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A Festival of Music

A Festival of Music 

Now in its 25th season, First Presbyterian sponsors this concert series that is free and open to the public. The offerings have included soloists, both instrumental and vocal, instrumental ensembles, and dramatizations. The music offered has ranged from classical and sacred to popular song.  All concerts are Sundays at 4 p.m. We also sponsor a series of Lenten Organ Concerts on five Wednesdays from 12:15 to 12:45 beginning the second Wednesday of Lent.


2015-2016 Season


  • October 11, 2015 4:00 p.m.

    Gabriel Preisser, Lyric Baritone; Orlando, Florida

    Gabriel Preisser has been praised for having a “matinee idol’s charm and charisma”, “a beautiful, luscious baritone,” and “a compelling, commanding stage presence’. He has made a name for himself as a versatile performer and has especially been active in new works. His resume includes over 40 operatic and musical theater roles including Billy Bigelow in Carousel with the Minnesota Orchestra, Figaro in Il Barbiere di Siviglia with the St. Petersburg Opera, Escamillo in Carmen with Lyric Opera of the North and Bob Baker in Wonderful Town. He has been a resident artist at Minnesota Opera, Kentucky Opera, Pensacola Opera, and an apprentice artist at Des Moines Metro Opera. With a double major in Vocal Performance and Commercial Music and a Masters in Voice, he comes well equipped for his frequent recitals throughout the US. He is a proponent of American composers such as Charles Ives, Carlisle Floyd, Aaron Copland, John Duke, and others. His concert, “The Melody Lingers On” will feature such selection as Toreador Song from Carmen, Someone to Watch over Me by George Gershwin, Ideale by Francesco Paolo Tosti and I Did it My Way by Paul Anka.

  • November 15, 2015 4:00 p.m.

    Jeremy Filsell, concert organist. Artist-in-residence, National Cathedral Washington DC   

Jeremy Filsell has established a concert career as one of only a few virtuoso performers on both piano and organ. His extensive solo career includes more than twenty-five recordings—his most commended being the series of twelve CDs comprising the premiere recordings of the complete organ works of Marcel Dupré.  Recent recital engagements have taken him across the United States and to some of the most magnificent cathedrals of Europe—Landsberg in Germany, Notre-Dame, St. Sulpice and Chartres Cathedral in France and the Oslo Dom in Norway. Jeremy graduated from Oxford University as Organ Scholar at Keble College, completed graduate studies at the Royal College of Music and was awarded his PhD at Birmingham Conservatoire/Birmingham City University for research into the aesthetic and interpretative issues in the music of Marcel Dupré. Until 2008, he combined teaching posts at the Royal Academy of Music in London and the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester with a lay clerkship in the choir of St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. He now lives and works principally in the USA and combines international performing and teaching with serving as Artist-in-Residence at Washington National Cathedral, Director of Music at the Church of the Epiphany, and Professor of Organ at the Catholic University of America.

  •  January 31, 2016 4:00 p.m.

     Luther College Nordic Choir–Dr. Allen Hightower, conductor.  Decorah, Iowa

The 72-member Nordic Choir is Luther College’s “flagship choir” and is one of the top a cappella college choirs in the nation.  The choir tours annually and has performed around the world appearing in Norway, England, Germany, Russia, Poland, Hungary, Romania, the Baltic countries, Mexico and the Caribbean.  They have appeared throughout the United States in such well-known concert halls as Lincoln Center in New York and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D. C.  Highlights of 2015 included a tour of Italy and a performance of Handel’s Messiah at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis. Traditions within the Nordic Choir include holding hands during all performances, the sapphire blue velvet robes, and singing Pavel Chesnokov’s O Lord God as their signature benedictory since 1948. Allen Hightower, director of choral activities and professor of music at Luther, is the conductor of the Nordic Choir. He gives leadership to a choral program that includes four conductors, six choirs, and over 500 singers.  He presently serves as a Worship Pastor at Autumn Ridge Church in Rochester. Luther College, home to one of the largest collegiate music programs in the world, also involves another 500 student musicians in three bands, three orchestras, two jazz bands and numerous chamber ensembles.

  • March 13, 2016  4:00 p.m.

    Lee J. Afdahl and Friends. Organ/piano plus program. Rochester Minnesota

In 1991, Lee Afdahl joined the staff at First Presbyterian Church as Director of Music and Organist.  At that time he initiated the Festival of Music Concert Series which is celebrating its 25th season. For many of those years, Lee presented a solo concert and during the 2004-2005 season, he asked other local musicians to join him in his “Lee and Friends” concert which has quickly become one of the best attended concerts of the series.  Joining Lee for this season’s “Lee and Friends” program will be Michael  Bostwick, clarinet; Christopher Boswell, handbells; the Flute Ensemble of First Presbyterian Church; Dwight Jennings, saxophone; Paul Kosower, ‘cello; and Janine Yanisch, saxophone.  A graduate of Luther College, Lee has served as a church musician for more than forty years—leading active programs of choral and handbell ensembles in Michigan and Minnesota.  He has conducted festival conferences for the Handbell Musicians of America, handbell classes for American Guild of Organists events, and international handbell events. Having served the Handbell Musicians of America in various capacities, he is now the immediate Past President of the national board of the organization.  Lee represented the organization as a conductor at the International Handbell Symposia in Liverpool, UK in 2012 and Jeju, South Korea in 2014.


  • April 10, 2015  4:00 p.m.

     Eric Kutz, ‘cellist and  Miko Kominami, pianist. Luther College, Decorah IA

Returning to our series is the Murasaki Duo which consists of cellist Eric Kutz and pianist Miko Kominami. Founded in 1996, the Duo has performed throughout the United States, Canada and Scandinavia and has won recognition as one of the leading ensembles in its genre. Advocates for new music, the Duo actively commissions new works in addition to performing the classics. Their second compact disk, “Duo Virtuoso,” was released in May of 2015 on the Delos label and features several show pieces as well as Brahms E minor Sonata.  Their next recording project, entitled “The Commissions,” will include five works commissioned and premiered by the Duo, all written during 2007-2012.  Their Festival of Music program will feature showpieces from “Duo Virtuoso” and the Sonata in F by Richard Strauss.  Both members of the Duo, graduates of Juilliard School of Music, are active as teachers, chamber musicians, orchestral musicians, and as soloists. Eric Kutz, who has served as a faculty member at Luther College for the last thirteen years, was appointed Assistant Professor of Cello at the University of Maryland School of Music in 2015. Miko Kominami enjoys a diverse career on the faculty of Luther College and as Principal Keyboardist of Orchestra Iowa.

                                                               Lenten series recital schedule- 12:15 p.m.
February 17, 2016
Brian Williams, Calvary Episcopal Church, Rochester MN
February 24, 2016
Harold Vetter, Gloria Dei Luther Church, Rochester MN
March 2, 2016
Shayla DeJong, Luther College, Decorah, IA
March 9, 2016
Julie Yoonjeong Kim, Congregational Church, Rochester MN
March 16, 2016
Eileen Nelson Ness, Salem Lutheran Church, Albert Lea, MN