Christopher Houlihan

organist

News

L.A. Times Review: L.A. Philharmonic’s organ series opener a celebration of firsts

Posted on Tuesday, October 14, 2014

L.A. Times Review: L.A. Philharmonic’s organ series opener a celebration of firsts

October 13, 2014 Mark Swed The Happy Birthday Hurricane Mama revels officially begin later this month with the Los Angeles Philharmonic celebrations of the 10th anniversary of the Walt Disney Concert Hall organ. There will be organ and orchestra concerts conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen and Gustavo Dudamel as well as a birthday blowout recital featuring nine major organists. But Hurricane Mama, as composer Terry Riley named it, actually first bellowed in concert Oct. 7, 2005, and the opening concert of the L.A. Phil’s organ series Sunday was a proper herald of things to come. There were many firsts. It was the Disney Hall debut of the young American organist Christopher Houlihan, who turned 27 last week (the day before Hurricane Mama turned 10). His recital confirmed the impressions from previous appearances at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels that Houlihan is the next big organ talent. He was joined by the L.A. Phil brass section and the orchestra’s principal timpanist Joseph Pereira, making this the first concert in Disney Hall for that irresistibly spectacular combination of organ and brass. The program was varied, ranging from selections from Giovanni Gabrieli’s early 17th century Sacred Symphonies for brass and organ to Edward Miller’s “Pluto: The Last Planet,” written in 1992. Miller, who teaches at Cal State Fullerton, was on hand, and that leads to what must be another first here or anywhere else. In the first two weeks of its new season, the L.A. Phil has presented five different concert programs — a gala and two subscription programs conducted by Dudamel, along with a Green Umbrella new music concert and this organ recital — and each included at least one work by a living American composer, with the composer present. There was more to celebrate, namely the L.A. Phil’s brass section, which has begun the season with a new degree of glory, especially in Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. Last month, principal horn Andrew Bain had been spotted playing with the Berlin Philharmonic, trying out for its principal post. He’s staying in L.A. And yet, for all that, the evening belonged to Houlihan. The program included works for brass and organ, organ alone and brass alone. With an exception or two, the standouts were the organ pieces. Two years ago Houlihan toured the country playing the six colossal organ symphonies by the blind French composer and Notre Dame organist Louis Vierne....

Read More

Sometimes 6,134 pipes aren’t enough: Houlihan, Hooten on upcoming organ & brass concert at Walt Disney Concert Hall

Posted on Monday, October 13, 2014

Sometimes 6,134 pipes aren’t enough: Houlihan, Hooten on upcoming organ & brass concert at Walt Disney Concert Hall

All is Yar October 10, 2014 CK Dexter Haven SOMETIMES 6,134 PIPES AREN’T ENOUGH: HOULIHAN, HOOTEN ON UPCOMING ORGAN & BRASS CONCERT AT WALT DISNEY CONCERT HALL When is an organ recital more than that? When the entire LA Phil brass section joins the fray, as it will this coming Sunday, October 12th, at 7pm, for a tenth birthday party of sorts. You see, Walt Disney Concert Hall opened in fall of 2003, but there was one important component that was not quite ready:  its iconic pipe organ.  The instrument — with a distinctive facade designed by architect Frank Gehry featuring a skewed and jumbled collection of curved wooden pipes, leading some people to refer to it as an over-sized sleeve of french fries — looked finished, but it still needed to be tuned and voiced by organ sound designer Manuel Rosales.  That took about a year, and its inaugural performance wasn’t until Disney Hall’s second season.  Eventually, organist and composer Terry Riley gave the organ a new nickname:  “Hurricane Mama.” This 2014-2015 season, the Los Angeles Philharmonic will take many opportunities to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the organ’s debut with a combination of orchestral concerts and organ recitals.  Sunday’s program ranges from the early Baroque works of Gabrieli to Bruce Edward Miller’s recent composition, Pluto:  The Last Planet.  In between are pieces by Bach, Sowerby, Vierne, Dukas, and Barber. The featured soloist is organist Christopher Houlihan, a budding superstar with his own veritable set of followers affectionately known as “Houlifans.”  He made his Los Angeles debut playing Vierne’s organ symphonies at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Mr. Houlihan hasn’t played at Disney Hall before, but he is familiar with its biggest instrument.  “I’ve heard the Disney Hall organ, so I know that I’m going to enjoy playing it,” he told me. “I know that in particular it has a wide variety of colors: it has very soft sounds and beautiful solo stops, and also the power to fill the whole hall. I really like an organ with diversity like that.” But it doesn’t stop there.  Mr. Houlihan is being joined on stage by the entire LA Phil brass section plus Principal Timpani Joseph Pereira — because sometimes, the 6,134 pipes of the Disney Hall organ aren’t quite enough.  Think of it not as an organ recital, but rather a chamber music concert featuring an atypical collection of wind instruments. “From the time I knew I was coming to L.A.,” says Principal Trumpet...

Read More

L.A. Philharmonic brass kings, organ soloist dazzle at Walt Disney Concert Hall

Posted on Monday, October 13, 2014

L.A. Philharmonic brass kings, organ soloist dazzle at Walt Disney Concert Hall

Los Angeles Daily News October 13, 2014 John M. Sherrard Excerpt: “The result was a tremendous combination of brass and the beautiful sounds of the organ filling every corner of the concert hall. The finish drew a thunderous ovation that would set the tone for the evening. Houlihan, making his Disney Hall debut, played solo for the next piece, “Toccata” by Leo Sowerby (1895-1968). The New York resident was very animated on the organ, including footwork that floated back and forth on the pedals. “This program has a lot of wonderful contrasts,” Houlihan said after the conclusion of “Toccata.” “This is the first time that Gabrieli and Sowerby have gone back-to-back,” he said with a smile, referring to the distinct differences between the two pieces.” Read the full review here. Share this:Share on...

Read More

LA Times preview of Houlihan’s Disney Hall Debut

Posted on Thursday, October 9, 2014

LA Times preview of Houlihan’s Disney Hall Debut

Happy Birthday Hurricane Mama OCTOBER 9, 2014 Mark Swed If the organ is the king of instruments, the Walt Disney Concert Hall organ is the king of kings. It may not be the largest organ in the world. Celebrating its 10th anniversary this month, it is far, far from the oldest. But no other organ looks like French fries, a thrilling trademark of the Frank Gehry hall’s design. No other organ of this scale benefits from bellowing in the surround-sound of Yasuhisa Toyota’s magnificent acoustic. And no other organ is named Hurricane Mama, as Terry Riley dubbed it when he gave his memorably psychedelic first recital on the instrument in 2008. The Los Angeles Philharmonic is celebrating the organ’s anniversary – it was finished a year after the hall opened – in a variety of “Happy Birthday Hurricane Mama” events. Included will be new pieces for organ and orchestra by Kaija Saariaho and Steven Hartke, as well as a blowout recital with eight notable organists. But first, this Sunday, is another sort of celebratory blowout for organ, this time with brass and percussion. The recital will be the Hurricane Mama debut of Christopher Houlihan, and he will be joined by L.A. Phil brass and the orchestra’s popular principal timpanist Joseph Pereira. The program is a map of organ spectacles, beginning with two of Giovanni Gabrieli’s glorious organ and brass Baroque canzone written for St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice.  There is also a little Louis Vierne, the gloomy, blind early 20th century French composer who died in 1937 while playing the organ in Notre Dame de Paris. Vierne is an acquired taste, but Houlihan made a name for himself two years ago with his Vierne 2012 tour. For his first L.A. appearance, Houlihan played Vierne’s gothic organ “symphonies” with revelatory zeal at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.  Among Disney Hall’s many distinctions, it is a place where Hurricane season is eagerly anticipated. Share this:Share on...

Read More

Houli on Radio

Posted on Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Houli on Radio

Organist Christopher Houlihan will be featured on WWFM’s “Cadenza” radio program, hosted by David Osenberg. http://www.wwfm.org/webcasts_cadenza.shtml July 31 at 10 pm. WWFM is heard regionally in New Jersey on FM; in New York City on HD, and online at www.WWFM.org More info at http://www.wwfm.org/technical.shtml Featured are performances from Princeton, Hartford and LA; and interviews. Share this:Share on...

Read More

ArtsNash Review: “The stars align for organist Christopher Houlihan’s concert in Nashville”

Posted on Monday, March 3, 2014

ArtsNash Review: “The stars align for organist Christopher Houlihan’s concert in Nashville”

By Michael Harrison ArtsNash March 2, 2014 The success of organ recitals, as much or more than other types of concerts, depend on a fortuitous coming together of performer, instrument and acoustic setting. On Friday evening, those elements aligned perfectly in a virtuoso performance byChristopher Houlihan, playing the Lively-Fulcher organ at Christ Church Cathedralin downtown Nashville. Houlihan, at age 26, is a rising star in the world of organ music. His formidable technique is never applied as an end in itself, but is always at the service of the music, which, for this recital, was of uniformly high quality. His choice of serious repertoire implied that he expected to be playing for knowledgeable listeners who could and would appreciate hearing it. Given the audience’s enthusiastic response, I doubt he was disappointed. The program, which included works by five great organist/composers, opened with the powerful and dramatic first movement of Charles-Marie Widor’s Symphony No. 6. The piece begins with loud, thick chords, and from the start it was apparent that the relatively dry acoustic of Christ Church Cathedral would work to the music’s advantage. Often, in more reverberant spaces, such thick textures can become a barely differentiated wall of sound in which it’s difficult for the ear to discern what is actually going on. While it can be nice at times to wallow in a sonic wash, it was good, on this occasion, to really be able to hear with clarity what Widor wrote. Houlihan’s performance was fully engaging from the first note to the last. The next piece, J. S. Bach’s Toccata, Adagio and Fugue, BWV 564 was the odd man out in a program otherwise dedicated to French music of the 19th and 20th centuries. It is an early work and shows Bach in an expansive mood. The toccata features roulades of scales for the hands and a lengthy bravura passage for the feet alone, which for Houlihan seemed as easy as a walk in the park. The adagio, in the style of an ornamented aria, was played sensitively overall, but the registration of the melody at the beginning could have been more subtle. The fugue was cheerful and exuberant. The first half of the program ended with a wonderful performance of the exquisite Prelude and Fugue on the name ALAIN by Maurice Duruflé. It was written in remembrance of the composer’s friend, the organist and composer Jehan Alain, who was killed in action at the...

Read More

ArtsNash Music Preview: Organ phenom Christopher Houlihan will perform at Christ Church Cathedral

Posted on Friday, February 28, 2014

ArtsNash Music Preview: Organ phenom Christopher Houlihan will perform at Christ Church Cathedral

By John Pitcher ArtsNash February 28, 2014 “People have a lot of misconceptions about the organ,” says organ virtuoso Christopher Houlihan, who was on the phone during one of his rare breaks in concertizing. “They think of it as either a spooky instrument or a boring church instrument. My mission is to change people’s attitudes.” Houlihan, a 26-year-old organ phenom who has earned rave reviews from both The New York Timesand Los Angeles Times, will bring his instrumental crusade to Nashville this weekend. On Friday evening, he will perform a dauntingly difficult program featuring the music of Bach, Saint-Saëns and Franck, among others, at Christ Church Cathedral. Born in Connecticut in 1987, Houlihan began organ studies at age 12 and within three years had won his first major award – first prize in the Albert Schweitzer National Organ Competition. He made his orchestral debut while still a student at Trinity College in Hartford. Later, he pursued his master’s degree at the Juilliard School, studying with famed organist Paul Jacobs. National recognition came to Houlihan in 2012, when he launched a six-city U.S. tour commemorating the 75th anniversary of French composer and organist Louis Vierne’s death. For the event, Houlihan performed all of Vierne’s organ symphonies at concerts in New York, Denver, Chicago, Los Angeles, Montreal and Dallas. His fanatically loyal fans, who refer to themselves as “Houli Fans,” helped finance the project. Critic Zachary Woolfe of The New York Times declared Houlihan’s recital at the Church of the Ascension as one of New York’s all-time greatest organ recitals. Critic Mark Swed was just as effusive in the Los Angeles Times, writing of Houlihan’s concert as a “revelation.” “A slight young man wearing a conservative suit with a power tie (the jacket soon came off), Houlihan has more the aspect of clean-cut young MBA or Washington policy wonk than of a phantom-of-the-opera mad organist,” wrote Swed.“ He is an eloquent musician. His rhythmic sense is clear-cut American. His feet elegantly tap dance on the pedals. Everything he plays is sharply and smartly delineated.” The Vierne tour cemented Houlihan’s reputation, and he is now one of the few organists in the country to make a living exclusively from concertizing. “I give about 30 recitals a years,” says Houlihan. “I’ve played across the United States and Europe, but the one place I’ve never played is Nashville.” The highlight of Houlihan’s Nashville recital will be César Franck’s Grande Pièce Symphonique, Op....

Read More

Greenville News: “A whole symphony for the organ”

Posted on Sunday, February 9, 2014

Greenville News: “A whole symphony for the organ”

By Paul Hyde The Greenville News February 9, 2014 No wonder the organ is called the King of Instruments. It produces a majestic array of musical emotion. “Organ music can do everything from crush you with its sound to offer some of the softest and gentlest purring sounds imaginable,” said Christopher Houlihan, who at 26 has been called one of the most gifted organists of his generation. Houlihan will present an organ concert at 3 p.m. today at John Knox Presbyterian Church. Fittingly, Houlihan’s program spotlights the organ’s full musical range. “What I hope people get out of it is a fun experience that really shows that organ music has a lot of variety and color,” Houlihan said by phone from New York City. Houlihan opens with a dazzler: the Allegro from the Symphony No. 6 by Charles-Marie Widor. “It’s sort of loud and bombastic,” Houlihan said. “It’s a reminder that for centuries, the organ was the loudest thing that people had ever heard. There was nothing louder than the organ. The piece is one of my favorite openers. It puts everyone in a good mood.” He’ll follow that with Bach’s Toccata, Adagio and Fugue, which includes an extended passage for feet-on-the-pedals alone. Houlihan serves as artist-in-residence at both St. Ignatius of Antioch Episcopal Church in New York and at his alma mater, Trinity College in Hartford, Conn. He has been a featured performer at four conventions of the American Guild of Organists and has performed professionally in 33 states as well as in Canada, France and Scotland. He is one of the very few organists in the world who earns his living almost exclusively from performing. “I feel very lucky to do most of my work as a performer,” Houlihan said. “I love being on the road and meeting people and performing in different places and sharing this music that I love so much.” Like most organists, Houlihan arrives one to two days ahead of a concert to get acquainted with the instrument he’ll be playing. “Each organ has its own personality, depending on when it was built, and they come in all shapes and sizes,” Houlihan said. “I arrive usually at least a day in advance and start practicing and getting to know the organ. You have to re-orchestrate every piece each time you play it on a new organ.” Today’s program also includes Maurice Durufle’s Prelude...

Read More

Coming up in February

Posted on Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Coming up in February

Performances coming up this month in South Carolina, Maryland, and Tennessee. Christopher will perform music by Bach, Saint-Saëns, Duruflé, and César Franck’s Grande Pièce Symphonique.   GREENVILLE, SOUTH CAROLINA SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 9th 3:00pm at John Knox Presbyterian Church Tickets: $15 Adults, $5 Students. Available by calling 864-244-0453 FREDERICK, MARYLAND SUNDAY, FEBRUARY23rd 3:00pm at Evangelical Lutheran Church Free. NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 28th 8:00pm at Christ Church Cathedral Free. Program: Allegro, from Symphony No. 6, opus 42, no. 2 Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1937) Toccata, Adagio and Fugue, BWV 564 Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) Prelude and Fugue on the name Alain Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986) Fantasy in E-flat major Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) Grande Pièce Symphonique, opus 17 César Franck (1822 – 1890) Share this:Share on...

Read More

“Yep, he’s really good.”

Posted on Monday, November 18, 2013

“Yep, he’s really good.”

Listing in The Kansas City Star November 16, 2013 “…Christopher Houlihan focuses on the classical organ repertoire, but that doesn’t mean his concerts are any less sonically spectacular… Yep, he’s really good.” Read more here: www.kansascity.com Share this:Share on...

Read More