R e v i e w s
"The new Fritts organ in First Lutheran Church was officially welcomed... with a far-ranging program impressively played by Katelyn Emerson. Absent any liquid bubby, there was plenty of musical effervescence to delight a crowd that overflowed into the adjacent space and required more programs to be distributed during intermission.
... Emerson revealed the beauty and versatility of the instrument in compromising works by Vincent Lübeck, J.S. Bach, and Georg Muffat, leavening their serious-mindedness with music by Frank Bridge and Bernardo Pasquini.
The recital ended with J.S. Bach's imaginitive -- and early -- Toccata in E, a 1708 work in four sections that gave both organ and organist the opportunity to go out ina burst of musical brilliance.
A long, rousing ovation inspired Emerson to add a brief extra work to the mix. Just in case she had left any sounds unheard, she chose some of the instrument's more piquant registers for her performance of Jean Langlais' witty "Thème et variations" from Hommage à Frescobaldi.
“Evocations. Katelyn Emerson plays the Aeolian-Skinner organ at the Church of the Advent, Boston, Massachusetts. Pro Organo CD7277. Available from www.proorgano.com.
... Katelyn Emerson has taken the organ world by storm. I do not know anyone, myself included, who has heard her play and has not been impressed...
...Katelyn Emerson's program notes in the leaflet... are refreshingly original and interesting.
It ought not come as a surprise that I thoroughly enjoyed and heartily recommend this compact disc."
“Boston’s Historic Park Street Church made a felicitous decision when it chose Katelyn Emerson for the recital celebrating the near completion of the church’s 1960 Aeolian-Skinner’s full restoration... she tailored her selections to the instrument, keeping her pair of stop-pullers busy making myriad changes of combinations to show off as many different tone-colors as possible... Emerson spoke with poise, enthusiasm, and considerable knowledge about both the works played and this organ’s history.
...powerfully theatrical, with multiple opportunities to highlight the grandeur of full organ, generate tension...create power and mystery via the swell shades, and of course, display considerable virtuosity. Emerson did all this handily in an electrifying account."
(Geoffrey Wieting, Boston Music Intelligencer, March 2019)
"...rapidly rising star Katelyn Emerson on the 1967 Casavant (revised in 2005) in the huge, contemporary Twelve Corners Presbyterian Church. Buxtehude's Praeludium in D Minor took advantage of the organ's more neobaroque side, building up in the opening portion, with contrasting registrations in the fugal section using snarly reeds, and a stylus fantasticus conclusion. Langlais's light Trio showed a different side of this instrument, with delightful interplay between voices...and Howells's Paean was an excellent closer, with its splashy reed opening, descending to a quiet interlude before building back to echoes of the opening material.”
(Barbara Owen, The Tracker, January 2019, 63/1)
"Katelyn Emerson, 2016 NYACP winner, played a beautiful recital at Central United Methodist Church on the 1967 Casavant. Opening with Graeme Koehne’s only piece for solo organ, Gothic Toccata, Ms. Emerson showed her prowess on the instrument and played with energy and verve. The piece’s perpetual motion invoked the French toccata tradition with repeated notes and fast and percussive chords. Gaston Litaize’s Scherzo from Douze pièces was also facilely played, with a lyrical and expressive middle section with beautiful shaping of the phrases. Ms. Emerson handled this piece’s transitions with great care. Rheinberger’s Passacaglia from Sonata VIII in E Minor appeared several times in the convention but was nowhere more lovingly or warmly played. The pianistic figurations showed off her facile technique. The Casavant organ did its duty well. The lyric Cromorne, the warm fonds d’orgue, and the reeds, which were full of character, made listening to this organ a pleasure.”
(Lenora McCroskey, The American Organist, October 2018, 52/10)
“EVOCATIONS. Katelyn Emerson, 2016 first prize winner, American Guild of Organists National Young Artists Competition in Organ Performance. Organ of Church of the Advent, Boston, Mass. (III/77 Aeolian-Skinner, Opus 940, 1936.) Pro Organo CD 7277. Available from AGO Resources and ProOrgano.com. This recording was made at the Church of the Advent in Boston, home to the famous G. Donald Harrison Aeolian-Skinner organ. Katelyn Emerson, a graduate of Oberlin and associate organist at this church, is represented by Karen McFarlane Artist. She took first prize in the 2016 NYACOP, and this CD, which prominently displays the Guild’s logo, is part of the impressive award package.
This would be basis enough to encourage your interest. However, this recording delivers much more than promised.
Kudos first of all to the Zarex Corporation, which produces CDs under the Pro Organo label, for the excellent production values on this recording. The organ is captured faithfully, right down to the resonant bass tones. As to the performances, Emerson plays beautifully, with stylistic sensitivity and great technical flair. Perhaps my favorite track is the Tournemire Victimae paschali. Here, Emerson plays not only beautifully but also with passion and personal engagement—a glimpse of the mature artist coming into being. I feel the same way about the opening track, the Bruhns “great” E-minor Praeludium. Here, one perceives confidence and knowledge of historical interpretation from the outset, but passion increasingly finds its place at the same table. Another very pleasing track is the Vierne Naïades. Emerson’s performance is assured and fluent. The recording
ends with a nod to the Church of the Advent: Howells’s Rhapsody in C-sharp Minor, Op. 17, No. 3. The program notes (written by Emerson herself) point to the Anglo-Catholic roots of this church, as well as the “hope for a new world” expressed in the piece.
While most of the music on this recording (except Thierry Escaich's Évocation III from 2008) is well known, this recording is more than a "calling card"; it is a worthy and worthwhile recording from a young master and it deserves your attention. The overall style and approach are essentially conservative, which suits the music well and from which many aspiring organists can learn. The sustained high quality of the performances is something in which all of us may take joy."
(Jonathan B. Hall, The American Organist, October 2018, 52/10)
"In summer 2011, I took a two-week intensive course in France. One of the other five people on the course was a bubbly nineteen-year-old who had just finished her first year of study at Oberlin. Hearing her play de Grigny in Poitiers (with a very scary pedalboard) and then Duruflé in Épernay (on a Cavaillé-Coll), I remember thinking to myself that this young woman was going places... So it was with great interest that I signed up to hear my still-bubbly young friend play at [Église] Saint-Gilbert in Montréal. What a treat this was! With a beautifully designed program (in arch form, no less), Emerson took the small but elegant Létourneau [organ] through its paces.
The closer for her program...by Petr Eben... was stunningly played as an echo to her opener, Buxtehude's Prelude, Fugue and Chaconne in C Major, BuxWV 137. The second work on her program -- insanely jumping around the keyboard and pedalboard, and played with seemingly no effort -- was Langlais's Sonate en trio from 1967. This was echoed by the fourth work, Bach's Trio Sonata No. 6, played both elegantly and at breakneck speed. The program's centrepiece was Pachelbel's Ciaconna in F Minor, also beautifully played.
A well-deserved standing ovation was immediate and heartfelt from the audience. Katelyn Emerson is a star of the first rank already, and an ambassador for the organ with a very bright future, indeed."
(Peter Nikiforuk, Orgue Canada, Autumne 2017)
Katelyn Emerson dazzles as soloist:
Next on the program was Felix Alexandre Guilmant's Symphonie for Organ and Orchestra Nr. 2, Op. 91. The soloist was American Katelyn Emerson...
In the first movement the music builds from the relaxed opening chords to a powerful eruption of organ and orchestra. The interpretation draws the listener's attention to the composition’s symbiosis of romanticism and early music, Guilmant’s intense obsession.
Under [conductor Hermann] Bäumer, Emerson and the Staatsorchester Mainz invoked a jester floating through a storm. French transparency and lightness built a network of tension with the work's lush tonal language. The organ led the Adagio, arousing a delicate atmosphere - melancholy with lyrical sweetness glimmering through.
Guilmant’s Symphonie was interpreted with the utmost transparence. In the last movement, the organ and orchestra reached new heights. Beams of light were palpable, and nothing was heavy or overdone - the festive majesty of the ending persisted until the majestic final chord. Cheers filled the hall.
In the encore by Louis Vierne, Emerson once again showed her virtuosity and acknowledged the organ builder Andreas Seul in a special bow."
(Wiesbadener Kurier, 8 November 2017, Trans. from German: Mitchell Miller)
"Fresh off her first prize win at the 2016 American Guild of Organists National Young Artists Competition in Organ Performance, Katelyn Emerson has produced this very impressive album of organ works, spanning over 300 years of organ history; and...she has managed to include a representative sampling of the most important contributors to the instrument’s repertoire.
Katelyn Emerson has given us an organ recital that is masterful in execution, in turns majestic in its musical power and deeply moving in its ministering comfort... For all organ aficionados, this album is a must."
(Fanfare, Jerry Dubins, review of CD Evocations, November-December 2017)
"Oberlin graduate Katelyn Emerson showed impressive technical facility and musicianship in her first Cleveland recital since winning First Prize in the American Guild of Organists [sic] National Young Artists Competition.
...from Robert Schumann's Six Fugues on BACH...the scherzo-like No.  was charming, and the organist managed its highly-articulated theme and tricky counterpoint with ease.
...[In] the opening movement of Charles-Marie Widor's Symphony No. 6, a set of variation son a majestic march-like chorale in which technical brilliance trumps all else[,] Emerson's performance was thrilling from beginning to end.
...Maurice Duruflé's "Sicilienne" from the Suite, Op. 5, sounded splendid.... This was one of the best performances on the program.
Emerson also gave an astonishing reading of Louis Vierne’s Naïades (“Water nymphs”) from his Pièces de fantaisie, Op. 55. An unending stream of sixteenth notes on soft flute registers in counterpoint with a gentle melody on string stops, the piece is unrelentingly transparent. Any flaw is immediately audible. Had the organist played nothing else but Naïades, it would still have been worth attending the concert.
Emerson ended the program with the craggy Prelude from Marcel Dupré’s Symphony II. Here, Dupré’s music is at its most jagged and dissonant — surprising in its modernism, and episodic, with many short, fragmented themes assembled, developed, and reassembled. Emerson gave it an impressive reading — an aggressive closing to a program of large works.
"Katelyn Emerson’s demonstration of the Mother Church organ really blew us away. Not in the least afraid of this 242-rank instrument, she commanded every bit of it with a careful ear and sense of musicality that puts her at the top of recitalists performing today."
"...first prize-winner of this year's NYACOP, Katelyn Emerson, who gave a stunning recital at St. Paul's united Methodist Church the day before the convention. Her strong background in historical performance was evident in the Buxtehude D-minor Praeludium, B[ux]WV 140, which she interpreted stylishly despite the organ's antithetical aesthetic. Her playing demonstrated a strong command of rhythm and wonderful sense of pacing, whether in the lilting flow of Vierne's Naïades or in the rhetorical flourishes of Tournemire's Victimae paschali. A highlight of Emerson's program was Thierry Escaich's Evocation (2008), whichshe interpreted with great sensitivity, shaping its minimalist textures into compelling phrases. Her expert handling of the organ was apparent throughout, especially in the lyrical lines of Frank Bridge's Adagio and in the first movement of Dupré's Symphonie II in C-sharp minor, which concluded the program with exciting artistry."
(The American Organist, Kimberley Marshall, September 2016)
"...one of the world’s most promising organists."
(Listvinafélag Hallgrímskirkju, Iceland, July 2016)
"In [NYACOP], one could hear the outstanding maturity and historically-informed nature of American interpretation. The winner, Katelyn Emerson, had also studied in France for awhile. Her program and her playing showed profound knowledge of historical performance practice, added with a Swing that can only be characterized as "perfect." She also showed a playfulness that translated to the audience. Of course, she played without page-turner and registrant..."
(Musica Sacra [Die Zeitschrift für katholische Kirchenmusik], Gabriel Dessauer, 2016/05, Translated from German: Michael König)
"Emerson...shows every indication that she will become one of her generation's most prominent organists.
Emerson is an assured, thoughtful interpreter whose strength lies in an ability to marshal the power of seemingly opposing qualities. She conveyed the excitement within the works she played... by taking a calm, reasoned approach and allowing the music's tensions to build without overstatement. Her approach to coloration is subtle, rather than showing, yet...she draws widely on the instrument's resources, and she is not afraid of a true pianissimo.
Perhaps most crucially, in works as varied as Herbert Howells' Rhapsody (Op. 17, No. 3), Jehan Alain's "Litanies" (JA 119) and Mozart's Fantasia (K608), she focused on the music's heft and breadth, yet within the sweep of her readings, she did full justice to the works' considerable intricacies.
"...Katelyn Emerson dazzled..."
(The American Organist, Murray Somerville, September 2014)
...exciting and musical playing... I feel encouraged about the future of the organ returning to the forefront as a recital instrument. You are certainly a rising star."
(L'Organo, Bob Gant. June 2014)
"Even from a distance, one can sense the gentle strength of Katelyn Emerson - in her hands, the instrument is a mere toy”
(MKRU Days Trubinov, Ian Smimitsky, September 2013, Translated from Russian: Kristina Rudenko)
"Katelyn stood out for her musicality, elegance in performance, and several of the judges independently used the word "breathtaking" in her performance of...Tournemire."
(M. Louise Miller Scholarship Committee, July 2013)
"Impressive rendition...tastefully and elegantly played...perfectly executed."
(The American Organist, October 2012)
"Amazing, incredible, and inspiring were just some of the adjectives I heard our members use to describe [Katelyn's] seemingly-effortless performance."
(Lexington Chapter, American Guild of Organists, October 2012)
"Oberlin Sophomore Katelyn Emerson's strong technique and firely musicality was especially evident... She is indeed a 'Rising Star' in the organ world. Keep an eye out for her."
(The Boston Music Intelligencer, 23 August 2012)
"In her energetic and demanding performance, Katelyn proved mastery in utilizing all the resources of the [organ's] ranks and...keyboards, not to mention her own agile footwork...Katelyn rose to and surpassed the [challenge] of this superlative performance with musical precision and sumptuous towering chords. She seamlessly executed intricate manual changes with the magnificence of a world-class full orchestra. A standing ovation underscored the audience's appreciation and admiration."
(Worcester Chapter, American Guild of Organists, 3 August 2011)
"Katelyn Emerson played like a seasoned professional organ recitalist...expressing power and control from the opening phrases...to the impressive footwork... [and] demonstrated a firmly considered interpretation...This is a career to watch as more is added to [Ms. Emerson's] repertoire beyond this already impressive...achievement."
(Classical Voices of New England, 30 July 2010)
S e l e c t T e s t i m o n i a l s
Upon listening to her own Finale, Op. 78 (2017), recorded on Katelyn Emerson's Inspirations recording released September 2018, composer Rachel Laurin comments: "I just listened to it for the first time and I wanted to say that you are fabulous! You understood perfectly the musical content of the piece, and it sounds free, easy, flowing, natural, exciting, sparkling, expressive, inspired, virtuosic and brave all in one piece!!! Many thanks and congratulations, Katelyn! I am truly grateful for what you did with my music and that you decided to include my Opus 78 in your CD! "
(Rachel Laurin, 18 September 2018)
"Emerson, one of the brightest stars in the North American organ world (according to Hans Davidsson) took part [in the Göteborg Organ Festival]. Merely 22 [sic] years old, her resume already contains an extraordinary number of experiences, among other prizes and accomplishments as a performing organist...
'We believe she can help to change the picture of who the performing organist is,' says Hans Davidsson."
(Kyrkomusikernas tidning, December 2017, Trans. from Swedish: Marco Bonacci)
"I... believe [Katelyn] is one of the outstanding young organists in the country. Her programme today was excellent. We are so fortunate to have her in this area, keeping us close to this wonderful talent. Brava Katelyn!"
(David "Mack" McPeak, PIPORG-L email digest, January 2017)
Katelyn Emerson...brought a breath of fresh air to the Music Hall on what was a hot and muggy day... She is the best of the best. [Katelyn] played a well-balanced program of mixed styles and periods of music that was well received by the large audience - one of the largest ones this season...She had full control over the organ and its resources and we heard the organ to good advantage... Her stage presence was excellent, joyful, and informative throughout... I wish every recital could be this good. I highly recommend that you hear this "rising star" as soon as possible and you will not be disappointed.
(Richard Ouellette, Facebook review, August 2016)
As you may have noticed I am a real fan of Katelyn's. I... have always been impressed with her musicianship. Her programme... [was] one of the best performances I have heard in a while. Katelyn received a standing ovation after her...wonderful programme."
(David "Mack" McPeak, PIPORG-L email digest, August 2016)
"I have been fortunate to have heard Ms. Emerson...and I can say, without reservation, she is an excellent musician and organist. The Howells was excellent, well-registered, and played [and] the audience applauded her generously. The Bach was well played and registered as it has to be tough registering on a romantic organ such as this. The Franck was excellent also, a lovely piece and one I could listen to all day. The Dupré was wonderful...Ms. Emerson is a talent that just seems to keep growing and I hope I am fortunate enough to hear her continue to grow in the future."
(David "Mack" McPeak, PIPORG-L email digest, January 2015)
"...wonderfully played...this young woman has excellent control of the music and it is a joy to listen to her play."
(David "Mack" McPeak, PIPORG-L email digest, January 2014)
"...a true professional"
(Marie-Louise Langlais, 27 December 2012)