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Webb-Ehrlich Great Organ makes debut



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Organist William Porter of Eastman School of Music introduces his musical selections before his performance on Monday in Alumni Hall in the Indiana Memorial Union. Luke Schram Buy Photos



Porter is known for his improvisation skills in various styles. Monday’s recital featured three groups of improvised pieces in French styles from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

“I liked the variety of styles he presented,” second-year doctoral student Jonathan Rudy said. “It was exciting and beautiful at the same time. I’ve taken an improv class before, and it still amazes me.”

Robert Nicholls, a church organist who traveled from Evansville for the recital, said the performance was special because Porter will never play these pieces again, and people will never hear them again. 

“He created masterful pieces of music. I thought it was expertly done,” Nicholls said. “I enjoyed his control of the forms he set out to demonstrate.”

Porter is an organ teacher at McGill University in Montreal. He previously taught organ and harpsichord at the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester in Rochester, N.Y., and the Conservatory of Music at Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio, where he holds a degree.

He also served as the music director of the Yale Divinity School at Yale University, where he also holds a degree.

The recital was part of a Jacobs School of Music organ department and Indiana Organists United conference called “An Organ at the Crossroads” that began Sunday and ends Wednesday. The conference serves as the public debut for the organ, which was installed this summer at the renovated Alumni Hall.

Barbara Waite, a church organist who also traveled from Evansville, said Porter’s performance was “lovely.”

“It’s just amazing that someone can play that well,” Waite said. “He has to be very, very bright to put that together.”

The instrument is named for Charles H. Webb, dean emeritus of the music school, and IU President Emeritus Thomas Ehrlich.

The French Baroque-inspired organ was made in 1987 and was previously located in a specially built concert hall at a private residence owned by the late Jacques M. Littlefield in Portola Valley, Calif., according to a press release.

IU acquired the organ in spring 2012 through a gift arrangement with Littlefield’s relatives.

“Exposing ourselves to great art changes us,” he said. “A concert like this will have a lasting impact on the people who hear it. I firmly believe that.”

Follow reporter Alyssa Schor on Twitter @SchorAlyssa.

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Organist William Porter of Eastman School of Music smiles at the crowd before his performance on Monday in Alumni Hall in the Indiana Memorial Union. Porter performed at the Webb-Ehrlich Great Organ, which was installed this summer as part of the Alumni Hall renovation project. Luke Schram Buy Photos

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Organist William Porter of Eastman School of Music performs on Monday in Alumni Hall in the Indiana Memorial Union. Porter performed at the Webb-Ehrlich Great Organ, which was installed this summer as part of the Alumni Hall renovation project. Luke Schram Buy Photos

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