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A Festival of Music

A Festival of Music 

Now in its 26th 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.


2016-2017 Season


October 16, 2016 4:00 p.m.

The spell-binding performances of concert organist Adam J. Brakel have led to his being compared to Liszt, Gould, Bernstein and Paganini and prove that true musical prodigies continue to exist in the 21st century. He has also been recognized by some as “one of the most talented organists in the world.” After beginning his musical studies at the age of four, he furthered his training at Duquesne University where he studied organ with John Walker and David Craighead the The Julliard School in New York City.  He recently received his Graduate Performance Diploma from the Peabody Conservatory where he studied with Donald Sutherland as well as visiting guest professor, Dame Gillian Weir.  His recent performance highlights include performances of the complete works of Cesar Franck and more notably, the difficult Six Etudes of Jeanne Demessieux, one of the few performers to handle these virtuoso works. He has distinguished himself by winning top prizes in several international organ competitions, making an intentional study of jazz music for the pipe organ, and working with leading jazz composers in the development of new works in this genre.  In addition to his concert career, both in the United States and abroad, Brakel currently serves as Director of Music at St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish in the Diocese of St. Petersburg, Florida

November 13, 2016 4:00 p.m.

Twin Cities Bronze is an auditioned handbell ensemble of advanced ringers from around the Twin Cities Metro Area. Distinctive among handbell groups for performing without a conductor, the ensemble is also known for it’s energetic and visually appealing performance style. This is a perfect fit as annual guests on the Jingle Bell Doc concerts with the Minnesota Orchestra under the baton of Doc Severinsen. The ensemble shares its knowledge of this unique instrument nationwide and recently received a grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council to implement The Mobile Classroom, a custom-designed educational workshop for handbell choirs. Twin Cities Bronze will travel to Puerto Rico in June 2017 for a cultural residency exchange which will include concerts, workshops and educational activities.  The spirit of the organization is portrayed in its Shared Values Statement: as professionals, to strive at all times for musical excellence; as educators, to share our technical knowledge of this unique medium; as artists, to showcase the diversity of handbells through innovative performances; as performers, to support each other and have fun! In collaboration with organist Lee Afdahl, the concert will feature favorite hymn arrangements interspersed with dances.

February 12, 2017 4:00 p.m.

Du Huang and Xiao Hu, faculty at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, have received enthusiastic responses from critics and audiences around the world.  They have performed in concert halls in Europe, Asia, and America, including Carnegie Hall in New York City, Orchestra Hall in Chicago, Grosser Saal of Konzerthaus in Vienna, Salle Gaveau and Salle Cortot in Paris, and both the Shanghai and Beijing Music Halls.  The duo has also performed numerous concerts as part of Music Festivals in the Czech Republic. Live performances have been broadcast by Minnesota Public Radio and Iowa Public Television.  The duo has premiered and commissioned new works for the piano duo medium recording on the Innova label in the United States and the Yangtze River label in China.  Huang and Hu received their early training at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music as students of Eugene and Elizabeth Pridonoff.  Both hold a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where they studied with pianist Gilbert Kalish. They have served as Adjudicators for the Chicago Two-Piano Festival and Competition, Hong Kong Schools’ Music Festival, Shanghai International Piano Festival and Institute, and have served as piano and chamber music faculty at Saarburt International Music Festival in Germany.

March 12, 2017  4:00 p.m.

The Festival of Music Concert Series was begun by Lee Afdahl when he became the Director of Music and Organist at First Presbyterian Church in 1991. Now in its 26th season, one of the series’ highlights is the annual “Lee and Friends” concert.  This year, Lee will be featured on both piano and organ and will be joined by Christopher Boswell, handbells; Jeremy Braun, percussion; Classic Brass Quintet; Dwight Jennings, soprano saxophone; Katie Kruger, alto saxophone; Tom Overlie, baritone; and Mary Schneekoth, harp.  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 and several international handbell groups and led handbell classes for the American Guild of Organists.  He has served the Handbell Musicians of America in various capacities, including president. Lee represented the organization as a conductor at the International Handbell Symposia in Liverpool, UK in 2012 and Jeju, South Korea in 2014.

April 2, 2017 4:00 p.m.

Brass Roots Trio’s colorful programs are a fusion of classical, jazz, Americana, and Latin styles.  With trumpet, French horn and piano, they create symphonic sounds that melt into sultry jazz, making three instruments sound like a small orchestra.  The trio not only thrills its audiences with instrumental virtuosity, but also offers a bonus of a brilliant operatic tenor. Concert programs by the trio encompass a wide range of styles in unique arrangements of such notables as Gershwin, Piazzolla, Caccini, Copland, Brubeck, Rossini and Faure. Their commentaries are informative and often humorous. Now in its 13th season of concerts, Brass Roots Trio has played to standing ovations and rave reviews in every corner of the United States and Canada.  In 2009 they were honored to perform at the White House. Travis Heath (trumpet and flugelhorn), Douglas Lundeen (French horn and vocalist), and Rosetta Senkus Bacon (piano) infuse their music with passion and exuberant energy and their warm-hearted presentation establishes an immediate connection with the audience.  Their engagements have included the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., the Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall in New York, The Guinness Jazz Festival in Ireland, and Cultural Centers and festivals throughout Europe and Asia.  Exhilarating performances and imaginative programming have established Brass Roots Trio as one of the most compelling ensembles of the 21st century.



Lenten Organ Recital Series 2017
Noon-day thirty minute recitals, 12:15-12:45 PM

March 8, 2017
Teresa Kramer, Organ Student, University of South Dakota

March 15, 2017
Dr. Gregory Peterson, College Organist, Luther College, Decorah, IA

March 22, 2017
Sue Fortney Walby, Organist, First Presbyterian Church, La Crosse, WI

March 29, 2017
Rev. David Tryggestad, Organist, Pilgrim Lutheran Church, Superior, WI

April 5, 2017
Rev.Matthew Lehman, Organist, Holy Cross Lutheran, Prior Lake, MN