2016 Festival Judges

ISABELLE DIEMERS

CHRISTOPHER HOULIHAN

FAYTHE FREESE

ISABELLE DIEMERS

           Isabelle Demers is Organ Professor and Head of the Organ Program at Baylor University in Texas, where she teaches organ and courses in the organ curriculum. A native of Québec, she is rapidly becoming recognized as one of North America’s most virtuosic organists. Her concert at the 2010 national convention of the American Guild of Organists, in Washington, D.C., was received with great acclaim not only by critics, who deemed it “one of the most outstanding events of the convention.” (The American Organist), but also by the standing-room-only audience, which called her back five times. A review of her concert for the joint ISO-AIO convention in 2010 said that “she enchanted the entire audience with her virtuoso performance,” leaving the entire congress in an atmosphere of “Demers fever.”

She began piano and organ study at age eleven at the Montréal Conservatory of Music. After graduation in 2003 she studied on scholarship for a year in Paris at the École Normale de Paris-Alfred Cortot. She received her Master’s and Doctoral degrees from The Juilliard School in New York City, where she studied with Paul Jacobs. Her dissertation – an analysis of Bach’s St. John Passion – was awarded the Richard French Prize for best dissertation at commencement.

Isabelle Demers was a featured performer at the 2008 national convention of the American Guild of Organists in Minneapolis, and her performance was later broadcast to a national radio audience. She was a featured artist at the 2009 national convention of the Royal Canadian College of Organists in Toronto, at the 2010 national convention of the American Guild of Organists in Washington, DC, and at the 2010 joint convention of the American Institute of Organbuilders and International Society of Organbuilders in Montréal. She has been a prize-winner and finalist in several international performance competitions and performs widely in the United States, Canada, and Europe. Highlights of her 2012 season included her Davies Hall and Disney Hall debuts in March 2012 as well as a 14-concert tour of England and Germany in the summer.

Her debut recording on British label Acis was met with critical acclaim. On a recent broadcast of Pipedreams, presenter Michael Barone featured the Fugue from Reger’s Op. 73, describing it as “a masterful score, here masterfully played,” and Isabelle Demers as, “definitely a talent to watch, to hear….” The RSCM’s Church Music Quarterly awarded the “exciting, expressive and successful” recording its highest recommendation for its “profound and searching” performances. Fanfare Magazine proclaimed the “superbly produced” and “clear, tightly focused recording” with its “brilliantly played program.” Her second disc, featuring the organ works of Rachel Laurin, was released in June 2011, and her recording of Max Reger’s Seven Chorale-Fantasias this past November. Isabelle Demers is represented by Phillip Truckenbrod Concert Artists.


FAYTHE FREESE

        Dr. Faythe Freese, Professor of Organ at the University of Alabama School of Music, is in demand as a recitalist throughout the United States, Germany, Denmark, South Korea and Singapore. Dr. Freese is the first American woman to have recorded at L'Eglise de la Sainte-Trinité, Paris on the landmark instrument where Guilmant, Messiaen and Hakim were titular organists. Her fourth compact disc entitled, Faythe Freese à l'Orgue de l'Eglise de la Sainte Trinité, has received critical acclaim in The Diapason, The American Organist and Tracker Magazine.  Her fifth compact disc, recorded at Magdeburg Cathedral, Germany, entitled The Freese Collection is Dr. Freese's most recent release. The solo organ work entitled, The Freese Collection, a work by Dr. Pamela Decker, was commissioned and premiered by Dr. Freese in January 2013. Dr. Freese has also commissioned the following new works for solo organ: Passacaglia on BACH by Pamela Decker, To Call My True Love to My Dance by Naji Hakim, and Out of Egypt by John Baboukis.

Dr. Freese lived in Magdeburg, Germany for over three months in spring 2015 during her sabbatical and played and performed on over fifty historic organs in nine countries.  She collaborated with early performance practice experts such as Ton Koopman, Montserrat Torrent, Pieter van Dijk, Aude Heutermatte and João Vaz on period repertoire. Her most recent recitals upon her return incorporate the historic repertoire performed by Dr. Freese and accompanied by a slide show of the historic instruments upon which she performed in the spring.

She was a featured lecturer at the 2014 American Guild of Organists National Convention in Boston, Massachusetts; and was a featured lecturer and concert artist at the 2010 American Guild of Organists National Convention in Washington, D.C.; the 2011 American Guild of Organists Region IV Convention in Greensboro, NC; the 2001 American Guild of Organists Region VII Convention in San Antonio, TX.; and the 2011 Association of Lutheran Church Musicians Biennial Convention.  Dr. Freese's performances have been hailed as "powerful …masterful… impressive … brilliant." Dr. Freese was also faculty and featured performer at the 2011 Boston Pipe Organ Encounter Advanced (POEA), the 2011 Birmingham POE, the 2012 Gainsville POE and the 2004 Atlanta POE.  

Dr. Freese holds degrees in organ performance and church music from Indiana University. She has held faculty positions at Indiana University, Concordia University in Austin, University of North Dakota-Williston, and Andrew College. As a Fulbright scholar and an Indiana University/Kiel Ausstausch Programme participant, she studied the works of Jean Langlais with the composer in France, and the works of Max Reger with Heinz Wunderlich in Germany. Her organ teachers have included Marilyn Keiser, Robert Rayfield, William Eifrig and Phillip Gehring.  She has coached with Dame Gillian Weir, Simon Preston, and Daniel Roth.Dr. Fyathe Freese, Professor of Organ at the University of Alabama School of Music, is in demand as a recitalist


CHRISTOPHER HOULIHAN

         A First Place Winner of the 2003 ASOF High School Competition, young American musician Christopher Houlihan is widely acknowledged as one of the brightest stars in the new generation of organists, praised by the media as “gifted” (New York Times), “dazzling” (Wall Street Journal), and “eloquent” (Los Angeles Times). Still in his 20's, Houlihan's international performing career is well underway, having performed in celebrated venues in major cities across North America and Europe, as well as at numerous conventions of the American Guild of Organists and the Organ Historical Society.

     Christopher Houlihan's “Vierne2012” tour attracted international attention and critical acclaim for his marathon performances of the six organ symphonies of Louis Vierne in six major North American cities. The Los Angeles Times called his performance there “a major surprise of the summer, a true revelation.” Houlihan returned to Los Angeles in Fall 2014 for his debut at Disney Hall in a concert which features principal brass of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

         Houlihan studied with Grammy Award-winning organist Paul Jacobs at The Juilliard School, (First Place Winner of the 1998 College Division ASOF)  where he earned a master's degree, and with ASOF Board Member John Rose at Trinity College (Hartford). During a year in France, he studied with Jean-Baptiste Robin at the Versailles Conservatory earning the "Prix de Perfectionnement,” an award equivalent to a university artist diploma. While abroad he performed for the then President and First Lady of the United States, Mr. and Mrs. George W. Bush at the American Cathedral in Paris.

        Houlihan's recordings include music of Maurice Durufle and Jehan Alain, and Organ Symphony No. 2 by Louis Vierne, both on Towerhill Records. Houlihan lives in New York City, and is Artist-in-Residence at Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut.