I’ve enjoyed watching the Winter Olympics lately and wondered if organ playing were ever an Olympic sport, I think we would have all rated this afternoon’s organ recital by Yuri McCoy a Gold Medal performance!
This afternoon was the 13th Annual Organ Concert of the Hawai’i Chapter American Guild of Organists, and all I could say is WOW! The ambitious, brilliant program had something for everyone, including traditional as well as newer repertoire, showcasing the 4-manual Aeolian-Skinner organ as well as a rising star.
Yuri came to Hawaii as a graduate student in piano and completed a Master of Music degree in Piano Performance at the University of Hawaii. While here he was the Organ Scholar at St. Andrew’s Cathedral for four years under Canon John Renke. As AGO Dean Karl Bachman said, this was a sort of homecoming for Yuri, who returned with wife Asuka Okamoto and daughter, Riley. (I wrote a post about Yuri playing for his own wedding at St. Andrew’s which you can read by clicking here.) He is currently a doctoral student with organist Ken Cowan at Rice University in Houston, and has a new post as Organist at South Main Baptist Church.
I feel that when Yuri left Hawaii he did so as an excellent student but he has definitely returned as a master! The first half opened with Robert Elmore’s “Rhumba,” and I was immediately dazzled by Yuri’s athletic pedal glissandos and clean technique. Yet there were many lyrical moments as well.
Then followed Karg-Elert’s “Romantisch” and Bach’s “Prelude and Fugue in D major,” the latter of which was played breathlessly fast, clean and super accurate. By the way, it was mentioned that this Bach prelude and fugue was the recessional at Yuri’s wedding (played by John Renke.)
The first half continued with Dan Miller’s setting of “How great thou art” and a major tone poem on “Prometheus” by Franz Liszt arranged by Jean Guillou. Yuri played this brilliantly, at times fiery, other times pensive and playful, using all the colors of the organ. In this first half, only the Bach was played with the music—the rest of the pieces were all memorized.
During intermission it was mentioned that Yuri and Asuka’s home was flooded by 16″ of water by Hurricane Harvey and they only were able to move back a couple of weeks ago.
The second half included Percy Whitlock’s “Fantasies Chorale No. 1,” Joseph Bonnet’s “Elfes,” a congregational hymn (LEONI), Buxtehude’s “Passacaglia in D minor,” and ended with Vierne’s “Final” from his sixth symphony.
It was a magnificent performance, punctuated by a bunch of sirens from emergency vehicles outside and baby babbling from Yuri’s daughter! (Now that I am a grandmother, this didn’t bother me a single bit!)
Oh, I wish that John Renke could have heard this recital—he would have been SOOO proud of Yuri!
On Friday night the Hawaii AGO had a potluck reception for Yuri and his family at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church. The room was filled with laughter and the sounds of happy people.