2013 Albert Schweitzer Organ Festival Judges
Diane Meredith Belcher • David Hurd • Cherry Rhodes
Diane Meredith Belcher
Organist Diane Meredith Belcher brings to the music world performances of rare artistry; her stirringly expressive, dazzlingly clear, and astoundingly virtuosic playing has thrilled audiences throughout the United States, in Europe and Canada since her solo debut at age fifteen. Among her many recital credits are Grace Cathedral, San Francisco; the opening concert of The Wanamaker Organ's 100th anniversary, Philadelphia; Saint Thomas Church, New York; The Oregon Bach Festival; Woolsey Hall, Yale University; The Cleveland Museum of Art; West Point Cadet Chapel; Spivey Hall, Morrow, Georgia; Girard College, Philadelphia; The Wildwood Festival, Little Rock; Fourth Presbyterian Church, Chicago; Cathedral of the Madeleine, Salt Lake City; First Congregational Church, Los Angeles; The Auditorium, Independence, Missouri; Ned Rorem's 80th birthday celebration, Philadelphia; Portland City Hall, Maine; and the Crystal Cathedral, Los Angeles. In one recent season she performed solo recitals at all three of the major new American concert halls with pipe organs: Disney Hall, Los Angeles; Verizon Hall, Philadelphia; and Benaroya Hall, Seattle, in addition to recitals for the 50th Anniversary National Convention of the Organ Historical Society and the National Convention of the Royal Canadian College of Organists.
Ms. Belcher's solo orchestral appearances are numerous, and include the Philadelphia, Jacksonville, Hatfield (England), Syracuse, Memphis, Wichita, Columbus, Georgia, and Curtis Symphony orchestras, and the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia.
Ms. Belcher studied organ with David Spicer, John Weaver, Clarence Watters, David Craighead, and Wilma Jensen; she graduated from The Curtis Institute of Music, and earned her master's degree at The Eastman School of Music. A laureate of both the Saint Albans (England) and Chartres (France) international organ competitions -- two of the world's most prestigious such events -- she also took top prize in the American Guild of Organists' professional certification examinations. For a time she was an assistant organist at the Grand Court Organ in Philadelphia's John Wanamaker Store, performing twice weekly on the world's largest organ. Her debut recording, made at age twenty-three on the famed Girard College organ, was hailed by American Record Guide as "...glowingly brilliant, rhythmically vibrant, consistently expressive, and full of both atmosphere and personality - in short, everything that artistic organ playing should be."
In demand by her colleagues, she is a frequent performer at music conferences, including appearances at four national conventions of the American Guild of Organists, and two AGO Annual Gala Celebrations honoring distinguished organists (David Craighead in 2006 and John Weaver in 2012.) Of a recent concert in Nova Scotia for the Royal Canadian College of Organists, the Halifax Chronicle-Herald praised her "musical elegance, clarity, projection and mastery of style -- an amazing display of musical virtuosity of the highest order."
Diane Meredith Belcher has been a church musician and choral conductor for over 30 years, having served churches in Philadelphia, Memphis, Syracuse, and Rochester, NY, and was the founding director of the Memphis Concert Chorale. In recent years she has served as Organist/Choirmaster at Old St. Paul's Church, Baltimore, Christ Church, Philadelphia, and Saint Mark's Episcopal Church, Philadelphia, and is now Director of Music at St. Mary Star of the Sea Parish in Beverly, Massachusetts. Ms. Belcher is often invited to lead workshops and master classes, and to sit on the jury of music competitions. She has taught organ extensively, and has served on the faculties of the University of Memphis and Westminster Choir College, in addition to teaching organ at the University of Pennsylvania. Also a composer, she has written a small body of organ and choral music. She is represented by Karen McFarlane Artists, Inc.
During her brilliant career she has toured extensively throughout the major music capitals of America and Europe with recitals and festival appearances in concert halls, cathedrals, and churches. She has been featured at numerous national and regional conventions of the American Guild of Organists.
Ms. Rhodes has recorded for Columbia Records with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Everyone Dance, her critically acclaimed solo recording on the Pro Organo label, has been hailed by The American Organist as “A joyous celebration of unrivaled artistry!” Many of her performances have been broadcast throughout North America and Europe.
Ms. Rhodes is a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, where she studied with Dr. Alexander McCurdy. While a student there, she made her debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra at age seventeen. She received Fulbright and Rockefeller grants for study in Munich and Paris with Karl Richer, Marie-Claire Alain, and Jean Guillou. For two years she was Jean Guillou's assistant at St. Eustache in Paris.
Cherry Rhodes is Adjunct Professor of Organ at the Thornton School of Music, University of Southern California. A sought-after musician, she gives masterclasses and frequently serves as adjudicator for competitions in North America and Europe.
David Hurd was born in Brooklyn, New York. Prior to his under-graduate studies at Oberlin College, he attended both the High School of Music and Art and the Juilliard School. Upon graduation from Oberlin in 1971 (Mus.B.), he was appointed Assistant Organist of Trinity Parish in lower Manhat-tan where he served under the direction of Larry King. He was appointed to the faculty of Duke University in 1972 concurrent with graduate studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. In 1973 he returned to New York as Organist and Music Director at the Chapel of the Intercession, a position he retained until 1978 when he was named Composer in Residence for a sea-son. In 1976 he was appointed to the faculty of The General Theological Seminary in New York City where he is presently Professor of Church Music and Organist. In addition, has served as Director of Music at All Saints Church, New York City, from 1985 to 1997 and is currently Director of Music at The Church of the Holy Apostles.
In 1977 he was awarded first prizes both in organ playing and in improvisation at the International Congress of Organists. He has concertized throughout North America since that time under the representation of Phillip Truckenbrod. He has performed both at National and Regional Conventions of the American Guild of Organists. In 1981 he was invited to perform at the Internationaal Orgelfestival Haarlem, meeting in Gouda, the Netherlands, during which he received the diploma for improvisation of the Stichting Inter-nationaal Orgelconcours. His principal organ teachers were Bronson Ragan, Garth Peacock, and Arthur Poister.
In 2009, Dr. Hurd was named the 15th "Distinguished Composer" of the American Organ Guild. Other composers who have received this award include Virgil Thomson, Ned Rorem, Daniel Pinkham, Conrad Susa, William Bolcom and Dominick Argento. Dr. Hurd will be honored at a special concert during the 2010 AGO convention which will feature a newly commissioned work.
He has received many commissions for choral, organ, and instrumental works, and has composed much liturgical music. Among his published works are organ pieces, choral works and many original hymn settings. His liturgical compositions and arrangements are also found in several major hymnals. He has been a visiting lecturer at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music and a visiting professor at the Yale School of Music. In 1987 he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Music, honoris causa, by the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale. The following year he received two honorary degrees; the Doctor of Sacred Music from The Church Divinity School of the Pacific, Berkeley, California, and the Doctor of Humane Letters from Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, Evanston, Illinois.