A review of Nordic Journey VIII in Choir and Organ, January 2020

A review of Nordic Journey VIII in American Record Guide, November/December 2019
Nordic Journey 8Nordic Journey 8
James D. Hicks, org
ProOrgano 7287 [2 CD] 155 minutes

Another volume in Hicks's continuing survey of the highways and byways of organ music from the Nordic countries. As in the previous volumes (Pro Organo CD 7239, 7262, 7263, 7264, 7271, 7279, and 7285)) the music, playing, and organs are all exemplary. These recordings document an extensive, vibrant and incredibly rich heritage of organ music, organ building and organ playing, most of which is unknown to us here in the states. These have become some of my favorite organ CDs.

The 29 pieces, from the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries, are by composers from Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, and Faroe Islands, with several having been commissioned by the performer. England makes an appearance with “The Vikings” by Arthur Wills, former organist of Ely Cathedral and a respected composer. He arranged this movement for solo organ from a larger orchestral suite, and it celebrates the heritage of Leif Erikson, whose statue stands outside of the Hallgrimskirkja, in Reykjavik, Iceland, where the recording was made. He brilliantly weaves the Fate motif from Wagner's Ring Cycle into the fabric of this exciting piece.

Highlights for me include the Symphony No. 3 by Kjell Mørk Karlsen; the late romantic style Prelude and Fugue in A minor by Emil Sjögren, a student of Alexandre Guilmant; the substantial Introduction and Passacaglia by the Norwegian composer Knut Nystedt; the colorful Dalecarlian Reflections on Swedish themes by Nils Lindberg; the powerful choral prelude by the Danish composer Christian Praestholm; the marvelously quirky Variations for A by Claes Holmgren; a wonderful French romantic style Toccata on the hymn tune Lobe den Herren by Anders S. Börjesson; and the substantial Praetorius Variations by Jesper Madsen.

Hicks plays on a marvelous 4-manual, 102-rank 1992 Klais organ which Pro Organo captures vividly in the resonant acoustic. He plays with consummate musicianship, virtuosity, commitment, all informed with an obvious love and understanding of this music. The church is one of the architectural wonders of Iceland, with a 244 foot tower standing on a hill overlooking Reykjavik. The photos make me want to go there to see it and play the organ. Notes on the music, performer, organ with gorgeous photos.

American Record Guide
November/December 2019

Nordic Journey 8

March 2019

JUST RELEASED: Nordic Journey, Volume VIII (available from Pro Organo)
James D. Hicks continues his quest to discover hidden organ music treasures from Nordic composers, and to inspire new organ music from leading Nordic composers of the current age, in his eighth volume – a double CD – in his NORDIC JOURNEY series. The featured pipe organ is the 1992-vintage, 4-manual Klais organ in the Hallgrímkirkja in Reykjavík, Iceland. Both discs contain newly commissioned works by James D. Hicks

February 2019
In this 25+ minute video, American organist James D. Hicks takes us on his adventure to the Hallgrímskirkja in Reykjavík, Iceland, where he introduces us to three of the Nordic composers whose solo organ works are included in his 2019 double-CD release of organ music, played on the 1992 Klais organ in Reykjavík's Hammgrímskirkja. We hear James Hicks in performances of segments of 4 works which appear on his double-CD release from Pro Organo (album 7287 at ProOrgano.com).

Making Nordic Journey Volume VIII in Iceland from Zarex Corporation on Vimeo.

A review of Nordic Journey VI in The American Organist, November 2018



New Jersey’s Own James D. Hicks Holds Special Performance in Millburn, NJ
As Part of his Charitable Nordic Hike Initiative

Califon, NJ, August 2018 – There are so many things in this world to be thankful for, and for many of us, we are lucky enough to encounter that one person that possesses such a rare human spirit that they leave a mark on us for the rest of our lives. For acclaimed concert organist James D. Hicks, that one person was his childhood friend Chris Rawlings, who passed away at the young age of 23 of Cystic Fibrosis, a genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections and limits the ability to breathe over time. Since his friend’s passing, Hicks has been touring the world, researching, writing, recording and performing both original songs and beloved works from the organ repertoire. Now, more than 35 years later, Hicks is using his amazing talent to honor and remember his dear friend with a fundraising campaign he calls Hicks Nordic Hike, which began in 2016 to help raise funds and awareness for this cause so close to his heart. On Saturday, September 8, 2018, New Jersey’s own organist James D. Hicks will bring his Nordic Hike journey to St. Stephens Episcopal Church in Millburn, NJ, where he’ll be performing cherished works of music from his series Nordic Journey. ALL proceeds from this special benefit concert will be donated directly to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, whose mission is to cure the disease, by funding research and drug development, promoting individualized treatment, and ensuring access to high-quality, specialized care. To date, Hicks’ Nordic Hike campaign has raised more than $15,000 to benefit the cause.

Nordic Hike Concert to Benefit Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

Saturday, September 8, 2018, 5 PM

St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church
119 Main Street
Millburn, NJ

$20 suggested donation per person
*ALL proceeds benefit Cystic Fibrosis Foundation*

For more information on this charitable initiative, please visit http://hicksnordichike.com.

June 2018 — JUST RELEASED:

The Nordic Journey Series

The Nordic Journey Series, edited by James D. Hicks

This is a collection of organ music from the Nordic lands.

These new compositions celebrate a culture that has one foot in tradition yet always looks ahead, placing the other foot on the path toward new expression. Here are contemporary works that have a foundation in traditional themes, but in addition take these concepts to new destinations.
This is Nordic Journey, a voyage for both the performer and auditor. Travel alongside these new works to gain a unique insight into the creativity that is now being realized in the Nordic World. It is an exciting time to be a part of this exploration!

Cantando invites you to consider this exciting new repertoire by living Nordic composers, music that expresses a unique interpretation of the contemporary Nordic spirit.

Rhapsodie sur “Ramus virens olivarum” by Santeri Siimes (b. 1981)
Intermezzo nr. 1 by Pauli í Sandagerði (b. 1955)
Canon, Partite & Fuga by Mauri Viitala (b. 1948) per organo sopra il corale Sen suven suloisuutta
A Part Of My Heritage by Mårten Jansson (b. 1965)
Ein feste Burg ist unser Gottt by Mårten Jansson
Summer Fantasy by Sven-Ingvart Mikkelsen (b. 1955)
Variations and Fugue On A Danish Folk Tune by Sven-Ingvart Mikkelsen
Fantasia um Ísland, farsælda Frón by Hildigunnur Rúnarsdóttir (b. 1964)

Order no: C4322
124 pages in Hard back cover
Price NOK 295 + freight

ORDER FROM: shop.cantando.com or by e-mail: order@cantando.com
All of the music is recorded and can be found here: https://proorgano.com/

A review of Nordic Journey VII in the American Record Guide, March/April 2018

Hicks continues his fascinating exploration of Scandinavian organ music with this latest volume. As in the previous volumes (M/A 2015; M/J 2015; M/J 2017) the music, playing, and organs are all exemplary. These are some of the most enjoyable CDs I have reviewed and this one is no exception.

The program presents Norwegian composers from the 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. Outstanding are the sonatas by Arild Sandvold (1895–1984) and Juhani Pohjanmies (1893–1959). These are large-scale, beautifully crafted, technically demanding, dramatic pieces in a post-romantic style and deserve to be better known amongst American organists. I also liked the inclusion of the pieces with instruments by Kjell Karlson; Hymn for organ, violin and oboe, and the Partita for recorder and organ. The longest and most substantial work is the programmatic symphony Aurore Borelis (Northern Lights) by Fredrik Sixten, commissioned by the performer and premiered by him in July of 2017. The overall theme "is about the unexpected light we see in the sky or in our hearts, promising hope where there is darkness." In the course of the six movements, Dark, Dawn, Day, Dusk, Dark II, and Divinity (which adds a wordless soprano part), "we encounter the concept of pilgrimage, either a physical journey or of the spirit." This is a substantial piece, complex, dramatic, virtuosic, exciting, colorful and wholly original in conception.

Hicks plays on three wonderful organs located in Niardos Cathedral in Trondheim, Norway: a 2 manual, 30 stop 1741 Joachim Wagner; a 2 manual, 27 stop 2015 Torkildsen choir organ, and a stunning 4 manual, 125 stop 1930 Steinmeyer. Extensive notes on the music, performers, and the organs. If you are not familiar with the organ music of Scandinavia, I urge you to be brave and give one of the volumes from this series a try. You will be pleasantly surprised.

—written by Robert Delcamp

November 2017: In this 25-minute feature video, American organist James D. Hicks takes us along on his journey to Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim, Norway. There, he introduces us to the three pipe organs of varied vintage and style in the Cathedral, along with some excerpts of selections he recorded for his seventh volume of the Nordic Journey Compact Disc seres. James Hicks plays each of the three pipe organs, offers informative commentary, and conducts an interview with composer Fredrik Sixten about certain aspects of his new 6-movement, 45-minutes work, entitled Symphonia Aurora Borealis. Joining James Hicks in performance excepts - with footage acquired during actual recording sessions for Nordic Journey VII - feature first-rate instrumentalists and soprano Helena Ek.

The Making of Nordic Journey VII from Zarex Corporation on Vimeo.

Nordic Journey 5

November 2017

JUST RELEASED: Nordic Journey, Volume VII (available from Pro Organo)

Nordic Journey, Volume VII is available for purchase from Pro Organo either as a physical product (two discs) or in downloads. Clocking in at 156 minutes, Volume VII features the three organs of Nidaros Cathedral, Trondheim, Norway in Nordic music from the time of Bach to works from 2017. Of particular note are five commissioned works by Mårten Jansson, Kjell Mørk Karlsen, Sven-Ingvart Mikkelsen, and Fredrik Sixten. In addition, four guest artists, Caroline Eidsten Dahl, Helena Ek, Arnulf Johansen, and Ola Lindseth graced this endeavor with their fantastic gifts. Frederick Hohman was the producer, capturing the unique ambience of this sacred space in his characteristically brilliant way.

The Mission of Nordic Journey Continues—September 2017

Read the whole article here.

November Concert to be live broadcast on Swedish National Radio

James D. Hicks will perform a special concert November 1, 7:00 p.m. at the Östersunds Church, in Östersund, Sweden. This concert will be live-broadcast for Swedish National Radio and will be devoted entirely to music that Jim has commissioned from Swedish composers.

A review of Nordic Journey VI in the American Record Guide, March/April 2017

Previously I have reviewed two volumes from this series (M/A 2015; M/J 2015) and found them quite enjoyable, but this latest volume knocked my socks off. Not only because the playing and recorded sound maintain the same high standard of previous volumes, but because of the stunning organs and marvelous music. Volumes 1-5 focused on Sweden; this program moves to Finland, presenting standard, newly commissioned, and unpublished pieces. I like every piece on the program from the large-scale and powerful works by Maasalo, Isacsson, Sundberg, and Siimes, to the delightful "Ice Cream Truck Fugue a la Bach" and the toe-tapping-Sousa-like-march Through The Alps.

Hicks plays on two organs located in Turku, Finland-the 82 stop Veikko Virtanen in the cathedral, and the 52 stop Grönlunds in St. Michael's Church. Both are powerful, rich, colorful instruments of a distinct French personality. Notes on the music (including publishers), the organs, and the specifications are included. I love this recording, and want to learn some of this music.

—written by Robert Delcamp

A review of Nordic Journey III in the American Record Guide, March/April 2015

This is Volume III in a four-volume survey of the highways and byways of organ music from Nordic countries, which have a rich heritage of organ building, music, and playing. I was initially unsure of my response to an entire disc of music by unknown composers; but the excellent organ, clear recorded sound, assured playing, and interesting music soon had me hooked. A delightful surprise.

The music is generally conservative and neo-classical in style, with a strong Hindemith influence in several of the pieces. High points include the Nyvall, Forsberg, Kullnes, and Jansson pieces. Hicks plays on the 1964 Poul-Gerhard Andersen organ in the cathedral of Skara, Sweden. His performances are clean, accurate, and engaging. His musical commitment to this repertoire is obvious in all of the pieces.

The booklet contains informative notes on the music and the organ specifications. Listening to this program has made me want to explore the other volumes of the series

— written by Robert Delcamp

Jim was recently featured in Hifimaailma Magazine.


Read the whole article here.

Nordic Journey 6

October 2016

JUST RELEASED: Nordic Journey, Volume VI (available from Pro Organo)

James D. Hicks continues his quest to discover hidden organ music treasures from Nordic composers, and to inspire new organ music from leading Nordic composers of the current age, in his sixth volume – a double CD – in his NORDIC JOURNEY series. There are TWO venues represented in Volume 6: Turku Cathedral with its 1980 Virtanen Organ, and St. Michael’s Church in Turku, with its 2002 Grönlunds Organ. Pro Organo CD 7279

May 24, 2016: Jim launches an important new mission to help fight cystic fibrosis

Today Jim Hicks begins a new quest to raise money and awareness for cystic fibrosis research. This quest is inspired by and celebrates the memory of a dear friend who battled CF. By combining Jim's musical passions and affinity for Nordic culture, this campaign will culminate with a pilgrimage of St. Olavsleden (St. Olav Ways pilgrim path from Sweden to Norway), on what would have been his friend’s 60th birthday.

Please visit the Nordic Hike website and sign up to learn about fundraisers, including concerts and other exciting experiences he is planning over the course of the next two years.

January 2016: Jim is reviewed in The American Organist

October 2015: Jim is a featured artist on The Diapason

Nordic Journey 5

September 2015

JUST RELEASED: Nordic Journey, Volume V-Many Landscapes (available from Pro Organo)

From the Faroe Islands to Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, Nordic Journey, Volume V explores the Many Landscapes of the northern world. For more about Nordic Journey, Volume V, watch here. Pro Organo CD 7271

James D. Hicks finishes recording a double-CD album, Nordic Journey V
May 7, 2015

For the fifth release in his Nordic Journey series, American organist James D. Hicks has uncovered another 150 minutes of additional Nordic organ literature spanning the 19th through 21st centuries. For Nordic Journey V, Dr. Hicks has also discovered one of the finest of recently restored symphonic organs in Sweden, in Kalmar, a small city located in an out-of-the-beaten-path location in southeast Sweden. Nordic Journey V will be the premiere audio recording of the newly-restored organ of Kalmar Cathedral. The Cathedral offers sumptuous acoustics for the 4-manual symphonic organ located in its rear Gallery.

In attendance at the recording sessions, held in last few days of April, 2015, was the Norwegian composer Kjell Mork Karlsen. Mr. Karlsen has enjoyed a multi-faceted career in classical music spanning many decades. While composing for the pipe organ is but one of many musical interest, he has composed five organ symphonies. James Hicks’ recording of Karlsen’s Fourth Organ Symphony is making a considerable impact upon listeners who are now hearing it for the first time on Nordic Journey, Volume IV (Pro Organo CD 7264). In Nordic Journey – Volume 5, Mr. Karlsen’s Fifth Organ Symphony is to be featured. The final movement of the 4-movement Symphony V is a highly virtuosic movement, and is dedicated to James Hicks. The release of Nordic Journey, Volume V is expected in mid-summer 2015.

"These recordings simply must be heard"
from Choir And Organ (January/February 2015)


Nordic Journey II Review
from Turun Sanomat (a newspaper in Turku, Finland)

July 12, 2014

Honored guest of Turku’s organ festival, James D. Hicks (b. 1958) performed the pieces, which were created by versatile group of Nordic composers, during his concert that was held in July of 2013. Exclusive oeuvres of Mikkola and Fredrik Isaacsson from Turku such as Sonata for organs and Melody as well as piece of work named as Introduktion Og Passacaglia from the Icelandic composer Páll Ísólfsson were being performed alongside with Hicks’ records, which are closely tangent with the pieces, which are usually performed at Cathedral.

The music recorded in Malmö during last August keeps music experience fresh in your mind. Hicks draws your attention to the Northern draught of material similar to the dark abysses. The young organist Hicks’ interest in progressive rock is also very well reflected in his play thus outlining emotional content of the music without following its genre.

This is why, for instance, Isaacson was performing in a hypnotically peaceful way like an acoustic ambient, which Hicks sets against of the Ísólfsson’s pretentious rumble and unrestrained energy. Hicks prefers to respect the rather high lines of the Mikkola’s piece, therefore sonata, which consists of three parts, is filled with a light and joy.

September 2014--Jim Broadcast on Pipedreams

, the nationally-syndicated American Public Media program devoted to the music of the pipe organ, devoted an entire program to Jim's Nordic Journey series on September 22, 2014.  Tracks from all four volumes are a part of the broadcast (Pipedreams #1438), and the show includes a conversation with Jim conducted by long-time host Michael Barone, one of the world's recognized authorities on organ literature.  The interview was held in the studio of Minnesota Public Radio in St. Paul this past summer.
Click here to listen in.

June 2014

Jim was interviewed on Midday with Norman Gilliland, presented by Wisconsin Public Radio, June 26, 2014. Listen in here.

Jim was interviewed by Bill Motlong on WDRT in Viroqua, WI, June 29, 2014. Listen in here.

Upcoming Releases

Nordic Journey, Volume 4--Modern Masters

Exciting contemporary and twentieth century works for organ by composers from Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark, recorded at Västerås Cathedral, Västerås, Sweden in August 2013. Projected Release Date:  February 10, 2015, Pro Organo #7264

Nordic Journey

June 2014

JUST RELEASED: Nordic Journey, Volume 3--Swedish Folkways and Classic Traditions

Organ music from Sweden that is rooted in folk music and neo-classicism,  recorded at Skara Cathedral, Skara, Sweden in August 2013. Pro Organo #7263

Nordic Journey

April 2014

JUST RELEASED: Nordic Journey, Volume 2--The Nordic Symphonic Tradition

A program of late-romantic works for organ from Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland, recorded at St. Johannes' Church, Malmö, Sweden in August 2013. Pro Organo #7262



July 23, 2013

An article from Turun Sanomat (Turku, Finland) about Jim's participation as the main guest of Turku’s organ festival.

By Matti Komulainen

Read it here.

Nordic Journey

May 15, 2013

A review of Nordic Journey from Organum, a Finnish periodical.

Read it here.



James D. Hicks | Califon, NJ | 201.486.7538 | Site, text, and images © James D. Hicks, 2019