Superior native, nationally known organist performs at UWSWhen Rick Erickson comes to visit, you can bet he’s bringing Johann Sebastian Bach with him.
When Rick Erickson comes to visit, you can bet he’s bringing Johann Sebastian Bach with him.
“Well, I spend most of my life these days with Bach,” said Erickson, a Superior native and nationally known organist who directs the Bach Vespers series at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in New York and serves as music director of the Boulder Bach Series in Colorado.
Erickson performs works by Bach along with music by other composers when he presents organ recitals Oct. 16 and 17 as part of the University Recital Series at the University of Wisconsin-Superior.
Erickson performs on the Schlicker organ in Webb Recital Hall in UWS’ Holden Fine and Applied Arts Center. He presents identical repertoires at both recitals.
Performances begin at 7:30 p.m.
Seating for the recitals is limited. Individual tickets cost $12 for adults and $10 for students and seniors. Season ticket-holders and everyone purchasing single tickets must reserve their seats in advance by calling the UWS Music Department at 715-394-8115.
Erickson said he plans to perform Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in E-Flat Major along with other works by the German composer. He’ll also perform Felix Mendelssohn’s Sixth Sonata, various chorales by German composers, and a set of 19th and 20th Century tunes based on themes of nature. He promised to include some of his improvisational work, another area in which he enjoys a growing reputation.
Erickson began studying keyboard and organ as a youth growing up in Superior. He graduated from UW-Superior in 1975 with majors in music and German. He earned a master’s degree and a performer’s certificate from the famed Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y.
Since 1992, Erickson has served as cantor and organist for Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in New York’s Upper West Side. He oversees the musical life of the parish and directs a diverse music program that includes the renowned Bach Vespers series, featuring Bach Cantatas sung at Vespers with the professional Bach Choir and period instrumentalists.
The New York Times in 2008 called Holy Trinity “New York’s temple to Bach.”
Erickson said it’s always interesting to return to Superior to perform in front of people who have known him for years.
“My hometown has been incredibly supportive all my life, so I like to go back,” he said. “I’m proud to be a graduate of UWS. Its music department is splendid. I’m proud of what’s happening in the music department and always glad to be back in that environment. It’s like coming back to play for family.”
Indeed, Erickson’s mother, his youngest sister, a nephew and several cousins live in Superior and Douglas County, and he anticipates they’ll be in attendance when he sits down at the keyboard.
Family members and everyone else attending Erickson’s performances will hear an organist who has appeared in the United States, Germany and Sweden as recitalist, hymn festival leader, and lecturer. He has performed for conventions of the American Guild of Organists, the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians and the Pastoral Musicians Association, among others.
A noted hymn improviser, Erickson has recorded for Naxos, JV recordings, and Augsburg Fortress. The New Yorker magazine has praised his playing as “exemplary Bach.”
In addition to his work at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Erickson last year was named music director of the Boulder Bach Festival in Colorado. The festival celebrates the music of Johann Sebastian Bach by providing high-quality performances and educational opportunities about the composer.
With so much of his career involving Bach, it’s easy to understand why Erickson speaks with such enthusiasm when he tries to explain why the great composer’s music appeals to so many people.
“My father always said, ‘If you have Bach, you don’t need anything else.’ ” Erickson said. “I think Bach speaks to everyone all the time; he appeals to people on all levels. For some people it’s the sheer weight of the sound. For some it’s the perfection of the architecture of his music.
For some people, I think they just love to watch the organists’ feet and hands flying at the same time for the sheer entertainment value.”