As I reported previously, this week we are hosting young South Dakota organist Wyatt Smith. Wyatt gave a most colorful and interesting recital at St. Andrew’s Cathedral today at noon, including Bach’s Toccata in F, BWV 540a and a 3-movement work he himself commissioned, Missouri Sonata by Kurt Knecht (b. 1971).
From his website, I learned that Kurt Knecht is a composer, organist and conductor currently living in Lincoln, NB. His compositions have been described as “funky” and “joyous” in the Washington Post, and the American Record has called him a “fresh voice.” He is the music director at St. Mark’s on the Campus in Lincoln, NE and the artistic director and conductor of the Lincoln Lutheran Choir. He received the Bachelor of Music from the University of Tampa with concentrations in Piano Performance and Theory, the Master of Music in Composition from Southern Methodist University, and the Doctor of Musical Arts in Composition with a minor in Organ Performance from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln.
The Missouri Sonata was originally going to be called The South Dakota Suite, but it transformed into aurally depicting the rushing waters of the Missouri River, and Wyatt used the antiphonal trumpets to great advantage to bounce the sound around the Cathedral. The three movements are titled Waves, River Nocturne, and Current, and Wyatt was kind enough to send me links to the sound files which you can hear by clicking the names above. He recorded this on the 1925 E.M. Skinner organ at the University of South Dakota.
The idea of 22-year-old Wyatt Smith commissioning major organ works was a matter of great curiosity and intrigue to me — how and why does he do it? He says instead of traveling to Europe, he saves up his money for commissions, ranging from $500 to $1800 each. If you click here, you can find a list of the works he has commissioned by Lynn Petersen, Kristina Langlois, Emma Lou Diemer, David Cherwien, Kurt Knecht, Linda Moeller and Pamela Ruiter Feenstra. Many of the pieces were commissioned for certain occasions, such as the death of his grandma, or his organ teacher’s husband, or for his degree recitals.
Here’s a YouTube video of Wyatt playing “Beautiful Savior” which he commissioned David Cherwien to write on the death of his grandmother. The organ is by John Nordlie at St. John’s Lutheran in Le Mars, IA.