A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Long Live the King (of instruments) as KSO presents two pipe organ concerts with Brenda Portman

While people likely associate the pipe organ with slow hymns
in church, the instrument is far more capable.

The pipe organ, believed to have Greek origins around the third century B.C., is considered the “King” because of its size, complexity and power.

Pipe organs are custom-built and vary widely in their size (number of stops), number of manuals (keyboards), how the sound of the pipes is actuated (electro-pneumatic vs mechanical), and the specific materials from which each is made.

1859 Matthias Schwab organ at the Cathedral Basilica in Covington (Photo provided)

A piano player does not an organist make. The organ has a pedal board played by the feet, multiple keyboards, the capability to pre-set combinations of stops, couplers operated by the feet, pedals to open and close the swell chamber and one now has to read three staves instead of two at the same time.

Cincinnati organist Brenda Portman, who oversees the Organ Concert Series at Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church in Cincinnati reached out to the KSO about collaborating to celebrate the Series’ 20th Anniversary.

Subsequently the KSO and Ms. Portman will play two shows featuring two organs in Hyde Park and at Covington’s Cathedral Basilica.

The program opens with a world premiere by Brenda Portman as composer
and organist with her own Solemn Fanfare for Orchestra and Organ, followed
by Alfred Reed’s Alleluiah Laudamus Te. Samuel Barber’s virtuosic and lyrical Toccata Festiva wraps up the first half, before the orchestra launches into Camille Saint-Säens’ Symphony No. 3 (Organ Symphony), the first symphonic work to incorporate both piano and organ.

“Helping to celebrate a milestone anniversary and team up with the King of Instruments on both sides of the river, was an offer I simply couldn’t refuse,” mused KSO music director, James Cassidy.

The KSO meets holy pipes in an organ vs orchestra spectacular:

• 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 20 at Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church, 1345 Grace Ave. Cincinnati (Call 871-1345 for tickets), and

• 2:30 p.m. Sunday, April 21 at St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, 1140 Madison Ave,

For additional info and tickets — Reserved tickets only — kyso.org or call (859) 431-6216.

Brenda Portman is the Resident Organist at Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, and the Executive Director of the church’s renowned Organ Concert Series. She is the organ instructor at Xavier University and also teaches organ and piano privately. She holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree (2016) in organ performance from the University of Cincinnati – College-Conservatory of Music, where she received a full scholar- ship as first prize winner of the Strader Organ Competition and served as teaching assistant for the organ department. She also has music degrees from Northwestern University (2003) and Wheaton College (2002).

Brenda Portman

Dr. Portman has received numerous prizes in organ competitions, including the Albert Schweitzer, Arthur Poister, Rodgers, and Sursa American Organ Competitions. In 2014 she was the only American woman to compete in the Canadian International Organ Competition in Montréal. Her performance there led to a collaboration with acclaimed Canadian composer Rachel Laurin and a recording on the 88-rank Casavant organ of Hyde Park Community UMC in Cincinnati: “Pilgrimages: Organ Music of Rachel Laurin Inspired by Sacred Themes,” which was released in 2016 on the Raven label. Dr. Portman is also a published composer, with organ and choral works published by Lorenz/ Sacred Music Press, Augsburg, and others. She has won awards in several competitions for organ or choral compositions, and she has received commissions from various churches, individual performers, and the American Guild of Organists.

Kentucky Symphony Orchestra

Related Posts

Leave a Comment