Parkland Press

Friday, November 22, 2019

Renowned organist to concert tour born

Sunday, October 20, 2019 by KATHY LAUER-WILLIAMS Special to The Press in Focus

When Amanda Mole was studying organ at the conservatory, students were told that if they thought they were going to be touring concert performers, they might as well forget about it.

“I knew I wanted to be a concert organist,” she says. “I just never said it out loud.”

Today the 33-year-old is one of the leading concert organists of her generation and the winner of numerous international competitions.

At 7 p.m. Oct. 18, Mole will perform her first Lehigh Valley concert as part of the “Arts at St. John” series at St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, Allentown.

Mole says she came late to the instrument, starting organ lessons in high school as a way to get a part-time job that didn’t require her to flip burgers or serve pizza.

She started substituting as organist for the church she attended in Massachusetts and fell in love with the organ. She had taken piano lessons since she was six, but there was something different about the organ.

“I liked the challenge of playing a big instrument with lots of manuals,” she says.

She also fell in love with the organ music written by J.S. Bach, which she says was “like a treasure trove for me.”

So taken was Mole that she decided to switch her college major from medical to organ and transferred to Eastman School of Music, Rochester, N.Y., where she studied with William Porter and David Higgs.

“When you feel you really have to do something, there is no question,” she says.

Mole practiced very hard and was determined to prove that she would be able to make it on the concert stage.

She started entering organ performance competitions where the “pressure was unparalleled, like the organ Olympics,” she says, adding, “For three or four years, I entered everything.”

Her work finally paid off in the most unexpected way. In 2014, she was an alternate for the Arthur Poister Organ Competition, when she got a call at the last minute that someone had dropped out. She went to the competition and won first place.

After that she started winning competitions nationally and then internationally, and soon people were recognizing her name.

She won first place at the John Rodland Memorial Organ Competition; first place and audience prize at the Miami International Organ Competition and first prize at the 8th International Musashino-Tokyo Organ Competition.

She went on to perform at venues across the United States, Europe, and Japan and has been featured in recital at conventions of the American Guild of Organists and the Organ Historical Society.

Her organ performances have been broadcast several times on the radio show, “Pipedreams Live!,” and has released a CD with Naxos, the largest classical music label in the world.

Recording projects include a CD of music for trombone and organ with trombonist Lisa Albrecht and the Hohenfels trombone quartet.

She recently returned from a concert tour in Japan.

“I feel completely cut out for this,” she says. “I knew I loved practicing and performing and interacting with the audience at concerts.”

For the Oct. 18 concert, Mole will perform classical and moderns pieces.

During the first half she will focus on the classics, including pieces by Bach, Liszt, Mendelssohn’s “Overture To The Oratorio ‘St Paul’” and Mozart’s “Fantasia in F minor, K.608” which she describes as “really fun.”

For the second half, Mole will perform original works for organ by modern composers, including several pieces by Swiss organ composer Guy Bovet.

She is excited to be playing St. John’s church Skinner organ, which has four manuals and 87 ranks, and is among the largest and most significant pipe organ in the region.

The “Arts at St. John’s” events are free and open to the public. Free-will donations are accepted. St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church is at 37 S. 5th St., Allentown. There is free parking for evening and weekend events at a Fifth and Walnut streets parking lot. There is also parking at parking meters at streets in the vicinity, and parking, for a fee, at the Community Deck, Sixth and Walnut streets. Information: stjohnsallentown.org/arts.html.