By Shirley J. Steiner
Greg Zelek, 27, organist of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and Overture Concert Organ curator, gave a superb concert Oct. 13 at Trinity United Methodist Church for the Richland Concert Association 2019-2020 season.
The audience was treated to a dazzling virtuoso performance of organ music by various composers. The opening Mendelssohn “Sonata in F minor” showcased the rich variety of tone colors the organ provided as well as some spectacular pedal work for the feet. His “effortless facility on the instrument” (South Florida Classical Review) was enhanced by a live video of his playing on a screen in the front of the church provided by Tricia Louis. For those who haven’t played a pipe organ, being able to watch his hands and feet dance across the manuals and pedal board is a revelation.
Zelek plays with such joy and enthusiasm and has an informality in his remarks to the audience that invites them to share the music with him. He plays his concerts in shirt sleeves, a complete contrast to the very stiff formal organ concerts of the past. He plays his concerts entirely from memory, which is a feat in itself considering each organ has a different registration for the changes of stops for the various tone colors used.
No organ concert is complete without Bach, and Zelek gave a brilliant performance of the well-known “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.” After a standing ovation from the audience, for an encore he played a Bach gigue for a dancing finish.
Trinity United Methodist Church is to be commended for maintaining their pipe organ in excellent condition and sharing it with the community. The RCA is also commended for bringing world-class music artists like Greg Zelek and also the Nov. 17 performance by Christopher Taylor at the Seventh-Day Adventist Church at affordable ticket prices to the local public.
Admission for all RCA concerts is $15 for adults and free for UWP-Richland students (with ID) and children 18 and under (with paying adult). A season ticket is $50 ($15 for college students). For more information, see RCA’s Facebook page.
Shirley J. Steiner is a graduate of the Lawrence University Conservatory of Music and has been a teacher and performer in the Richland Center area. She is also a watercolor artist exhibiting at the Red Door Gallery in Richland Center.