‘EXQUISITE’ RECITAL; Organ shines in program

A powerful sound filled the auditorium Sunday at Texas A&M International University in the debut performance of the Sharkey-Corrigan Pipe Organ.The 26-foot-tall, $1 million organ – donated by a local philanthropist – made a splash, too, with the audience matching the enthusiasm of David Heller’s performance.

“Dr. Heller really showed us what the organ could do,” said TAMIU President Ray Keck III, who called the event “exquisite.”

Heller’s set covered works ranging from Bach to “America the Beautiful.” Heller also premiered a piece commissioned for the organ’s inauguration: Gerre Hancock’s “A Laredo Fanfare.”

The organist, a well-known Trinity University professor, gave an inspired performance.

“Thank you, Laredo, for having me here. This has been one of the greatest pleasures of my life,” Heller told the audience.

The organ’s sound was most impressive, going from a flute’s whisper to a rich airplane-engine rumble on low notes that could be felt as much as heard, shaking the whole concert hall. Its nearly 4,000 pipes took up the entire stage and did the job of a full orchestra.

The look of the instrument, which weighs over 17 tons, also wowed the audience. It looked about three stories high, and its pipes brushed the ceiling. The biggest pipe is 34 feet tall and 14 inches wide. Most of the pipes are constructed from tin and lead alloys.>

Arts patron E. H. Corrigan donated the instrument, which was built by Kegg Pipe Organ Builders. He named it for his mother, Alice Anita Sharkey.

Corrigan hopes the organ will attract performers from around the country to record and play shows, and Keck said it will undergird the university’s music program.

For Laredo, the university’s recital hall is now a place where “our children can hear a real organ,” Keck said.

“Laredo has never had anything like the organ before, and we were ready for it,” said County Commissioner Judith Gutierrez, who enjoyed the performance.

The show opened with the rousing “Laredo Fanfare” and moved on to feature two of the most prominent organ composers, César Franck and Bach.

After an intermission, Heller played pieces by 20th century composer Maurice Duruflé, 19th Century composer Louis Lefeburé-Wely and Mexican composer Ramón Noble.

At the end, a choir joined Heller on stage for the patriotic “America the Beautiful.”

(Clay Reddick may be reached at 728 2582 or by e-mail at clay@lmtonline.com)

©Laredo Morning Times 2007