JACKSON, Tenn. – Sept. 26, 2003 – One of the nation’s most renowned improvisational organists entertained the Union University community Sept. 25 at the 15th annual Carolyn Townsend McAfee Concert, sponsored by the university’s department of music.
Gerre Hancock, organist and master of choristers at St. Thomas Church in New York City, delivered a concert featuring the works of Nicolas deGrigny, Johann Sebastian Bach and Max Reger. Hancock concluded the evening concert with improvisational selections ranging from pop hits to hymns.
Ronald Boud, a professor of music at Union and the university’s organist, heralded Hancock’s performance.
“It was extraordinarily artistic and creative,” Boud said. “He certainly lived up to his billing.”
Hancock is a fellow in the American Guild of Organists and is a founder and past president of the Association of Anglican Musicians. In addition to his duties at St. Thomas, he serves on the faculty of The Julliard School. He was awarded the doctor of music degree from the Nashotah House Seminary and from the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn.
But Hancock’s early love for the organ came from the First Baptist Church of Lubbock, Texas. “I grew up at First Baptist and grew to love the organ,” he said. “And that’s where I picked up my ability to play improvisations, by playing the organ at revival meetings.”
Hancock’s brother is a former trustee at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. who pastored churches in west Texas.
Hancock said he loves to visit the Union University campus and play the unique Carolyn Townsend McAfee-Rowland pipe organ. “It is such a versatile instrument,” he said. “And it plays so well in the chapel. Union is a magnificent place to play.”
The organ, located inside the G.M. Savage Memorial Chapel, was named in honor of Mrs. McAfee in 1989. She graduated from Union University with a bachelor of music degree with a major in organ. She and her husband, James T. McAfee Jr., reside in Atlanta. McAfee is also a Union alum.
Richard Joiner, chair of the university’s department of music, had nothing but praise for Hancock’s performance. “It was the finest organ recital I’ve attended,” he said. “The improvisation is very strong for him. He makes the piece humorous as well as moving.”
Joiner said he was delighted by the turnout for the evening concert, including many music majors.
“I was sitting there in awe,” said Katie Neal, a junior piano major from Memphis, Tenn. “I took organ lessons from Dr. Boud and I know how difficult it is to play the organ. I have so much respect for Dr. Hancock. It’s a very hard instrument to play.”
The next musical concert is scheduled for Oct. 6 when the internationally-acclaimed PRISM Saxophone Quartet performs at Hartley Hall.
The ensemble has twice been awarded the Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming of Contemporary Music, and has been chosen by Musical America as "Outstanding Young Artists."
PRISM's most recent seasons have been highlighted by engagements which reflect the Quartet's versatility, including appearances in Alice Tully Hall with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, on "Entertainment Tonight," and with the famed Chilean rock group Inti-Illimani in Santiago.
For more information on attending the concert, contact the Union University Dept. of Music at (731) 661-5311.