The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Organist Greg Zelek, of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, will give a FREE celebratory recital at First United Methodist Church this coming Tuesday night | November 10, 2017

By Jacob Stockinger

The Ear has received the following announcement to post:

“Greg Zelek (below), the new principal organist of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and Curator of the Overture Concert Organ and Series, will present a FREE public organ recital on this coming Tuesday night, Nov. 14, at 7 p.m. at First United Methodist Church, 203 Wisconsin Avenue, in downtown Madison.

“The evening’s program of masterpieces includes: the Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565, by Johann Sebastian Bach; the Organ Sonata in F minor, Op. 65, No. 1, by Felix Mendelssohn; the Prelude and Fugue in A minor, BWV 543, by J.S. Bach (heard performed by Zelek in the YouTube video at the bottom); and the Organ Sonata in D minor, Op. 42, No. 1, by Alexandre Guilmant.

“A public reception follows the recital where people can share their thoughts about the program and meet the artist.

“Zelek says he relishes the creative aspect of playing the organ. Because no two instruments are alike, every time he sits down at a new console he reinvents the repertoire that he has played thousands of times for that specific instrument and that specific space.

“Zelek adds: “It gives me the opportunity to be as creative as possible when it comes to the selecting of different sounds and colors for each individual instrument and composition.”

“The First Church organ console (below top), as well as the one (below bottom) at the Overture Center, is in front of the audience, offering the organist opportunities to interact and engage with them.

“I speak to the audience in between pieces,” Zelek explains. “Having a greater understanding of the music sheds light onto its immense beauty and enhances the listener’s appreciation of the performance.

“The organ is also such a physical instrument. When the audience can see what the organist is doing, it draws everybody in. There is so much going on. It’s not just the hands and the feet, but also the different buttons we’re pushing and sounds we’re generating from the instrument. It is a full body workout when I play! The audience should never be bored.”

“Zelek’s recital is part of the 180th anniversary celebration of First United Methodist Church as well as the 25th anniversary of its Austin organ.

“Admission for the recital is FREE with donation envelopes available to support The Arts program at First Church. The church has a deep tradition in featuring varied musical offerings and provides much needed rehearsal and performing space for local music and performing arts groups.”


  1. He has become very attracted to Madison.

    Comment by Phil — November 10, 2017 @ 6:02 am

    • That’s good to hear; he’s talented.

      Somehow, I thought I read this story before because it looked so familiar. Then I did a search on this website only to find a handful of similar articles (even with the same photos) and pretty much the same text–with compositions performed only pretty much changed).

      Perhaps some new pics and information; or even an interview might be in order? It would be nice to hear from the organist himself what his experiences have been since moving here, and how he finds the classical music scene. Spare us the numerous recycled photos, etc.

      Comment by fflambeau — November 11, 2017 @ 12:54 am

      • I agree.

        Comment by tom — November 11, 2017 @ 5:39 am

      • Indeed.

        Not to be disrespectful of this website and its writer, to whom the community owes a debt of gratitude, but I think the public would love to hear more about the talented and dynamic Greg Zelec.
        He’s exactly the kind of person (young and enthusiastic with a wide repertoire) that we need! He’s also the kind of person who can pull in younger audience members and get young students excited about their careers and classical music in general.

        In the spirit of encouragement, here are some questions that might well be put to him (even by email, recognizing that he is a busy young man):

        1) you went to a famous musical school. Julliard, right? What was that like for you? Would you repeat that experience or do something else?
        2) what advice to you have for young people who are now studying the organ?
        3) What attracted you to Madison?
        4) Could you tell us a bit about your experiences in moving from a huge Eastern city (NYC) to a mid-sized Midwestern city? Surprises? Misadventures? Challenges? The good and the bad?
        5) Do audiences differ here from those elsewhere? If so, how so?
        6) Classical music seems to be struggling to attract younger audiences and talented performers. What advice do you have about this notion and what, in particular, can Madison do about it?
        7) Can you tell us how you put together a recital program in terms of the programming? How much freedom are you usually given?
        8) What pieces/composers do you especially enjoy playing and why?
        9) What about 20th and 21st century music? Are there pieces/composers you recommend to your audiences and really enjoy?
        10) Could you tell us a bit about the organ in the Overture Center and compare it with some other instruments you have played on?
        11) What kind of food and drink do you enjoy?
        12) What hobbies do you and your loved ones enjoy?
        13) Michelangelo once wrote (Translation in Irving Stone’s book):

        “If I was made for Art, from childhood given
        A prey for burning beauty to devour.
        I blame the mistress I was born to serve.”

        Would you agree with that statement about art and artists in general?
        14) What is the role of the artist/musician in our troubled times?
        15) What do you see as the future of classical music?

        These are just some suggestive questions for an interview, and I am sure there are many other good ones.

        Comment by fflambeau — November 11, 2017 @ 11:05 pm

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