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ASU organ students compete in Italy


November 17, 2008

Many people travel to Italy to see the art treasures in Florence, or take a gondola ride in Venice.

But few go to Italy to play on historic organs, and compete for prizes.

Three ASU students did just that this fall, and one brought home second prize in the International Organ Competition, "Agati-Tronci," in Pistoia, in the Tuscany region of Italy.

Master's of organ students Christina Hutten and Kristin Holten, and doctoral student Skye Hart were named as semi-finalists in the competition, and Hutten moved on to the finals and came away with second place – and a prize of 2,000 Euros.

The competition repertoire featured music from the 16th through the 18th centuries, including works by Frescobaldi, Froberger, Storace, Scheidemann, Bohm, Cabezon and Muffat, played on historic organs.

The organs were in the Propositura di San Marcello and the Pieve di Santa Maria Assunta in Gavinana, small towns near Pistoia.

Hutten said playing on ASU’s own historic organ, the 1742 Traeri housed in Organ Hall, prepared her well for performing on the organs in Italy, with their “unique sound, specifications and keyboard action.”

“Nevertheless,” she added, “the opportunity to experience the instruments in their original acoustics, while being surrounded by breathtaking art and architecture and the beautiful Italian language was priceless.

“I'd like to thank Herberger College, the Graduate and Professional Student Association, and the ASU Organ Fund for making this trip possible for me.”

Hutten said that though the competition performances were not well attended – they were held in the middle of the day – she said the closing ceremonies drew a large audience.

“Interested spectators, local dignitaries and local media filled the church for the closing ceremonies and winners' concert. In addition, the fact that both instruments used in the competition had been restored within the past 10 years suggests that strong support for these treasures still exists, even in tiny villages like San Marcello and Gavinana.

“The competition received generous support from a wide variety of sources including local governments, businesses, and individuals.”

Kimberly Marshall, Goldman Professor of Organ and director of the Herberger School of Music, said, "The presence of three ASU organists among the nine semifinalists of this major international competition is astounding and did not go unnoticed by the European arts community.

“Our university's emphasis on excellence and impact was amply fulfilled by these ASU students in their performances.

“They all benefited from access to the Traeri baroque organ, built in 1742, and currently on loan to the Herberger College School of Music."