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James D. Hicks

James D. Hicks is a native of Fredericksburg, VA.  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, NJ 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 six recordings on the Pro Organo label.  The first, American Classic Fantastic, was recorded at the Presbyterian Church in Morristown, NJ 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  The series seeks to commission new works from some of the leading composers from northern Europe, discover unpublished and, hitherto, unknown works from previous eras, highlight compositions that have never been recorded, as well as celebrating a few of the standard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. 

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.

The Nordic Journey series has received considerable media coverage, including an entire program on the NPM show Pipedreams, hosted by Michael Barone and two interviews on Wisconsin Public Radio, all in 2014. 

Kalmar Cathedral, Kalmar, Sweden was the venue for 2015's Nordic Journey, Volume V—Many Landscapes. Recorded in April of that year and released in September, this double CD lives up to its title by including organ compositions that span the entire northern world: works from Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. Five pieces composed by Sven-Ingvart Mikkelsen, Fredrik Sixten, Kjell Mørk Karlsen, Pauli í Sandagerði, and Thomas Åberg were composed specifically for Many Landscapes. The unique nature of this edition of Nordic Journey was enhanced by it being the premiere recording of the cathedral's Tostareds organ, built in 2013. Jim supported this release by performing 20 concerts at music festivals throughout the nordic world in 2015.

The music of Finland is the subject of Nordic Journey, Volume VI, released in September 2016. This double disc was recorded in June of the same year at two locations in Turku, the ancient capital of Finland. Disc one features the 1980 Virtanen organ of Turku Cathedral, the most historic location of the country. Two commissioned works by contemporary Finnish composers, Mauri Viitala and Santeri Siimes, plus several multi-movement, previously unknown works from the Romantic era form the basis of this part of the release. The colorful 2002 Gronlunds organ at St. Michael's, Turku was the perfect vehicle for a program of smaller works of contrasting styles, including the four organ compositions of Jack Mattsson, a transcription of a work by Jean Sibelius, and two pieces by St. Michael's organist Marko Hakanpää.

Jim promoted Nordic Journey, Volume VI in New Zealand, northern Europe and the United States throughout 2016.

2017 will see the continuation of many of Jim's endeavors with the recording of Nordic Journey, Volume VII in August, a collection that will utilize the tonal recourses of the three organs at Nidaros Cathedral, Trondheim, Norway. Commissioned works by Fredrik Sixten and Kjell Mørk Karlsen will be the starting point in a program devoted to four centuries of Nordic music. Nordic Journey, Volume VIII is, in addition, scheduled to be recorded at the Hallgrímskirkja, Reykjavik, Iceland in the autumn of 2018.

The year will also mark the continuation of Jim's ongoing fundraiser for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Please visit hicksnordichike.com for updates.

 

James D. Hicks | Bernardsville, NJ | 201.486.7538 | Site, text, and images © James D. Hicks, 2016