
Q: In 1990, you founded the Young Organ Virtuosi Weekend, a biennial festival that celebrates the talents of emerging concert organists. What is the purpose of this event?
A: The festivals purpose is to be a non-contest. That is, there are too many organ-playing contests and too few concert opportunities for the laureates. It is much more pleasant to direct than a contest would be because the visitors get to enjoy the company of each other and to interact collegially with our students. The audience is a mix of students and local organ aficionados.
Q: What is the Midnight Organ Romp?
A: The not-to-be-missed event of the first week of May is themed, but different each year. It is about costumes and craziness. I share this concert with any students who are interested, which makes them more exciting for everyone.
Q: Are you still the dean of the American Guild of Organists Waterbury Chapter? How many organists are in the chapter and in the state of Connecticut?
A: We have 84 in the Waterbury Chapter. There are five other Connecticut chapters and about 3,000 members in the country. We think about 10 percent of organists belong to the guild.
Q: Why should students interested in music study the organ? What types of careers can they go into with this type of skill and background?
A: Playing the organ is the worlds best-paying part-time employment. Students with keyboard ability who study organ have every conceivable major. They often use the organ to support graduate study and supplement their income later in life. There are relatively fewer opportunities for full-time employment.
Q: During the 2002-03 renovations of the Memorial Chapel, you designed the new concert organ, a Holtkamp opus 2085. This is Wesleyans fourth organ. What makes the Holtkamp unique?
A: I designed the organ to be adaptable to current and future compositional needs. It has a very broad tonal palette both in terms of color and volume. Whatever the mathematical result is for 60 combinations, which must be several thousand, is the limit of possible sounds.
Q: Do the music students get to use this organ, or what do they practice on?
A: The beginners are intimidated to practice upstairs in public, so they often use my studio organ for the first semesters practice and then use the big organ when they feel more confident.
Q: As a visiting instructor in music, youve taught Choral Singing, Pipe Organ: Theory and Practice and Individual and Group Tutorials for Undergraduates. What are some of the courses you currently teach
A: I am trying to finish my new book, and only teaching organ and one harpsichordist these days. Usually, I direct some senior projects but not this semester.
Q: What is your new book about?
A: Aristide Cavaille-Coll. Hes the greatest organ-builder of all time. I am writing my new book about his project to build the largest organ in the world at Saint Peters in Rome. Ive also written about American music, Black organ music, Messiaen and other composers.
Q: Youre editor of Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986) The Last Impressionist, which features seven articles on Duruflé’s life and work. What is your personal interest in this French organist?
A: I knew the composer and his wife and her sister, also a musician, quite well. I met them at age 18 and learned French to be able to speak with them. I studied with them and play his complete organ works. I have also conducted his complete choral works, and most of the orchestral and chamber music. I know all the other scholars who had written about them, so invited everyone to join together for the book for his centennial in 2002. I never imagined it would be acquired by libraries on every continent as the first biography of this important composer.
Q: In addition to music, what are your interests?
A: I am an avid flower gardener. I live to cook and entertain, and generally enjoy life. I also would like to make a fad of wearing dress shirts with bowties.
|By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor|