Concert will celebrate professor, organ's new home

April 17, 2012
Contact: Chloe Kennedy, News and New Media Writer

In 1981, Bryan Ashley graduated from Maryville College with a bachelor of music degree in organ performance.

Since then, he has been active as a recitalist, church musician and a university teacher. He has performed with several well-known Japanese orchestras and has given recitals in France, Germany, South Korea and the United States.

Thirty-one years later, he is returning to his alma mater to perform an organ concert in honor of professor emeritus Dr. James Bloy, under whom Ashley studied organ as a student.

The organ concert will be held at 2 p.m. on Sat., May 5 in the Clayton Center for the Arts’ Harold and Jean Lambert Recital Hall. On the program are Chaconne in F Minor by Johann Pachelbel; Prelude and Fugue in E-flat Major by Johann Sebastian Bach; Prelude on “Land of Rest” by Leo Sowerby; and Gospel Prelude: Amazing Grace by William Bolcom.

Ashley will give an informative pre-recital talk titled "Life Lessons After Maryville College" on Fri., May 4 at 12 p.m. in the Clayton Center for the Arts' Harold and Jean Lambert Recital Hall.

Both the concert and pre-recital talk are free and open to the public.

A native of New Jersey, Ashley developed a passion for the organ in France, where he spent part of his youth. After graduating from Maryville College, he earned his master of music degree in organ at Wichita State University under Robert Town. He furthered his organ studies in Europe, where he obtained a Prix d’Excellence in France under Marie-Claire Alain and a Solisten Diplom in Germany under Zsigmond Szathmáry and Xavier Darasse, both with top honors.

In 1988, he won the First International Organ Competition in Musashino-Tokyo, Japan, including the Special Prize for the best performance of a Japanese composition commissioned for the competition. He spent 16 years in Japan, where he performed concerts throughout the country. He was an organ instructor for four years at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music.

Ashley, who has served as organist of The Mother Church-The First Church of Christ, Scientist in Boston, Mass., since 2009, said he is pleased to present a concert in honor of his former professor.

“When I first started at Maryville College in 1977, I majored in chemistry and took organ lessons from Dr. Bloy for my own pleasure,” Ashley recalled. “He was such a fun teacher and so encouraging that I found myself spending far more time playing the organ than perusing the Periodic Table of the Elements. His enthusiasm and love for the music and the instrument were so infectious that by my sophomore year my fate was sealed and I changed my major to organ performance.”

Bloy, who began teaching music at the College in 1953, became a professor in 1969 and served as chairman of the College’s Fine Arts Division from 1980 until 1990. He retired in 1993.

“During my studies, he exposed me to a lot of different kinds of music and allowed me a lot of leeway in choosing my own repertoire,” Ashley said. “He always generously shared his wealth of knowledge and experience of music and life, and always gave me extra time whenever I needed it. He has been my dear friend ever since.”

During the concert, the College’s 1951 Holtkamp organ will be rededicated in its new home – the Clayton Center for the Arts.

In 1951, Maryville College purchased the pipe organ from the Holtkamp Organ Company in Cleveland, Ohio, for the then-new Fine Arts Center. An introductory recital was held in the Fine Arts Center on Dec. 16, 1951.

“It is a remarkable instrument and in its combination of appearance, tone and range has no counterpart in this section of the United States,” read a description printed in the April 1952 issue of The Maryville College Bulletin.

“The new organ … represents the influence of the principles of tonal and architectural design characteristic of the great European instruments of the 17th and 18th centuries. However, the specifications make possible the playing of organ literature of all periods and styles. Careful selection of acoustically balanced registers, low wind pressures, special voicing and exposed placement of the pipes were among the important features considered in its construction. It is essentially a teaching, recital and concert organ.”

In 2007, the Fine Arts Center was razed to make way for the Clayton Center. Before the building was demolished, James Stettner ’85 flew to campus from Seattle, Wash., to dismantle the organ and pack it up. The organ remained in storage until 2010, when local master organ builder Bradley Rule rebuilt and installed it in the Harold and Jean Lambert Hall.

As a student, Ashley said he spent “many an hour at this Holtkamp organ, experimenting with its tonal possibilities and attempting to master its musical and practical demands.”

“At the time this organ was built, the organ as an instrument was just beginning to emerge from an era where it was expected to imitate other musical instruments, but was unsuitable for authentic interpretations of music written before 1750,” Ashley said. “Walter Holtkamp endeavored to design organs that would enhance historically accurate performances of early music, with an emphasis on, but not limited to the German Baroque – and in particular J.S. Bach. In spite of its relatively modest size, this organ is amazingly versatile and inherently musical. The speech of the pipes is precise and clear, and the voicing is elegant and artistic.”

Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience that includes an undergraduate research requirement, Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation. Total enrollment for the fall 2016 semester is 1,198.