UNL's Marks receives two grants for recording music of Seth Bingham

Christopher Marks, Associate Professor of Organ
Christopher Marks, Associate Professor of Organ

UNL's Marks receives two grants for recording music of Seth Bingham

24 Jun 2014    

Associate Professor of Organ Christopher Marks has received two grants to support the recording of his third CD of the music of Seth Bingham.

Last spring, he received a $10,000 Arts and Humanities research grant from the UNL Office of Research and Economic Development. And in June he was awarded a $2,200 grant from the San Francisco Chapter of the American Guild of Organists.

Bingham (1882-1972) was an American organist and a prolific composer. His compositions include works for organ, choral, orchestral and chamber music, though most of his compositions were for organ.

He was also the organist and choirmaster at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City, an associate professor at Columbia University and lectured at the School of Sacred Music at Union Theological Seminary in New York.

“He has a couple of pieces that are fairly well known,” Marks said. “When I started this about 10 years ago, there was name recognition there, but I didn’t know his music very well. He wasn’t a composer that I heard on a lot of student recital programs or professional programs.”

He started looking for information about Bingham and discovered that he wrote a whole lot of music.

“But before I started recording them, not many of the pieces had been recorded before,” Marks said.

His first CD of Bingham’s music came out in 2008, and a second one followed in 2011. He plans to record the third CD in October at First Plymouth Church in Lincoln on their Lied Chancel Organ built by Schoenstein & Co., where he recorded the previous two CD’s.

That organ at First Plymouth is perfect for Bingham’s music.

“Every organ has its own kind of personality,” Marks said. “Some organs are built in specific styles. Some are built more to play Baroque music or Romantic music. The organ at First Plymouth is what we’d probably call an orchestral organ, so it has a lot of different colors, and it creates a lot of orchestral effects. The music that Bingham wrote really calls for a lot of those kinds of things, so most of it fits that very well.”

It’s also a similar instrument to the one Bingham would have had at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, though his original instrument is no longer there.

“The organ he would have had is very similar in style to the one at First Plymouth,” Marks said.

Marks will also be traveling to New York City in October through a Hixson-Lied Faculty Development Travel Grant, to visit the New York Public Library Arts collection to look at additional materials related to Bingham.

“Some of his manuscripts are in the arts collection,” Marks said. “And I’ve found out there are a lot of recordings of various people playing his music and the concert programs that go along with those. I’m hoping to get to see and listen to some of that.”

Marks has found this to be a rewarding project.

“It’s hard, both as a musician and as an academic, to find fertile territory that no one else has claimed, so it was really nice to come upon this and discover it was really worthwhile, and then to have people be very enthusiastic about it,” Marks said.

One of Bingham’s granddaughters, Patricia Bingham Dale, who lives in New York, has been very supportive of the project. Dale and two other granddaughters attended a recital of Bingham’s music that Marks performed in New York in 2011.

“She helped me find some materials related to him,” Marks said. “So it’s been fun to meet some of his family.”

The CD is expected to be released in the spring of 2015.

“It’s certainly been rewarding because there’s really good music amongst all of this,” Marks said. “Aside from the recordings, I’ve done a lot of performing of his pieces in recitals that I’ve played over the last 10 years. Audience members connect to it really well, which is great.”