James D. Hicks
James D. Hicks is a native of Fredericksburg, Virginia. He holds degrees in music from the Peabody Institute of Music of Johns Hopkins University, Yale University, and the University of Cincinnati. Other studies include courses at the Royal School of Church Music in England. He is an Associate of the American Guild of Organists. Hicks was Director of Music at The Presbyterian Church, Morristown, New Jersey from 1985–2011, where he conducted many of the church’s ensembles, administered the concert series, and served as organist.
Jim has appeared as a concert organist throughout the United States, Europe, and Australia. Over the past decade, he made five recordings on the Pro Organo label. The first, American Classic Fantastic, was recorded at the Presbyterian Church in Morristown, New Jersey in 2003, and demonstrates the extensive rebuild of that instrument from the 1990s, a project that Hicks oversaw. This disc features several world-premiere recordings of twentieth and twenty-first century American repertoire, including two original works. The National Public Media program Pipedreams, hosted by Michael Barone, has broadcast several of the tracks from American Classic Fantastic, and it has received considerable notice in the media.
Over the past several years, Jim has intensively researched a relatively unknown and unexplored corner of the organ repertoire: the music of Nordic countries. The series is called Nordic Journey and is now an ongoing endeavor. The series seeks to commission new works from some of the leading composers from northern Europe, discover unpublished and, hitherto, unknown works from previous eras, highlight compositions that have never been recorded as well as celebrating a few of the standard masterpieces of the Nordic school. All of the volumes of this series were recorded for Pro Organo.
The original Nordic Journey was a two-CD release, recorded in January 2010 on the historic Setterquist organ at Linköping Cathedral, Linköping, Sweden. The program features the series’ first commissioned work, Variations for Organ, by Swedish composer Fredrik Sixten. The program mixes more standard repertoire with many works that have never been recorded, including Sixten’s modern-day masterpiece, Messa Misteriosa. Pro Organo released Nordic Journey in June 2010.
In the summer of 2013, Jim traveled to Sweden for the purpose of adding three more volumes to the Nordic Journey series. Volume II, entitled The Nordic Symphonic Tradition, was recorded on the magnificent Äkerman & Lund organ at St. Johannes’ Church, Malmö, Sweden. This disc is devoted to works of the late-romantic era and is notable for the world premiere recordings of unpublished works by Finnish composer Viljo Mikkola and the Swedish musician Erik Alvin.
Volume III is entitled Swedish Folkways and Classic Traditions and juxtaposes twentieth-century works written in neo-classic style with compositions informed by the folk music of that country. Uppsala-based composer, Mårten Jansson contributed the disc’s commissioned work, A Part of My Heritage, a composition that Jim premiered on Swedish National Radio in March 2012. Other notable contributions to Volume III include the world premiere recording of Fredrik Sixten’s 2012 Toccata & Fugue on BACH. The colorful 1964 Poul-Gerhard Andersen organ of Skara Cathedral, Skara, Sweden served as the perfect vehicle for this repertoire.
This trilogy of recordings from 2013 concludes with Modern Masters, recorded on the Åkerman & Lund organ at Västerås Cathedral, Västerås, Sweden as Nordic Journey, Volume IV. World premiere recordings on this disc include Norwegian composer Kjell Mørk Karlsen’s Sinfonia Norvegica and three commissioned works by Fredrik Sixten: Passacaglia for Organ, Lamentation for Organ, and a work for two sopranos and organ with a text by St. Francis, Canticle of the Sun.
Nordic Journey, Volumes V and VI continue into 2015 and 2016. Volume V is scheduled to be recorded on the three organs at the Nideros Cathedral, Trondheim, Norway, and will be a double CD set devoted to four centuries of music. New music by Fredrik Sixten, Nils Lindberg, Thomas Åberg, Pauli i Sancreadi, Kjell Mørk Karlsen, and others will give this particular volume, to be recorded in one of the most venerated sacred spaces in Scandinavia, an added luster. Volume VI will take Jim to Turku Cathedral, Turku, Finland and will be a program of Finnish music, including a commissioned work, Northern Lights, by up-and-coming composer Veli Kujula.
In June 2014, the NPM show Pipedreams, hosted by Michael Barone, recorded an interview with Jim, and this show, devoted to tracks from all four present volumes of Nordic Journey, will be broadcast at a date to be determined in the future.
For information: www.jamesdhicks.com