Housed within the Barrus Concert Hall is a true gem. The Ruffatti Pipe Organ fills the entire back wall of the concert hall with its four manuals, 67 ranks of pipes, thousands of individual pipes, hundreds of ranges and some additional digital voices to add to the organ’s singing quality of broad, lush tones. It’s classified as an “American Romantic Organ” and next week, it will be on full display during the Faculty Organ Recital.
Daniel Kerr is preparing the repertoire for his recital. He said the music is much different than what you might hear at church.
“We tend to have this mindset that it’s just prelude music. ‘I’m going to hear music like I hear in church.’ This isn’t church music, at all. This will be almost symphonic in scope,” Kerr said. “There’s so much that the organ can do. Especially this organ we’re blessed to have here.”
He said he’s been playing both the piano and organ for around 50 years. He began—like many of us do—with the piano when something larger caught his eye.
“I started taking lessons with the stake organist and she had an organ in her home,” he said. “I was nine when I started playing the organ. My teacher alternated weeks, one week we’d have a piano lesson, the next we’d have an organ lesson. And she eased me in that way.”
Kerr has taught at BYU-Idaho for 17 years. Before then, he lectured and taught music theory in southern California. Once he arrived in Idaho, he inherited the title of Director of Organ Studies at BYU-Idaho and continues to teach music theory courses.
Kerr said this specific performance is just a dress rehearsal for a certification exam next month for the American Guild of Organists. This will be time to practice with an audience watching.
“(The American Guild of Organists) run a certification program to give continuing education opportunities to members who are organists or what to better their skills at the organ. There are different levels to work through so that people can better their skills and have an educational outreach,” Kerr said.
This specific test dictated what pieces Kerr could play. He was able to pick from a list and the recital’s repertoire contains music by Bach, Durufle, Franck, Buxtehude, Howells and Couperin.
“I hope listeners are fascinated by the organ and the sounds of the organ. And come to appreciate the wide repertoire of music that’s written for the instrument,” he said.
While Kerr’s preferred musical era is the Baroque period. He said he enjoyed learning more modern composition, written by Herbert Howells in the mid-20th century.
“It took me a little while to warm up to this particular piece. But it’s turned out to be a really fantastic piece,” Kerr said. “It’s very evocative. And almost like cinema music. It’s really fun to play now that I’ve pulled the music out of it. The Howells surprised me and has turned out to be my favorite.”
Kerr’s recital will be live-streamed on the BYU-Idaho live events page on Tuesday, May 18, at 7:30 p.m.