Interview with James Kealey

On Sunday, January 21 at 2 p.m., you are all invited to attend a wonderful organ recital by James Kealey, the recent laureate of the American Guild of Organists National Young Artists Competition in Organ Performance (NYACOP). It’s always nice to learn more about performers, so please enjoy this brief interview with this immensely talented organist.

JKealey13X20console scaledComing out of the pandemic, the 2022 AGO Convention in Seattle seemed like a big deal…nice attendance, wonderful organs and venues, and the excitement of the NYACOP competition finally happening. What was the experience like for you?

Following the cancellation of the 2020 convention in Atlanta, it was so wonderful to attend the 2022 Convention in Seattle (my first time attending a National Convention). It struck me how important these conventions are for our profession; a chance for so many of us to come together professionally, and socially, and have an opportunity to connect with new and old friends. To hear the best in our field play some incredibly fine organs was nothing short of inspirational. The finals for NYACOP took place on the first full day of the convention, which changed the course of the entire week for me, but also allowed me to enjoy the rest of the week without the competition looming over my head!

How do you maintain such a busy schedule with your position at Third Church, degree requirements at Eastman, and this new part of your life as a traveling concert organist?

I am incredibly grateful to so many people who allow me the flexibility that enables me to do all these wonderful things. This year, I have taken a Leave of Absence from Eastman (where I’m in the Doctor of Musical Arts degree program) to fully immerse myself in both my full-time employment at Third Church and the busy and demanding concert schedule I have. I’ve also found there’s much serendipity between these various parts of my life; my work at church influences my concert sphere, and vice versa. It’s a joy to be able to spend my life in such fulfilling ways.

Your professor at Eastman, David Higgs, recorded an All Bach CD on the previous Neo-Baroque Rieger at BMPC in the 80s - and now BMPC houses a very different Rieger suitable for the entire organ repertory, French Baroque and Romantic music particularly. How did you go about selecting Sunday afternoon’s program and did the current instrument lead you to choose any of this repertoire?

Great question! I remember listening to this CD in my late teens, enamored with the musicianship of David Higgs, and the thrilling sound of the instrument. Although the instrument is different, the generous acoustic of the room, and its versatility, coupled with its penchant for French Romantic music was the first indicator - I knew I wanted to play Maurice Durufle’s monumental ‘Prelude, Adagio, et Choral Varie’ on the plainchant Veni creator. I took this as my ‘main course’ if you like, and built a suitable program around it, allowing the instrument to flourish in a variety of styles. I can’t wait to spend quality time with it very soon!

 What do you think your future holds as one of the young and vibrant church musicians and performers of your generation?

I’m incredibly grateful to spend a lot of time both music making personally (through CD recordings, concerts, and directing/playing here at Third), and much time facilitating music making, especially for the various musical ensembles here at Third, and our own concert series and other offerings. I hope to continue this varied, but shared work; digging deeper, making strong connections with everyone I meet, and offering this music to as many folks who want to listen! There’s beauty in bringing people together in making music. There’s always more work to be done.

James Kealey’s performance will be followed by a reception in the Ministries Center where you’ll not only be able to meet and speak with James but also the artist of the current exhibit in The Gallery, João Magalhães.